Brandt, Di

Di (Diane Ruth) Brandt, poet, writer, professor (b at Winkler, Man, on 31 Jan 1952). Raised in the Mennonite community of Reinland, Manitoba, Di Brandt was educated at the Canadian Mennonite Bible College (Winnipeg), the University of Alberta, and the University of Toronto. She holds a PhD in Canadian literature from the University of Manitoba (1993). A prominent voice in Canadian prairie literature, Brandt's work is widely anthologized and she has published poems in numerous literary periodicals, both in Canada and abroad. Her poetry has been adapted for theatre, radio, and television, and has been set to music and performed in dance.

Brandt has published six volumes of poetry. Her first collection, questions i asked my mother, was short-listed for the 1987 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD, as was Jerusalem, beloved (1995). Bouquet for St Mary and Now You Care were both published in 2003. Brandt also writes literary criticism (Wild Mother Dancing: Maternal Narrative in Canadian Literature, 1993) and creative non-fiction (Dancing Naked: Narrative Strategies for Writing Across Centuries, 1996). She has edited literary journals and books, including Re: Generations: Canadian Women Poets in Conversation (2005, with Barbara Godard). Beginning in 1973, when she wrote the opera libretto for The Bridge, or What's Wrong with Jim McKenzie?, Brandt has been involved in many collaborative, multimedia projects with other writers, musicians, and visual artists.

Much of Brandt's writing has been shaped, formally and thematically, by her feminist politics. Her early poetry explicitly questions Mennonite doctrine, especially as it pertains to women. Her fluid style (unpunctuated, uncapitalized, conversational) implicitly reinforces her resistance to the rigid patriarchal structures of the community in which she was raised. The fraught nature of mother-daughter relationships has been a central concern for Brandt in both her poetry and prose. She also explores the intersections of "post-postmodernism" and environmentalism through poetic discourse that draws on cross-cultural, multimedia, and interdisciplinary practices.

From the outset of her writing career, Brandt's poetry has earned considerable critical acclaim and recognition. She won the Gerald Lampert Award for the best first book of poetry in 1987. In 1990 she was awarded the McNally Robinson Manitoba Book of the Year Award, and in 1995 she received the Canadian Authors' Association National Poetry Prize. She was a finalist for the Trillium Ontario Book of the Year Award (2004) and the Griffin Poetry Prize (2004).

Brandt's extensive mentoring of new writers and her active involvement in Canadian literary organizations is also noteworthy. Brandt has been a long-time member of the Writers' Union of Canada, PEN Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and the Manitoba Writers' Guild. She has taught at the Universities of Alberta, Manitoba, and Winnipeg, run creative writing workshops, and given lectures throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. In 1997, she became an associate professor of creative writing and Canadian literature at the University of Windsor. Brandt began her five-year tenure as Canada Research Chair (in Creative Writing) at Brandon University in 2005.