“Charles Olson, 1910-1970: a Centennial Selection from the Ralph Maud Collection,” on exhibit in Houghton Library’s Chaucer case (on the ground floor) since November 3, will be extended through February 7. The exhibition celebrates both the centennial of the birth of this influential American poet, and the 2009 gift to the Houghton of the Ralph Maud collection of Charles Olson.
Charles Olson greatly influenced his contemporaries through his poetry, his essays, and his teaching during the 1950s at the innovative arts school Black Mountain College. His ties to New England were many and deep. Olson was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, and spent summer vacations in the coastal town of Gloucester, Mass. He earned a B.A. and an M.A. from Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, taught at Clark University in Worcester, and was enrolled in the doctoral program in American Studies at Harvard. He settled in Gloucester in 1957, following the dissolution of Black Mountain College, and lived there for the rest of his life. His major work, The Maximus poems, while wide-ranging in content, directly concerns the town of Gloucester, its geography, its history, and its relationship to the poem’s narrator, Maximus.
The Ralph Maud collection of about 200 items represents a near-complete collection of Olson’s publications. It includes first editions and selected later editions of his major works and first appearances of many of his poems in literary magazines of the 1950s and 1960s, some of which were ephemeral and are quite rare today. Ralph Maud received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. He is a distinguished Olson scholar and biographer, and was a friend of Charles Olson.
This post was contributed by Houghton Library Rare Book Cataloger (and cataloger of the Olson collection) Elaine Shiner.
Above: Cover of Charles Olson Reading at Berkeley. f AC95.Oℓ843.966c.
Right: Design by Nikola Cernovich. Created to accompany This, a poem by Charles Olson. Black Mountain, NC: Black Mountain College Graphics Workshop, 1952. *2010-836.
Below: Canyon de Chelly, by Charles Olson. Published by Simon Fraser University and the Chax Press for the Charles Olson Centenary Conference, June 4-6, 2010, Simon Fraser University. *2010-835.