Fernie-based artist and author, Mary Menduk, is releasing a book of poetry this month. Not Even the Artist Knows the Words is a collection of poems Menduk wrote over a span of five years. The collection started as a way to tell her nieces and nephews about their grandparents, and grew from there.
“I wanted to write some essays about my family. They were just going to be essays because I wanted them just to have the information,” she said. “Then Keith Liggett said to me, ‘Well don’t you want to make it interesting?’ The easiest thing to get into was poetry.”
Menduk used her family and heritage as her main inspiration for a selection of the poems. Her parents migrated to Canada from Czechoslovakia at the height of the Great Depression, with her father arriving in Canada in 1929 and her mother coming over three years later. Her father, who was a lover of democracy, originally planned to return to Czechoslovakia but liked the health care and education systems in Canada. He decided to stay in the Elk Valley, where Menduk was born and raised.
“I noticed that my nieces and nephews and my grand nieces and nephews don’t vote, or some of them don’t vote with consideration. My father was quite political and very interested in democracy,” she said. “Democracy was important to him, and I see my nieces and nephews not voting with enough care, and I thought I have to tell them what their grandfather was like. I started writing with that in mind.”
Menduk also wrote poems about growing up in Fernie, with odes to Coal Creek and ice skating in the winter, in the hopes of telling a story to her family about their grandparents.
Menduk is now telling her story to more than just her family. The collection is split into sections, including one titled A Search for Freedom, which her parents inspired. There are also poems dedicated to the nature and beauty surrounding Fernie and a personal look on the world.
Menduk is also a painter, with her work being featured at the Arts Co-op, and has been a pillar of support for the Arts Station. She came to art later in life, and didn’t start painting until 1984. Now, with the release of her 80-page book of poems, Menduk has made herself into a multi-faceted artist and writer, with multiple creative tools at her disposal,
A launch for Not Even the Artist Knows the Words will be hosted at the Arts Station on June 15 at 7 p.m.,