Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 5.6 (Charles Olson)

Olson, Charles
Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives, Number 5

Click here for details on my acquisition of this set.

One of the nice things about having a dog is that they require one to walk them several times a day. The boredom that attends the ritual performance of this act leads one to find new paths to walk in order that if the activity doesn't change then at least the scenery will.

We have several small, lovely parks within a couple of blocks of our new home. Directly east is Arlington Park, a modest square consisting of grass and trees, mostly oak and maple, around which is constructed an array of post-Civil War historical homes. I most often walk the dog around Arlington park in the morning, but lately I've been wandering into different areas in search of something else to look at.

Days Park, two blocks south, is similarly constructed, though at one end it opens to pedestrians onto Allen St. It's a bit larger than Arlington, but, except for the open end, is very similar in character.

Just north of here sits Symphony Circle, a roundabout that joins three different streets, altering them all along the way. North St. enters from the east and comes out Porter on the west side of the circle. Richmond feeds in from the north and becomes Wadsworth on the other end. Almost an afterthought, Pennsylvania runs one way ways off a spur at the beginning of Wadsworth. It never changes its name.

The roundabout area creates four separate pocket parks. Imagine it as a compass with the SE/NE/NW/SW quadrants as grassy areas with concrete walking paths connecting them.

For the past couple of mornings I've taken our dog, Zelda, north and walked her through the southwest corner of the park, which passes before Kleinhans music hall, a beautiful example of high modernist architecture that houses the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. It's also where I host the Babel series of author lectures.

The curved, east-facing facade of the building rises over a reflecting pool. Zelda and I were walking along the path in front of the reflecting pool this morning. I was admiring the way the dawn light was hitting the facade, the three-quarters moon still floating in the blue sky above, when suddenly we heard an unfamiliar bird loudly cawing.

I am not much of a bird watcher and can at best identify about ten species on the planet; however, in this instance I was certain I was seeing something unusual. The bird making all the noise had blue feathers and a long beak, and it took several dives into the reflecting pool, as if it were hunting. I stood and watched it for a time.

Then, just as suddenly suddenly, two larger birds, one of which seemed to be pursuing the other, burst through the top of a maple tree and began darting upward and down, also above the reflecting pool. At first it looked like a hawk pursuing a crow, one being light (the pursuer), the other dark (the pursued).

The noisy blue bird continued cawing and diving and flying sharply back and forth over the pool.

I noticed a woman with three small dogs a little ways up the path admiring the birds. As we continued on, I said hello and she said hello back and turned toward the building. Then she turned to me again and said, What a sight! A kingfisher and two kestrels. I don't know where that kingfisher came from, but if he is all the way over here he is in trouble. I think the Kestrels were released by D'Youville College up the street. O, by the way I work for the SPCA, that's how I know all this.

I thanked her for the info and began to arc around the roundabout back home, thinking how apropos it was to have seen a kingfisher just as I was headed home to write about Charles Olson.

from Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives, Number 5

from The Long Poem

Is it possible to do a long poem called WEST?
Or is the American experience too stiff, historical, unfabled for use? There seems to be an innate treachery in it: with the exception of Whiteman–or is he not rather an example of what I mention below–the material has balked Crane, Macleish, Salt, Aiken. Which may of course, only be their inadequacy.

Whitman–Pound–Williams, and scattered pieces of Eliot. But in each case it has been carried by a strong injection of the poet's self, so that what is historical is made subjective through the poet's character as directly an actor on the scene. This is certainly true of Whitman and Pound. Better read Patterson to say what about Williams.

The which is Dante's method? By contrast Homer and Shakespeare keep themselves out.

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