Book details

Publication date: March 2011
Features: Notes
Series: cuRRents
Keywords: Poetry / Canadian Literature
Subject(s): POETRY / Canadian, Creative Writing, Poetry, Poetry / Canadian Literature, Poetry / Canadian Literature, Literature, Poetry, Health and Medicine, Women's Studies
Publisher(s): The University of Alberta Press

Susan McCaslin. Susan McCaslin is a poet, educator, scholar, and author of fourteen volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Lifting the Stone. Susan lives in Fort Langley, BC. Having been honoured with Faculty Emerita status after twenty-three years as a professor of English and Creative Writing at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC, Susan is now a full-time writer, giving poetry workshops, talks, and readings. Visit her website at

"I warmed up to these characters easily, even Hades, and was soon caught up in the narratives, in their sometimes wicked humour, in their sad and surprising turns. Many poems have a kind of double-edged voluptuousness. Demeter Goes Skydiving handles its old material in a new way, the modern terminology adding zing to the classical allusions." David Zieroth, Governor General's Award winner for The Fly in Autumn

"How well this story fits our time, while keeping its numinousness. So many phrases and lines I love and say Amen. 'The Muse is the parts of yourself thrown overboard'-ah yes! Goddess bless McCaslin for this tough, sharp and strong work!" Alicia Ostriker, author of the volcano sequence

"What an exhilarating romp through Greek mythology and the modern underworld in language both elegant and original! Demeter Goes Skydiving is a contemporary tour de force taking on disenchantment, the pillage and rape of Gaia, patriarchy and its toxic effects, warmongering, and consumerism. This mini-epic reveals how women are wrenched out of spiritual and physical shape by the demands of the culture and ripped apart like Orpheus. It addresses the commoditization of women (and in a larger sense everyone) in our society and the need for a healthy conversation between the two hemispheres of the brain with a view to wholeness and balance-in short, the oneness of heaven, earth, and underworld. This collection is a dramaturgy like a Greek play, with speaking parts, choruses, and music. Individual poems soar, but it is best appreciated as a whole, a jewel with many facets." James Clarke, poet, memoirist, and retired Justice of the Superior Court of Ontario

"'Allergens' was the word that threw me violently into a contemporary voice. I was holding on. And it kept me. Big leaps from poem to poem, covering huge territories. These poems are political and lyrical in a way that feels utterly natural." Kate Braid, poet and memoirist

"Demeter Goes Skydiving uses the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone to reflect the underlying theme of struggles between mother and daughter. McCaslin relates this myth to Homer's Odyssey and describes the story of Demeter and Persephone as an epic for women. Such a myth is rarely seen in modern works, McCaslin says. In this collection, Mother Demeter must negotiate an alien world of health clubs, paparazzi and 'reality' shows that illustrates a mother's unconditional love for her daughter. Her lyrics have been described as hilarious, sad, surprising and profound.... Not only does McCaslin's work provide insight into mother-daughter relationships but, through her use of the underworld as a backdrop in her work, she's able to reference the capitalist, materialistic world we live in today that encourages and enforces perfectionism. McCaslin's work allows readers to realize how much we are caught up in consumer society." Nicole Freeston, Event Magazine, May 27, 2011 [Full article at]

"In this collection, Demeter is trying to restore the daughters of today. She ranges from watching High Noon and Extreme Makeover in her hotel room, to trying to adopt Britney Spears. She goes skydiving (of course) and does lunch at the Savoy Grill. She wanders the globe, ending up in Iraq and at the foot of the Kokanee Glacier in B.C.... In addition to the Demeter series, this collection contains a second section of poems called Old Love, which also include some mythical references, to Gaia, to Sophia, and of course to the many permutations of love. [The] poems themselves are very beautiful and memorable, and I really loved this piece. They also reflect and incorporate classical references, in a different way than the Demeter poems, but still carrying that resonance. I am so glad to have discovered this poet... The Indextrious Reader, [Full post at]"

"McCaslin transplants the ancient Demeter-Persephone myth into 21st-century culture, adding complications of body image, addiction, and consumerism to the mother-daughter separation trauma. The resulting poems are by turns profound, hilarious, and devastating." Prairie Books Now, Summer 2011

"The latest collection of poems by Susan McCaslin draws upon many of the themes and motifs that have engaged her for years: love, the North, the generational relations of women, the search for Sophia or wisdom, and mythology in its various iterations. But with "Demeter Goes Skydiving" these themes and motifs achieve a maturity of treatment that marks her as a poet of more than passing interest on the national landscape. She is, with this volume, a poet of consequence, a major poetic voice in the country.. "Demeter Goes Skydiving" is bold stuff for a people desperate for wisdom." Michael W. Higgins, Telegraph Journal, April 7, 2012

"In McCaslin's modern version, Demeter's search for her daughter takes her not to the underworld, but to our modern world. It's a world of warped body images, addictions, rampant consumerism, and war." Matthew Claxton, Langley Advance, April 5, 2012 [Full article at]

"It's as if McCaslin has, through the first poems, prepared the reader (and herself) for the second section where the person's experiences can be held in the palm of the goddess Demeter and her daughter. It is as if the mother and daughter in one poem can mirror the goddess and her daughter in another but without this connection being overtly pointed out." Yvonne Blomer, Pacific Rim Review of Books

"Demeter Goes Skydiving is the best-produced book of the entries in this award category. The cover and page designs are clean and elegant. The text is well edited and readable. The poems torque a common mythological figure into a smart, well-crafted sequence that thrusts the venerable tradition of the Canadian long poem into the 21st century." Jury comments, Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award, WGA

"Demeter Goes Skydiving consists of three sections, and the Demeter myth poems, set in a contemporary first-world culture, take up the first half of the book. The critique of contemporary consumerism threads throughout the Demeter/Persephone poems, as is the criticism of war.. In this retelling, gods are as much a product of their culture as contemporary mortals seem to be; indeed, Demeter Goes Skydiving is almost an allegory.. [H]owever one reads Demeter Goes Skydiving, the Demeter poems will leave you wanting more." Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, Oklahoma City University, World Literature Today, July, 2012

"[McCaslin] fearlessly takes on our two-bit culture.... The last half of the book unleashes the push and pull of a poet engaged with consequence, and the results gleam with her confidence." Andrew Vaisius, Prairie Fire Review of Books, Vol. 12, No. 3 (2012)

"Truly moving work.... [O]ver half this collection explores the Demeter & Persephone myth. The strongest pieces are those in which the author morphs into Demeter, a persona that enables her to express her rage over society's superficiality, a veneer of diet pills, gyms, fashion magazines, reality shows, plastic surgery and other ways of controlling women by weakening their capacity for self love and esteem. The titular poem and others...swell the myth into contemporary prominence in tight stanzas that perfectly convey the tension of quivering 'at the edge of the abyss' without respite from suffering's knowledge apart from a 'brief and heavy catharsis.'" Catherine Owen, The Relentless Adventures of OCD Crow, July 2013 [Full review at]

Alberta Book Awards - Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award

ISBNs: 9780888645517 978-0-88864-551-7 Title: demeter goes skydiving