Gavin Selerie: On "Cole's Island"

‘COLES ISLAND’, influenced perhaps by Chaucer’s dream poems, describes a visit to ‘a queer isolated and gated place’ where game live unmolested by humans. The poet and his son are innocently observing the scenery when a stranger steps out from the woods; he is dressed more formally than Olson and he seems to be a sportsman. But beside this he is the figure of Death and ‘a property-owner’. Maximus feels uncomfortable since he is trespassing; yet the country gentleman does not question his presence there. The two men ‘regard each other’ for a moment, then Death moves on without any drama occurring. Going about his normal business — the ‘will / to know more of the topography’ of the island, Maximus has crossed a barrier into Hades (coal’s island) and come back alive. Is Death’s materialisation and reaction a warning or a reassurance? With a fine balance, Olson’s poem maintains the neutrality of dreams.


Title Gavin Selerie: On "Cole's Island" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Clive Bloom, Brian Docherty Criticism Target Charles Olson
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 27 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication "Charles Olson"
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