Saturday, August 28, 2010

Olson 100 Update

Diane DiPrima, Poet Laureate of San Francisco, to be featured performer at Gloucester’s Charles Olson Centennial Celebration, October 3-10

Diane DiPrima, Poet Laureate of San Francisco, will be the featured reader at Olson 100, Gloucester’s celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Olson, the local poet whose reputation was international. Sponsored by the Charles Olson Society, the Cape Ann Museum and local booksellers, businesses and non-profit organizations, and with a grant from the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation, the main events for the week-long celebration will take place on October 8-10 in downtown Gloucester.

DiPrima, who rose to prominence as a member of the Beat Generation of American writers, and who has published over forty books of poetry and prose, will be joined on Saturday night, October 9, by novelist, short story writer and poet Michael Rumaker. Both DiPrima and Rumaker were close personal friends of Olson’s during the 1950s and 60s. Rumaker, who was Olson’s student at Black Mountain College, in Asheville, North Carolina, is also the author of Black Mountain Days, a memoir of the college and his friendship with Olson, who was both a teacher and rector at the legendary experimental school, which launched the careers of painter Robert Rauschenberg and dancer Merce Cunningham.

The DiPrima and Rumaker readings, at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Universalist Unitarian Church, 10 Church Street, Gloucester, will be preceded by two panel discussions at the Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant Street. The first, at 10:30 a.m., “Remembering Olson,” moderated by Gloucester writer and friend of Olson’s, Peter Anastas, will bring together speakers who actually knew Olson to share their experiences of the poet as a writer, mentor, teacher and friend. DiPrima and Rumaker are expected to join the panel along with poet and musician Ed Sanders and others. This panel will be followed by “Olson’s Project,” in which the poet’s legacy and contemporary relevance will be discussed. Beginning at 1 p.m., the panel will be moderated by poet, writer and CUNY professor Ammiel Alcalay, at whose Rocky Neck home Olson was often a visitor. Participants will include choreographer and writer Kate Tarlow Morgan, poets Charles Stein and Kristin Prevallet, writer, publisher and Los Angeles urban activist Fred Dewey, and others to be announced. The panels will be followed by the showing of Henry Ferrini’s award winning documentary film about Olson in Gloucester, “Polis is This” at 3 p.m. at the Cape Ann Community Cinema, 21 Main Street.

On Friday evening, there will be a marathon poetry reading at the UUC church, beginning at 7 p.m. Participants, including Gerrit Lansing and Ed Sanders, will read from their own poetry and from Olson’s. Events for Sunday, October 10 will begin at 11 a.m. with a “Maximus Walk,” led by members of the Charles Olson Society. Those who join the walk will visit local landmarks, which Olson has written about in “The Maximus Poems,” his epic about the city’s history. Relevant poems will be read at the various stops along the walk, which will lead from Stage Fort Park to downtown Gloucester.

The “Maximus Walk” will be followed by a presentation by Sarah Slifer and Mark Wagner of Olson’s dance play, “Apollonius of Tyana” at the Blackburn Performance Center. After the performance composer and musician Willie Alexander will present a concert of Olson’s poems, which he has set to music. A reception and party, at a location to be announced, will end the festivities.

Other scheduled events include a week of poetry and prose readings by local writers leading up to the main events, the launching of “Letters Home,” David Rich’s edition of Olson’s letters to Gloucester residents, published by the Cape Ann Museum, on Saturday, October 3 at 4 p.m., followed by a reading and book signing by Ammiel Alcalay of his new novel “Islanders,” at the Bookstore in Gloucester’s West End. Concurrently, the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library will sponsor “Olson in Print,” an exhibit of Olson books and memorabilia, curated by Gregory Gibson of Ten Pound Island Book Company. There will be a contemporary art installation by painter Susan Erony and photographer Paul Cary Goldberg, sponsored by the Cape Ann Museum at the White Ellery House, filmmaker and writer Henry Ferrini will give a reading from his children’s book about Olson, “Little Charlie Goes to Gloucester,” at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, October 9, and Gloucester writers James Cook and Peter Anastas will lead a weekly Charles Olson Study Group at the Bookstore, in Gloucester’s West End, beginning on Thursday, September 9 at 7 p.m., which is free and open to all to sign up for and attend.

For more information about the Charles Olson Centennial Celebration please visit

Contact persons: Peter Anastas, 978-283-4582

James Cook, 978-281-5570

Henry Ferrini, 978-281-2355

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Charles Olson Study Group: An informal approach to understanding the life & writing of Charles Olson

Poetry lovers and those who would like to learn more about the life and work of the internationally acclaimed Gloucester poet Charles Olson are invited to join a free study group at the Bookstore in the West End, beginning on Thursday, September 9.

Sponsored by the Charles Olson Society and the Bookstore of Gloucester, the study group is open to everyone without charge. It will meet weekly through October 7 at 7 p.m. each evening.

Leading the study group will be poet, editor and teacher James Cook and writer and former Gloucester Times columnist, Peter Anastas. Anastas, a personal friend of Olson’s, edited the poet’s letters to the editor of the Gloucester Times, published as “Maximus to Gloucester.”

The purpose of the group, according to Cook, is to make Olson’s poetry and prose accessible to participants.

“We’ll be reading the major poems together,” Cook said, “trying to place them in the context of Olson’s multi-faceted career as a Harvard-trained scholar and historian, a wartime bureaucrat and Democratic Party politician in Washington, DC, and a teacher and later rector of the famed experimental Black Mountain College.”

“Our special focus,” Anastas adds, “will be on Olson’s life and work in Gloucester, particularly ‘The Maximus Poems,’ Olson’s epic poem about the city through history.”

The only required text for the study group will be Ralph Maud’s comprehensive “A Charles Olson Reader,” which is available for immediate purchase at the Book Store (see above cover photo of Maud's book).

Those interested in joining the group are asked to stop in at the Book Store and sign up or to call at 978-281-1548 to reserve a place.

The Olson study group is part of a series of events leading up to Olson 100, Gloucester’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth, which will take place over the weekend of October 9-10.

The celebration will include readings by local and visiting writers, panel discussions about Olson’s legacy, a Sunday morning walk to Gloucester sites mentioned in Olson’s poetry and the performance by Sarah Slifer and Mark Wagner of a dance play by Olson, followed by a concert featuring local musician and composer Willie Alexander, who has set some of Olson’s poetry to music. For more information on the centenary or the study group, please go to