Charles Olson (1910-1970)

The question, the fear he raises up himself against
(against the same each act is proffered, under the eyes
am I?

--from "In Cold Hell, in Thicket"

In the winter of 1944-1945, in his mid-thirties, Charles Olson rejected a promising political career in the Roosevelt administration and turned to writing prose and poetry. His study of Herman Melville, Call Me Ishmael, appeared in 1947, followed shortly by this first book of poetry, Y & X, in 1948. The same year, Olson began a series of lectures at Black Mountain College, an experimental institution in North Carolina, where his success led to his replacing his mentor Edward Dahlberg as a visiting lecturer. Olson worte his best early poetry at Black Mountain, including "In Cold Hell, in Thicket" and "The Kingfishers," as well as his manifest "Projective Verse," published in Poetry New York in 1950. From 1951 until its closing in 1956, Olson served as rector of Black Mountain College, inviting poets such as Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan to teach. By 1960, the year in which he published The Distances, Olson was recognized as a major figure of American poetry.

Quoted at length from Postmodern American Poetry, A Norton Anthology. Copyright © 1994 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Ed. Paul Hoover.