About Nancy

I live in London, England, where I moved in 1990 from the Canadian prairies. Born in 1947 in Winnipeg, I was raised and educated in Edmonton, Alberta, but spent my childhood summers on my Finnish grandparents’ homesteads in Saskatchewan.

I have an MA in English Literature from the University of Alberta. In 1982 I edited and co-authored a history of New Finland, Saskatchewan, Life in the New Finland Woods. This inspired my first full-length poetry collection, Maria Breaks Her Silence (Coteau, 1989), based on the life of a nineteenth century Finnish woman who emigrated to Canada. The book was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, adapted for the stage as Lye Soap and Dancing Cows, and broadcast on CBC Radio.

My second full-length collection is Writing with Mercury (Flambard, 2006). I am one of five poets in the anthology Take Five 06 (Shoestring, 2006) and one of 20 writers in Finnish North American Literature in English: A Concise Anthology (Edwin Mellen Press, 2009).

In 2007 I was awarded a Poetry Fellowship at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland.

My third full-length collection, Finns and Amazons (Arrowhead Press, 2012), begins with poems about seven Russian women avant-garde artists and their milieu and leads into a poetic search for my Finnish great-aunt Lisi Hirvonen, who emigrated to Soviet Karelia in the 1930s. A companion pamphlet to this book, Lines from Karelia, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2011.

In 2010 I visited Russia, where I walked in my great-aunt Lisi’s footsteps in Petrozavodsk and St Petersburg and met some wonderful step-kin.

I have given many talks and readings, for instance in 2010 in the History Department at Petrozavodsk State University, and at the Grand FinnFest in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. In 2011 at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham, England, I gave a reading and talk entitled “A Dream of Utopia in Soviet Karelia.”

With my husband, Mike Bartholomew-Biggs, I co-organise the popular Poetry in the Crypt reading series at St Mary Islington, north London.