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Charles Olson Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-VMF-vmf129

1965 September 3. Galley proof for O'Ryan 12345678910 [collection of poems]. Note in ink at the bottom of page 2 concerning the spacing and referring to an earlier edition [White Rabbit Press, 1958] is in the hand of Charles Olson. White Rabbit Press version, 1965, keeps all revisions indicated on the galley proof. The title in the 1965 printed edition was changed from upper case Roman letters, found in the galley, to lower case italics. 2 pages

Autograph note from Olson to unidentified, 1 page

Autograph letter signed, 6 pages from Olson to Paul Metcalf [1964]


  • Creation: 1964-1965


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


3.00 items

1 folders

Biographical Information

Charles Olson (December 27, 1910 – January 10, 1970), was a second generation American modernist poet who was a link between earlier figures such as Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and the New American poets, which includes the New York School, the Black Mountain School, the Beat poets, and the San Francisco Renaissance. Consequently, many postmodern groups, such as the poets of the language school, include Olson as a primary and precedent figure.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Olson spent summers in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which was to become the focus of his writing. He studied literature and American studies, gaining a B.A and M.A at Wesleyan University. For two years Olson taught English at Clark University then entered Harvard University in 1936 where he finished his coursework for a Ph.D. in American civilization but failed to complete his degree.

In 1941, Olson moved to New York and became the publicity director for the American Civil Liberties Union. One year later, he moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked in the Foreign Language Division of the Office of War Information, where he spent the rest of the war years, eventually rising to Assistant Chief of the division. In 1944, Olson went to work for the Foreign Languages Division of the Democratic National Committee. Olson left politics and dedicated himself to writing, moving to Key West, Florida, in 1945.  In 1951, Olson became a visiting professor at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.  When Black Mountain College closed in 1956, Olson settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He served as a visiting professor at the University at Buffalo (1963-1965) and at the University of Connecticut (1969).

Olson's first book, Call Me Ishmael (1947), a study of Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, was a continuation of his M.A. thesis from Wesleyan University. In Projective Verse (1950), Olson called for a poetic meter based on the poet's breathing and an open construction based on sound and the linking of perceptions rather than syntax and logic. In 1950, Olson began writing The Maximus Poems. An exploration of American history in the broadest sense, Maximus is also an epic of place, Massachusetts and specifically the city of Gloucester where Olson had settled. When Olson knew he was dying of cancer, he instructed his literary executor Charles Boer and others to organize and produce the final book in the sequence following Olson's death.

Olson's reputation rests in the main on his complex, sometimes difficult poems such as "The Kingfishers," "In Cold Hell, in Thicket," and The Maximus Poems, work that tends to explore social, historical, and political concerns. His shorter verse, poems such as "Only The Red Fox, Only The Crow," "Other Than," "An Ode on Nativity," "Love," and "The Ring Of" are more immediately accessible and manifest a sincere, original, emotionally powerful voice.

Method of Acquisition

Accession number 985. Purchased from Henry Wenning, September 9, 1968

Accession number 22913, March 4, 2003. Purchased from Charles Maud (Ralph Maud) (Autograph note signed from Olson)

Accession number MSS2016-029. Purchased from Ralph B. Sipper, December 16, 2016 (Autograph letter signed to Paul Metcalf)

Other Descriptive Information

O'Ryan 12345678910 galley proofs located in vertical manuscript files oversize

Processing Information

Processed October 1969

Charles Olson Collection
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 March 17: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495