Susan Olding

Susan Olding's picture
Photo credit: 
Helene Cyr
Biography: 

Susan Olding is the author of Big ReaderEssays, and Pathologies: A Life in Essays. Her award-winning nonfiction, fiction, and poetry have appeared widely in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies throughout Canada and the U.S., including Arc Poetry MagazineThe Malahat Review, The New QuarterlyQueen’s Quarterly, and In Fine Form, (Second Edition). Born in Toronto, she lives and writes in the traditional territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations, in Victoria, British Columbia. 

Micro-interview: 
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

The first poems I remember falling in love with were “The Owl and the Pussycat” and “The Highwayman,” which I memorized and declaimed for some kind of elocution assignment in elementary school—much to my classmates’ chagrin. Then came Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood, which I saw performed in a local high school when I was a preteen. Eventually I came across a poetry anthology that included poems by more-or-less contemporary Canadians as well as poems from other parts of the world, mainly Britain and the U.S.  This was as good as a box of chocolates. I mean—the poems! More Dylan Thomas, yes…but also P.K. Page, and Sylvia Plath, and Elizabeth Bishop, and Lorna Crozier. I came under the spell of Auden’s “In Praise of Limestone” and would go back to it again and again, not really understanding it, but in love with its rhythms and what I see now as its essayistic tone.   

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

I started writing poems in elementary school. Little rhymes and haiku, which I think I was introduced to in second grade. I’ve continued, off and on, more or less ever since, often alternating with stories. I am not sure I consider myself “a poet.” That feels like a determination someone else should make, not me. I write, and sometimes what I write takes the shape or sound of a poem.  

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

I’m not sure the poet has a “job,” per se. But I do think that poetry can help us see, and hear, and feel more acutely, and so maybe the poet’s role is to witness, and listen, and lean on the language until it sings —or stings us awake. 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

I used to have Keats's "To Autumn" by heart, and I would love to revisit it. And I think everyone should know Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art." 

Publications: 
Poem title(s): 
"What We Thought About the Chinese Mothers," "What the Chinese Mothers Seemed to Think About Us."
Title: 
In Fine Form, Second Edition
Publisher: 
Caitlin Press
Editors: 
Kate Braid and Sandy Shreve
Date: 
2016
Publication type: 
Anthology
Poem title(s): 
"Ice Storm"
Title: 
Arc Poetry Magazine
Publisher: 
Arc Poetry Magazin
Date: 
Summer, 2020
Publication type: 
Periodical/Magazine
Poem title(s): 
"The Bully," "Chemo, Last Rung"
Title: 
The Antigonish Review
Publisher: 
The Antigonish Review
Date: 
Fall, 2020
Publication type: 
Periodical/Magazine