Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Human Universe and Other Essays

Olson, Charles. Human Universe and Other Essays. New York, NY: Grove Press, 1967.

The centerpiece of Olson's critical prose collection is the essay “Projective Verse,” which outlines the primary tenets of the Projectivist movement, also, at times, called “open verse” or “composition by field” (52). The three main principles are a) kinetics, or “energy transferred from where the poet got way of the poem itself to...the reader, b) the declaration that “FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT,” and c) harnessing a process wherein “ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION” (52). Furthermore, Olson claims that individual syllables are “the king and pin of versification, what rules and holds together lines, [and] the larger forms of the poem” (53). But, ultimately, what the poet believes to be the foundation of this movement is breath, or more specifically, the manner in which “a poet manages to register both the acquisition of his ear and the pressures of his breath” (53). In addition to stating what Projectivist verse consists of, Olson addresses what it is not: simile, traditional meter, and “observation of any kind” (55). Likewise, in an essay on Robert Duncan, titled “Against Wisdom as Such,” he writes that, of the poet, and thus poetry, “there is no symbols to him, there are only his own composed forms, and each one solely the issue of the time of the moment of its creation” (69). Of course, this last statement should not be misinterpreted as a validation of subjectivity; in fact, the Olson outright dismisses such ego-driven conceptualizations of poetry when he writes that it “is now too late to be bothered with” it, and that subjectivity “has excellently done itself to death” (59). The poet explicitly refutes the discrete subject; instead, he champions a rhythm that embodies “the flow of creation itself, in and out, intensive [and] extensive” (119), which is comprised of “velocity, force and field strength” (120) that the poet is both subject to and active agent of. Or stated differently, the poet creates “structures” that are “flexible,” and in doing so, “dissolve[s] into vibrations” of “inertia” (122). To this extent, the poet, the poem, and external realities are not as important as “what happens BETWEEN [these] things” (123).

No comments: