Friday, August 26, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 5.14 (Charles Olson)

Von Hallberg, Robert
Charles Olson: The Scholar's Art

I am not one hundred percent certain, but I think Gerrit Lansing gave this book to me when I past through Gloucester on the way back from the Poetry of the Forties conference at Orono, ME in 2004. If not, then I have no idea where I bought, probably online somewhere.

I think I remember Robert Von Hallberg being at that conference.

Anyhow, I gave my one and only academic conference paper, on Olson. It was a kind of revised version of what was to have been the first chapter of my dissertation. I wasn't happy with the academic tone, so I made it a bit more casual and conversational.

I remember making a joke at the beginning of my talk about who all the toilets at the U of M were made by Olsonite and that because of this I would refer to those gathered as "Olsonians" rather than as "Olsonites," despite preferring the sound of the latter. A couple of people chuckled, but it kind of felt like the joke died.

I had already, at least unconsciously, decided not to continue to pursue and academic career, so the presentation was more like a swan song, really.

from Charles Olson: The Scholar's Art

The premise of this book is that Olson deserves close attention precisely because his poems do not conform to what modern critics have argued is essentially poetic. His poetry raises questions of poetic theory with unusual directness, and these questions, rather than the poems themselves, are my subject. What are the attractions of an expository poetics? What ends are served by expository poems? Why should a didactic poet use so exclusive a rhetoric?

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