Thursday, December 08, 2005


So. I think to go through the Maximus Poems, Collected Poems, Colleted Prose, plus Special View. With an eye to methodology.

What principles of praxis are articulable? How sharp are the instances? Example: Polis is Eyes--what does "limits are what any of us are inside of" mean up against "pushing the limits?" And the chocolate bar and the fisherman not looking in the sunblaze?

I' ll begin, I think with a list I made in my Olson/Jung book, The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum some twenty-five years ago, of the ways in which Olson's compositional practice was "concretistic"--but one could replace this term with the word "actual" if one wished, shifting from the Jungian to the Whiteheadian vocabulary. But the point anyway would be not to emphasize the Aesthetic, in the sense of opinions about how to make poems, but rather praxis in general, how to make a culture of the concrete, of the actual, in the face of what we might want to insist IS the praxis now in place--the practice of the statistical, the universal, the application of predetermined standards, the mechanistic technology of knowing beforehand in detail the result--short-circuiting the process of desire…

Suggestion for someone with a lowflying plane or better helicopter :

Do we have a photograph of Dogtown from the air, on which one could pinpoint, say the site of Merry's demise and Gravelly Hill, to mention the two that Olson mentioned in the old film )not H. Ferrini's) we saw on Dec. 3? But really all the points in the poem? And then one from higher up, locating Dogtown precisely on Cape Ann?

Other projects. I will be driving to Storrs with Ammiel probably in January to do a final check on the new text of The Special View of History. And I want to grab or begin at least to find among the nicely catalogued folders, the literally hundreds of intensely scribbled over sheets of paper in Olson's hand, and somehow produce a facsimile book of say 100 of them. Before the papers were put in folders, summer of 1971 and 1972, Butterick and I went through boxes and boxes of the papers before they were catalogued, looking for letters from noteworthy folks. But I lingered for many hours over these intensely scribbled objects and I swear it was a deep initiation into Olson's neurology, say, and that today, after the archive has been mined for more orderly and acceptable typographic objects, it is time for us all to have a look at these crazy looking and magically charged logographic entities.

1 comment:

JS said...

Indeed, to look at Olson's writing practice in relation to his practice as a walker, as well as to look at the support of his writings (on, say, scraps of paper, but also blank checks, paper menus, etc.), which is to look at the environment of Olson's writings, certainly constitutes inquiry into methodology, and may constitute inquiry into what Chuck Stein calls Olson's praxis (although I'm not sure of how he's using that term).

For a gull's view of Dogtown Commons:

Type in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and click the Satellite button. Then zoom (click the plus end of the navigator) and go. You can pan the view by clicking and dragging the image. Zooms up pretty close, to where you can even see foot trails.

But is not Maximus Poems constructed *against* what Olson call's the "gull's eye" view? And more in line with the low-flying "cormorant's eye" view? Or at least sets up an argument between these two. The difference between the colonizers of space and the poet whom SPACE has colonized. Which gets richer when we remember that Hawthorne referred to himself (thanks once again to Susan Howe for telling us) as a "library cormorant."

Finally, the project of Olson's fragments came to my mind just a day or two ago, as well. A great model for this, in every sense (hermeneutically, methodologically, technically), has to be Marta Werner's work with Emily Dickinson, both in her book Dickinson's Open Folios and in her web archive, Radical Scatter.

I'd say a web archive of Olson fragment facsimiles would be more useful (and less expensive to produce) than a book--perhaps without the restrictions on access that the Institutions seem lamentably to have exerted over Werner's magnificent project.

I got the idea--and this is something that unites Chuck's geographical interests with his interests in the "logographic entities"--watching the rest of the Olson outtakes video and getting mesmerized by the "map" of Dogtown pinned to the wall behind Olson, made entirely of scraps of paper with notes scribbled on them, a logogeographic entity, if there ever was one. (Olson discusses this map during the interview and the film-maker even zooms in and pans so we can read some of the fragments.) I wonder how long this stayed on Olson's wall, and if some record of it was retained, beyond the film.

I would happily be a part of the project of getting Olson's fragments scanned into facsimile form.

The Secret of the Black Chrysanthemum, by the way, is a great book!