Mia Anderson

Poet, Actor


Published, EAC Communiqué, Spring 1996


h I come from
the slips of the South Saugeen
Oh bottom land!
My home looks over fields of
unwashed ley,-


“Solitariness deeply attracts me,” Mia Anderson says. The search for solitariness lead her away from the Stratford stage to the inner realm of poetry. Farm life near Mount Forest and walks by the South Saugeen with her dogs became a refuge. Now, after 20 years away from theatre, Mia has synthesised the inner and the outer facets of word magic.

Mia has always recorded thoughts and impressions, but in her youngest years writing was not a vocation. Though her mother was a poet, Mia’s creative energies were absorbed in the performing arts. After school at Havergal, she received a B.A. and an M.A. in English literature from university of Toronto. Summer stock theatre quickly led to the Stratford Festival in the early ‘60s. She returned again in the late ‘60s and around ‘77 with Robin Philips. Red haired, lithe and elfin, many roles were open to her: “Everything worked in reverse. I started with older roles and got younger”. Mia played “Regina” in “The Little Foxes”, “Laura” in “The Glass Menagerie”, and eventually the utter ingénue “Julia” in “Two Gentlemen From Verona”. From the beginning she felt she belonged in Stratford and she loved the surrounding countryside.

Then came a time when Mia sought a sabbatical. Theatre spoke of humans and her deep attachment to nature needed expression. “It was a conscious decision on my part to leave theatre temporarily. I didn’t know I would be so long returning. However there was an undertow of purpose in switching art forms,” she now reflects.

Mia found refuge on her farm, and the inner peace of life close to nature and the river. In 1981, Mia’s husband Tom Settle, Professor of Philosophy at University of Guelph, took administrative leave. Mia and Tom spent the year in Vaucluse, Southern France. Words attached themselves to ideas, which half way through the year began to emerge as poems. Past the sheaves of Provencal lavender, the rivers, land and lakes of Canada recreated themselves in verse: Muskoka, Georgian Bay, the Saugeen, memories of the Mount Forest farm replete with sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and cats, scenes from childhood. This anthology of Mia’s memories and observations became her first published collection of poetry: “Appetite”.


In Vaucluse, living in the house called “Le Puits”, Mia also kept a journal which matured ten years later into a second published book of poetry: “Chateau Puits ‘81”. In this collection her husband Tom is a repetitive motif as she explores the ways and delights of an ancient land.

In her return to theatre after 20 years absence in “Writ Large”, Mia will dramatize passages she has chosen from recent works by Canadian authors, reminiscent of her earlier one-woman stage presentation, “10 Women, 2 Men & a Moose”. Selections have been crafted into a unified tapestry suitable for dramatization. Through juxtaposition of personalities and moods a range of emotion is explored. Children, men and women are all acted by Mia alone: “I’m finding the theatrical in literature rich and dynamic. This format, so much more sparse than the group and company of normal theatre, really bears a relationship to sitting at a desk and writing a poem.”

Poetry has proved to be not very different from acting. Both use the self to penetrate everyman. “In poems I use myself as a token of yourself,” Mia explains, “I don’t think of writing as self expression. I see myself as a light, a beam, searching for truth.”

Mia concludes that Poetry’s real medium is silence, growing silence. Her task is to help the reader in to experience that silence. Ultimately, “Poets don’t have words”.

Published works include “Appetite” (1988), “Chateau Puits ‘81” (1992), the unfinished but National Magazine Award winner “The Shambles”.

by Beverley Cairns, Spring 1996

 Poetry has proved to be not very different from acting. Both use the self to penetrate everyman.

UPDATE – 2005

Mia’s work “Practising Death”, was published in 1997 in the St Thomas Poetry Series. St. Thomas’ Church on Huron Street, Toronto, has maintained a “vigorous public association with poetry since 1988”, and Mia Anderson has taken part in their annual readings. The series focuses on works which are  “witness to the religious meaning of experience”. Mia Anderson considers the work of another poet in “Conversation with the Star Messenger: An Enquiry into Margaret Avison’s Winter Sun”.