IN LOVE, IN SORROW: The Complete Correspondence of Charles Olson and Edward Dahlberg by Charles & Edward Dahlberg Olson

IN LOVE, IN SORROW: The Complete Correspondence of Charles Olson and Edward Dahlberg

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A book that is a blow to the forehead of any reviewer, and which will put all but the most Olympian reader in toxic shock. Between them, Dahlberg and Olson fell into a kind of mutual madness that left them outcasts of modern literature but that resulted in Dahlberg's The Flea of Sodom, Can These Bones Live?, The Sorrows of Priapus, and Because I Was Flesh; and Olson's Call Me Ishmael, The Archaeology of Morning, and The Maximus Poems. Of these, The Maximus Poems today seems the strongest work--but is no easy read. A difficulty in reading this 20-year correspondence lies largely in Dahlberg's determined, jut-jawed indignation with present-day civilization and in the antisyntactical crashed-grapes style he adopted for expressing himself Dahlberg was the older writer by ten years, and his mystical fervor fired Olson into a rhapsodical critical mode, like in his Melville study, Call Me Ishmael, which strikes big sparks but whose vast ideas leave many readers nonplussed and mystified. Mystification indeed seems to be at the heart of these poets' mode of discovery: to wade through baking heatwaves of words in search of pure well water. In Dahlberg's case, this led to a prophesying rant and posturing that only the most sympathetic reader can bear for more than a few pages. His breast-beating sorrows give off sentences that slam the eye with ancient words and places and show an encrusted learnedness that few will warm to. Olson, the more readable of the two, does write a letter that breathes. Much tempestuous whipping of dead horses.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1990
Publisher: Paragon