Charles Olson @ 100: Post 1 of many

The first celebratory event of the year Charles Olson would have turned 100 happened — for me at least — a few days ago when the postman  (& it took a big man, a big postman, one Olson’s father’s size, for it was heavy, the event) brought my copy of Les Poèmes de Maximus — complete! — translated into French by Auxeméry and published by La Nerthe, a smallish  “libraire éditeur” (even now none of the big publishers would touch such a project…) in its “Collection classique” (some irony there, no?). Fittingly La Nerthe is located in the harbor town of Toulon, a short walk from the harbor & the Mediterranean. Olson would have approved, despite his strictures concerning the northern rim of the (post)-Homerian sea. I had known the name La Nerthe only as the designation of a Chateauneuf du Pape Rhône vintage.

The poems with table of contents come to 445 pages — but that is not the whole book, by far. These pages are followed by another 300 page section consisting of an introduction, various glossaries, biblio-biographical sections and an appendix of documents. An amazing sum of work for which Auxeméry has to be thanked maximally indeed! I have only dipped into the work, getting my ear adjusted to hear poems so familiar to me in English in a language that has traditionally not been open for a poetics of the breath and has for too long lived on what Olson criticized in European thought since Plato, namely “discourse.” But it looks & sounds like Auxeméry, who has been a close reader of Olson for a long time, has managed to do the job brilliantly, bending, breaking and refashioning the language to an Olsonian use. My only regret for the moment is that in old French fashion (indécrottables!) the front cover does not give the translator’s name, something translators on both sides of Okeanos have been fighting for for a long time. Here is Auxeméry’s version of “Added to / making a Republic” from volume III of the Maximus.


Ajouté à la

construction d’une République

dans la pénombre à la Pointe

de la Sentinelle

          une terre de valeur à construire

          au présent, une, du rythme à

          l’image, et l’image est connaissance, et

          la connaissance, dit Confucius, conduit dans l’unité

          au but: rien n’est possible sans

          cette unité.   Là est l’épreuve, *malgré*

          toute la pensé et le pêle-mêle total dans lesquels

          on la propose. Ou la penser ou la vivre

          en avance du temps.

               Lecture concernant le monde mien

               6 mars 1968

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2 Responses

  1. Peter says:

    P.S.: an e x c e l l e n t and thus wholly befitting Château, La Nerthe! 🙂

  2. Andre Spears says:


    (My thanks to H. Ferrini for referring me to your blog.)

    Just wanted to second your take on this very impressive piece of work by Auxemery. An extraordinary new roadmap into Olson’s opus, which I picked up in December about the time it came out… Thing is, I left it in France because it was too big to fit in my carry-on… wouldn’t you know.

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