The Librarian

By Charles Olson 1910–1970 Charles Olson
The landscape (the landscape!) again: Gloucester,
the shore one of me is (duplicates), and from which
(from offshore, I, Maximus) am removed, observe.
 
In this night I moved on the territory with combinations
(new mixtures) of old and known personages: the leader,
my father, in an old guise, here selling books and manuscripts.
 
My thought was, as I looked in the window of his shop,
there should be materials here for Maximus, when, then,
I saw he was the young musician has been there (been before me)
 
before. It turned out it wasn’t a shop, it was a loft (wharf-
house) in which, as he walked me around, a year ago
came back (I had been there before, with my wife and son,
 
I didn’t remember, he presented me insinuations via
himself and his girl) both of whom I had known for years.
But never in Gloucester. I had moved them in, to my country.
 
His previous appearance had been in my parents’ bedroom where I
found him intimate with my former wife: this boy
was now the Librarian of Gloucester, Massachusetts!
 

                         Black space,
                         old fish-house.
                         Motions
                         of ghosts.
                         I,
                         dogging
                         his steps.
                         He
                         (not my father,
                         by name himself
                         with his face
                         twisted
                         at birth)
                         possessed of knowledge
                         pretentious
                         giving me
                         what in the instant
                         I knew better of.
 
                         But the somber
                         place, the flooring
                         crude like a wharf’s
                         and a barn’s
                         space
 
 
I was struck by the fact I was in Gloucester, and that my daughter
was there—that I would see her! She was over the Cut. I
hadn’t even connected her with my being there, that she was
 
here. That she was there (in the Promised Land—the Cut!
But there was this business, of poets, that all my Jews
were in the fish-house too, that the Librarian had made a party
 
I was to read. They were. There were many of them, slumped
around. It was not for me. I was outside. It was the Fort.
The Fort was in East Gloucester—old Gorton’s Wharf, where the Library
 
was. It was a region of coal houses, bins. In one a gang
was beating someone to death, in a corner of the labyrinth
of fences. I could see their arms and shoulders whacking
 
down. But not the victim. I got out of there. But cops
tailed me along the Fort beach toward the Tavern
 
                         The places still
                         half-dark, mud,
                         coal dust.
 
                         There is no light
                         east
                         of the Bridge
 
                         Only on the headland
                         toward the harbor
                         from Cressy’s
 
                         have I seen it (once
                         when my daughter ran
                         out on a spit of sand
 
                         isn’t even there.) Where
                         is Bristow? when does I-A
                         get me home? I am caught
 
                         in Gloucester. (What’s buried
                         behind Lufkin’s
                         Diner? Who is
 
                         Frank Moore? 

Charles Olson, “The Librarian” from The Collected Poems of Charles Olson: Excluding the Maximus Poems. Copyright © 1987 by Charles Olson. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: The Collected Poems of Charles Olson: Excluding the Maximus Poems (University of California Press, 1987)

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Poet Charles Olson 1910–1970

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Town & Country Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Mixed, Tercet

Biography

Charles Olson was an innovative poet and essayist whose work influenced numerous other writers during the 1950s and 1960s. In his influential essay on projective (or open) verse, Olson asserts that "a poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader. Okay. Then the poem itself must, at all points, be a high energy-construct . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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