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This review is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

THE RAG-BAG Don Byrd, Charles Olson's Maximus (University of Illinois Press) £9.00
Lynn Swigart, Olson's Gloucester (Louisiana State University Press) £15.00 and £6.00

Charles Olson's visit to this country in 1967, three years before his death, may have been a stimulus to the spate of poetry from the little presses and magazines in the following years that drew heavily on his example. For those of us who saw him, the 6 foot 7 inch, heavily built Olson gave presence to his hero Maximus who straddled Cabot Fault, 'one leg upon the Ocean one leg/ upon the westward drifting continent' and his deep, gasping, irregular delivery was the intriguing enactment of a previously rather elusive prosodic theory. But, despite the posthumous appearance of a version of the third and final volume of the Maximus, an epic poem that sought at once to emulate and radically subvert the Cantos and Paterson, the publication in America of numerous critical studies and the instituting of an Olson Archive and Journal by the University of Connecticut, his reputation has been languishing in this country to the degree that his books are no longer available from English publishers and may less readily be obtained from specialist booksellers than was once the case.

This regretable situation is perhaps to be understood insofar as Olson's magnum opus is in the first place a specifically American reaction to Pound-'the ultimate image of the end of the West'; less so in that Olson wished to affirm a union of the local and the cosmic in every meaningful instance of man's relation to earth and to establish the conditions in which ...


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