Friday, July 01, 2005

Olson & Larkin

Ron asks “Which 3 poems did Creeley omit from In Cold Hell, In Thicket?” Good question, and one which took me – with copies of Olson’s Collected Poems, Archaeologist of Morning, The Distances, Selected Writings, and about a dozen volumes of letters and prose works (not to mention about three-quarters of the published Olson commentaries) – the better part of an hour to figure out. Originally, In Cold Hell was to be published as an issue of Cid Corman’s Origin, and ended up being printed by Creeley’s Divers Press after some sort of snafu. In a letter to Corman of 4/5 December 1952, Olson sends a complete proposed contents for In Cold Hell. The three poems that didn’t make it into the Divers edition, so far as I can tell, are: “A Po-sy, A Po-sy,” “A Discrete Gloss,” and “To Gerhardt, There, Among Europe’s Things of Which He Has Written Us in His ‘Brief an Creeley und Olson.” Creeley also seems to have altered Olson’s proposed ordering of the remaining poems. But since Butterick’s Collected Poems doesn’t include a contents page for In Cold Hell, In Thicket, I can’t tell how much. Hence part of my frustration with this otherwise lovely edition.

How about this one?:

One Word as the Complete Poem



An analogous case, brought to me by the mailman the other week: Anthony Thwaite’s new version of Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems (FSG, 2003). (This a “desk copy,” since I made a resolution years ago that I was never going to pay for a Larkin book.) Thwaite issued a Larkin Collected Poems in 1988 that presented everything in chronological order of composition, but apparently there was so much kvetching about this – or maybe Faber & FSG just saw an opportunity to squeeze a bit more money out of the Larkin cash cow before the market sinks – that he’s reissued pretty much the same poems, this time organized as they were in PL’s published collections.

I can’t say I have much time for Larkin (tho it’s always fun to quote “This Be the Verse” at a stuffy cocktail party – “They fuck you up, your mum and dad…”), but this one, composed when PL was about 21, caught my eye:

Mythological Introduction

A white girl lay on the grass
With her arms held out for love;
Her goldbrown hair fell down her face,
And her two lips move:

    See, I am the whitest cloud that strays
    Through a deep sky:
    I am your senses’ crossroads,
    Where the four seasons lie.

She rose up in the middle of the lawn
And spread her arms wide;
And the webbed earth where she had lain
Had eaten away her side.

On the earbuds:
John Zorn, IAO: Music in Sacred Light and String Quartets

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The work you are doing Mark, trying to reconstruct decisions Olson made about his work along the way, is absolutely crucial, as Olson's writing comes wrapped more than most in mediating representations. My own sense is that up until 1952 or '53 he was still finding his way as a writer, but that after those dates his work's publication history tells two sequential stories. In the 1950s, a strategic self-presentation that emphasized his work's descent from Pound and Williams. (Fatally, in my view, as Olson's worst traits are the ones that point back to the Cantos and Paterson. The Melvillean Olson, the Olson who drew on the ancient Near East and visionary texts, is startlingly original and ever generative for me, and it's that work, by and large, that he leaves unpublished.) In the 1960s, a dwindling interest in publication, which provides no indication at all of the staggering amount of work he actually produced. (The work's eventual publication was left in the hands of trusted students, with few instructions attached. Here, I think, Olson made a decisive shift in his thinking, no longer conceiving of himself as a writer of books, but instead as the creator of an archive. But this is conjecture, as it is not yet possible to understand what Olson was up to at that time: the majority of his work from the later '60s remains unpublished, Butterick having marked it as "uncollected prose" and "uncollected Maximus poems" [though the distinction between Max and non-Max writing is increasingly dubious as the decade wears on].)

BTW, I have a table of contents for In Cold Hell, in Thicket here:

There's also a reproduction of Y & X with thumbnails of the illustrations (the large images are legible). I put this together for a class on poetry of the 1940s.