BC Magazine : Island CHARACTER
Poet and Writer reflects on her next chapter as cookbook author and owner of an eclectic Haida Gwaii guest house.
by MASA TAKEI photosgraphy: KATHLEEN HINKEL
CBC , DayBreakNorth Interview By Betsy Trumpener, Host
Author transitions from dark poetry to "Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug"
Susan Musgrave is known for dark poetry and novels tackling stories of drug dealers and death row. But now she's tackling an even tougher audience- toddlers. She spoke with Betsy Trumpener about her new book, "Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug."
The Questionless Books
Interview: Poet Susan Musgrave
Submitted by gmurray on April 29, 2011 - 9:15am
In The Questionless Books Interview, I get a whole bunch of books people (from authors to editors to publishers to sales/publicity/production people, booksellers, designers, librarians, readers, etc) to "answer" a series of unspoken "questions". The results highlight a delightful mix of the opportunities and challenges facing our sector: from doom and gloom to sunshine and rainbows, and every irony in between.
Susan Musgrave’s most recent collection of poetry is Origami Dove (M&S, 2011). She lives on Haida Gwaii and teaches in the University of British Columbia's Optional- Residency MFA in Creative Writing Programme.
A Toronto bookseller writes, “The ultimate combination of books for Anarchist Grade Nine (to 12) girls: “Story of O” and “Things That Keep and Do Not Change” (poetry) by Susan Musgrave. Someone should offer those two books as a package deal; Susan would become rich off poetry royalties.” Her all-time favourite review of her poetry came from a high school student after she gave a reading of her work: “Susan Musgrave has made me hate poetry a little less.”
In the April 2011 issue of Q&Q: Susan Musgrave talks to Lorna Crozier
It’s been more than a decade since the iconic – and iconoclastic – Susan Musgrave published a new collection of poetry. In the April 2011 issue of Q&Q, Musgrave discusses her new collection, Origami Dove (McClelland & Stewart), with fellow B.C. poet Lorna Crozier, whose collection Small Mechanics also appears this spring with M&S.
Also in April, a profile of overlooked short story author Clark Blaise, a special report on B.C. publishing, and a feature on the financial struggles facing Canadian literary journals. Plus reviews of new books by Julie Booker, John Furlong, Joe Ollmann, Chester Brown, Nicola Winstanley, Elisa Amado, Mélanie Watt, and more.
Biography: In the fall of 1984, at the beginning of her second year as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Waterloo, Susan Musgrave received a manuscript from a convicted bank robber. Musgrave read the manuscript and fell in love with the novel’s protagonist.
She began to correspond with the book’s author, Stephen Reid, a member Canada’s notorious Stopwatch Gang, who had served ten years of a twenty year sentence for a gold heist in Ottawa.
The correspondence touched off a romance, a best-selling novel, Jackrabbit Parole, and eventually a maximum security wedding: three camera crews, including one from The Fifth Estate, filmed the couple saying “I do” and Musgrave was commissioned by Vancouver Magazine to cover her own three-day honeymoon in a cottage on the prison grounds.
Stephen was released on full parole in June of 19
87. “That person seems like an ancestor of mine,” Reid said, recently, of his days in the Stopwatch Gang.
After her prison marriage, Musgrave acquired a new persona, “the bankrobber’s wife”. When, in 1998, the CBC made a documentary about their lives, she decided to have fun with both their personas, even orchestrating a photo-shoot where they posed as Bonnie & Clyde, imitating a famous shot of the two outlaws, where Bonnie holds her partner-in-crime hostage at the end of a gun.
Did you graduate high school?
Nope. Rose up (no dropping out for me) and was checked into a mental hospital instead, by my parents. I escaped and ran away with my lover (20 years older than me - a university prof from Berkeley - I was 15) to live in Berkeley and after an aborted suicide attempt was put in a home for wayward girls in San Francisco. I escaped from there, also. I have never been found.
When I was in Grade 8 I hooked up with this boy I liked, started skipping school to make out, write poetry and listen to him play “The Times They Are A’Changing” on his guitar in a field of itchy grass - until my school principal called me to his office. He said if I continued down this slippery slope there would be only one career opportunity left open to me in the future: I would end up working as a prostitute. Even then, I knew this wasn’t in the cards for me. I didn’t want a job where you had to work with other people.
What other occupations do you hold, or have you held, besides being a writer?
If you mean like nurse or fireman, then none. If you mean Hair Magnet inventor, patent pending. Or
Girdles Toilet Seats with Sanitary Strips on volunteer basis,many.
What comes to mind when you consider your ancestors?
Border retrievers on the English-Scottish border. Our family is descended from the Musgraves who moved to Ireland in 1732 where one received a knighthood for his Memoir of the Irish Rebellion. The most recent ancestor I've learned about is a "skeleton" on my mother's paternal side. I am related to Mary Blandy, the last woman executed in England (presumably for witchcraft.) I had actually used her name in a short series of poems I wrote, all from the points-of-views of 18th century witches, called Becky Swan's Book.
Any interesting felonies or misdemeanors you'd like to mention?
One unpaid parking ticket from Parry Sound, Ontario, in 1995. I leave the bigger stuff to my partners. (My second husband was a marijuana smuggler from Washington. He brought a boat up to Canada with 30 tons of pot on board - this was in 1980 before B.C. Bud - and the boat broke down, and, and...I met him through his defense lawyer, my first husband.)
My husband just got out of prison in January (he reoffended in 1999 - after getting addicted again to coke and heroin - and got 18 years. So our sex life is still/or had been up until January, mostly under the table