'Margaret Avison was a highly regarded Canadian poet who saw poetry as her life's vocation but shied away from being publicly labelled a poet. She has been called reclusive, introspective; her poetry difficult and demanding. And yet, as shown by her enigmatically titled autobiography, I am Here and Not Not-There, she was also a woman with a lively curiosity and a real love for the world.'
'This week I received a large package in the mail. I opened it to find the 352-page volume I Am Here And Not Not-There: An Autobiography. It is the autobiography of Margaret Avison -- the exceptional Canadian poet who passed away on July 31, 2007. Not only is Margaret Avison one of the most celebrated poets Canada has ever had -- having won the Governor General's Award for poetry in 1960 and 1990, and the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2003 -- but she participated with The Word Guild by twice contributing to the Write! Toronto conference, and by being the winner of the Leslie K. Tarr Career Achievement Award in 2005. I am not writing of this book, so much, to encourage you to buy it -- unless you are a long-time fan of Avison -- but primarily to point out the weight of her contribution. Sarah Klassen once wrote in Prairie Fire, ''It is Avison's unique accomplishment to write, in and for a secular world, about faith and God, with intelligence and without becoming either sentimental or preachy.'' Surprisingly, it is the secular literary community -- not the church -- that has most valued Avison's legacy. I think it's high time that we begin to celebrate Margaret Avison!'
'A consummate perfectionist who savoured every word, delighted in twisting and extending its conceptual sinews, purified its cadence, and plumbed its deepest interiority, Avison fought with words in the same way you would wrestle with an angel. Her startling images drawn from nature and technology left one in no doubt that a greater wisdom than knowledge is lost to those whose gods of efficiency, calculation, technical mastery, and data assembly deafen them to the sounds and furies of the natural world, blind them to the beauties of ordinary epiphanies, and dull that imagination that brings us close to Divinity.'
'A high-school teacher once told a young Margaret Avison to eschew the first person singular in her writing for 10 years. It was a directive the naturally withdrawn Avison readily took to heart. Nevertheless, the quintessential Canadian literary question is Alice Munro's: ''Who do you think you are?'' It is a question an older Avison consistently demands of herself in this posthumously published autobiography.'