Saturday, September 10, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 5.26 (Charles Olson)

Reading at Berkeley by Michael_Kelleher
Reading at Berkeley, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.
Olson, Charles
Reading at Berkeley

I'm not sure where I got this -- either at Talking Leaves or Rust Belt Books, I suspect. This edition, by Coyote Press, is long out of print, though I suspect it's not worth much, given it is part of a second printing.

The publisher, Jim Koller, stayed at our house in Black Rock a few years back. Coyote press is still being published out of Jim's house in Maine. We visited he and Maggie, his wife, a few years back, while staying with Jonathan Skinner and Isabelle Pelissier. Is it possible Jim gave this to me? I don't think so. He gave me a lot his stuff, including his Curriculum of the Soul pamphlet, but I don't think this was in the pile of goodies he left. O well.

Anyhow, it's a transcription of the legendary reading Olson gave in Berkeley in 1965. He was apparently quite soused and managed to commandeer the stage for several excruciating hours, during which friends were either begging him to stop or just leaving the room altogether. Like Faulkner's rambling, incomprehensible Nobel speech, when people listened to and deciphered the tapes after the fact, they discovered he'd actually said some pretty interesting things. (And some less than interesting things as well).

I think I have more to add to yesterday's "Poetryland" diatribe. I feel like a left in all my cynicism about the poetry world and left implied all the interesting answers one might have to the question: Why write poetry if there is no market for it? If the baby stays inside a few more days, maybe I'll get to it. Meantime, if you feel like answering the question yourself in the comment box, be my guest!

from Reading at Berkleley

OLSON: ...Society is the same fucking thing as taking care of a child. Or a cow, Paul, empty chair X. I mean–oh Jesus, talk about assassination. That's over, see. I'm going to read you tonight the poem called The Three Towns––

Editor of Gloucester quarterly: the eyes which watch you
do not look in the plate glass of Brown's (that display);
or idly, waiting for the bus, stare at yr cover

––This is the news, the world news, reversewise––okay, backwards or something, this is it. This is the same fucking news they're rushing to the headlines, of MacNamara on––I mean, you know, Allen, Eisnhower said––you weren't there today––but I said Eisenhower said the fucking thing in 19-- when Mendes France was selling milk to the French, "That whole country is a guerilla country." You know that?


OLSON: Are we a guerilla country? That's all that all this radicalism is to produce. The students of the world! The only way that America'd be radical is that there is the students of the world. That's all. That's why, Bobby Kennedy in Tokyo––the embarrassment of that situation––right? And you getting––being the King of May and being kicked out of Czechoslovakia––thank God!––is this side of that, baby. In my cabinet you're the Secretary of State, not the––not anything else.


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