In 1968, the poet Charles Olson wrote “A Plan for a Curriculum for the Soul,” a sprawling sheet of over two hundred terms–from alchemy to jazz playing. After his death in 1970, as tribute to his work as a poet, teacher, and mentor, John Clarke and the Institute for Further Studies began publishing chapbooks, or “fascicles,” related to these keywords. Poets including Gerrit Lansing, Robert Duncan, Joanne Kyger, and many others wrote fascicles. In 2010, Albert Glover published the complete set of twenty-eight fascicles as a single volume, which Sputyen Duyvil later published in two volumes.
At Brooklyn College, in the upper-level course “Orality, Literacy, and Computer Technology,” students in the English and Communications program used Olson’s “Plan” as a launchpad for their own ideas of what constitutes a curriculum of the soul as it relates to the history of communication. We chose words from Olson’s “Plan” for our chapbooks, or advocated for adding new words, or altering existing ones, for the twenty-first century. Here, they are collected as our own course textbook.
This project was inspired by the Maud/Olson Library in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative with general editor Ammiel Alcalay. We thank the CUNY Academic Commons for the digital infrastructure that makes this work possible.
-Mary Catherine Kinniburgh, Fall 2018
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