It is widely recognized that Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems attempt a historiography that imaginatively recreates the past. This historical recreation can be understood as a form of economics or, borrowing from the original Greek origins of the word, “housekeeping.” Housekeeping for Olson is a poetic rearrangement of present conditions that have been set in place by prior housekeepers and earlier economies. This process is inevitably endless and expansive, transforming domestic arrangements, material conditions, and cultural values. One important predecessor in Olson’s version of American history is John Smith, the seventeenth-century explorer who is often read by critics as a hero of The Maximus Poems. This essay offers a new interpretation of Smith, using the rubric of housekeeping to demonstrate that Olson critically recreates Smith’s complicated legacy. A poetics of housekeeping allows Olson to correct the potential dangers the explorer presents to the contemporary world, even as Olson embraces Smith’s merits.


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pp. 107-124
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