Revisioning Authors present Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place

October 12, 2007

“The best film about an American poet ever made.”

–William Corbett

“Much more than a merely brilliant bio-documentary,
Ferrini's film about Charles Olson
and Gloucester is an invaluable contribution to our literature.
If only we had a film like this for each of our major poets and writers,
what a treasure that would be.”
—Russell Banks

“This is a sublime film . . . by far the best film I’ve ever seen
on a figure in American literature.
It is simply stunning.”
—Jim Harrison

Winner of the Grand Documentary Award, Berkeley Film Festival, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007, 3-5 PM

Welcome Center Auditorium, Warren and Woodward Avenues,
Wayne State University,Detroit

Commentary and discussion with Henry Ferrini following
the screening; free and open to the public

Polis Is This” focuses on the life and work of Charles Olson (1910-70), originary poet of postmodernity and author of the epic poem The Maximus Poems. Olson’s poetics of presence and community brought together the spontaneity of experience with deep historical and ecological commitments to the American tradition and landscape. His widely influential essay “Projective Verse” (1950) was a manifesto calling for “open verse” and “composition by field,” in which “form is never more than an extension of content” and “one perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception.” Olson practiced such a poetics of process in a series of key poems (“The Kingfishers”; “In Cold Hell, In Thicket”; “The Librarian”) that challenged the dominant tradition of verse culture after T.S. Eliot. His work influenced a generation of poets that would come to be known as “the New American Poets,” the title of the 1960 anthology, and was crucial for the development of the Black Arts Movement through his influence on LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka.

His epic, The Maximus Poems, focused on a “poetics of place” centered on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and united personal, public, historical, and unconscious sources. In recent years, there has been an upsurge of interest in Olson as poet of public/private immediacy, whose work constructs an alternative polity of spontaneity and depth and whose focus on the American landscape anticipates the development of contemporary eco-poetics.

For more information, go to the “Polis Is This” home page:

See also the review by Michael Boughn on the Olson Now web site:

Sponsored by: Revisioning Authors, a Working of the Humanities Center;
and Film Studies, Department of English, Wayne State University

Contact: Prof. Barrett Watten, Department of English, WSU

Contact: Prof. Robert Burgoyne, Film Studies, Department of English, WSU