Saint Martin's University

Jamie Olson

Jamie Olson

Title and discipline: associate professor, English

Contact information
Office location: Old Main 352
Phone: 360-438-4302
Email: jolson@stmartin.edu

Areas of specialization: modern poetry; post-colonial literature; exile and immigration; Russian literature.


Jamie Olson has taught in the English department at Saint Martin's since 2008, when he moved to the Olympia area from Ann Arbor, Michigan, after completing his Ph.D. in English at the University of Michigan. He is a scholar and translator of poetry, film buff, decent cook, and lifelong runner. He lives on the west side of Olympia with his wife and daughter.

A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Jamie served in the U.S. Marines for six years right out of high school, working as an Arabic cryptolinguist and spending much of his time in the Middle East or aboard Navy ships. After his discharge from the Marine Corps, he recognized his passion for literature, tossed aside his pre-med plans, and set to work on an English major at the College of Saint Scholastica, a Benedictine institution in Minnesota. During his first semester of college, Jamie was bitten by the Russian bug, a circumstance that led to years of blissful travel and split identity, not to mention a Russian minor in college and Slavic graduate coursework alongside his English doctorate.

At Saint Martin's, Jamie teaches first-year writing, introductory courses in poetry and fiction, modern poetry, world literature, ethnic literature, and Russian literature in translation. From time to time, he also leads a section of First-Year Seminar (UNI 101), and he is the founding faculty member of the Oikos Residential Learning Community. His teaching and research interests include the following:

  • 20th- and 21st- century poetry
  • Anglophone colonial and post-colonial literatures
  • Russian literature, language, and culture
  • Translation and translation studies
  • American literature, culture, and film
  • Exile, diasporas, and immigration

Jamie is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Literary Translators Association, the Modern Language Association, the American Comparative Literature Association, and the Olympia Poetry Network. He regularly attends ALTA's annual conference and sometimes reads his translations during OPN's monthly gatherings at Traditions Fair Trade Café.

Besides teaching English courses, Jamie has served on the faculty senate and several other committees at Saint Martin's, and he is the faculty advisor for the Veterans Club and Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society. He has directed senior thesis projects by English majors on Gerard Manley Hopkins, Allen Ginsberg, James Joyce, Colm Tóibín, and Ivan Turgenev, among other authors. He has also organized a number of film series on campus that took up such themes as empire, religious faith, and immigration.

In 2010 and 2012, Jamie led five-week study tours to Petrozavodsk, Russia, where SMU students studied Russian language and culture, and he plans to continue organizing trips to Russia every two years. He recently taught the very first Russian-language class ever offered at Saint Martin's, and he hopes to continue teaching that class in coming years. In the summer of 2011, he arranged a weeklong stay at SMU for a group of Russian students and faculty from the Karelian State Pedagogical Academy who came to campus to study Native American Culture, identity, and literature.

During his graduate studies at the University of Michigan, Jamie specialized in modern and contemporary poetry, and he wrote his dissertation, Rooted Cosmopolitanism in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, and Joseph Brodsky, under the direction of two important scholars of modern poetry, George Bornstein and Laurence Goldstein. Jamie has recently been drafting several articles on postwar poetry that have developed out of his dissertation research and teaching experience. In addition to his scholarship on poetry, he translates Russian literary texts into English, with past projects including fiction by Dmitry Manin-Sibiryak and poems by Vyacheslav Kiktenko and Irina Yevsa. Currently, he is hard at work on a book-length translation of Timur Kibirov's playful, post-modernist collection of Greek and Roman Catholic Songs and Nursery Rhymes, 1986-2009.

In 2010, Jamie started a blog on translation and Russian poetry, The Flaxen Wave, which has proven to be a surprisingly fulfilling project and effective networking tool. These days, for better or for worse, professional lives unfold as much online as they do anywhere else, and Jamie embraces that social and technological change.


Select publications

  • Review of Andrei Gelasimov's Thirst, translated by Marian Schwartz (novel). Translation Review 84 (Winter 2012). The University of Texas at Dallas. Print.
  • "The Poetics of Uselessness." Review of Into the Snow: The Selected Poems of Gennady Aygi, translated by Sarah Valentine. Berfrois: Intellectual Jousting in the Republic of Letters (June 20, 2012). Web.
  • Translations of three Russian poems by Ukrainian poet Irina Yevsa. Anomalous Press 5 (Spring 2012). Boston. Web.
  • Translation of "Fairy Tale about How There Once Was a Fly Who Outlived the Others." Russian children's story by Dmitry Mamin-Sibiryak. 1897. Chtenia 4.4 (Fall 2011): 27-36. Montpelier, Vermont. Print.
  • Translations of five Russian poems by Timur Kibirov. Cardinal Points 12.4. New York. Print and web. [Forthcoming in print; published on web site in February 2011]
  • "Timur Kibirov: Faithful or Skeptic?" Essay on poetry and translation. Cardinal Points 12.4. New York. Print and web. [Forthcoming in print; published on web site in February 2011]
  • Translations of two Russian poems by Vyacheslav Kiktenko. Ozone Park Journal (Fall 2010). Queens College (CUNY), New York. Web.
  • "To Russia and Back Again." Insights: News for Alumni and Friends (Fall 2010): 14-15. Saint Martin's University. Lacey, Washington. Print.
  • The Flaxen Wave: On Poetry, Translation, and Russian Culture. Blog. Jamie L. Olson, May 2010-present. Web.
  • "World Culture in American Poetry: A Dialogue between Derek Walcott and Joseph Brodsky." USA: Language, Society, Culture: Proceedings of the International Conference. Petrozavodsk: KSPA Press, 2009. 125-28. Print.
  • "On Translating Russian Poetry (and Kiktenko in Particular)." Crab Creek Review Blog. The Writer's Notebook. Crab Creek Review, 30 Dec. 2010. Web.
  • Translations of three Russian poems by Vyacheslav Kiktenko. Crab Creek Review 22.2 (Summer 2009): 80-85. Seattle, Washington. Print.

Education: B.A., The College of Saint Scholastica; M.A., University of Michigan; Ph.D., ibid.