After Completion

By Charles Olson
With Frances Boldereff
Edited by Sharon Thesen & Ralph Maud

After Completion
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After Completion: The Later Letters between modern American poet Charles Olson and typographer and Joyce scholar Frances Boldereff opens in September 1950, following a crisis that amounted to a “completion” of the major phase of their relationship. The 140 letters in this ... Read more


Overview

After Completion: The Later Letters between modern American poet Charles Olson and typographer and Joyce scholar Frances Boldereff opens in September 1950, following a crisis that amounted to a “completion” of the major phase of their relationship. The 140 letters in this volume present a passionate relationship realized mostly in correspondence—one that was ultimately vital to Olson’s working out of his projectivist poetics. Unique among Olson’s correspondents, Boldereff embodied the interlocutor, muse, Sybil, lover, and critic, and through her engagement with Olson had an incalculable effect on twentieth-century poetry.

Charles Olson

Charles Olson
Charles Olson’s first two books, Call Me Ishmael (1947), a study of Melville’s Moby Dick, and The Mayan Letters (1953), written to Robert Creeley from Mexico, cover a range of subjects?mythology, anthropology, language, and cultural history?and use the fervent informal style that were to distinguish all his discursive prose. Settling in Gloucester, Massachusetts, he devoted most of his time and energy until his death in 1970 to The Maximus Poems, his most substantial work.

Ralph Maud
Ralph Maud is the author of Charles Olson Reading (1996) and the editor of The Selected Letters of Charles Olson (2000.) He has edited much of Dylan Thomas’s work, including The Notebook Poems 1930?1934 and The Broadcasts, and is co-editor, with Walford Davies, of Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems, 1934?1953 and Under Milk Wood. Maud is also the editor of The Salish People: Volumes I, II, III & IV by pioneer ethnographer Charles Hill-Tout. In addition, he has done extensive work on the translation collaboration between Henry W. Tate and Franz Boas, including the book, Transmission Difficulties: Franz Boas and Tsimshian Mythology.

Ralph Maud

Ralph Maud is Emeritus Professor of English and Associate of the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University. He founded the Charles Olson Literary Society. He is the author of Charles Olson Reading (1996) and the editor of The Selected Letters of Charles Olson (2000.) He has edited much of Dylan Thomas’s work, including The Notebook Poems 1930–1934 and The Broadcasts, and is co-editor, with Walford Davies, of Dylan Thomas: The Collected Poems, 1934–1953 and Under Milk Wood. Maud is also the editor of The Salish People: Volumes I, II, III & IV by pioneer ethnographer Charles Hill-Tout. He has been a contributing editor to Coast Salish Essays by Wayne Suttles, The Chilliwacks and Their Neighbours by Oliver Wells, and is the author of A Guide to B.C. Indian Myth and Legend, and The Porcupine Hunter and Other Stories—a collection of Henry W. Tate’s stories in Tate’s original English, which grew out of his survey of Franz Boas’s Tsimshian work, published as an article: “The Henry Tate-Franz Boas Collaboration on Tsimshian Mythology” in American Ethnologist. Maud’s subsequently published book, Transmission Difficulties: Franz Boas and Tsimshian Mythology, expands further on the relationship between Henry Tate and Franz Boas.

Excerpt

[a letter from Boldereff to Olson, during his years at Black Mountain College]

Brooklyn to Black Mountain
[26 November 1953]

                                              Thanksgiving

Charles dear—

 A very nice black special delivery man brought the exquisite package last night—and I stayed up to read it through—It is now before breakfast and I hasten to tell you, though as you can guess, there is very much which I am not sure of at this first reading, that the primary adjective which comes up to me is clean—that in some marvelous transposition the very air of a Gloucesterman's boat has somehow been made to blow—that the pages are intensely clean and male.   That they come to me as Ishmael did with a wondrous healing at an hour most needed (I had precisely at five last night a big blow out with my boss).   But above all, I want to tell you that this last two weeks I am steeped in Rimbaud's La Chasse Spirituelle which I ordered from France and in the light of all that sacred holy thing discloses of Rimbaud's sufferings (I cannot wait to show and talk to you about it) in that high light--where I was touchy and fussy as a priest in his sanctuary—Maximus seems the next direct step—it comes over big, Olson--clean as clean—and while it requires, as always, very much hard work on my part to decipher in detail--it has already delivered its message to me and I would say comes out as in absolute, direct succession to La Chasse.

 I have found a book which you also must see, "The Sacred Tree Script"—explains things in Rimbaud, in Plato and refers in ways I want to discuss with you to your "Gate and the Center"—very wonderful discovery, to me, and I now think--I can practically draw a literal line of exactly how and where the thing has traveled from the beginning of "man's motion"—is not that what you called it?

 There were several beautiful things that struck me as I read so hastily—

 "In the midst of plenty, walk. .."

this whole passage through to the end of this Song is genuine song and I hope will be made a song and sung by someone who feels its music as I do and can hum a tune, as I can not.

