USU Eastern’s Jason Olsen named Poet of the Month by Utah Division of Arts and Museums recently

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Jason Olsen, a Utah State University Eastern assistant professor in English, was named Poet of the Month by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums as part of its “Bite-Sized Poetry” campaign.

Olsen is a poetry prodigy. He has a talent for making significant statements in a lighthearted way.  His poem, “Everybody’s Jealous of Everybody Else,” just hit the big screen, or at least the ubiquitous one. Watch him here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLHRENrQJvE) on YouTube.

Inspiration for this poem came as Olsen was thinking about the way that people view other people and their possessions. Jealousy is a common topic, but Olsen takes a different slant and examines the smaller, insignificant ways that humans feel envy. In a playful, but thoughtful approach, he invites his readers to look inside. 

The main goal for Olsen is to make poetry easy for anyone to read and enjoy. His quips are laugh-out-loud funny, and his lighthearted style rolls off his tongue so easily that it’s possible to forget that he does it by design. 

“I wanted this poem to create expectations and then move in an unexpected way,” he said. “I focused on mundane jealousies: food, hair, toys and clothes. Then the momentum of the poem breaks by piling on some transcendental moments. Then, just as fast, it returns to the mundane.”

The Utah Division of Arts and Museums invited Olsen to choose one of his poems and make a video of it at Twig Studios in Salt Lake City. The video combines Olsen performing the piece with playful effects, graphics and music.

The artists at Twig Studios had full leeway to design the video. The thought of lettaing someone else determine the presentation of a work might be scary for some writers, but not for Olsen.

“The drawings and special effects really created a collaboration that I am thrilled with,” he said. “For me, when I write and share a poem, though it is mine, it belongs to everyone I share it with.” 

In addition to poetry, Olsen is an award-winning short-story writer. He is working toward publishing two books, “Robot Action Pinball,” a short-story collection and “The Behooving,” a compilation of poetry.

A passion for writing carries into Olsen’s teaching. He enjoys interacting with all types of students. As a first-generation college student, he wasn’t sure what to expect when he started out.

“Now, I have the opportunity to work with students who are just starting their college careers,” Olsen said. “Some are not enthusiastic about English, and I get to share my excitement with them.  Other students are already creative writers. I get to help them develop their skills. They inspire me.” 

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