Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Susan, a lesson in awesomeness (part 1)

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Whenever someone asks me who they should read, I ask them if they’ve read a Susan lately. There are so many wonderful poets named Susan in Canada that it borders on the ridiculous. Which, of course, delights me.

So, I’m taking it upon myself to launch into a one-woman quest to promote more Susan-ness in our literary lives. Consider this part 1 of the series “Susan, a lesson in awesomeness”. Today I’d like to introduce a Susan who is near and dear to my heart, though we’ve never met. Years ago, when I first read Sue MacLeod’s book That Singing You Hear At The Edges, I was absolutely, positively smitten. Love at first stanza. In fact, I wandered around town quoting her poetry out loud to myself until I noticed how many people crossed the street to avoid me while I joyfully muttered “We were Olive Oyl/ We were Popeye, too”. You can read the poem as well, but I warn you, Sue’s book is aptly named: her poetry becomes that singing you hear at the edges.

And now, for the first interview in our series:

Me: What makes you so awesome?

Sue: The fact that I've been included in some truly unique anthologies, such as one where the writing was all set in Halifax (I also edited that one) and now this wonderful Book of Susans.

Me: What inspires you to write when you’re feeling stuck?

Sue: Listening to music sometimes works; either lively dance-around-the-house music or something with a lot of ache to it.

Me: What fascinates you?

Sue: Well, to go with what I'm most nosy about: people's houses or apartments and how they choose them and what they fill them up with, how they make a home.

Me: What poem do you wish you had written? Why?

Sue: The list is endless, but one that comes to mind is by another Susan—Susan Mitchell (U.S.), "For a Friend Eating an Apple." It does something I like to do: look at the layers of meaning and metaphor (and in this case sensuality) that are contained within a single, apparently simple, act or gesture or object. Things are brimming, really, and this poem does a good job of showing that.

Me: What do you wish you had known when you started writing?

Sue: I wish I'd known how to strike a happy balance between writing and other work, the kind that brings more money in. I still wish I knew it—it's an ongoing quest.

Me: What’s your best joke?

Sue: I'm not much for jokes, but I love language that goes awry unintentionally. One of my favourites was on a library bulletin board, an ad for an apartment: "One bedroom. Suitable for couple, or large bachelor." And I enjoy this sign in a restaurant window in my neighbourhood: Try Our Brother's Wings.

Sue MacLeod is a Toronto writer whose books of poetry are The Language of Rain (Roseway, 1995) and That Singing You Hear at the Edges (Signature Editions, 2003). She has two new poetry manuscripts in process and her first young adult novel is currently being considered by a publisher. Sue lived in Halifax for many years and was that city's first poet laureate.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sarah Tsiang

Sarah Tsiang is the author of A Flock of Shoes (Annick Press, 2010), Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Books, 2011), Dogs Don’t Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know (Annick Press, 2011) and Warriors and Wailers: 100 Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled (Annick Press, 2012). Her latest picture book, Stone Hatchlings, will be released in fall, 2012.

Go to Sarah Tsiang’s Author Page