September 27, 2023

Jason Olsen releases poetry book titled “Parakeet”


This archived article was written by: C. Dean Thacker

Utah State University Eastern English department is known for its great program, classes and professors. One of these professors recently had a poetry book published titled “Parakeet.”
Jason Olsen, Ph.D., grew up in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and always has been drawn to the West. “I was obviously not raised a small town person, but I’ve gone to appreciate the quiet and slow speed of our community.”
USU Eastern gave Olsen a place where he can focus on the students. “I’ve always loved to work with students at an institution that is so student-centered,” he said in an email, “I’m here for our students and that’s where my focus gets to be.”
When Olsen was applying for jobs after graduate school, he sent applications all over the United States. USU Eastern was one of the colleges who wanted to interview him. Human resources asked that he visit the campus. While he was on campus, he said “I really like the community, students and my soon-to-be-colleagues, so I made the move from Michigan all the way here.”
Olsen’s “Parakeet” book can be likened to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. “’Parakeet’ was published earlier this year by BatCat Press. It’s a quirky book. It was inspired by my childhood love of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. So, ‘Parakeet’ is a “Choose your own Adventure” poem.”
He continued, “I started working on it a long time ago, back in graduate school, 10 years ago maybe. I finished a draft of it back then, and then decided a couple of years ago to revisit it. I’m not sure why–I just remember this cool idea I played with once, and I was curious if it had much merit. So I dug it up and, realized, yeah, it’s kind of interesting. So I then revised it heavily and decided to send it out for publication, and that ultimately worked out. So this book is almost like a collaboration between me in my late twenties and me now.”
The poet part of Olsen draws inspiration everywhere. He draws it from pop culture to the mundane. “I like to write about virtually any topic, if I think I can get something out of it.” In a manuscript he is trying to get published now, he has poems about strongman competitions, baseball, ice sculptures, a children’s museum and shopping at the Gap. He says, “inspiration can–and should–come from everyone. Writers need to pay attention to the world around them.”
Olsen didn’t always want to be an English professor, but after he started teaching, he realized it was the path for him. “I knew I wanted to write, but once I started moving toward the party of poetry, I knew I needed a day job. Being an English professor has been the best job I could imagine.”
Something he tells all of his students, “I think it’s important to emphasize how important even the most basic things you’re learning in college are–in your classes, you’re learning not just facts, but how to communicate, how to argue, how to listen. Value that.”
Olsen enjoys working with student, getting to know them and watching them become the best version of themselves. “I empower students by giving them ownership over their papers and ideas, and showing them that I care about their success and that they are part of a team effort. If a student knows that somebody believes in them–then it becomes easier to be empowered.”
Olsen’s is giving a poetry reading on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the Central Instructional Building.

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