Charles OlsonThe enormously influential Gloucester poet CHARLES OLSON (1910-1970) was born in Worcester, MA, and summered in Gloucester as a boy. After college, he embarked on a series of careers before becoming a legendary part of the artsy and experimental Black Mountain College. After it closed, he moved to Gloucester in 1957. Olson is best known for his Maximus poems in which he creates an all-encompassing Walt Whitman-like persona. In this long series of poems written over the last decades of his life, Olson uses Gloucester history, the lives of past and present Gloucester residents, geological history, and current civic events to anchor Maximus to Gloucester. Sometimes Maximus seems to represent all of Gloucester, and at other times, all of humankind.

In “Maximus, to himself,” as he stands by the sea, Maximus philosophically considers how he has navigated the waters of his life. In “Maximus to Gloucester, Sunday, July 19,” Maximus stands at the Fisherman’s Memorial observing a year passed without fatalities. Maximus tells the city why he likes the flowers at the memorial and reveals what he believes is the memorial’s most important message.


Maximus, to himself poem


from: The Maximus Poems (New York: Corinth Books) 1960.
courtesy: Copyright restrictions apply to the use of this text. Reprinted with the permission of Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and the Estate of Charles Olson. For more information contact the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.