Evidence of What Is Said

Ann Charters and Charles Olson

Paperback Hardcover

248 pages / $17.00
ISBN-13: 978-1-935635-50-5

248 pages / $30.00
ISBN-13: 978-1-935635-51-2


Evidence of What Is Said is the complete correspondence between noted Beat Generation scholar and photographer Ann Charters and The Maximus Poems author Charles Olson. Beginning in 1968 with Charters’ request for Olson to reflect on his “earliest enthusiasm for Melville,” and continuing until late 1969, these letters traverse the final two years of Olson’s life. Centered on Charters' book Olson/Melville: A Study of Affinity, the correspondence ultimately maps two writers’ existence in an America that is simultaneously experiencing the wonder of the moon landing and the chaotic escalation of the Vietnam War. All the while, their exchanges navigate the convolutions of Olson’s ideas about history, space, and time in relation to his pivotal book Call Me Ishmael and his Black Mountain College lectures. Also included in this spontaneous, thoughtful, and thought-provoking epistolary is Olson's 1968 “Essay on the Matter Of,” Charters' photo essay of Olson in Gloucester, and “Melville in the Berkshires,” her work of experimental insight that incorporates writing by Melville.




About Ann Charters and Charles Olson

Ann Charters is the author of the first biography of Jack Kerouac, published in 1973, as well as a number of major studies of Beat literature and its personalities. She began taking photographs in 1958 on Andros Island in the Bahamas to document Samuel Charters’ field recordings for Folkways Records. These photographs of musicians are featured in Blues Faces: A Portrait of the Blues (David Godine Books, 2000). Her photographs of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Kesey, and others are included in Beats & Company: Portrait of a Literary Generation (Doubleday, 1986). Her photo essay on Charles Olson in Gloucester was published in Olson/Melville: A Study in Affinity (Oyez, 1968). Her photos also illustrated Samuel Charters’ The Poetry of the Blues (Oak Publications, 1963) and Songs of Sorrow: Lucy McKim Garrison and Slave Songs of the United States (University Press of Mississippi, 2015). Ann Charters' photo essay featuring the Nobel Prize-winning poet Tomas Tranströmer is included in Samuel Charters' translation of Tranströmer's Baltics, published by Tavern Books in 2012.

Charles Olson was born in 1910 in Worcester, Massachusetts. His first book, Call me Ishmael, published in 1947, is a case study of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Olson was an essayist, poet, scholar, and avid letter writer. He was a professor who also taught at universities ranging from Clark to Harvard to Black Mountain College. His influence in the 1950s and 1960s was expansive in many fields of thought. He died in New York in 1970 while completing his masterpiece, The Maximus Poems.




"Their exchange of letters has the quality of an Olsonion webwork, spinning out from the concentrated point of Gloucester 1968 to take in Crazy Horse and Charles Peirce, Duncan in Majorca, and Ed Sanders in a cigar store, and back of all of it the presiding spirit of Melville. Accompanied by Charters’ wondrous photos of ‘Maximus’ and his environs, particularly the lapidary inscriptions of Dogville, this is a rich and strange sounding of the archive. "
— John Beer