Olson, Charles, 1910-1970

Alternative names
Birth 1910-12-27
Death 1970-01-10

Biographical notes:

Charles Olson, the leading voice of the Black Mountain poets, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was a notable student at Wesleyan University, where his groundbreaking work on Herman Melville evolved into the highly praised monograph, Call Me Ishmael. Inspired by Franklin Roosevelt, Olson worked his way up through the Democratic Party, but quit after Roosevelt's death, and began a brilliant career as a writer and educator. His manifesto, Projective Verse, influenced a generation of poets with its thesis that traditional verse was artificial; Olson's own poetry was widely praised, and he is seen as the successor of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams in promoting modern verse.

From the description of Charles Olson letter to Frances Motz Boldereff, circa 1948. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 69937737

Charles Olson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on 27 December 1910, to Karl Joseph and Mary Hines Olson. He attended Wesleyan University where he received a B.A. in 1932 and a M.A. in 1933. He continued his graduate studies at Harvard University from 1936 to 1938. His daughter Katherine was born during his first marriage, to Constance Wilcock. His second marriage, to Elizabeth Kaiser, produced a son, Charles Peter. Elizabeth, or Betty as she was known to her friends, died tragically in a car accident in March 1964. Charles Olson received several prestigious awards during his long career, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, in 1939 and 1948; a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant in 1952; a Longview Foundation award for The Maximus Poems in 1961; and an Oscar Blumenthal Prize (Poetry magazine), 1965. Charles Olson died from cancer on 10 January 1970.

From the guide to the Charles Olson Research Collection., 1910-1970., (Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center .)

In 1960, Charles Olson's The Maximus Poems was published by the Jargon Society in conjuction with Corinth Books.

From the guide to the Manuscripts Regarding the Publication of Charles Olson's The Maximus Poems, 1959-1976, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rare Book Collection.)

In 1960, Charles Olson's "The Maximus Poems" was published by the Jargon Society in conjuction with Corinth Books.

From the description of Manuscripts regarding the publication of Charles Olson's "The Maximus Poems," 1959-1976. (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 475551224

Poet, theorist, and teacher and rector at Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, N.C.

From the description of Charles Olson papers, ca. 1930-1969. (University of Connecticut). WorldCat record id: 28419698


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  • Poetry--Study and teaching
  • Universities and colleges
  • Poets as teachers
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • Poets, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • American poetry
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Private libraries
  • American poetry--20th century
  • American literature
  • American literature--20th century
  • Publishers and Publishing


  • College teachers--North Carolina
  • Poets, American
  • Poets


  • North Carolina (as recorded)
  • Black Mountain (N.C.) (as recorded)
  • Gloucester, Massachusetts. (as recorded)