A Trip to Charles Olson’s Gloucester


Ipswich Bay to Gloucester Harbor; Rockport Harbor

“… Except for that letter, for years I kept largely to myself and have had a limited correspondence. That has begun to change recently but for the most part I still remain wary of my idols despite all the wonderful insight they could bring. Charles Olson would have been an exception to that rule had I been fortunate enough to have been born a full two decades earlier. From all accounts, Olson was one of the great talkers of all time at home, in the library, looming over the lecture hall, sitting at the kitchen table, or holding forth in the barroom. The depth and breadth of his thought coupled with his mythic endurance made for an exhausting and, for many listeners, a life-changing experience. I like to think I would have tracked him down at 28 Fort Square in Gloucester for an evening of strong drink and heady talk as the fog rolled in off of Ten Pound Island and mixed with the cigarette smoke. During my recent vacation to Maine, I made my pilgrimage to Olson’s place 27 years too late. It was a rewarding experience nonetheless. Gerard Malanga, Ann Charters, Robert Creeley, seemingly everybody at the University of Buffalo in the 1960s, and many others made the journey while Olson was alive. Charter took some iconic photos of Olson in the city he made such a part of his life and work. When I think of Olson I always think of these late images with the cigarette, the rumpled clothes, and his hair looking like that of a wild man of the woods mixed with Biblical sage. Olson sitting on a set of wooden steps or Olson standing smoking on the beach. My girlfriend and I took our pictures too. Exiting Route 128 — completed in 1959, Olson felt this link would be the downfall of Gloucester as a similar link was for Tyre — and winding through downtown Gloucester on the way to Fort Square, you pass the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on the right just off of Main Street and Rogers. The Center is within a stone’s throw of Olson’s house but you will not find any brochures or indication of Olson there. The Cape Ann Museum blurb mentions Fitz Hugh Lane, Winslow Homer, Mardsen Hartley and Stuart Davis but not Olson who was one of the great historians of Gloucester. I got the sense that the opinion of Olson in Gloucester is much the same as that of Kerouac in Lowell. There are a few interested parties keeping the flame alive, and the occasional Olson-inspired tourist, but by and large the city and its residents look on Olson with embarrassment or confusion if at all. …”
Reality Studio
OLSON from From Gloucester Out by Peter Anastas
Gloucester Author Peter Anastas
Jacket2: ‘To find out for yourself’ – Maximus at Gloucester High School
W – Gloucester, Massachusetts

July 20, 1967

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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