February 19, 2012

Archeologists of Morning

Archeology is the study of human culture based on material objects left behind and the place where these are found. I am fascinated by the phrase "archeologist of morning."  This was the title of a collection of shorter poems by Charles Olson.

I traced this phrase back to Thoreau who was also a carpenter, naturalist and in his work on a house, became fascinated with 17th century building techniques in Concord, Massachusetts. He had keen observational skills and was considered "the father of modern archeology."  

Olson's work is full of the material objects and places that would fascinate an archeologist. In form, Olson seemed to favor a longer length and he often about Gloucester, Massachusetts. The images develop and circle. He varies his stanza size and indentations, and he uses parentheses and visual arrangements on the page.  He is known for his experimental work, The Maximus Poems.   
This excerpt is from his poem " As the The Dead Prey Upon Us":

each knot of which the net is made
is for the hands to untake
the knot’s making. And touch alone
can turn the knot into its own flame
                          (o mother, if you had once touched me
                          o mother, if I had once touched you)

Charles Olson is one example of how each poet must find his or her own path through the work.
In 1950, he published this essay, "Projective Verse," as a pamphlet. It was his manifesto.  Instead of traditional forms with their meter and rhyme, he urged a new approach: 

"the HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE/
the HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE."

1. Poem is a way to transfer energy from the poet and his or subject to the reader.
2. The form should evolve from the content of the poem.
3. The poem must be built with a series of perceptions, one quickly following the other.

To read his essay about poetics in its entirety, click on this link: 

In a biographical essay at the Poetry Foundation website, this paragraph reveals his process:
"Olson did not consider himself "a poet" or "a writer" by profession, but rather that nebulous and rare 'archeologist of morning,' reminiscent of Thoreau. He wrote on a typewriter. 'It is the advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precisions, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pause, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends. For the first time the poet has the stave and the bar a musician has had. For the first time he can, without the convention of rime and meter, record the listening he has done to his own speech and by that one act indicate how he would want any reader, silently or otherwise, to voice his work.' " 
Another good biography is found at http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/739

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