22 Feb 12
Poetry In The Crypt
Cardinal Points Literary Magazine
Finnish North American Literature Association
Books From Finland
Hearing Eye / Torriano Meeting House
Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour
The Leonard Cohen Files
and in the shop…
“Finns and Amazons”
“Lines from Karelia”,
“Writing with Mercury”,
in anthology –
“Take Five 06”,
this poet is taking part in the poetry pRO project
Nancy Mattson moved to London from the Canadian prairies in 1990. Born in 1947 in Winnipeg and raised in Edmonton, she spent her childhood summers in Saskatchewan on her Finnish grandparents’ homesteads. She began writing poetry in 1977 after completing her MA in English at the University of Alberta.
Nancy has published three full poetry collections, one in Canada and two in England. Her latest, Finns and Amazons (Arrowhead Press, 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. In Penelope Shuttle’s words, “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…”
Lisi’s letters themselves have been translated from Finnish to English by Iiris Pursiainen and published in a pamphlet, Lines from Karelia (Arrowhead, 2011), along with a few of Nancy’s poems, some rare historical photographs and three of Lisi’s holograph letters.
Maria Breaks Her Silence (Coteau, 1989), Nancy’s first collection, is based on the life of a nineteenth century Finnish woman immigrant to Canada. The book was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, adapted for the stage as Lye Soap and Dancing Cows and broadcast on CBC Radio.
Nancy has a more contemporary focus in her second collection, Writing with Mercury (Flambard, 2006), and in the five-person anthology Take Five 06 (Shoestring, 2006). Her poems in these two volumes are set in modern England, Canada, Finland and Italy but draw on memory, myth, history and family stories to create rich linguistic and cultural textures.
Her work has been frequently anthologized, for instance in Beth Virtanen’s Finnish North American Literature in English (Edwin Mellen Press, 2009), Myra Schneider & Dilys Wood’s Images of Women (Arrowhead Press/Second Light, 2006), Kate Braid & Sandy Shreve’s In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry (Polestar, 2005) and John Rety’s In the Company of Poets (Hearing Eye, 2003).
Nancy has read her poetry at dozens of venues from the Troubadour in London to the Greyhound in Wivenhoe and the Madras in Christchurch, NZ; at festivals including Torbay Poetry, Grand FinnFest in Sault Ste. Marie and Greenbelt in Cheltenham; at universities in Vancouver, Minneapolis, Kuopio and Petrozavodsk. She received a Hawthornden Fellowship in June 2007.
She 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.