Susan Holbrook: Biography and Main Works

Susan Holbrook was born in 1967. Nowadays, the writer and the scholar, teaches North American literatures and Creative writing at the University of Winsdor. Holbrook is mostly interested in feminist and contemporary experimental writing thus publishing on Gertrude Stein and Brossard. In 1999, she published her work misled, a book that was nominated for Pat Lowther Award and the Stephen J. Stephenson Award. Holbrook’s interest in experimental writing is explained by her desire to pursue the connection between the essence of literature and the essence of the process of writing (Brossard et al. 254).Susan Holbrook’ creative work mostly focuses on the contemporary writer as she is confident that “writing is motivated by desire” (Eichhorn et al. 43).

In her poems, Holbrook often makes use of humor where he dedicates herself to playfulness and light-heartedness. Her verses embody her own outlook on life as something humorous and funny. The books of poetry are saturated with the criticism of humor “in the face of sexist and homophobic hostilities in the street” (Eichhorn et al 45). The Joy is so Exhaustive Holbrook tries to show that sometimes humor could entail the poem with the emotional charge, the psychological atmosphere. Here, Holbrook could satirize on political life thus using humorous effect to enhance the idea of the poem. According to Holbrook, “little laugh we might emit as readers is a laugh of relief”. Here, the writer intends to render the idea that humor is not only an entertainment for the readers but also the method to reveal their anger and resentment through laughter. The poems highlight the necessity to criticize the life and the surroundings in order to provide pleasure.

While analyzing Good Egg Bad Seed from Joy is so Exhausting , it should be stressed that the poem is based on concrete examples from contemporary life. Despite the simplicity of language and prose narrations, this long poem is rather philosophical as it uncovers the major questions concerning the essence of humans. By means of character traits, Holbrook renders the human’s nature and the reason why people are divided on “good eggs” and “bad seeds”. On the first reading, the first lines shape the image of the good and the evil, where the writer admit the necessity of existence of character diversity:

“… people who open the door for
And there are people you open the door for,
People who open the door for you and you appreciate
And people who open the for you and it’s irritating”. (Holbrook 171).

Further, the reader could perceive the satire in the verse through the thought revealed in the work is quite serious. Anyway, by common phrase, the writer manages to touch upon various sphere of life, including politics, culture, psychology, religion, marriage, and love. Relying on the interview, she “[thinks] of the epiphanic in mainstream poetry as conservative, as revealing a predetermined truth-structure to the uninitiated speaker” (Eichhorn. 45). As it could be seen, my vision contradicts the writer’s but still humor is the only thing that I agree with.

A replacement poem Insert taken from an instruction manual is Holbrook’s experimental writing that is transferred from the pack of tampons to the reality thus covering the problem of feminism. This instruction has been chosen on purpose as the poem is kind of protest for the ungrounded sexist stereotypes. The poetical instruction enhances the creative responsibility. However, the poem is rather outright and shocking. The line “the tomboy should now be comfortable inside you” (Holbrook 145) renders the Holbrook’s humorous attitude to the world where everyone should “insert the tomboy” so that you could always perceive the atmosphere of joy and happiness. The remade instruction is the gradual step to enjoy the life in full extent. Again, the poetess skillfully makes use of satire for the readers to get “a relief” from the reading. It is worth mentioning that the poems are shaped like prose and contain no rhythm. The interview helped me to realize the reason of Holbrook’s preference to use prose. Hence, she“[loves] sentences, its syntactical rhythms and narrative familiarity” (Eichhorn et al 43). Obviously, those preferences are typical of all her verses as they are the basis for the innovative poetry. In a whole, the new book of poetry Joy is so Exhausting is about life constraints. On reading the Holbrook’s interview, I have admitted that there are different types of constraints imposed by the society. Regarding that, Holbrook mentions in the interview: “Many of these pieces begin with a source text. So the work in the new book offers perhaps a concrete way to attend to the multiple, incessant acts of reading structuring our days…” (Eichhorn et al. 48). To put it in other words, the main goal motives for this experimental reading is give a second life to past literary works thus adjusting them to the modern society.

The Holbrook’s interview reveals my understanding of her poems so that she expanded my own thought of the essence of writing. Moreover, the interview support the idea that innovated poetry is not only entertaining, it has a much deeper sense and ideas. Most of her commentaries turn out to be useful for me to understand the poems from other retrospective. Owing to that, I realized that Holbrook’s poetry is urgent in our life as it is opens the new era in literature and poem writing.


Brossard, Nicole. & Forsyth, Louise. Nicole Brossard: essays on her works. Canada: Guernica Editions, 2005

Eichhorn, Kate and Heather Milne. Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women’s Poetry and Poetics. Toronto: Coach House Press, 2009.

Holbrook, Susan Joy is so Exhausting. Canada: Coach House Press, 2009.

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