Response to Olson’s Projective Verse.

Reflection on Projective Verse.

Whilst reading Charles Olson’s essay on poetic theory: Projective Verse, I found myself being drawn to his idea of energy being transferred between the poet, poem and reader. He states that poets lose all energy within their poems when they use traditional forms and syntax. It is implied that these poets constrict themselves to the rules of the poetry and so cannot transfer energy through their poetry. Olsen, with Creeley (another poet), developed a new type of poetry he liked to call “projective verse” which rejected traditional poetic forms and used a more freely constructed verse; in this new form he proposed that syntax should be developed by sound not sense- where the reader can feel the energy when reading the poem. Within his work The Maximus Poems the reader is able to see his concept of projective verse within the poems; particularly through his use of form. When reading I Maximus of Gloucester, to You his use of flowing form enabled me, as a reader, to understand his concept of energy being transferred between poet, poem and reader. This is because I read the lyrics of his poems keeping the form in mind, which most likely molded how I understood and read the poem. Similarly, it seems that Olsen’s work also takes into consideration Creeley’s idea that “form is never more than an extension of content”, because some of his poems rely on the form to reinforce the meaning of his poem. For example:

“My beloved Father turning this page to Right to write this poem in your Praise in counter clockwise Circle rest Beloved Father as Your Son goes forth to create Paradise”

This extract of his poem doesn’t seem to make as much sense as it does when reading it in it’s spiraling form; especially the phrase “turning this page right to write” because this has only been written because it is describing what the reader has to do to read this poem. Similarly, his use of random capatilisation, as well as spacing, worked extremely well in a visual way when in the circular form. Olsen’s poetry is also very aware of treating the page as a craft, and being aware of breathing; I think this comes through when reading this poem because we as readers have to decide when to breathe which changes the meaning of the poem depending on when you breathe.

Furthermore, Olsen’s theory of energy can, in my opinion, be seen in Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”. This is because Pound’s poem is full of ambiguous meanings and so his energy can be received in many different ways. Also the idea of form is especially useful in understanding Pound’s poem because he has set the poem out in that specific form for a particular reason. When I read the poem I saw the spaces and form to be very aware, and could be seen to reflect the meaning of the poem (or the poem could reflect the form): a metro is moving but constantly makes stops, just like this poem does.


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