Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 5.30 (Charles Olson)

The Maximus Poems by Michael_Kelleher
The Maximus Poems, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.
Olson, Charles
The Maximus Poems


Purchased at Rust Belt Books. I probably overpaid a bit for it at $100. (Ahem, Brian Lampkin). But it was worth it. Actually, according to Alibris it is now worth somewhere between $125 and $175. I have very few valuable books in my library, but this is definitely one, and one of the most cherished.

Published by Jargon/Corinth in 1960 and printed in the UK by Cape Goliard, it is still in fine condition in its original wrappers. The book is completely unpaginated and has a beautiful blue cover page with an abstract image made from a photo by Frederick Sommer. The description of the abstract is described as follows:

A word on the title page device: this 'glyph' becomes Olson's 'Figure of Outward,' striding forth from the domain of the infinitely small; and, also, a written character for Maximus himself–the Man in the Word. It is (really, like they say) the enlargement of a sliver of perforated tin ceiling found on the floor of a bar room in a ghost town Arizona. Frederick Sommer made the discovery and the photograph.

Interestingly, the image is reproduced in black and white on the cover page of the paperback. However, that version does not include the description of the image. Amid all this discussion of publishing practices, POD printing and e-books, this is a good reminder of one thing that is getting lost–the art of printing books of poetry in fine, hardcover editions. Very few poetry books get this kind of treatment any more.

Here's a video of Ed Sanders singing Olson's 'Maximus from Dogtown I' at the Olson Centennial Conference on March 27, 2010.

Ed Sanders reads/sings Charles Olson' "Maximus from Dogtown I" from Pierre Joris on Vimeo.

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