Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 5.27 (Charles Olson)

West by Michael_Kelleher
'West', a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.
Olson, Charles
'West'


Given to me by Cass Clarke, widow of poet Jack Clarke, an important member of Olson's circle in Buffalo. Cass sold Jack's archive to the university at Buffalo about five years ago and gave this to me as a gift just before the sale. She also gave me an old issue of the William Carlos Williams Review.

'West' was published by Cape Goliard, whose editors included Tom Raworth, in 1966. I remember reading somewhere, though I can't for the life of me remember where, that 'West' was originally intended to be an epic in its own right, on the scale of 'Maximus,' and that it was never completed as such.

Can someone point to some info on this? I flipped through the various biographical and critical works I own, but there is scant mention of it in these. I am wondering how I have this idea in my head.

Olson's prefatory note reads as follows:

I've been absorbed by the subject of America all my life. One piece of it has been what the enclosed hopes, in that sense, to set down. Actually as in fact it was reading and playing it out as a child in redoubts we imagined trenches and trees on the foot of Fisher's Hill we were sure had been part of earlier INdian wars the books of James Altschuler–and I am now convinced there are indeed only "three" American stories–that which was 1st, the one Cowpens actualized (the "line" which the Proclamation of 1763 made the Appalachian ridge)–and then the West. So I have here a much larger story than would appear.

1966

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