Checking In: With Susan Glickman
Susan Glickman is an artist of words and brush. She paints, edits, teaches and writes many genres: fiction, essays of literary history, non-fiction, children’s books and poetry. She has won a whack of awards for her writing. (I can’t believe her fabulous collection from Vehicule The Smooth Yarrow is already a decade ago. Time to reread.)
PP: Susan, what have you read lately that lit you up?
SG: In addition to my typical diet of poetry (recently a lot of Jane Hirshfield as well as Dionne Brand, Dorianne Lux, and John Steffler), and historical fiction such as Lauren Groff’s magnificent novel Matrix, I have been reading a fair bit of sci-fi and sci-fact. The former includes a deep dive into Ursula Le Guin as well as more contemporary stuff like Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility, the fabulous time-travel novels of Connie Willis, and Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, the latter inspiring books such as Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus, Charles Foster’s Being a Beast, and Carl Safina’s Becoming Wild.
PP: Well, my reading list just got a longer. Those last two in particular. I’ve heard very good things about Sea of Tranquility and The Soul of an Octopus was great. Can you add a why or how for the shoutout?
SG: I’m overcome with grief at how humanity has abused this planet. I am seeking a better understanding of other creatures as well as paradigms of alternate ways to live.
PP: That makes sense. That consciousness is in your poetry. More need to feel that desire to learn and change. What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?
SG: In February of 2022, a book of my selected essays entitled Artful Flight came out with Porcupine’s Quill.
PP: Congratulations! That’s fabulous.
SG: I was amazed that they would want to publish such a thing and then rendered speechless at its exquisite production. Putting it together required me to review a lifetime of fugitive prose and reduce over 500 pages to around 225.
PP: Wow. That’s a job! How did that go?
SG: Editing the book inspired me to return to essay form by writing appreciations of things that I love; a good way to survive a dark time! Subjects range from pencils to lichen to tea to octopuses. The working title of the project is The Sweet Particulars. It is really a kind of exploded autobiography since nobody else would like the same weird collection of stuff as I do and there are random personal anecdotes scattered throughout.
I should add that I am illustrating all the essays myself. Before the pandemic I attended three years of full-time art classes at Central Technical school in Toronto, so my focus these days is split between writing and visual art. Here are a couple of oil paintings for your blog, in case you want examples: one still life, and a portrait of my son Jesse in his music studio (sorry the latter is tilted; used my camera phone in the studio).
PP: Congratulations again. Are there other things underway or forthcoming? Anything you can tell?
SG: I have a new book of poetry coming out from Signal Editions of Véhicule Press, in 2023. Cathedral/Grove will be my eighth book with them, coming out forty years after my first, Complicity.
PP: Wow, awesome. What is it like?
SG: It is by far my longest and most ambitious collection of poems, addressing the tension between culture and nature in the West as seen from the outsider perspective of an Ashkenazi Jewish woman.
In a similar vein, I was recently interviewed about Esther Brandeau, the protagonist of my novel The Tale-Teller (Cormorant, 2012), for a forthcoming film by director Len Pearl about the history of the Jews in Canada.
PP: That’s an exciting development. Could you point to where there’s work can people grab now?
PP: In addition to my seven books of poetry with Véhicule, the most recent being What We Carry (2019), I have also published four novels for adults including The Tale-Teller, the “Lunch Bunch” trilogy of early chapter books for children, Artful Flight (the book of essays I mentioned above) and The Picturesque and the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape.
One section of Cathedral/Grove, “Survival Kit” – a group of prose poems about tools, with accompanying drawings – came out in The New Quarterly issue 153 (Winter 2020), and lots of other poems are scattered all over the place in publications from Riddle Fence to Prairie Fire to The Malahat Review. Several essays from the work in progress have been published as well; one that might interest your readers, about my relationship with American poet Denise Levertov, is coming out in the autumn 2022 Queen’s Quarterly.
PP: That’s wonderful to hear. One last question: Is there any author site, social media urls or things you’d like to plug?
SG: I maintain a website, as one is encouraged to do these days, at www.susanglickman.com. I have been having a bit of trouble with it since the WordPress theme I composed it in has expired and the font has gotten weird and unpredictable. Maybe one day I will redo it properly, but for now that’s where you can find more stuff about me than you will ever need to know.
PP: That’s the best kind of site. Thank you for your time and for your work. Folks, you can buy her poetry books at Vehicule.