Contemporary Olson

Edited by David Herd

Contemporary Olson


  • Hardcover
  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1078-7
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: May 2016
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: poetry & poets, Literature, Literary studies: poetry & poets, POETRY / General, LITERARY CRITICISM / Poetry, Literature & literary studies / Poetry by individual poets


As poet, critic, theorist and teacher, Charles Olson extended the possibilities of modern writing. From Call Me Ishmael, his pioneering study of Herman Melville, to his epic poetic project The Maximus Poems, Olson probed the relation between language, space and community. Writing in the aftermath of the Second World War, he provided radical resources for the re-imagining of place and politics, resources for collective thought and creative practice we are still learning how to use.

Re-situating Olson's work in relation both to his own moment and to current concerns, the essays assembled in Contemporary Olson provide a major re-assessment of his place in postwar poetry and culture. Through a series of contextualising chapters, discussions of individual poems and reflections on Olson's legacy by leading international writers and critics, the book presents a poet who still informs contemporary poetry, whose thought and compositional innovations continue to provoke.

Remote as some of his fascinations must now seem, Olson is shown nonetheless to offer a poetry and poetics that speaks clearly to our own fraught historical moment. Contemporary Olson opens this major writer to new readings and new readers.


Introduction: Contemporary Olson - David Herd

Section I: Knowledge
1. Myth and document in Charles Olson's Maximus Poems - Miriam Nichols
2. Discoverable unknowns: Olson's lifelong preoccupation with the sciences - Peter Middleton
3. 'Empty Air': Charles Olson's cosmology - Reitha Pattison
4. A reading of 'In Cold Hell, In Thicket' - Ian Brinton and Michael Grant

Section II: Poetics
5. From Olson's breath to Spicer's gait: spacing, pacing, phonemes - Daniel Katz
6. Poetic instruction - Michael Kindellan
7. Reading Blackburn reading Olson: Paul Blackburn reads Olson's 'Maximus, to Gloucester: Letter 15' - Simon Smith
8. From Weymouth back: Olson's British contacts, travels and legacy - Gavin Selerie
9. A fresh look at Olson - Elaine Feinstein

Section III: Gender
10. Olson and his Maximus Poems - Rachel Blau DuPlessis
11. 'When the attentions change': Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff - Robert Hampson
12. 'The pictorial handwriting of his dreams': Charles Olson, Susan Howe, Redell Olsen - Will Montgomery

Section IV: History
13. The contemporaries: a reading of Charles Olson's 'The Lordly and Isolate Satyrs' - Stephen Fredman
14. Futtocks - Anthony Mellors
15. Death in life: the past in 'As the Dead Prey Upon Us' - Ben Hickman
16. 'To Gerhardt, There, Among Europe's Things of Which He Has Written Us in His "Brief an Creeley und Olson''': Olson on history, in dialogue - Sarah Posman
17. 'Moving among my particulars': the 'negative dialectics' of The Maximus Poems - Tim Woods
18. A note on Charles Olson's 'The Kingfishers' - Charles Bernstein

Section V: Space
19. Transcultural projectivism in Charles Olson's 'The Kingfishers' and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri's Warlugulong - Peter Minter
20. The view from Gloucester: Open Field Poetics and the politics of movement - David Herd
21. Why Olson did ballet: the pedagogical avant-gardism of Massine - Karlien van den Beukel
22. On the back of the elephant: riding with Charles Olson - Iain Sinclair

Epilogue: Charles Olson's first poem - Ralph Maud



David Herd is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Kent

To purchase as an ebook, please visit your preferred ebook supplier

Amazon Apple Kobo

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout