A reading of ‘In Cold Hell, in Thicket’
in Contemporary Olson
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The questioning and self-doubt which faced Charles Olson throughout his dilemma concerning his adulterous attraction to Frances Boldereff was highlighted in a 1986 interview with Olson's biographer, Tom Clark, in which Boldereff emphasised Olson's inability to make a clear decision. The significance of Olson's title, 'In Cold Hell, in Thicket', becomes apparent. Inscribing a Mobius loop in which the movement forward twists round on itself, Olson's poetry in 'In Cold Hell, in Thicket' discloses within itself its own point of enunciation: it stands beyond and behind itself. Despite the overt references to Inferno, the negativity of Olson's hell is not that of Dante but is psychological and he is trapped not by eternal fire but by a guilt which emerges from adulterous sex. Olson's aesthetic is crucially different: central to his work is the poetic experience, the 'lived moment', the poetic 'state'.

Editor: David Herd

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