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Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place (2007)

Explores Charles Olson's amazing world, where the ordinary landscapes of our daily lives become extraordinary portals to timeless truths about the place we live.





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Credited cast:
Ammiel Alcalay
Willie Alexander
Amiri Baraka
Robin Blaser
Charles Boer
Shahar Bram
Robert Creeley
Diane Di Prima
Gerrit Lansing
Charlie Olson
Michael Rumaker
Ed Sanders
John Sinclair
Chuck Stein


From Postman to the Postmodern, Charles Olson remains today an original American master. The enigmatic and hulking six-foot eight Harvard historian drifts back to the hard-luck New England fishing port of his boyhood summers. There he forges transcendent vision that links his besieged town, caught between tradition and modernity, to all places - in all times. Viewers join Actor John Malkovich in a one hour race for meaning that stretches from antiquity to yesterday, from the local to the universal and from that which is most familiar to that which can only be imagined. Audiences in rough cut screenings have come away wanting to find out for themselves why the place they call home can be both unique and universally connected to the larger world. Written by Henry Ferrini

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Release Date:

1 April 2007 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

A perfect realization of the principle: "Form is an extension of content."
12 April 2008 | by (Watertown, Mass.) – See all my reviews

This film is extraordinary. Meticulously photographed and edited, interwoven with archival footage and filled with the briny textures of Gloucester, Mass., it opens up the writing of Charles Olson in a way few films have done for a poet. It is the flawless embodiment of a core principle of Olson's work (here in the words of his friend and fellow poet Robert Creeley): "Form is an extension of content." In Olson's Gloucester, there breathed the rhythms of the ancient Greek city state and the myths of Hesiod, cast into a mordant, salt-bitten Yankee English that rings more powerfully than ever in our present era. As he brought Gloucester alive in poetry, Olson waged a losing battle with pancreatic cancer, urban development, and the reign of "pejorocracy," as bulldozers and dynamite brought down historic buildings and superhighways connected Gloucester with greater metropolitan blight. This film deserves a larger audience. It tells a tale that is American down to the bone.

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