Thursday, December 08, 2005

JONATHAN SKINNER/RESPONSE TO CHARLES STEIN

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:

http://maps.google.com/

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!

1 comment:

Steve Farrell said...

Nice blog on Olson. I wonder if you'd be interested in a personal reminiscence of Olson by one of his Gloucester cohorts, novelist Jonathan Bayliss.

"Gloucesterbook" by Bayliss is a fictionalized account of a businessman's travels through the Dogtown system. A chapter dealing with local eccentric Ipsissimus Charlemagne is a fairly obvious homage to Olson. Bayliss recalls him as a hard-drinking raconteur, full of regret over the failure of his artistic and political ambitions, acting as Virgil to the outsider's Dante as he introduces him to the shadowy quasi-island of Cape Gloucester. Whether Olson really used to dump his trash over the seawall and eat two steaks for dinner is not for me to say, but his portrait of the poet is otherwise a very poignant one.

I don't know Bayliss, but I'm a fan of his admittedly obscure work. He's as demanding in his way as Olson, vowing explicitly to save the English language from the ravages of pop culture.

Let me know if you want to hear more about Bayliss and his memories of Olson.

Steve Farrell
mrhambre@aol.com