It is a strange thing to be a woman—to be as full of your thing you could burst—and yet to have no outlet—I feel my thing growing to a size and a clarity inside me that you'd think it would have to break through in some form—yet I can neither sing, compose, write prose or verse, draw, sculpt or any of all those blood passages--perhaps I can squeeze it out into my house, which I am still determined to build before I die!

One other thing—I have an article from the architect Deitrick, on his terrific State Fair Arena at Raleigh, N. C.  Most exciting building of the modern world—go to Raleigh if you possibly can—and see it—as I plan to whenever I can swing the money—Charles—in that building you will find everything which makes genuine polis--one of the great achievements. And the result of what cooperation and creative joint activity. Please hunt up Engineering News Record—February 5 1953 an article "Curved Roof on cables spans big arena" and you will thrill to see proof that Gloucester is now in Raleigh, N. C.

                                      Your loving Frances

I only realized a few days ago that the dwarf letter disturbed you --that was not innuendo, Charles—it was straight child—and referred to physical head only—and my remarks, to trying to delve into cause, why, against the obvious, I felt it to be so physically accurate. It all has to do with a play I saw as a child which has become a kind of legend to Lucinda and means something neither of us can convey but which we are clear about, completely, entre nous.

Reviews

“Boldereff, while appearing to serve her pantheon of ‘great men,’ puts them into her service. This book is not the fiery Olson workshop of the previous volume. Boldereff here enters the period of her own working, beginning with her manifesto Credo in Unam … it is a call for a new woman, a woman who is strong, independent, sexually liberated, and within whose ambit man can find his own maturity, as they enter the new age together … Boldereff’s books are strange but not delirious. Her work on Joyce is substantial … ”
The Capilano Review

“What is stunning about this collection is the density of intellectual and cultural observations by both participants in this dialogue – and the ways in which Boldereff and Olson’s mythopoetic shoptalk quickly shifted in and out of the amorous and plainly erotic, which here so often serve as the groundwork of the intellectual and cultural materials. ”
— Andrew Mossin

“Lovers to the end, Olson and Boldereff remained faithfully bonded by the central role that imagination and art played in each of their lives. Their mutual admiration for each other’s intellect was left untarnished by any personal failure. In this volume of letters, it is Boldereff who appears the stronger of the two on all accounts. She never wavers in her interest in Olson as both a man and an artist. … If there’s any benefit to come from having this correspondence made available, it should surely bring about greater attention to the sharp interrelating of Joyce and Blake accomplished by Boldereff in her books. Her work receives too little the acknowledgement it richly deserves. ”
Bookslut

“What is stunning about this collection is the density of intellectual and cultural observations by both participants in this dialogue – and the ways in which Boldereff and Olson’s mythopoetic shoptalk quickly shifted in and out of the amorous and plainly erotic, which here so often serve as the groundwork of the intellectual and cultural materials. ”
—Andrew Mossin

“Lovers to the end, Olson and Boldereff remained faithfully bonded by the central role that imagination and art played in each of their lives. Their mutual admiration for each other’s intellect was left untarnished by any personal failure. In this volume of letters, it is Boldereff who appears the stronger of the two on all accounts. She never wavers in her interest in Olson as both a man and an artist. … If there’s any benefit to come from having this correspondence made available, it should surely bring about greater attention to the sharp interrelating of Joyce and Blake accomplished by Boldereff in her books. Her work receives too little the acknowledgement it richly deserves. ”
Bookslut

“Lovers to the end, Olson and Boldereff remained faithfully bonded by the central role that imagination and art played in each of their lives. Their mutual admiration for each other’s intellect was left untarnished by any personal failure. In this volume of letters, it is Boldereff who appears the stronger of the two on all accounts. She never wavers in her interest in Olson as both a man and an artist. … If there’s any benefit to come from having this correspondence made available, it should surely bring about greater attention to the sharp interrelating of Joyce and Blake accomplished by Boldereff in her books. Her work receives too little the acknowledgement it richly deserves. ”
Bookslut

“Boldereff, while appearing to serve her pantheon of ‘great men,’ puts them into her service. This book is not the fiery Olson workshop of the previous volume. Boldereff here enters the period of her own working, beginning with her manifesto Credo in Unam … it is a call for a new woman, a woman who is strong, independent, sexually liberated, and within whose ambit man can find his own maturity, as they enter the new age together … Boldereff’s books are strange but not delirious. Her work on Joyce is substantial … ”
The Capilano Review

“What is stunning about this collection is the density of intellectual and cultural observations by both participants in this dialogue – and the ways in which Boldereff and Olson’s mythopoetic shoptalk quickly shifted in and out of the amorous and plainly erotic, which here so often serve as the groundwork of the intellectual and cultural materials. ”
— Andrew Mossin

“Boldereff, while appearing to serve her pantheon of ‘great men,’ puts them into her service. This book is not the fiery Olson workshop of the previous volume. Boldereff here enters the period of her own working, beginning with her manifesto Credo in Unam … it is a call for a new woman, a woman who is strong, independent, sexually liberated, and within whose ambit man can find his own maturity, as they enter the new age together … Boldereff’s books are strange but not delirious. Her work on Joyce is substantial … ”
The Capilano Review

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