Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems

Page 120 already! Two days of reading, well, just a few hours, and I’m on page 120 of the Maximus Poems! Of course the whole thing is more than 600 pages long, but still… This is possible thanks to the style of these poems. This is not poetry to re-read. This is not poetry of precise, quotable lines, there are hardly stanzas that one would like to go over again and again, to savour all the music and meaning. (Those that stand up to this test are those one will find in the anthologies). Approach it with an expectation of finding ‘finished poems’, and one will find Olson a rather messy and careless word-smith. Olson lets the sound determine the syntax and the flow of words; this is poetry to read, line after line, ‘listening’: imagine a big man speaking aloud to you (Olson was a big man). He (Maximus, not Olson) talks on and on, makes little mistakes, comes back to the same points, repeats. Speaks sometimes in prose and at other times in verse. And slowly, while reading, the image of Gloucester takes shape, the early history and economy of it, the ‘locality’, the muthos – Olson trying to be a Herodotos to Gloucester, not a Thucydides.

Read the Maximus Poems that way, and you’ll find it fascinating. (Well, I do). And the image of Gloucester becomes becomes more and more clearer and multifaceted the further the poem progresses, the more Maximus ‘talks’.

(Of course, I write this after having read ‘only’ 120 pages…)

(Now that I finally upload this account of my reading experience – written down on a train, travelling to Groningen – I’ve progressed unto page 180).

en,reading matter,writing | June 25, 2007 | 21:02 | Comments Off on Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems |


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