Toby Olson Critical Essays


Toby Olson 1937–

(Born Theodore Olson) American poet and novelist.

Olson writes simple, clear, and direct poetry. He gently yet relentlessly penetrates the "things" of his life to extract an ironic but sympathetic vision of the world. He claims that "it is through writing about what I can see, hear, and feel that I can best touch the nature that I believe is common in all of us." His attempt to do this produces work in which concrete observations are colored by meditative speculations. Many of the poems from his previous volumes have been collected in Changing Appearance: Poems 1965–70 (1975).

In addition to his poetry, Olson has published two novels, The Life of Jesus (1976) and Seaview (1982). Both novels are experimental in structure: realistically detailed descriptions merge with surreal manipulations of plot and poetic passages are interspersed with standard narrative techniques. The Life of Jesus uses the mystical symbolism of Catholicism to explore the psychology of the protagonist who views his life in terms of the life of Jesus.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 65-68 and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 9.)