Ann Charters, noted Beat Generation scholar, photographer, and Professor Emerita at University of Connecticut, Storrs, visits Gloucester to discuss her correspondence with poet 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.
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.
Image: Charles Olson and Ann Charters walking on the Boulevard in Gloucester, Mass., 1967. Photo credit: Sam Charters. Author information from Small Press Distribution (SPD), spdbooks.org.