Friday, August 12, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 5.3 (Charles Olson)

Olson, Charles
Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives, Number 2

Given to me by Rutherford B. Withus, formerly the curator of the poetry archive at Storrs, where I spent a week going through Olson's papers in 2001 or 2.

If you have never visited the Olson archive at Storrs, it is worth your while to make the trip. I spent about five days there towards the end of my grad school years. I spent most of that time combing through Olson's marginalia and unpublished papers. More than anyone I have ever seen, Olson wrote in his books. In some, like Brooks Adam's The Emancipation of Massachussetts, he wrote so much that there seemed to be an entirely new book being written in the margins. He wrote a filthy poem across the title page about ejaculating in a woman's mouth, comparing his semen to "cereal."

There were also some sad bits, as in the margins of Havelock's Preface to Plato, where he wrote a fragment about his wife Betty's death in an automobile accident. I lost my photocopy of this, but I recall it revealed a morbid sense of guilt, saying something about him feeling like he "drove" her to her death. The implication seemed to be that he had driven her away, possibly towards another man she visited the night of the accident, and thus to her death in an automobile accident on the way.

I barely touched the boxes and boxes of unpublished fragments, poems, etc. There's so much!

from Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives, Number 1
from Introductory Statement for Black Mountain College Catalogue, Spring Semester, 1952
Black Mountain College is heretical because it has practices from its founding (1933) two of the simplest & oldest principles on which higher learning__when it has been higher--has rested.

I, that the student, rather than the curriculum, is the proper center of a general education because it is he and she that a college exists for

& II, that a faculty fit to face up to the student as the center have to be measured by what they do with what they know, that it is there dimension as teachers as much as their mastery of their disciplines that makes them instruments capable of dealing with what excuses there profession in the first place, their ability to instruct the student under hand.

Several things follow from these two basic principles, so far as the instruction at Black Mountain College goes. One characteristic, from the beginning, has been the recognition that ideas are only such as they exist in things and in actions. Another worth emphasizing (it is still generally overlooked in those colleges where classification into fields, because of curriculum emphasis remains the law) is that Black Mountain College carefully recognizes that, at this point in man's necessities, it is not things in themselves but what happens between things where the life of them is to be sought.

1 comment: said...

I would like to see this "cereal" poem!