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Jonathan Williams Feature

Charles Olson

For a Man Gone to Stuttgart Who Left an Automobile Behind Him

Works by Charles Olson © The Estate of Charles Olson. “For a Man From Stuttgart” is reproduced here with the kind permission of the estate.


The facsimile image below of the manuscript copy of Charles Olson’s “For a Man Gone to Stuttgart Who Left an Automobile Behind Him” is one of three carbon copies produced by Olson in April 1953 — two of which are maintained with the original typescript at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Storrs, Connecticut. The third carbon, reproduced below, was in Jonathan Williams’ possession and is presently maintained in the Jargon Society archive at the Poetry and Rare Books Collection, State University of New York at Buffalo.


The image below Olson’s typescript is the poem as it first appeared in Williams’ Elegies and Celebrations (Jargon 1962). In this instantiation of the poem the title is emended so that “Strasbourg”  — where Olson believed Williams to have gone — becomes “Stuttgart”, the city Williams was stationed at while serving in the US Army Medical Corps. The poem later appeared in Cape Goliard’s 1970 selection of Olson poems Archaeologist of Morning and finally in The Collected Poems of Charles Olson edited by George Butterick. As Butterick points out in a footnote from his introduction to The Collected Poems, Olson did not directly approve the selections for Archaeologist of Morning, and so the instantiation of the poem appearing in the Cape Goliard edition retains a subtitle written by Williams for inclusion in his Elegies & Celebrations: “a Lost Poem by Charles Olson, for JW, to inaugurate the book.” The subtitle does not appear in the typescript — which Olson produced nine years before the publication of Elegies & Celebrations—suggesting the editors of the Cape Goliard edition used Williams’ Elegies as their copy text while Butterick appealed to the typescript when editing The Collected Poems, where the subtitle does not appear.


Composed the year Jargon brought out The Maximus Poems / 1-10 in Stuttgart, Olson’s “For a Man” is not a blurb or foreword written expressly for Williams’ Elegies but a gesture of friendship and gratitude. In editing the poem for Olson’s Collected, Butterick clearly invests the typescript copy with greater authority than its first published appearance edited by Williams. He not only excises the subtitle given the poem but splits the poem into two discrete sections by restoring a “2” that appears in the typescript and not in Elegies. What Butterick does not restore from the typescript is the title — which he addresses in a textual note at the back of the collection — and the dedication at the bottom right of the typescript: “for j w / o.”

 — Richard Owens

Olson typescript
Olson poem
Charles Olson, by Jonathan Williams, Black Mountain College, 1953.

Charles Olson, by Jonathan Williams, Black Mountain College, 1953.

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