The above image is of Olson at 28 Fort Square in March 1966. He was recorded for the documentary USA: Poetry. Now I have not listened to every Olson reading but I have heard my share. I have been to PennSound; I placed the Folkways album on my turntable. I have to admit that Olson the reader oftimes hits a dull note with me. Maybe he is like an old locomotive. It takes him awhile to get started; he does struggle with openings. Maybe like Carl Lewis singing the National Anthem Olson will bring it home, but listening to Olson reading I wonder of the power of Olson the talker. That one on one surrounded by cigarette smoke; his hot breath in your face and his gestures dangerously close to cuffing you on the chin. Where is that guy?
Well, the crew at USA: Poetry caught that guy on film. Maybe because they caught Olson in his natural habitat. Maybe because Olson reading here was like Olson talking around midnight on a cool night at Black Mountain. Loose, informal.
Olson absolutely kills it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAYxpSjkyAg reading Maxiums to Gloucester, Letter 27 [Withheld]. This is Olson at his best and hearing this, watching this I find myself caught up in Olson the mythic figure. Hearing this I become an Olson groupie, an hanger-on, hanging on every word.
Here is Tom Clark on that day in March 1966:
"Olson proved only slightly easier to keep up with when his sanctuary was invaded in March 1966 by an production crew from the NET documentary series USA: Poetry. He allowed himself to be filmed amid a cloud of smoke in his unventilated kitchen, reading "The Librarian" and then talking extempore, with great good cheer and characteristic poetic disconnectedness, of Catholicism and fishing, the history of Gloucester and Tim Leary's drug bust, the writing of Maximus and a recent bizarre neighborhood episode in which he'd hoisted a boy who'd flung dirt at him onto the roof of the beach wagon and, in lieu of administering a spanking, taken a bite out of him. Afterwards he dragged producer Dick Moore and cameraman Phil Green out on the town, proudly showing off landmarks of his poems like Lufkin's Diner, and conducting and informative but potentially hazardous tour of the harbor while "stumbling around in his big coat talking about a million things at once" with such evident abandon that Green feared he'd misstep and plunge through the rotting boards of the ramshackle old wharf. (When the show appeared five months later, with his several hours of monologue squeezed in a fifteen-minute segment, the TV-star-for-a-day sent out notices instructing old friends as disparate as Frances and James Laughlin to tune in.)"