Di Brandt was born Diana Ruth Janzen in Winkler, Manitoba. She was raised in Reinland, a conservative, separatist Mennonite village in Southern Manitoba. Di is a twin, she and her fraternal twin sister are the middle children, born between an older brother and a younger sister. Di left home at the age of 17 and moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to attend college. While there she met and married Manitoba-born artist Les Brandt, with whom she had two daughters. She received a BA from the University of Manitoba, and went on to a Masters of Arts at the University of Toronto and a PhD in English literature at the University of Manitoba. She taught English and creative writing at the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario for 7 years. She then went on to teach at Brandon University where she currently holds the position of Canada Research Chair.
Di Brandt has published five collections of poetry:
- Now You Care (Toronto: Coach House, 2003),
- Jerusalem, beloved (Winnipeg: Turnstone, 1995),
- mother, not mother (Toronto: Mercury, 1992),
- Agnes in the sky (Winnipeg: Turnstone, 1990), and
- questions i asked my mother (Winnipeg: Turnstone, 1987).
- So this is the world & here I am in it (Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2007), is a collection of essays.
She has also published a critical study of contemporary Canadian women's texts,
- Wild Mother Dancing: Maternal Narrative in Canadian Literature (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1993), and a collection of creative essays on cross-cultural poetics,
- Dancing Naked: Narrative Strategies for Writing Across Centuries (Toronto: Mercury, 1996). She also recently released Awakenings, a collaborative poetry/music CD with Dorothy Livesay (posthumously), Carol Ann Weaver, and Rebecca Campbell (2003).
She has received the Canadian Authors' Association National Poetry Award, the McNally Robinson Award for Manitoba Book of the Year, and the Gerald Lampert Award, and has been twice shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Poetry, as well as the Dillons Commonwealth Poetry Prize. Di Brandt is a former poetry editor of Prairie Fire Magazine and Contemporary Verse 2.
Her poetry has been set to music, and adapted for theatre, CD, film, video, radio, television, multimedia performance, and dance. She is currently writing "Berlin Notes," based on a six month sabbatical visit to that city (the first chapter was a cover feature in Prairie Fire Fall 2003), and co-editing two volumes of proceedings from the conference/festival, Wider Boundaries of Daring: The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women's Poetry (University of Windsor, 2001), with Barbara Godard, of York University. She is also co-producing Planet Earth, a musical CD featuring settings of Canadian women's poetry by well known composers like Violet Archer, Barbara Pentland, Chester Duncan, Jana Skarecky, Paul McIntyre, and others (performed, commissioned for, and premiered at the Wider Boundaries conference/festival), together with Barbara Godard, Jana Skarecky, and Brenda Muller. Her poetry suite, Sweet Sweet Blood will be premiered at the Sounding in the Land music conference at the University of Waterloo in May 2004.
- The Lottery of History. Brandon, Radish Press, 2008.
- So this is the world & here I am in it. Edmonton, NeWest Press, 2007.
- Now You Care. Toronto, Coach House Books, 2004.
- Dancing Naked: Narrative Strategies for Writing Across Centuries. Stratford, Ontario: Mercury Press, 1996.
- Jerusalem, beloved. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1995. *Mother, not mother. Stratford, Ontario: Mercury Press, 1992.
- Agnes in the sky. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1990.
- questions i asked my mother. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1987.
- Shortlisted, Griffin Poetry Prize, for Now You Care, 2004.
- Shortlisted, Pat Lowther Award for Poetry for Now You Care, 2004.
- Shortlisted, Trillium Prize for Best Book for Now You Care, 2004.
- Canadian Authors' Association National Poetry Award, for Jerusalem, beloved, 1995.
- Shortlisted, Governor General's Award, for Jerusalem, beloved, 1995.
- Silver National Magazine Award for he sound the wind makes, New Quarterly, 1995.
- McNally Robinson Manitoba Book of the Year Award, for Agnes in the sky, 1990.
- Shortlisted, Dillons Commonwealth Poetry Prize, for questions i asked my mother, 1988.
- Gerald Lampert Award, for questions i asked my mother, 1987.
- Shortlisted, Governor General's Award, for poetry, for questions i asked my mother, 1987.
- Di Brandt 's entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Griffin Poetry Prize biography
- Griffin Poetry Prize reading, including video clip
- Mennonite Voices in Poetry