Early life and education
McMaster came to Ottawa with her family in 1955 and attended First Avenue Public School, Elmdale, Connaught, Lisgar Collegiate (1966), Carleton University (B.A. in English, 1970; graduate studies in journalism), and Ottawa Teachers' College (elementary certificate, 1971).
While she taught for a few years, McMaster has spent most of her paid working career as an editor, notably at the National Gallery of Canada from 1989 to 2008 as an editor of some 40 art catalogues and founder of the Gallery magazine Vernissage.
Poetry and writing
Since 1996, McMaster has been the poet in Geode Music & Poetry,[clarification needed][weasel words] making four spoken word and music recordings with Jennifer Giles on keyboards, Alrick Huebener on bass, Gavin McLintock on sax, and friends, including Dave Broscoe, Jamie Gullikson, Mike Essoudry, Petr Cancura, Mark Molnar, John Higney, Linsey Wellman, Penn Kemp, Colin Morton, and Max Middle. She has performed and recorded with SugarBeat and Geode at 50-plus venues, including the Banff Centre, the National Library, the Kingston Fringe Jazz Festival, Rasputin's, the Blue Skies Music Festival, the Ottawa Folk Festival, the Elora Music Festival, Artscape, WordBeat, Morningside, Go, the National Arts Center Fourth Stage, and the Ottawa International Writers Festival, and has read and performed at festivals and venues in France and Italy.
McMaster's recent poetry books are Paper Affair: Poems Selected and New (Black Moss 2010), Pith & Wry: Canadian Poetry (Scrivener Press 2010), and Crossing Arcs: Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me (Black Moss 2010), which was a finalist for the 2010 Acorn-Plantos People's Poetry Prize, the 2010 Ottawa Book Awards, and the 2010 Archibald Lampman Award. She is the author of several wordmusic collections, performance poetry recordings and scripts, has edited poetry anthologies and series, and was the founding editor of the national feminist and art magazine Branching Out (1973–present). McMaster was an original member of the intermedia group First Draft (1981–present) that recorded, published, and performed some 40 times across Canada in the 1980s.
McMaster's mid-life memoir, The Gargoyle's Ear: Writing in Ottawa (Black Moss 2007), recounts stories from the projects, contacts, and interests that comprise her life as a poet. Her millennial book, Waging Peace, collects the poetry, art, and texts from Convergence: Poems for Peace, which presented art-wrapped poems from across Canada to all MPs and Senators in 2001. Her poetry collection Until the Light Bends from Black Moss Press was shortlisted for the 2005 Archibald Lampman Award for poetry, and the 2005 Ottawa Book Award for best book of the year. Accompanying the book is her spoken word CD Until the Light Bends, with Geode Music & Poetry, from Pendas Productions.
McMaster is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, The Writers' Union of Canada, the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia, PEN (Canada), the Writers' Trust, SOCAN, Access copyright, and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
McMaster lives in Ottawa, Ontario. She and her husband Ian spend part of each summer at their cottage in Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy. They have two grown daughters, Morel and Aven, and two grandchildren.
- Branching Out Magazine (first Canadian feminist and arts periodical), founding editor. Edmonton, 1973–75, editor 1975-80 Sharon Batt.
- Pass this way again (with Andrew McClure and Claude Dupuis, 1983). (Underwhich Editions, 1983).
- Dark Galaxies. (Ouroboros, 1986).
- North/South (with Andrew McClure and Colin Morton). (Underwhich Editions, 1987).
- Dangerous Graces: Women's Poetry on Stage (editor). (Balmuir Publishing, 1987).
- Wordmusic (audiotape, with Andrew McClure and Colin Morton, and Paula Quick, Lynne Simpson, and Yasmine Malinowksi from Open Score). (First Draft, 1986). Reissued with additional tracks by Penn Kemp, Max Middle, and Linsey Wellman as 1981 Wordmusic 2007.
- The Hummingbird Murders. (Quarry Press, 1992). ISBN 1-55082-048-6.
- Learning to Ride. (Quarry Press, 1994). ISBN 1-55082-104-0.
- Dangerous Times. (audiotape, with SugarBeat Music & Poetry, 1996).
- Uncommon Prayer. (Quarry Press, 1997). ISBN 1-55082-196-2.
- Siolence: Poets on Women, Violence and Silence (editor). (Quarry Press, 1997).
- SugarBeat Music & Poetry. (CD, with Alrick Huebener and Jennifer Giles). (SugarBeat Music & Poetry, 1998).
- Geode Music & Poetry. (CD, with AH and JG, and Geode Music & Poetry, 2000). ISBN 0-9687191-0-4.
- Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action, editor. (Penumbra Press, 2002). ISBN 1-894131-37-1.
- La Deriva del Pianeta/World Shift, translations into Italian by Ada Donati. (Schifanoia Editore, 2003). ISBN 88-87882-30-4.
- Until the Light Bends (Black Moss, 2004). Finalist: Ottawa Book Awards; Lampman-Scott Award. ISBN 0-88753-397-3.
- Until the Light Bends: Geode Music & Poetry. (CD, with AH and JG Pendas Productions, 2004). ISBN 0-920820-70-0.
- The Gargoyle's Left Ear: Writing in Ottawa. (Black Moss, 2007). ISBN 978-0-88753-443-0
- Crossing Arcs: Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me. (Black Moss, 2009, 2d printing 2010). Finalist: Acorn-Plantos Peoples' Poetry Award; Ottawa Book Awards; Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry. ISBN 978-0-88753-462-1
- Paper Affair: Poems Selected & New. (Black Moss, 2010). ISBN 978-0-88753-468-3
- Pith & Wry: Canadian Poetry, editor. (Scrivener Press, 2010). ISBN 978-1-896350-41-7.
- Celebrating Canadian Women. Ed. Greta Hofmann Nemiroff (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1989).
- A Room at the Heart of Things. Ed. Elisabeth Harvor (Vehicle, 1999).
- Crossing Boundaries: An International Anthology of Women's Experiences in Sport. Eds. Susan J. Bandy, Anne S. Darden. (Human Kinetics, 1999).
- Line by Line: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry. Ed. and with drawings by Heather Spears (Ekstasis Editions, 2002).
- Nth. Eds. Carolyn Creed, Fred Wah (Sage Hill Fall Poetry Colloquium, 2003).
- The Lunar Plexus. Aut. Penn Kemp (PsychoSpace Sounds, Pendas Productions, 2002). ISBN 1-894715-01-2.
- Two Lips. Aut. Penn Kemp (PsychoSpace Sounds, Pendas Productions, 2001). ISBN 0-920820-35-2.
- Re:Generations: Canadian Women Poets in Conversation. Eds. Barbara Godard, Di Brandt (Black Moss Press, 2005). ISBN 0-88753-393-0.
- "Susan McMaster". Retrieved 15 March 2016.
- Margaret Dyment (November 15, 1986). "Poet's first book mature". Retrieved 15 March 2016.
- University of Toronto Canadian Poetry Online