Into the Open: Poems New and Selected is both a compendium and compression of the best and most representative of Susan McCaslin's poetry over nearly five decades. In addition, it showcases new work. The explorations of Into the Open begin with McCaslin's intense early interest in mystical Christianity, but expand to include global wisdom traditions from cultures east and west. Her work does not advocate for a particular system of belief, but exemplifies the open-ended probings of an inquiring mind. A selection of her new work in a powerful sequence called Lineage takes up some of her earlier themes but pushes them into new arenas, addressing questions of how to age into elder-dom; how to take one's place with humility and gratitude in a world fraught with pain and loss; how to remain open to wonder. In the words of her editor Katerina Fretwell, "Selecting from Susan McCaslin's eighteen-book oeuvre Into the Open has been a pilgrimage through her poetic and spiritual evolution. Her visionary poetscapes conjure William Blake, Thomas Merton, Greco-Roman mythology, angels, the Canadian mystic Olga Park, John of Patmos, Teresa of Avila, Henry Vaughan, Lao Tzu, Han Shan, Mary Magdalene and other unitive mystics of many cultures, faiths and eras. Such diversity suggests the range and reach of McCaslin's work. Here is a poet at the peak of her powers. "
Susan McCaslin is an award-winning Canadian poet and Faculty Emerita of Douglas College in Westminster, BC where she taught English and Creative Writing for twenty-three years. She is the author of eleven volumes of poetry, including her most recent, The Disarmed Heart (May 2014). Her previous volume of poetry, Demeter Goes Skydiving (2012) was short-listed for the BC Book Prize (Dorothy Livesay Award) and the first-place winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award (Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award) in 2012. Susan has published a volume of essays, Arousing the Spirit: Provocative Writings (2011) and edited two anthologies on poetry and spiritual practice. In addition, she is on the editorial board of Event: the Douglas College Review and is an editorial assistant for The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Harvard Divinity School). Susan is nourished by wilderness and by the world’s global mystics and contemplatives of various spiritual traditions. Freed to be a full-time writer since retiring from teaching, she lives in Fort Langley, British Columbia with her husband. Recently, she initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project as part of a successful campaign to protect an endangered rainforest along the Fraser River in British Columbia.
"Susan McCaslin's Into the Open is an outstanding achievement comprising over forty years' worth of work. It is nothing short of astonishing in its breadth and depth, its sheer sophistication of form, language and theme. The book brings together poems from McCaslin's thirteen previous collections plus a selection from five early chapbooks and thirty new poems. The development of her artistry is a pleasure to behold, her voice confident, compassionate and clear, and always lit with the energy caught in the last two lines of this incredible book: "Nothing divine charges a fee/Everything is charged with love. " If you read only one book of poetry this year, read this one. "
--Eva Tihanyi, author of The Largeness of Rescue and Flying Underwater: Poems New and Selected
"Into The Open, Susan McCaslin's long awaited New and Selected Poems is a marvelous compendium of her singular poetic and spiritual journey spanning four decades of poetry-making and eighteen books. A visionary and mystic, a rarity in today's world, McCaslin blazes a luminous path ranging from the Divine Feminine and Ars Poetica to such pressing imperatives as stewardship of the earth and social justice in a troubled world. I know of few poets who have forayed with such power and grace (not to mention courage) into the blinding mysteries of the human heart. Her collection radiates wonder, gratitude and loving-kindness--a feast for mind and spirit to be pondered and treasured. "
--James Clarke, author of seventeen volumes of poetry including The Juried Heart
"Into the Open reveals poems charged with grounded aperçus, lightning landed, and vision realized in "kin-ship" along the poet's uncommon daily round. Here's a vibrancy in and beyond the senses, pulsating across decades: an essential, timeless and timely book. Read Susan McCaslin's eloquent articulation of a mystical, creative life and be changed, be charged and inspired. "
--Penn Kemp, poet and playwright; author of Barbaric Cultural Practice
"What do you see? Susan McCaslin sees a daughter, a dog, a tree, a mountain, a sea along with art and artists in her work while also seeing what each is connected to, what each comes from and moves towards. She sees the word and the myth propelling it and the silence behind it. She sees the object and the aura around it, the shimmer and sheen within it. With an exploratory and expansive vision, McCaslin lovingly embraces the things of this world and the spirit that binds them together. "
--J. S. Porter, author of Spirit Book Word: An Inquiry into Literature and Spirituality and Lightness and Soul: Musings on Eight Jewish Writers