Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Olson's Gift


Olson’s gifts: quite obviously includes his intelligence, his ear, among other powers. Charles Olson has also given us a method: a method of applying the ear, as if were an intuitive force, to the creation of poetry. His method and his works then constitute his gift to his readers. There is the subjective genitive to be associated with his talents and the objective genitive: “Projective Verse” and Maximus. These are the subjects of my work as commentator and theorist. To add a twist: subjective properties also tie in with visionary and shamanic forces. There is an interface between an individual’s subjectivity and the place in the world from which he sees and acts upon his fellows. From Olson’s troubled subjectivity, poetic power springs, especially his tropes and images. In the literature of curing and healing a similar connection is often seen. The patient becomes an adept in the cult that has helped him or her heal. For all his consciousness of what ails the polis as it has struggled to manifest itself on this continent after European contact, Olson’s diagnosis remains at best speculative. I do not see him as a community organizer although those committed to such hope often cite Olson’s example. He is Herodotus not Jane Adams and that may be enough. The ability to see and identify poison and antidote is the most problematic of the shamanic gifts. We have not yet found the therapies for which Olson foresaw the need. The polis is subject to supra-personal even global forces. The individual is an Ishmael adrift on a journey that tests collective human powers. It would be fatally messianic to say that Olson is both the gift and the giver. I may well be done with my meditations on this topic. Utilitarian for a paragraph but too solipsistic. In his reading of Ahab (or perhaps Ezra Pound), Olson sensed the dangers that stem from size. Today the ability to alienate that comes with size and intelligence marks the work of even the smallest poet. A strategy to resist the stroking of the ego, a negative capability that silences that voice within and allows us to listen, remains Olson’s most valuable gift.

2 comments:

Paul Nelson said...

That someone would be writing about Olson's Gift is worth celebrating and - in general - I would agree to what's being summarized here. I found that I was writing in a spontaneous manner when I was first told about Projective Verse and have studied it long and hard in that time. As far as his community activism goes, you may be selling him short. Please see: Maximus to Gloucester, the collection of letters-to-the editor Olson sent to the Gloucester Times. That his diagnosis is speculative may be true, but it surely was prophetic, suggesting that we not be sold out by the "musick" of the industry-generated-culture. That we'd look at his comment "Polis is Eyes" and get a sense that he had some idea of today's internet commodity, those eyes that can be credited to see any pop up ad or website, and the dollars that is worth. Sure, he reckoned that size could be dangerous, but he also saw the SPACE that an American is confronted with as an opportunity. & I am not sure that Projective Verse is a strategy to "silence the voice within" but is one that forces us to listen to that inside silent voice that no one else can hear.

donquixote7w said...

Thanks, your thinking is very useful and I am mindful of these concerns.