Into the Open: New and Selected
poems by Susan McCaslin

384 Pages
September 08, 2017
New Poetry All Titles



Into the Open: New and Selected poems by Susan McCaslin

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’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 & 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


Susan McCaslin has published fourteen volumes of poetry and nine chapbooks. She completed her Ph.D. at UBC in 1984 and taught at Douglas College in B.C. in the English and Creative Writing Departments from 1984-2007. Recently, she has published a memoir about the contemplative life, Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga (2014). Her previous volume of poetry, Painter, Poet, Mountain: After Cézanne (2016), engages with the life and works of the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. Her early work was heralded by the poet P.K. Page, and a previous volume, Demeter Goes Skydiving (2012), was short-listed for the BC Book Prize for Poetry (Dorothy Livesay Award) and first-place winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award (Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award) in 2012. Susan lives in Fort Langley, BC, where she can be found walking by the rivers, forests, and shores of the Fraser River.

                                      (for Steve McCabe)

Jewelled luminescence
                (Yeats saw set upon a golden bough to sing)
chants deep heart sutra

Blue-green eyes
              naming her nuances
impossible—so many modes of blue

Exotic poise tilts
              nearest the heart
where seeing is hearing

taking you far
              into turquoise feathers
keen delight—bliss bath

Bodhisattva of compassion
               flies from her drum’s
ta-dum                Go, go, go


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