BROOKSVILLE – Finvola Drury, poet, teacher and peace activist, died on Saturday, January 17th, 2015, of natural causes in Blue Hill, Maine. She was 88 years old.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1926, Ms. Drury was the daughter of Francis William (Dick) Drury and Marie McNeil. She attended Notre Dame Academy and Mary Manse College. Her first teaching was done as a lecturer at the Toledo Museum of Art. In 1948 she married philosopher and teacher George Drury in Chicago. There her daughter and son were born and she was first published in “Poetry, a Magazine of Verse.”
Ms. Drury earned a B.A. from Empire State College and an M.A from the University of Buffalo, where she studied with Robert Creeley and Marcus Klein. She taught Creative Writing at the University College of the University of Chicago, at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and at Writers & Books (Rochester, New York) where she also served for fifteen years on the Board of Directors. During the sixties, she chaired Wayne State University’s Miles Modern Poetry Committee, organizing a remarkable array of readings and events in Detroit. Her poems and prose have appeared in a wide variety of publications, and she is the author of two books of poetry, “Burning the Snow,” and “Elegy on the Death of Joric Ross.” Her poems are included in a number of anthologies, among them “The Next Parish Over: A Collection of Irish-American Writing,” and “I Have My Own Song for It: Modern Poems of Ohio.” Ms. Drury recently received a copy of the proofs for “From The Writing House: A Finvola Drury Reader” (edited by Sohnya Sayres). In his foreword, poet Jim LaVilla-Havelin writes that encountering Fin Drury’s work can make a reader or hearer feel “awake and whole and connected.” Poet Anne C. Coon identifies in Finvola Drury’s writings “a life-long commitment to reflection, to justice, and to the power of the word.”
Ms. Drury taught workshops on autobiographical writing, and she helped many of her students complete and publish their memoirs. Groups founded by former workshop participants continue to meet together to this day. She was invited to read her works at many venues, including The Newberry Library in Chicago. Finvola Drury wrote extensively about her life with her Jewish neighbors in Detroit, and she was frequently asked to share those writings in readings for synagogue-based groups in several cities. Her “The Radio Seder” was broadcast live on WFMT-Chicago as part of the station’s Passover programming. Called Fin by her many friends and students, she interacted generously with people. The poet Langston Hughes once asked her to stay in an audience because she was such a good laugher. Her caregivers and friends said that while they were caring for her, she was still teaching them.
A tireless worker for peace and for civil rights, Finvola Drury in 1968 entered a congressional primary as a peace candidate. She provided active support for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, helping to feed the veterans who came to Detroit for the first Winter Soldier hearings. She also gave poetry readings to call attention to veterans’ issues. Her father worked on the railroad and that informed her sense of the rights of laborers. At the age of eighty-five, and still in the first stages of recovering from a stroke, she joined her neighbors in a public demonstration.
Ms. Drury cited a significant experience that helped her to think of herself as a writer. She writes: “In 8th grade a nun, Sister Delphine, read aloud an essay of mine, ‘Storm over Lake Erie.’ She pointed out my use of metaphor and rhythms, establishing for me an irreversible connection between myself and language.”
Finvola Drury’s letters, papers and manuscripts are housed in the special Collections Department of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Ms. Drury’s daughter, Finvola, AIDS scientist and health worker, died in 1991. George F. Drury, her husband of sixty-two years, died in 2010. She is survived by her brother David, of Waterville, Ohio, his wife Aggie; many nieces and nephews; her son George, and her daughter-in-law, Kathy Cowan, both of Chicago.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 49 Main St. Blue Hill
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