October 15, 2010

Charles Olson Centennial Celebration -- Maximus Walk with Readings, Sunday, October 10

The weather was perfect -- clear skies, warm in the sun, the air cool enough for light jackets, sort of a metaphor for this near-perfect festival. And in many ways this was the quintessential Olsonesque reading of the festival, walking the streets of Gloucester, tracking the sites here/not-here, poetry &/as civic activism, the generation that knew the poet & the next generation who gets what it's about.

Before the walk started I sat on the granite ledge of the Cape Ann Museum talking with a couple from Worcester, then with Ed Sanders about his archives, & spent the tour with my dear friend Jean Dugan -- it was that kind of day.
The first reading was across Pleasant St. from the museum at a building under contention, just a few doors down the street from City Hall.  Dave Rich read the biographical poem about from David Pearce from Maximus II, 196. Then we were led to the Middle St. location across from the YMCA that was built on the site of the Solomon Davis house & the subject of Olson's "A Scream to the Editor" (originally published in the Gloucester Daily Times 12/3/65), reprinted in Charles Olson: Letters Home edited by David Rich (Cape Ann Museum, 2010) read/proclaimed by Peter Anastas.

The Fitz Hugh Lane house on Harbor Loop was the site of the next reading where James Cook read Olson's letter of 10/16/65 (Charles Olson: Maximus to Glouceter, edited by Peter Anastas, Ten Pound Island Books, 1992). Peter said this letter contains everything Olson is about, his "specificity". Then he did Olson's letter "A Beef About Homer's Stamp" from the same book. We owe Peter thanks for this connection to the real, physical, loud, big figure of the poet.

We were led next to the maritime/industrial area, standing by the business of Gloucester, the fishing (& tourist) boats, overlooking new public space, its use being debated among the citizens. Kevin Gallagher read "Maximus, to Himself" (I, 52), with its grand ending:
It is undone business
I speak of, this morning,
with the sea
stretching out
from my feet
Then Henry Ferrini read "For RC" & Chuck Stein read from the Dogtown section of Maximus IV, V, VI.

On to St. Peter's Square for Jim Cocola from Worcester to read the tansy button "Letter 3" (I, 9). Jim is working on a map of the places mentioned in Maximus.
Carol Weston peered through her round magnifying glass to read a very short section (II, 2) of the long "Maximus from Dogtown - I". Then the trek past abandoned fish processing plants (also under contention as developers & citizens fight over its future use) to the working class neighborhood of Fort Square, looking out over the harbor, Ten Pound Island, & the ocean beyond.
Gathered beneath the windows of Charles Olson's former apartment at 28 Fort Square James Cook read III, 188 & urged the crowd to look out over Ten Pound Island, as Olson must've when writing this poem in February 1968, & Kevin Gallagher brought us back to Book 1.

We ended up on Main St. across the street from the historic Blackburn building. Peter Anastas read Olson's 1968 letter-to-the-editor/poem "Rocking Meter over Desolation" reprinted in Charls Olson: Letters Home. A couple more pieces, including Henry Ferrini reading the short nautical note of II, 132, then James Cook ended with Olson's dream-poem of Gloucester places "The Librarian" (see Archaeologist of Morning).

So much more to see, to find, and this was perfect for a Sunday in Gloucester.

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