Letters from Camp

In the early 1950s while at Black Mountain College, Charles Olson had a dream of an atomic holocaust. The threat of the bomb hovered over Olson. Between the death of FDR and the bombing of Hiroshima, which Olson considered the end of history, Olson revised Call Me Ishmael and wrote his first mature poems. Out of death and destruction arose Olson the creator.
Like a storm front rolling down from the Blue Ridge Mountains, the mushroom clouds of Nagasaki and Hiroshima darkened Black Mountain as well. Baseball sized hail serving as nuclear fallout. With Olson's arrival in 1948, Black Mountain took on the atmosphere of a concentration/labor camp. This was not always the case. Under Josef Albers, Black Mountain was more of a safe harbor (or socialist summer camp like those in the New York mountains) on Lake Eden nestled away from a stormy world.
Particularly after 1951 when Olson took full control of the College, the marathon teaching sessions, the extreme depravation and isolation, the Sisyphean task of keeping back the creditors and Mother Nature from possessing the campus made the students and faculty less campers and counselors and more hunger artists in a penal colony.
Black Mountain Review stands as testimony from these survivors, from these exiles who chose a Siberia of their own devising over the air-conditioned nightmare that was handed down by their parents. Like the Illiterati out of Waldport, the Black Mountain Review is samizdat, a clandestine, fugitive publication to be passed from hand to hand and to be read in whispers in darkened rooms. This literary review gave voice to those wishing to speak out against the Silent Decade. Hundreds of magazines would follow in the Review's footsteps to create the anthem that arose out of the Mimeo Revolution.



Post a Comment