Olson, Charles

(1910–1970)
   If kenneth rexroth can be seen as a father figure of the Beat Generation on the West Coast, then Charles Olson can be seen as a father figure of the Beat Generation on the East Coast. He was mentor to robert creeley, ed dorn (who wrote “What I See in The maximus poems,” one of the most important critical evaluations of Olson’s masterpiece), john wieners, and ed sanders (who tried to romantically involve Olson with the great blues singer Janis Joplin). His groundbreaking essay “Projective Verse” appeared in 1950. It opened up the field of poetry and continues to stimulate poetic imaginations to this day. Olson writes: It is the advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precisions, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends. For the first time the poet has the stave and the bar a musician has had. For the first time he can, without the convention of rime and meter, record the listening he has done to his own speech and by that one act indicate how he would want any reader, silently or otherwise, to voice his work.
   The imagination of the poet, argues Olson, should be conveyed through the poet’s breath. This essay helped modern American poetry, like that of the Beats and their contemporaries, become something more for the ears than something for the eyes. On December 27, 1910, Olson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, also the home of abbie hoffman and not far from jack kerouac’s Lowell. After being highly involved in the Democratic Party, Olson was inspired to pursue a literary career by his visits to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital to see Ezra Pound, for whom he acted as an informal literary secretary. (diane di prima would also visit Pound in the hospital where the treasonable old poet was kept by the government after World War II.) Call Me Ishmael, Olson’s seminal study of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick appeared in 1947, which Pound helped him publish. Olson eventually broke ties with Pound over Pound’s anti-Semitism. As the rector of Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Olson would become the central figure of the poets known as the Black Mountain School, which included, according to Donald Allen’s The new american poetry, 1945-1960, Creeley, Dorn, Robert Duncan, Joel Oppenheimer, Jonathan Williams, Paul Blackburn, Paul Carroll, Larry Eigner, and Denise Levertov. These were poets published in the important magazines Origin and Black Mountain Review. Olson also saw the Beats as fellow travelers in his poetic movement (though he would be spurred into head-butting gregory corso after a poetry reading and was jealous of the Beats’ media attention) and even predicted the success of William S. Burroughs’s prose. Ginsberg, an admirer of Olson’s poetry (though Corso was not), convinced Olson to partake in timothy leary’s psilocybin experiments, and Olson became an advocate of the drug. Dorn claims that Olson “never met a substance he didn’t like.” Leary called Olson “the father of modern poetry.” Olson also was a guide for Arthur Koestler’s psilocybin trip with Leary, though he startled the author of Darkness at Noon with a toy gun. Olson later tripped with Sanders on psilocybin that he received from Leary. Near the end of his life, Olson taught at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where the esteemed Beat scholar Ann Charters later taught, but he had to resign due to illness. Kerouac, another admirer of Olson, made a pilgrimage to visit Olson near the end of their lives. From 1950 until Olson’s death on January 10, 1970, from liver cancer, Olson worked on his masterpiece, The Maximus Poems, a monumental epic poem that examined Gloucester, Massachusetts, a place of high significance for Olson both as a child and as a dying giant of letters. Sanders, one of Olson’s poetic heirs, put a section of the poem to music to be performed by his folkrock band The Fugs. Duncan, Creeley, and Dorn visited the dying poet near the end. Ginsberg, Wieners, and Sanders attended his funeral.
 Bibliography
■ Clark, Tom. Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.
■ Olson, Charles. “Projective Verse.” The New American Poetry, 1945-1960, edited by Donald Allen. 1960. Reprint, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, 386–397.
   Kurt Hemmer

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Olson, Charles — ▪ American poet born Dec. 27, 1910, Worcester, Mass., U.S. died Jan. 10, 1970, New York, N.Y.       avant garde poet and literary theorist, notable for his influence on American poetry during the late 1950s.       Olson was educated at Wesleyan… …   Universalium

  • Olson, Charles —    см. Олсон, Чарлз …   Писатели США. Краткие творческие биографии

  • Charles Olson — (* 27. Dezember 1910 in Worcester (Massachusetts); † 10. Januar 1970 in New York City) war ein US amerikanischer Dichter. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Werk 3 Schriften (Auswahl) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Charles Olson — (27 December 1910 – 10 January 1970), was a second generation American modernist poet who was a link between earlier figures such as Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and the New American poets, which includes the New York School, the Black… …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Olson — Nacimiento 27 de diciembre de 1910 Worcester, Massachusetts Defunción 10 de enero de 1970 (59 años) Nueva York Ocupación poeta y profesor …   Wikipedia Español

  • OLSON (C.) — OLSON CHARLES (1910 1970) Né à Worcester (Massachusetts), le poète Charles Olson demeure associé pour nous au célèbre Black Mountain College, institution privée inaugurée dans les années 1930 et dont il fut le directeur. Mais Olson, auteur d’un… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Olson (surname) — Olson (also Olsson, Oleson) is a common surname of Scandinavian origin that literally means son of Olof or Ole . Olson may refer to: Contents 1 Politics and government 2 Sports 3 Arts and entertainment …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Olson — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Olson. Charles Olson (Worcester (Massachusetts), 27 décembre 1910 10 janvier 1970) est un poète américain important de la seconde génération des poètes de la modernité. Sommaire 1 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Olson House — can refer to: (listed by state, then city/town) Charles A. and Mary Olson House, Sand Point, Idaho, listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in Bonner County, Idaho Olson House (South Cushing, Maine), a National Historic Landmark …   Wikipedia

  • Olson — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Alec G. Olson (* 1930), amerikanischer Politiker Allen Olson (* 1938), amerikanischer Politiker Bree Olson (* 1986), US amerikanische Pornodarstellerin und Penthouse Pet Bud Olson (1925–2002), kanadischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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