Fiamengo, Marya

Marya Fiamengo, poet, critic and educator (b at Vancouver 24 Oct 1926). A daughter of Croatian immigrants who became a passionately nationalist poet, Marya Fiamengo studied creative writing at the UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (BA 1948, MA 1962), completing a collection of poetry under the tutelage of Earle BIRNEY. She began teaching in the English department at UBC in 1962, where she continued to work as an instructor until 1993. Her seven volumes of poetry combine an interest in Canadian nationalism with intensely personal images and frequent usage of religious themes.

Marya Fiamengo's participation in the literary and political debates surrounding the nationalist movement on the West Coast from the 1960s onward linked her to artists and writers such as Dorothy LIVESAY, Milton ACORN, Robin MATHEWS, Patrick LANE, Takao TANABE, and Jack SHADBOLT. Her first published collection, The Quality of Halves (1958), was also the first book published by Klanak Press, an important outlet for a new generation of writers.

The early work of Marya Fiamengo juxtaposes such diverse spiritual traditions as Orthodox Christianity and the I Ching; it is elliptical and meditative, drawing upon iconographic images. In the 1960s Fiamengo's poetic voice transformed as she became interested in feminist and nationalist movements of the time: collections like In Praise of Old Women (1976) and North of the Cold Star: New and Selected Poems (1978) reflect an increasingly politicized perspective. While remaining ardently political, her later volumes are more contemplative and feature her characteristic merging of images drawn from the natural world, classical icons, and ancient liturgy. Her poetry balances a sweeping historical consciousness and an acute commitment to the concerns of her present.

Fiamengo's poetry has been included in a number of anthologies, including Eleven Canadian Poets (1973), Women's Eye (1974) and The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse (1975). The collection Visible Living: Poems Selected and New (2006), a tribute to her life's work, was edited by Seymour Mayne, Russell Thornton, and Fiamengo's niece, critic Janice Fiamengo. Marya Fiamengo lives in Gibsons, BC.