sympathetic magic

My present purpose is to attack estrangement…
    It started, for me, from a sensing of something I found myself obeying for some time before, in Call Me Ishmael, it got itself put down as space, a factor of experience I took as of such depth, width, and intensity that, unwittingly, I insisted upon it as fact…by telling three sorts of stories…which I dubbed FIRST FACTS…
    I knew no more then than what I did, than to put down space and fact and hope, by the act of sympathetic magic that words are apt to seem when one first uses them, that I would invoke for others those sensations of life I was small witness to, part doer of. But the act of writing the book added a third noun, equally abstract: stance. For after it was done, and other work in verse followed, I discovered that the fact of this space located a man differently in respect to any act, so much so and with such vexation that only in verse did I acquire any assurance that the stance was not in some way idiosyncratic and only a sign of the limits of my talent, only wretched evidence of my lack of engagement at the heart of life.

—Charles Olson, Black Mountain College (1953). Olson’s Journals, 10: 95-96.
Collected Prose of Charles Olson (U. of California Press, 1997), edited by Donald Allen and Ben Friedlander.

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