Charles Olson

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Charles

Olson

Gloucester, Massachusetts
<p>Image: Charles Olson with mother and father in Gloucester (1918). Photographs of Charles Olson from the Charles Olson Research Collection, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries are used with permission.</p>

Poet Charles Olson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and spent many of the summers of his youth with his parents at the seaside town of Gloucester, north of Boston. Gloucester later became his adoptive hometown and the muse for much of his writing.

Image: Charles Olson with mother and father in Gloucester (1918). Photographs of Charles Olson from the Charles Olson Research Collection, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries are used with permission.

Washington D.C.
<p>Image: Charles Olson and his mother, Mary T. Olson, Washington, DC (January 6, 1949).<br />
Photographs of Charles Olson from the Charles Olson Research Collection, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries are used with permission</p>

After receiving a B.A. and M.A. from Wesleyan University and completing coursework for a Ph.D. at Harvard University, Charles Olson joined the government’s Foreign Language Division of the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C. in 1942. As associate chief of the division, he focused on interpreting and promoting the war effort to immigrant citizens, who played an essential role in the trenches and assembly lines.

Image: Charles Olson and his mother, Mary T. Olson, Washington, DC (January 6, 1949).
Photographs of Charles Olson from the Charles Olson Research Collection, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries are used with permission

Asheville, North Carolina: BMC
<p>Image: Jonathan Williams, "Charles Olson", 1951. Gelatin silver print, 14 7⁄8 x 14 7⁄8 inches. Courtesy Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina, Asheville, NC.</p>

Charles Olson first visited Black Mountain College in 1948 as a visiting lecturer and was hired as a professor in 1951. Olson succeeded Josef Albers as the school’s rector, holding that position until the college’s closure in 1957. Through his connections with numerous young poets, including Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan, Black Mountain College became an important site in the advancement of American poetry. Olson’s poetry and his ideas about composition would inspire the Beat Generation of poets based in San Francisco.

Image: Jonathan Williams, "Charles Olson", 1951. Gelatin silver print, 14 7⁄8 x 14 7⁄8 inches. Courtesy Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina, Asheville, NC.

Gloucester, Massachusetts

After Black Mountain closed, Charles Olson settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The town served as the central inspiration of his three-volume experimental opus The Maximus Poems, written from the mid-1940s until his death and encompassing more than three hundred poems.

 

Video: Charles Olson reads 'Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]' (Mar 1966) NET film youtube.com/watch?v=gAYxpSjkyA

 

New York, New York
<p>Image: Charles Olson, "The Maximus Poems: Volume Three" New York: Grossman Publishers. 1975. First edition.</p>

After a brief teaching stint at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Olson fell ill with liver cancer and was transported to a hospital in New York City. Shortly before his death in 1970, Olson named his ex-student Charles Boer as literary executor, responsible for organizing and publishing the third and final volume of The Maximus Poems in 1975. Olson’s poetry was to significantly influence the group known as the New Generation Poets.

Image: Charles Olson, "The Maximus Poems: Volume Three" New York: Grossman Publishers. 1975. First edition.