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Olson at the Century -- A Symposium Will Honor Poet Charles Olson Oct. 14-16

UB Poetics Program one of many groups honoring the late writer on his 100th birthday

Release Date: September 30, 2010

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The life and work of poet and essaying Charles Olson will be celebrated Oct. 14-16 with a symposium, "Olson at the Century."

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Charles Olson (1910-1970), the very influential second-generation modernist poet and essayist, was a crucial link between earlier figures like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams and the New American poets of New York School, the Black Mountain School, the Beat movement and the San Francisco Renaissance.

This year, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Olson is being feted at conferences and symposia at several universities and poetry centers, including the University at Buffalo, where he taught from 1963 to 1965.

The UB Poetics Program will present "Olson at the Century: A Symposium" Oct. 14-16 on UB's North Campus and at venues in the City of Buffalo.

All events are free and open to the public.

Olson is best known for his height (6-foot-6), his seminal theoretical essay "Projective Verse" and for "The Maximus Poems," a series of 300 poems written over a period of almost 20 years that are rich in myth, geography, history, architecture and personal reflections, and which have been the subject of a great deal of scholarly research and critical inquiry.

Olson served as the final rector of Black Mountain College, the experimental and influential interdisciplinary liberal arts college that operated from 1933 to 1957 in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. Black Mountain launched an extraordinary number of literary, performing and visual artists of the American avant-garde of the 1960s who continue to influence a wide range of American artists today.

Olson could be considered the godfather of the critically acclaimed UB Poetics Program, founded and directed by the late UB Professor Robert Creeley, who taught at Black Mountain, and with whom Olson enjoyed a lively correspondence. In fact, Olson coined the term "postmodern" in a 1949 letter to Creeley.

"Olson at the Century" will open Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St. at Mohawk Street with a reading by Tom Raworth, a key figure in the British Poetry Revival. A prolific poet (he has 40 books to his credit) and graphic artist, Raworth is the founder of Goliard Press, which published Olson's first British collection and made a major contribution to British interest to the new American poetry of the 1960s.

On Oct. 15, the action will move to the UB Poetry Collection, 420 Capen Hall, North Campus, for a 10:30 a.m. panel featuring doctoral candidates in English at UB.

This will be followed at 1 p.m. by a Round Table with Raworth; Bruce Jackson, James Agee Professor of American Culture at UB; and celebrated Canadian poet and scholar Steve McCaffery, PhD, David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters at UB.

A second panel will take place at 2:30 p.m., featuring four speakers, among them, critical theorist Carla Billiteri, of the University of Maine, who holds a master's degree and a doctorate from the UB English Department and is the author of "Charles Olson: The American Cratylus" (Palgrave Macmillan 2009).

She will be joined by Michael Boughn, PhD, writer and independent scholar who also received his master's degree and doctorate from UB and now teaches at the University of Toronto. His many publications include "Olson's Buffalo" in "The World in Time and Space" (ed. Edward Foster, Talisman House, 2003).

The panel will also include poet and sound artist Don Byrd, professor of English at the University at Albany and the author of many books, including "Charles Olson's Maximus: A Polis of Attention and Dialogue" (Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), and Kenneth Warren, librarian, editor, critic and author of "Charles Olson's Grail of Intuition."

At 8 p.m. the symposium will present a screening of "Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place" a film by Henry Ferrini that has been critically acclaimed as "sublime," "stunning" and "the best film about an American poet ever made." It will take place at Western New York Book Arts Center.

On Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a marathon reading of Olson's "The Maximus Poems" at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, 453 Porter Ave., Buffalo.

As part of the symposium, the Poetry Collection will present an exhibition, "Olson in/and Buffalo," featuring correspondence, first editions and other materials that showcase the history of Olson's publications. It will be free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Poetry Collection Research Room, 420 Capen Hall, UB North Campus from Oct. 15 to Jan. 31, 2011.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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