Olson and past and present

past in the present

I was directed to the above by the indispensable Wood s lot where I found a remarkable series of images put together by Sergey Larenkov. I can’t read Russian but he appears to have taken pictures from World War of several European cities and ‘mixed’ these with pictures taken this year of the same scene. This shot was taken in Leningrad during the siege and carries this incredible juxtaposition of dead bodies, crumbling buildings and contemporary  pedestrians trying to cross the road.

Coincidentally, I’m still trying to write something intelligent and coherent about Olson for the Ardutiy project and my mind leapt to his views on the relationship we have with the past. I’m aware that the ‘past in the present’ thing is a bit of a cliché and doesn’t do justice to the complexity of Olson’s thinking on this but the fact remains that Maximus makes great use of archival material and Olson is deeply aware of the history of Gloucester when he writes about himself in its landscapes.

Reading Maximus brings home to me both the importance and complexity of this awareness and has changed the way that I experience my place in the world (I live in a fading resort town on an island off the south coast of England).

These images should make us reconsider our relationship with the tragedy that was World War 2- they certainly have this effect on me.

4 responses to “Olson and past and present

  1. After firguring out Olson’s voice, being abOle to hear the poems — and this came after spending sometime reading them outloud to myself — I find that Olson is not as difficult as I have been told. At some point the music takes over and the poems become a pleasure. I think practice is the key here.

  2. I’d agree, but it does take a while to work out the voice and most of us need to look up at least some of his allusions/references. This is however amply repaid by the intelligence and thrust of the work.

  3. Fascinating image. Also because the transition doesn’t happen halfway, and something seems to nibble at the right side of the image as well.

    I wonder whether Larenkov put the past on the left side of all of his images, and whether it would work for us if the past were on the right side. We traditionally picture time lines from the left to the right – I’ve heard that even in plays and on television people usually enter the screen from the left side and exit on the right.

  4. No he doesn’t, some are just in the centre, some on the right and others just halfway up. clicking on the
    Larenkov link above will take you to all of them.


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