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Last updated: August 28, 2005
Copyright 2006 Michael R. Colford.
All rights reserved



by Janet Young
I attended the preview screening of POET & THE CITY: CHARLES OLSON AND THE POETRY OF PLACE, a work-in-progress by Henry Ferrini (nephew of another well-known Gloucester poet, Vincent Ferrini), which is tentatively scheduled to run on PBS in April (Poetry Month) 2006 if the director is able to obtain funding to complete it. The version we saw was a 30-minute rough cut of what will eventually be a 58-minute film.

This was a truly exciting event. The Folly Cove Auditorium in the Cape Ann Historical Museum was packed with local literary types, museum members, and Charles Olson fans from all over New England and New York (the Charles Olson Society was a co-sponsor). The Society read from Olson's work before the screening, with the help of four Gloucester High School students.
Charles Olson
Charles Olson
©Ann Charters from beats & company-portrait of a literary generation.
Olson was born in Worcester, served in the Roosevelt administration, headed Black Mountain College, and then spent much of his life in Gloucester because he had loved summer vacations here as a child. He walked around town constantly, like Dickens. The film focuses on his personality/bio as well as his view of Gloucester as fitting the Greek concept of the ideal city or polis, his love of the landscape, the rich layering of culture in
this small space, and his respect for the fishermen who risk their lives to make a living (although he disliked the Man at the Wheel statue). A couple of things I learned later that were not covered in the film: he was a precusor of/inspiration for the Beats, and he coined the word "postmodern."
I find it hard to criticize the film because so many of Olson's reasons for coming here are views that I share. The artistic and literary culture is so rich (the auditorium is surrounded by bronze miniatures by Walter Hancock and textiles made by the Folly Cove Printers, including Virginia Lee Burton, and Vincent Ferrini was sitting next to me), and you get a sense of people actually WORKING here, not leaving the town to work as they would in a
middle-class bedroom community. Like Dickens and Olson, I like to walk around and see other people working. It was thrilling to recognize scenes from around town, such as Stage Fort Park, which Olson loved and where I swim nearly every day. I suppose I got a sense of how, if we are in the right place, each of us becomes a part of the community in which we live.

The filmmaker has done numerous films on North Shore subjects, including a film called WITCH CITY (about how Salem has made a commercial success of the witch persecutions), which I remember liking very much when it appeared on PBS.