An Analysis of as the Dead Prey Upon Us by Charles Olson

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As the Dead Prey Upon Us Analysis
Charles Olson was an innovative essayist and poet in the 1950s-1960s. He created the idea of “Projective verse” and wrote and essay on it, asserting that a poem is a transfer of energy from the writer to reader. Projective verse allows the energy of the poem to be properly discharged. He also explained that form is an extension of the content of the poem, which is why are all breathed conditioned by his ear. He thought the best verses were supposed to sync your ear and your breath. Olson also believed closed form and structured stanzas wasn’t conducive to expressing details and making truly original poetry. This idea of projective verse gives us an understanding when studying the form of “As the Dead Prey Upon Us”.

“As the Dead Prey Upon Us” is written in projective verse using a variety of stanza patterns, from long verses to short, sparse verses. Despite the varied form, the imagery is strong throughout. The poem begins with the perception that the ghosts who haunt humans represent those parts of people that have not had the chance to live fully. The ghost may signify a repressed or constrained part of someone’s personality or an unresolved conflict nagging at the back of the mind. When the speaker complains that his mother’s death continues to haunt him, he begins by observing that the dead are unacknowledged facts of self. These repressed events or memories are “the sleeping ones,” and the speaker bids them to awake and thus to “disentangle from the nets of being!” The poem is divided into two sequences of unnumbered stanzas. Usually, Olson will mark off the segments of different “acts” in a poem according to a simple pattern. Part 1 of a long lyric sequence sets up the conditions in which a thinking process will ensue, in which a variety of isolated elements taken from different sources in experience, including dreams, are carefully sifted and their internal relations worked out. The second sequence synthesizes, imagines,...
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