Dogtown and Sea-Boys

The following is a very brief excerpt from The Maximus Poems, a set of epic “letters” involving the area in and around Gloucester, Massachusetts by one of the immense (both literally and figuratively) masters of 20th century American poetry, Charles Olson, whose ideas on poetics were of great influence to artists in many other disciplines, including Stan Brakhage.  A portion of the following was referenced in the description for his 1991 film A Child’s Garden and the Serious Sea, a somber mediation on his wife Marilyn’s childhood on the island of Victoria:



The sea was born of the earth without sweet union of love Hesiod says

But that then she lay for heaven and she bare the thing which encloses
every thing, Okeanos the one which all things are and by which nothing
is anything but itself, measured so

screwing earth, in whom love lies which unnerves the limbs and by its
heat floods the mind and all gods and men into further nature

                                                            Vast earth rejoices,

deep-swirling Okeanos steers all things through all things,
everything issues from the one, the soul is led from drunkenness
to dryness, the sleeper lights up from the dead,
the man awake lights up from the sleeping

[poem continues]


The following is the opening paragraph in a letter by Brakhage to his then wife Jane, describing an encounter with Olson, from Metaphors on Vision:

"I arrived, with bags full of groceries and beer, in company with Gerrit Lansing and Harry Martin at 4:00 in the afternoon, was immediately overwhelmed by the SIZE of the man and the electric look of the face, his grizzley beard, up-standing hair, all white, the reflections of lights in his glasses, thru which his eyes pierce with a look that would terrify were it not for the amazingly immediate look of the man, the love out-going as clearly as if, and being, blessings.  I began taking stills almost immediately, filling the air with flashes of light (having now an entire roll of still photos of the Olsons), keeping myself on that sight plain until the others had left -- at which point, Olson and I moved moved [sic] out for a walk along the bay front to 'the bridge,' then up around Gloucester streets, turning back along 'Angel' street, into his favorite bar, then on home late at night for waiting supper with Betty (Charles Peter being then in bed, beautifully asleep, 8 year old boy turned into himself in sleep making me wonder so much about Bearthm), and so on talking in the kitchen, drinking 'Old Crow' until 3:30.  And of that whole talking time, the range was so extensive I cannot really believe even the small fragments I remember could have been packed into 12 hours."

Charles Olson