November 1, 2018

Annual Charles Olson Lecture: Ed Sanders, October 27


It’s not like I need an excuse to go to Gloucester, where I’d been to this year at the end of September & before that at the end of August, but an event sponsored by the Gloucester Writers Center is always an added benefit. So here I was at the Cape Ann Museum to hear Ed Sanders deliver this year's lecture on the life of Charles Olson with Sander’s own hand drawn glyphs as illustrations.

Sanders was introduced by scholar Ammiel Alcalay who is no stranger to Gloucester himself, see his 2013 book a little history (republic/UpSet Press), & he filled his introduction with big chunks of quote from Olson’s poems & essays, & he has been a part of past panels & presentations on Gloucester’s biggest poet.

Ed Sanders’ 2-hour romp along the Charles Olson time-track was based on his just-published piece of investigative poetry, A Life of Olson & a Sequence of Glyphs on Points of his life, work, & times, self-published at Meads Mountain Press, Woodstock, NY (more on this later). His talk used the glyphs — had lettered & drawn pages — that in the book are interspersed with more traditionally printed text. Ed had a personal/poetic association with Olson, dating from 1962, so he interweaved anecdotes, quotes, postcards, even a pint Cutty Sark bottle of Olson's that he still has, with the facts of Olson’s life. Sanders is a scholar of ancient Greek & of Egyptian hieroglyphics which he used as integral parts of of the glyph pages. Of course, being at the Cape Ann Museum, most of Olson’s work cited was from his Maximus Poems. & at the end Ed also paid tribute to the late Gerrit Lansing, another Gloucester figure who was also an inspired poet of note.

I have read 2 biographies of Charles Olson, as well as shorter works that talk about his life & his Maximus poems, so his life story is familiar to me, but it was refreshing to hit the high points, &  to hear Ed's own anecdotes; & for those unfamiliar with Olson’s life & work this talk would serve as a excellent introduction.

[Addendum:  There is a recording of the lecture on youtube.]

The following day, Sunday, October 28, Ed Sanders did a reading & talk about his other new book, Broken Glory: The Final Years of Robert F. Kennedy, A Graphic History (Arcade Publishing, 2018) with illustrations by Rich Veitch at the Gloucester Writers Center. As he did when I saw him read from this work in July (see my Blog), he read sections from the climactic moment when RFK is assassinated, & talked about his years of research on the topic before finally writing the book, & performed a sad poem about RFK's murder on his lyre.

At the end of the reading I was able to purchase a copy of A Life of Olson, which is a manuscript box of 160+ pages, 8 1/2 x 11 inches, printed on one side each. Much of it is in traditional book type-face but a substantial number of pages are the hand-written & drawn glyphs. I’ve had great fun going through the box, not so much reading the text as studying the glyph-pages with it’s mix of drawings, pictures, text in ancient Greek, & Egyptian based designs -- a unique piece of investigative poetry/book-art.

Broken Glory is available at the usual online bookstores & I expect can be ordered through your local independent bookstore. Getting a copy of A Life of Olson is another story.




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