(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The key to this second volume of The Maximus Poems, sometimes called Maximus II, is the map that Olson placed on the cover. It is a map of Gondwanaland, the name by which many geographers call the primordial or unified continent that existed before, as Olson put it, “Earth started to come apart at the seams, some 125 million years awhile back and India took off from Africa & migrated to Asia.” In this volume, Olson continues to probe the specific historical information of Gloucester but also moves inland to explore the history and origins of a section of Gloucester called Dogtown. Working, however, in an “open field” forced Olson to delve even more deeply into what preceded history, and he found himself confronting the nature and function of prehistorical forms of consciousness called myth. Much of this volume examines systems of mythic consciousness and attempts to understand how myths are encoded with essential human information and become permanent forms of human experience. Olson, an avowed believer in the theories of Jung, also viewed myths as archetypes of the collective unconscious.

Olson’s advice to Edward Dorn to “exhaust” or “saturate” one place until he knew more about it than anyone else ever could became Olson’s directive to himself in his years of examining Gloucester. It also, however, necessitated a rearrangement of the rest of the world in the light of what he learned about his origins. Immediately after declaring that his memory is “the history of time” in The Maximus Poems IV, V, VI he locates another, more onerous task: “I am...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bollobás, Eniko. Charles Olson. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Cech, John. Charles Olson and Edward Dahlberg: A Portrait of a Friendship. Victoria, B.C.: English Literary Studies, University of Victoria, 1982.

Maud, Ralph. Charles Olson’s Reading: A Biography. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996.

Olson, Charles, and Cid Corman. Charles Olson and Cid Corman: Complete Correspondence, 1950-1964. Edited by George Evans. 2 vols. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1987.

Rifkin, Libbie. Career Moves: Olson, Creeley, Zukofsky, Berrigan, and the American Avant-Garde. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.

Rumaker, Michael. Black Mountain Days. Asheville, N.C.: Black Mountain Press, 2003.