Collected Prose / Edition 1

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The prose writings of Charles Olson (1910–1970) have had a far-reaching and continuing impact on post-World War II American poetics. Olson's theories, which made explicit the principles of his own poetics and those of the Black Mountain poets, were instrumental in defining the sense of the postmodern in poetry and form the basis of most postwar free verse.

The Collected Prose brings together in one volume the works published for the most part between 1946 and 1969, many of which are now out of print. A valuable companion to editions of Olson's poetry, the book backgrounds the poetics, preoccupations, and fascinations that underpin his great poems.
Included are Call Me Ishmael, a classic of American literary criticism; the influential essays "Projective Verse" and "Human Universe"; and essays, book reviews, and Olson's notes on his studies.
In these pieces one can trace the development of his new science of man, called "muthologos," a radical mix of myth and phenomenology that Olson offered in opposition to the mechanistic discourse and rationalizing policy he associated with America's recent wars in Europe and Asia.

Editors Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander offer helpful annotations throughout, and poet Robert Creeley, who enjoyed a long and mutually influential relationship with Olson, provides the book's introduction.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Poet and critic Olson wrote in a muscular style, one as individualistic as it is exasperating. Yet his writings changed the way literature is written and read: his essay "Projective Verse" gives a name to the poetry written by cummings, Pound, Williams, and other Moderns, and his book Call Me Ishmael tells more about the composition of Moby-Dick than any study before or since. That work and three other Olsen books, along with nine uncollected essays and five previously unpublished pieces, are brought together here by Allen, editor of the influential New American Poetry, 1945-1960, and Friedlander, a poet and doctoral candidate SUNY at Buffalo. This work isn't easy reading, but for any serious student of the last 150 years of American letters, it is essential.David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
Robert Hass
For the energy of the avant-garde literary project at mid-century, Olson it is. No one else has the excitement or range. -- Robert Hass
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520208735
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/19/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Allen was a longtime friend, editor, and publisher of Charles Olson. He has also edited The New American Poetry, 1945–1960, The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara, and the writings of Lew Welch. He is currently CEO of Grey Fox Press in San Francisco. Benjamin Friedlander is the author of several books of poetry and editor of Area Lights Heights: Writings 1954–1989 by Larry Eigner. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the State University of New York, Buffalo. Robert Creeley is Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and the Humanities at the State University of New York, Buffalo.

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Table of Contents

Editors' Preface
Call Me Ishmael 1
On Melville, Dostoevsky, Lawrence, and Pound 107
David Young, David Old 109
The Materials and Weights of Herman Melville 113
Equal, That Is, to the Real Itself 120
Dostoevsky and The Possessed 126
D. H. Lawrence and the High Temptation of the Mind 135
The Escaped Cock 138
This Is Yeats Speaking 141
GrandPa, GoodBye 145
Human Universe 153
Human Universe 155
Footnote to HU (lost in the shuffle) 167
The Gate and the Center 168
The Resistance 174
Cy Twombly 175
Proprioception 179
Place; & Names 200
"you can't use words ..." 202
The Present Is Prologue 203
"The Present Is Prologue" 205
Stocking Cap 208
Mr. Meyer 213
The Post Office 217
Poetry and Poets 237
Projective Verse 239
Letter to Elaine Feinstein 250
"On Poets and Poetry" 253
Notes on Language and Theater 256
Against Wisdom as Such 260
Theocritus 265
A Foot Is to Kick With 269
Quantity in Verse, and Shakespeare's Late Plays 270
Introduction to Robert Creeley 283
Robert Creeley's For Love: Poems 1950-1960 285
Paterson, Book V 288
"Ed Sanders' Language" 291
Space and Time 293
Introduction to The Sutter-Marshall Lease 295
A Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn 297
Billy the Kid 311
Brooks Adams' The New Empire 315
Captain John Smith 318
Five Foot Four, but Smith Was a Giant 322
The Contours of American History 324
The Vinland Map Review 326
Other Essays, Notes, and Reviews 337
Ernst Robert Curtius 339
It Was, But It Ain't 342
Homer and Bible 345
Bill Snow 349
A House Built by Capt. John Somes 1763 351
The Advantage of Literacy Is That Words Can Be on the Page 353
Review of Eric A. Havelock's Preface to Plato 355
A Further Note on the Critical Advantages of Eric Havelock's Preface to Plato 359
Statement for the Cambridge magazine 360
A comprehension (a measure, that 361
"Clear Shining Water," De Vries says 364
What's Back There 367
The Animate versus the Mechanical, and Thought 368
Continuing Attempt to Pull the Taffy off the Roof of the Mouth 373
Abbreviations 375
A Note on Olson's Sources 377
Editors' Notes 379
Index 465
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