Thousands of North American Finns, gripped by “Karelian Fever”, moved to the Soviet Union in the 1930s to help build a socialist utopia. What happens when utopian dreams go sour? Nancy’s search for meaning and motive in that doomed project began with a personal search for her great-aunt, and generated poems based on history, family letters and an autumn train journey to meet Russian step-kin.
Nancy Mattson is a Canadian poet who moved to London in 1990. Her new collection, Finns and Amazons, begins with poems about seven Russian women avant-garde artists and leads mysteriously into a poetic search for her Finnish greataunt who disappeared in Soviet Karelia in the 1930s. In 2010 she was an invited speaker at Petrozavodsk University in Russia, thus partly retracing her lost great aunt’s footsteps.