Note on the transcription of Prynne’s Simon Fraser lecture

Minutes of the Charles Olson Society #28 (April 1999)

Twenty-eight years ago Jeremy Prynne and Ed Dorn visited Vancouver. Over a number of nights Dorn read the entire Gunslinger cycle. Prynne graciously climbed Burnaby Mountain to Simon Fraser University and delivered a lecture on Charles Olson. A transcription of the tape recording was made by myself and duly published in Iron magazine (October 1971). Prynne welcomed it in letters to his host, Ralph Maud, of 26 November and 8 December 1971: “the transcription. . . catches the sense of that odd rush through time. . . please be sure to tell your goidelic-sounding transcriber that he really did an expert job with that tape. . . so alertly catching the tune.” In an internet document entitled “J. H. Prynne: A Bibliography,” the lecture’s transcription is included among Prynne’s 28 official prose works.

Recently in fragmente (Summer 1998) Mr. Anthony Mellors quoted a number of sentences from the lecture to “confirm the extent of Prynne’s belief in the mythopoetic” (p. 88) but at the same time observed: “I have preferred not to concentrate on this lecture because it is only a transcription, and therefore is not a dependable document. Unless Prynne was affecting Olsonian turns of phrase for a North American audience, MacCauley [sic] has put some very strange language into Prynne’s mouth.”

Nettled by Mr. Mellors‘s barb I located the tape recording of the lecture in Special Collections, Simon Fraser University, and listened. Prynne speaks with ardor and order. Movingly, full of a restrained passion, Prynne reports his reading of Maximus IV, V, VI. Noble, a pleasure to listen to again, a curvature of love and intelligence. I confirmed that the transcription and lecture match. Prynne says everything printed; the transcript is a meticulous document.

Mellors‘s essay to which the footnote about the transcription is appended is a magisterially fine whacking away at Olson’s thicket of mystification. We are grateful for his critical savvy and look forward to his further essays into clarification. But on this one small point the recording shows that what he so crankily surmises is not the case.

Tom McGauley

Burnaby, B. C., March 1999

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