A Life of Olson & a Sequence of Glyphs is equal parts oracular biography and ocular surfeit, as if Ed Sanders’ lines of bios (“life”) were translating from a dead language into life his hand-drawn graphia (“to record by lines drawn”). Olson has never ceased calling the poet to see for oneself—and Sanders lets us see Olson for ourselves, through his almost tactile trove of glyphs, documents, and data clusters. This is a method familiar to readers of Sanders’ recent illustrated biography of RFK and admirers of classics like 1968. In Sanders’ neoEgyptian glyph, we see Olson creating himself as a radical Melvillean, constructing Melville’s Book Boat…Olson at a Roosevelt rally at Madison Square Garden about to introduce Frank Sinatra to the crowd…Olson in Key West, in the Hemingway House bungalow, where he “writes daily at Ernest’s own desk.” We tag along on a walk with Gerrit Lansing on Stage Fort beach, when Sanders “sees” the tansy reference from “Letter 3.” We see Olson, fresh from Yucatán, who has
…brought the Spirit of the Glyph
to Black Mountain college
where they had a “Glyph Exchange” that summer
among the guest faculty.
Ben Shahn traded Charles Olson
a drawing A Glyph for Charles for a poem
& then Katherine Litz created a dance called Glyph
with a set by Shahn, music by Lou Harrison
& words by Mr. O
All hail the Glyph
We see, by consecutive glyphs, Olson surveying the site of his wife’s fatal car crash for clue bits becoming the marginalia bits that make Olson’s three unpublished poems to her…Olson has nailed his writing desk to a Dogtown tree…Olson the seer-poet eating magic mushroom by the handfull like peanuts. See for yourself: how does Charles Olson make out when Sanders the Fug sets him up with Janis Joplin? See/hear/feel the fragment from Maximus (“I set out now / in a box upon the sea”), driftwood which Sanders collects into a hymn pyre. Ed Sanders’ Death Boat for Olson is visionary poetry built solid as a Shaker chair waiting for god to sit down. After we see the drawing of a chair-rocking Samuel Beckett in Murphy, Olson’s “how to dance / sitting down” doesn’t seem so cryptic.
Edward Sanders (born August 17, 1939) is an American poet, singer, social activist, environmentalist, author, publisher and longtime member of the band the Fugs. He has been called a bridge between the Beat and hippie generations. Sanders is considered to have been active and "present at the counterculture's creation." Sanders is the founder of the Investigative Poetry movement. His 1976 manifesto Investigative Poetry, published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books, influenced investigative writing and poetry during the ensuing decades. In the 1990s, Sanders began utilizing the principles of Investigative Poetry to create a series of book-length poems on literary figures and American History. Among these works are Chekhov, 1968: A History in Verse, and The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg. In 1998, Sanders began work on a 9-volume America, A History in Verse. The first five volumes, tracing the history of the 20th century, were published in a CD format with over 2,000 pages in length.