24 June 2013

Jeff Davis on Charles Olson

MadHatters’ Review is an annual online multimedia magazine.

Issue 12 of MadHatters Review featured an essay by Jeff Davis on Charles Olson. Olson was an American poet infrequently discused today. Wikipedia's entry proposes that "in Projective Verse (1950), Olson called for a poetic meter based on the poet's breathing and an open construction based on sound and the linking of perceptions rather than syntax and logic."

According to Davis, Olson "thought big," as in Olson's Primordia, with a necessary "shift in human subjectivity itself."  In support of this view, he quotes Primordia:
(1) Man as object is equitable to all other nature, is neutron, is on the one hand thus no more than a tree or pitchblende but is, therefore returned to an abiding place, the primordial, where he can rest again as he did once with less knowledge to confirm his humilitas.
       It is as force that the eye of nature sees man. Seen so, the animal and the bones of him do not disturb the remainder of organic and inorganic creation. As force man has his place, and wonder. It is enough, more than he knows. For instead of his own alone he is in touch with all life, and image and fable come back.
       They come back because the elements are not so dissimilar: season, cello, shield, trio, sphere. When man is reminded of his place in the order of nature, when he finds himself cut down to size, he goes through a franciscan or ovidian revolution, whichever you prefer, and acquires some of his original modesty about force, his own and otherwise. Beasts and angels, devils, witches, trees and stones, cocks and centaurs are necessary items of human phenomenology (and only, and exactly, in that science). They are dangerous outside that moral frame – as we have had recent occasion to know.3 

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