di Michele, Mary

Mary di Michele, writer (b. at Lanciano, Italy, 6 August 1949). Mary di Michele immigrated to Canada as a child in 1955. She grew up in Toronto and attended Oakwood Collegiate. After completing a degree in English at the University of Toronto (BA 1972), she studied English and creative writing at the University of Windsor (MA 1974). In Windsor, di Michele worked with Joyce Carol Oates and met Tom Wayman. In Toronto she became part of a literary group that included Pier Giorgio DI CICCO, Roo BORSON, Carolyn Smart and Bronwen WALLACE. She was one of the poets included in the anthology Roman Candles (1978), edited by Di Cicco, and in The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1982), edited by Margaret ATWOOD. In 1986 she was in Vancouver at the conference where the Association of ITALIAN CANADIAN WRITERS was founded. Mary di Michele worked as a freelance writer and editor with Toronto Life, Poetry Toronto, and The Toronto Star. She has held posts as writer-in-residence in Toronto, Regina, Banff, Montreal, Rome and Bologna. Since 1990 she has been professor of creative writing at Concordia University and has often traveled back to Italy.

Mary di Michele's first book of poetry, Tree of August (1978), signaled the beginning of her exploration of the Italian Canadian experience. This examination of family relations continued in Bread and Chocolate (1980), a book printed and bound together with Bronwen Wallace's Marrying into the Family. With Mimosa and Other Poems (1981) di Michele became a major voice among the growing number of Italian Canadian writers and women poets. In Mimosa a series of monologues between 2 daughters and their immigrant father dissects their Italian Canadian heritage, family dynamics, and women's ambivalence towards patriarchal authority. In 1984 di Michele edited Anything is Possible, an anthology of 11 young women poets writing from the "world of feeling." She demonstrated her mastery of the confessional mode, in which lyric poems become meditations, with Necessary Sugar (1984), Immune to Gravity (1986), and Luminous Emergencies (1990). This last collection includes a group of poems inspired by a literary tour of Chile.

In her later work Mary di Michele expanded her subject matter and her genres. Her first novel, Under My Skin (1994), deals with a woman caught in media, violence and identity questions. In Stranger in You: Selected Poems and New (1995) di Michele experiments with the prose-poem form and political subjects, a practice that grew into a complete book with Debriefing the Rose (1998). In this work conversations with dead poets give us a sense of her literary traditions. Di Michele's novel Tenor of Love (2005), which deals with the life of Caruso, is in this poetic tradition of finding and recreating the voices of historical figures.

Mary di Michele has one of the most distinctive voices in North American writing. Her poetry has been included in over a dozen anthologies. She has won several prizes, including the CBC poetry competition, a Silver Medal, du Maurier Award for Poetry, an Air Canada Writing Award, a Toronto Arts Award and an ARC Confederation Poets Award.