Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet's Life

Tom Clark, Author W. W. Norton & Company $27.95 (403p) ISBN 978-0-393-02958-1
An incandescent biography of the inventor of ``projective'' verse, this comprehensive portrait distinguishes the convivial, bluff public figure from the tormented inner man. A lapsed Catholic, Olson (1910-1970) turned to Sumerian myths, Mayan legends and Islamic mysticism for cosmic insights that would inform poems of cyclic sweep. Torn by contradictory feelings toward his proud, stern father--a Swedish immigrant postman in Worcester, Mass.--the poet found a father-figure in mentor Edward Dahlberg and later in Ezra Pound. Reclusive self-absorption sapped his two common-law marriages; he harbored enormous guilt over his neglect of his two children and over second wife Betty Kaiser's death (in a car accident), which may have been self-inflicted during a severe depression. Clark, author of books on Kerouac, Celine and Ted Berrigan, reveals that Olson grappled with homosexual impulses, took hallucinogens and dominated those around him, seeking periodic release from inner demons in frenzied floods of images. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1991
Release date: 04/01/1991
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