Perambulating the Bounds

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Title by way of introduction

The title of this site comes from a poem by Charles Olson, out of the later part of the Maximus poems where the sense of individual poems breaks down into fragments, notes, a continuous flow, or a sort of intermittent diary. I wrote my master’s thesis on Olson and his work stays with me as a constant background reference. Olson is not universally well-known, so some explanation is in order: he was an American poet, born 1910, died 1970, started out as a Meville scholar, did time as a minor functionary in the Roosevelt administration, started writing poems in the late 1940s. He became rector of Black Mountain College in 1951, taking over from Josef Albers. The poets that came under his influence at the college are commonly grouped in a “school” named for the college, which includes Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, and Ed Dorn. The college also launched or provided the forum for formative experiences in the careers of a disproportionate number of artists who shaped post-War culture like John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, and Kenneth Noland.

The thing I may take most from Olson is an intellectual method. He wandered widely in his reading and seeing, taking from what he found the parts that were useful to him in the construction of a vision of the world. He synthesized archaeology, history, philosophy, language, mythology, literature, and other disciplines into a tool for uncovering truth. He insisted on grounding everything in the most concrete details of experience as one encounters them (“only the glory of/celebrating/the processes/of Earth/and man.”).

I must admit to not understanding many things in Olson, and even when I do understand I rarely feel like I get my head around all the pieces and see it in its entirety. The pieces have been enough for me, each giving me separate pushes in my own queries.

The poem that lent itself to the title for this site goes as follows:

Light signals & mass points

normal mappings of

interia & every possible action

of aether and of

change

II

to perambulate the bounds a cosmos

closed in both respects both laterally &

up & down bonded

up & down

determined

Eternal

side on side

April 14

MDCCCCLXVI

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