Saturday, April 18, 2009

National Poetry Month: Charles Olson

In preparation for my journey back to my hometown of Gloucester, Mass., I have chosen Charles Olson as the last poet to blog about during National Poetry Month.

Olson, the author of a well-known epic poem about Gloucester, The Maximus Poems, grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts but spent his summers in Gloucester before relocating there in his final years. The Maximus Poems, which he began in the late 1940’s and continued to work on until he passed away in 1970, captures the historical effects of industrialization on a place such as Gloucester, which was once (only) a small fishing community. Olson mixes his own personal knowledge about Gloucester and mythology with the research he gathered about Gloucester’s early history and settlement to express his concerns about the gradual movement of human beings away from a more modest and simple way of life.

Bk ii chapter 37
By Charles Olson

I. Beginning at the hill of Middle Street the city
which consists mostly of wharves & houses
reaches down to the sea. It is bounded
on the one side by the river Annisquam,
and on the other by the stream or entrance
to the inner harbor. In the Fort at this entrance

are the images of stone and there is another
place near the river where there is a seated
wooden image of Demeter. The city's own
wooden image of the goddess is on a hill
along the next ridge above Middle Street
between the two towers of a church called
the Lady of Good Voyage. There is also a stone image
of Aphrodite beside the sea. 2. But the
spot where the river comes into the
sea is reserved for the special
Hydra called the Lernean monster,
the particular worship of the city,
through it is proven to be recent
and the particular tablets of Poseidon
written on copper in the shape of a heart
prove to be likewise new.

the rocks in Settlement Cove
like dromlechs, menhirs
standing in the low tide
out of the back of the lights from Stacy Boulevard
at night

out of the back of the light,
from Stacy Boulevard on the water
at night

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