Susan McCaslin is a Canadian poet who has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. In junior high (grade seven), her English teacher Mr. Lemieux called her in to inquire whether she had copied a poem she submitted to him from a book. Convinced she was telling the truth when she said she wrote it herself, he affirmed she had talent. Afterwards, he asked her if she would consider assuming the role of editor of the literary section of the student newspaper. She has never looked back.
Susan continued writing poems throughout university and graduate school, and then refined her craft alongside her life path as a college professor, wife, and mother. She now resides in Fort Langley, British Columbia, with her husband of thirty-three years and a mini-Australian Shepherd who sees that she gets plenty of exercise walking the trails and dikes of Fraser Valley. She has had a lifelong engagement with the interrelation of spirituality and poetry, being particularly intrigued with the more mystical side of Christianity and its connections to mystical paths within various world religions.
Susan did her BA in English at the University of Washington (1965-1969); her MA in English Literature, with a focus on the Romantic poets and Edgar Allan Poe, at Simon Fraser University (1969-1973); and her PhD at the University of British Columbia, on the modern Welsh poet Vernon Watkins (1980-1984). She is now a retired Faculty Emeritus of Douglas College in New Westminster, BC, where she taught English and Creative Writing for twenty-three years from 1984-2007. Her poetry and critical essays have appeared in literary journals and magazines across Canada, and some in Britain and the United States. She has published eleven volumes of poetry, eight poetry chapbooks, numerous critical essays, and a children’s book called Thinking About God.
Her most recent volume of poetry is Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press, April 2011), a contemporary retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. The book was recently shortlisted for the BC Book Prize (Dorothy Livesay Award, 2012) and was the first-place winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award (Robert Kroetsch Award, 2012). Other of her poetry books include Lifting the Stone (Seraphim Editions, 2007), A Plot of Light (Oolichan Press, 2004), and At the Mercy Seat (Ronsdale Press, 2003). Susan has recently published a first volume of essays titled Arousing the Spirit: Provocative Writings (Woodlake Publishing, 2011). As well, she is a Thomas Merton scholar and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Thomas Merton Society of Canada.
Susan has edited two anthologies on sacred poetry, A Matter of Spirit (Ekstasis Editions) and Poetry and Spiritual Practice (The St. Thomas Poetry Series, Toronto), and is on the editorial board of Event: the Douglas College Review. She is an editorial consultant for The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Harvard Divinity School). She was the first-place winner of the Mother Tongue Chapbook (Mother Tongue Press) competition for Letters to William Blake, judged by P.K. Page in 1997; the first-place winner of The Federation of BC Writers’ Literary Writes in 2006; and the grand prize winner in Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction’s annual poetry contest in 2006.
At present, Susan is composing a volume of peace poems and a memoir called White Fire: My Journey with a Modern Mystic, about her sixteen-year relationship with the Canadian mystic and visionary, Olga Park (1891-1985), whom she met in Port Moody, BC, in 1969. Since retiring from her passion, teaching, she has been freed to pursue her first love and parallel passion, poetry. Susan can be found in various parts of Canada giving public talks, facilitating workshops, and offering poetry readings. Most recently, she collaborated with a young jazz pianist, Amanda Tosoff, at the Fort Langley Celebration of the Arts in July 2012. You can visit her website at www.susanmccaslin.ca.