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—June 2010. Polis is This and Lowell Blues screening, National Gallery of Art, 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC. 20565 Tel: 202.842.6272
—October 9th, 2010. Charles Olson Centenary Festival, Gloucester, MA. Polis is This.
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Poet & The City: Charles Olson and the poetry of place

"His place in history" by Dinah Cardin. Friday, March 19, 2004. North Shore Sunday. "He was one of the most influential poets of the last century, and Gloucester was his main muse. Now, a filmmaker wants to make sure Charles Olson's legacy lives on in his hometown..."

» Press Release
» Mayor of Gloucester responds to new film on Charles Olson
» "In The Giant's Shadow,"Gloucester Daily Times, 5/21/03
» Billy Collins on Charles Olson

Throughout our American History, from the Pilgrims through the great immigrations of the early 20th century, the promise of place has been the promise to belong - a place to come ashore. An immigrant son of Swedish and Irish decent, Charles Olson came to Gloucester, Massachusetts at the turn of the century. Here as poet and historian, he uncovers original ground and finds his roots exploring the geology, history and people of his chosen place. Gloucester became the literal and symbolic ground for him to stand and build upon. Polis is This investigates and interprets the work of this great American genius and the city that defined his particular universe.

Charles Olson
By courtesy ©Ann Charters from beats & company-portrait of a literary generation.

John Dewey articulates an aesthetic doctrine that "the local is the universal that all art builds." This has been a great motivator in Ferrini's work. He has worked on films about Salem, Gloucester, Lynn, Lowell and Peabody, what Jack Kerouac calls "the great continent of New England." From Olson's polis, a city in ideal form, his creative energy pushed beyond the modern into the postmodern - a word he coined. His theories sent tremors through the 1960s literary establishment, setting off a sea change in poetry and unleashing an entire generation of younger poets: Creeley, Baraka, Levertov and Ginsberg. As historian and cultural critic he foresaw present day problems as diverse as multinational corporate power and urban sprawl.

By courtesy ©Ann Charters from beats & company-portrait of a literary generation.




By courtesy ©Ann Charters from beats & company-portrait of a literary generation.

The decline of fishing, the upswing of tourism, and urban renewal took their share of '60s Gloucester, heralding the sprawling problems we face today. Olson saw a shadow descending, the small and beautiful fishing village being crushed by greed. He called it "renewal by destruction" and worried about the forces that would undermine Gloucester. From his stance he saw the beginning of the McDonaldization of America.

Whether excoriating the town in the local paper for its lack of vision, or alluding to Gloucester's nexus with seafaring Phoenicians in the ancient city of Tyre, Olson's firm grip on history, place and myth was a powerful poetic tool which he forcefully exercised. Polis is This investigates the seminal avant-garde poet, Charles Olson, in conjunction with his enduring connection to his place and origin of inspiration, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

John Sinclair, poet, political prisoner, jazz journalist, blues scholar, disc jockey and self-proclaimed acolyte of Charles Olson talking to Henry Ferrini about "the big O" while in Gloucester. Photo: Marc Fisher (larger image)




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