My involvement in Charles Olson studies

by Ralph Maud

Published in Minutes of the Charles Olson Society #17 (November 1996) and updated for this site.


I was a colleague of Charles Olsons at the State University of New York at Buffalo during the years 1963-65, and had ample opportunity to witness his extraordinary genius in teaching and in conducting his intellectual affairs generally. I was able to have detailed discussions with him on The Maximus Poems. I visited his home in Wyoming, New York, and later in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I was his designated scholar at the Berkeley Poetry Conference in July 1965. From there I went on to become a Charter Faculty Member of the Simon Fraser University English Department and taught Charles Olsons poetry in my freshman classes, and in special subject classes later. I exchanged a number of letters with the poet, some of which are of relatively great importance. They are available in an edited typescript, The Horn of Ulf, which has circulated privately and appears in some bibliographies.

Since the poets death in 1970 Charles Olson studies have captured an increasing amount of my attention.

I lectured on Olson as a guest at

Fairleigh Dickinson University Literary Club, 20 March 1968;

CIDOC, Cuernavaca, Mexico, 4-15 January 1972 (on Olsons Mayan Letters);

The Dallas Institute for the Humanities and Culture, 5 October 1982;

The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 11 May 1983; and

The Unity of Knowledge Conference, Capri, 9-14 June 1992.

With Kit Lukas and others I was the recipient of a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, for a film script on Charles Olson, which was completed, though the film did not go into production;

was the recipient of a Canada Council Small Grant for travel to the Black Mountain College archive, held in Raleigh, North Carolina, and researched those papers for a week in March 1978;

did research on Olson materials at UCLA, San Diego, San Francisco State, and the Bancroft Library Special Collections, Berkeley, 22 March-1 April 1982;

visited France Boldereff in Urbana, Illinois, 8-11 August 1983, to discuss editorial matters pertaining to her voluminous correspondence with the poet;

did location research in Worcester and Gloucester 12-19 December 1985;

visited the Olson Archive at Storrs, Connecticut, a number of times, for a whole summer in 1976, and for periods of weeks subsequently;

have reviewed the following Olson-related books:

Maximus Poems Volume Three, in West Coast Review (February 1976);

Charles Olsons Maximus by Don Byrd, in Choice (March 1981);

The Maximus Poems ed. George F. Butterick, in Choice (December 1983);

The Collected Poems of Charles Olson ed. George F. Butterick, in Choice (March 1988);

Charles Olson: the Critical Reception by William McPheron, in Line (Spring 1988);

A Nation of Nothing But Poetry ed. George F. Butterick, in West Coast Line (Fall 1990);

In Love, In Sorrow: The Complete Correspondence of Charles Olson & Edward Dahlberg ed. Paul Christensen, in West Coast Line (Fall 1991);

The Topology of Being: The Poetics of Charles Olson by Judith Halden-Sullivan, in Choice (February 1992);

Selected Writings of Charles Olson ed. Robert Creeley, in Concerning Poetry (June 1999);

published a survey article, Charles Olson: Posthumous Editions and Studies in two parts in West Coast Review for January 1980 and Winter 1981; and an article, Dylan Thomas and Charles Olson, which appeared in Planet #68 (April-May 1988);

contributed the encyclopedia entry on Olson for Read More About It Vol. 3 (1989).

I have concentrated on transcribing Olsons lecture tapes; my transcriptions of On History, Reading at Berkeley, and Paris Review Interview were included by editor George F. Butterick in the two-volume Muthologos collection (Four Seasons Foundation 1978-79).

My scholarly books on Olson include:

Charles Olsons Reading: A Biography (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996);

What Does Not Change: The Significance of Charles Olsons The Kingfishers (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1998);

Edited with Sharon Thesen: Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff: A Modern Correspondence (Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 1999);

Edited: Charles Olson Selected Letters (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000);

Edited: Poet to Publisher: Charles Olsons Correspondence with Donald Allen (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2003).

I became the President of the Charles Olson Literary Society in 1992. As of August 2006 I have edited and produced 61 issues of Minutes of the Charles Olson Society.


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