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last update:

26 Jul19

Nancy Mattson photo
photo by & © Julian Ibbotson
e-mail Nancy
at Shoestring Press
at Finnish North American Literature Association
feature at Cardinal Points Literary Magazine

poetry favourites:
Poetry In The Crypt
Books From Finland
Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour
The National Poetry Library


and in the shop…
collections –
“Vision on Platform 2”,
Shoestring Press;
“Finns and Amazons”
Arrowhead Press;
“Writing with Mercury”,
Flambard Press;
“Maria Breaks Her Silence”,
Regina: Coteau Books



this poet is taking part in the poetry pRO project


Nancy Mattson moved from the Canadian prairies to London in 1990. Born in 1947 in Winnipeg and raised in Edmonton, she spent her childhood summers in Saskatchewan on her Finnish grandparents’ farms. She began writing poetry in 1977 after completing her MA in English literature at the University of Alberta. She was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in June 2007.
In Vision on Platform 2 (Shoestring, 2018), Nancy’s fourth full collection, she reflects on what has shaped her as a woman and poet – a Canadian childhood, life and love in contemporary England, art, nature, family, faith, history.
Two previous collections delve into history: Finns and Amazons (Arrowhead, 2012), begins with poems about some Russian women artists of the avant-garde but moves on to the theme of family history, inspired by her great-aunt Lisi’s letters sent in the 1930s from Soviet Karelia to Saskatchewan. Maria Breaks Her Silence (Coteau, 1989), a possible poetic biography of a nineteenth century Finnish woman immigrant to Canada, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award for best first collection, adapted for the stage as Lye Soap and Dancing Cows and broadcast on CBC Radio.
Two other books have more contemporary concerns: her full collection Writing with Mercury (Flambard, 2006) and her 14 poems in Take Five 06 (Shoestring, 2006). These are set in England, Canada, Finland and Italy but also draw on memory, myth, history and family stories to create rich linguistic and cultural textures.
Her work has been frequently anthologised, for instance in Towards the Light: Poems of Reconciliation (2018), The Penguin Book of Russian poetry (2015), Finnish North American Literature in English (2009), Images of Women (2006), In Fine Form (2005; 2nd ed. 2016), In the Company of Poets (2003).
Nancy has read her poetry at dozens of venues from the Troubadour and Torriano in London to the Legion in Wivenhoe and the Madras in Christchurch, NZ; at festivals including Torbay, Suffolk, Lancaster, Grand FinnFest in Sault Ste. Marie and Greenbelt in Cheltenham; at universities in Vancouver, Minneapolis, Kuopio and Petrozavodsk.
Nancy is married to poet Michael Bartholomew-Biggs; together they organise the popular Poetry in the Crypt reading series at St Mary Islington in north London.
Review Comments:

Mattson performs her own magic trick of writing in a variety of voices, male and female, often with a sense that each poem’s story will be told only once, and to no-one but us. … Not many collections combine grief, heroism, spirituality, sensuality and humour so rewardingly.


Rosie Johnston on Vision on Platform 2


These poems have clarity and poise, conveying the power and fortitude of women as ‘Amazons’, ensuring that one such woman who vanished into history did not disappear without leaving a trace, but is given record and honour. This is a true task of poetry, and it shines from these pages…


Penelope Shuttle on Finns and Amazons


Nancy Mattson explores her family’s complex history vividly but with a clear and honest understanding of how much must always remain unknowable. This imbues these sometimes tragic poems about Canada and the Soviet Union with a liberating sense of openness.


Robert Chandler on Finns and Amazons


[Mattson] uses poetry to bridge the gaps of time, history, culture and language to find what is essential in every woman’s experience.


Kristjana Gunnars on Maria Breaks Her Silence