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Charles Olson

Charles Olson

The Scholar’s Art

Robert von Hallberg

ISBN 9780674111301

Publication date: 12/08/1978

Charles Olson is often described as one of the most influential American poets of the last quarter century; some would rather describe him as a cult figure, prophet of the Black Mountain poets and their descendants. Both judgments refer to an influence exerted as much through theories as through poems. Here is an examination of Olson's understanding of poetry that is cogent and a pleasure to read. It provides the framework needed for understanding Olson's work.

Mr. von Hallberg shows us the Olson of the 1950s, who tried to bring change through teaching, who wanted poetry to communicate knowledge, as well as the more private poet of the 1960s, turning from history to myth. Olson's ambitions for poetry were based on his sense of cultural politics, and the author studies the relation between Olson's politics and his poetics. He traces too Olson's relation to older poets, especially Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. His book will interest anyone reading contemporary American poetry.


  • Brilliant… One puts it down with the conviction that it is also one of the most remarkable books on any post-war poet… Von Hallberg’s contention that Olson’s poems ‘cannot be adequately appreciated within terms of recent poetic theory’, and his subsequent exploration of alternative theory, powerfully remove our preconceptions of what a poem ought to be and so enable us to see with a new clarity the nature of Olson’s achievement.

    —Times Literary Supplement


  • Robert von Hallberg teaches English literature at the University of Chicago.

Book Details

  • 264 pages
  • 6 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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