“Learning is not only light, as the Russian proverb says; it is also freedom. Nothing liberates a person so much as knowledge, and nowhere is freedom needed so much as in art, in poetry: not for nothing are the arts called ‘liberal,’ or free, even in bureaucratic jargon. Can someone ‘grasp’ or ‘catch’ what surrounds them if they are all tied up inside?”
– Ivan Turgenev
Jamie Olson has taught in the English department at Saint Martin's since 2008, when he moved to the Olympia area after finishing his Ph.D. in English at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Right after high school, he served for six years in the U.S. Marines, and in 2002 he received his B.A. in English from the College of St. Scholastica, a Benedictine institution in Minnesota. Alongside his English studies, Dr. Olson completed a Russian minor in college and took three years of Slavic coursework in graduate school.
Dr. Olson is a scholar and translator of poetry, and at Saint Martin’s he teaches academic writing, modern American literature, Russian language and literature, world literature in translation, and thematic courses on medicine, the environment, and U.S. immigration. During his graduate studies at the University of Michigan, he 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. Dr. Olson is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Literary Translators Association and the Modern Language Association. He is the faculty advisor for the SMU chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society.
With his colleague Dr. Karen Rosenflanz of the College of St. Scholastica, Dr. Olson regularly leads a summer study tour to Petrozavodsk, Russia, where students from the two colleges study Russian language, culture, and history.
- Translations of poems by Igor Irtenyev, Semyon Lipkin, Genrikh Sapgir, Boris Slutsky, and Timur Kibirov. 100 Poems about Moscow: An Anthology. Moscow: BSG Press, 2017.
- “Revising ‘A Part of Speech’: Americanness and Self-Translation in Joseph Brodsky’s Exile Poetry.” Translation Review 97.1 (2017): 47-60. Routledge.
- Review of Yevgeny Baratynsky’s A Science Not for the Earth: Selected Poems and Letters, translated by Rawley Grau. Translation Review 97.1 (2017): 104-109. Routledge.
- “The Landscape of Exile: Joseph Brodsky as an American Poet.” American Writers in Exile. Eds. Jeff Birkenstein and Robert C. Hauhart. Critical Insights. Ipswich, Mass.: Salem Press, 2015. 229-44.
- Translations of “Synopsis” and “The Ethnic Question,” by Timur Kibirov. Atlanta Review. Special issue: Russia (Spring/Summer 2015): 65-66. Atlanta.
- Translations of three Russian poems by Ukrainian poet Irina Yevsa. Drunken Boat 21 (April 2015).
- Translations of four Russian poems by Timur Kibirov. Two Lines: World Writing in Translation (March 2015). Center for the Art of Translation, San Francisco.
- Translation of “Rooster, rooster,” by Timur Kibirov. America: The National Catholic Review (February 23, 2015): 31. New York.
- Translations of three Russian poems by Timur Kibirov. Asymptote (October 2014). Taipei.
- Review of Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets, Kirill Medvedev’s It’s No Good: Poems, Essays, Actions, and Andrei Sen-Senkov’s Anatomical Theater (poetry). Translation Review 89 (Summer/Fall 2014): 79-84. Routledge.
- Review of Andrei Gelasimov’s Thirst, translated by Marian Schwartz (novel). Translation Review 84 (Winter 2012): 64-67. Routledge.
- “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).
- Translations of three Russian poems by Ukrainian poet Irina Yevsa. Anomalous Press 5 (Spring 2012). Boston.
- Translations of five Russian poems by Timur Kibirov. Cardinal Points 12.4 (Fall 2014): 179-87. New York.
- “Timur Kibirov: Faithful or Skeptic?” Cardinal Points 12.4 (Fall 2014): 175-78. New York.
- 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.
- The Flaxen Wave: On Poetry, Translation, and Russian Culture. Blog. Jamie L. Olson, May 2010–present.
- “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.
- Translations of three Russian poems by Vyacheslav Kiktenko. Crab Creek Review 22.2 (Summer 2009): 80-85. Seattle.
- In 2017, Dr. Olson was awarded a Literature Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to support his translation from the Russian of poems by Timur Kibirov.