About the Author

Margaret Avison

One of Canada's most respected poets, Margaret Avison was born in Galt, Ontario, lived in Western Canada in her childhood, and then in Toronto. In a productive career that stretched back to the 1940s, she produced seven books of poems, including her first collection, Winter Sun (1960), which she assembled in Chicago while she was there on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and which won the Governor General's Award. No Time (Lancelot Press), a work that focussed on her interest in spiritual discovery and moral and religious values, also won the Governor General's Award for 1990. Avison's published poetry up to 2002 was gathered into Always Now: the Collected Poems (Porcupine's Quill, 2003), including Concrete and Wild Carrot which won the 2003 Griffin Prize. Her most recent book, Listening, Last Poems, was published in 2009 by McClelland & Stewart.

Margaret Avison was the recipient of many awards including the Order of Canada and three honorary doctorates.

Books by this Author
Listening

Listening

The Last Poems of Margaret Avison
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Excerpt

August. Reading

From lamplight on a glossy page
my eyes lift: now not
insects’ footprints along
gleamy paper, but a
wash of diluted, cold
green tea with
dust-bunny clouds afloat
southward, grape-tinted once but
fast fading. A
last lick of
ivory light tinctures
a tall, very far over,
wall.

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Momentary Dark
Excerpt

POLITICAL PLOY PERHAPS
Is
Humpty Dumpty a
was?
His all-apartity
awash
in royal horses?
(as likely to squash
that goggle-eyed face
in the grass as
to reass-
emble a torso from as
many bits as hash)?

Perhaps poor Humpty had
to tumble so we’d see
all the pieces we need
to make democracy.

A Word about the Poem by Margaret Avison
Three strands came together suddenly to release this poem: remembering Iona and Peter Opies’ disclosure, probably in The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, of a political dimension in nursery rhymes; recalling an illustration of Humpty Dumpty in a child’s book, his pudginess and protruding eyes, which merged with newspaper photographs of public figures; the feel in the fingers of the name “Humpty Dumpty,” wood carved in an irregularly rounded shape. 

In a poem, the physical feel of a word-counter matters more than its meaning (in this instance, some significant person’s “fall” from power after perceived indecisiveness, i.e. “sat on a wall”).

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The Essential Margaret Avison
Excerpt

All Fools' Eve

From rooming-house to rooming-house
The toasted evening spells
City to hayrick, warming and bewildering
A million motes. From gilded tiers,
Balconies, and sombre rows,
Women see gopher-hawks, and rolling flaxen hills;
Smell a lost childhood's homely supper.
Men lean with folded newspapers,
Touched by a mushroom and root-cellar
Coolness. The wind flows,
Ruffles, unquickens. Crumbling ash
Leaves the west chill. The Sticks-&-Stones, this City,
Lies funeral bare.
Over its gaping arches stares
That haunt, the mirror mineral.
In cribs, or propped at plastic tablecloths,
Children are roundeyed, caught by a cold magic,
Fading of glory. In their dim
Cement-floored garden the zoo monkeys shiver.
Doors slam. Lights snap, restore
The night's right prose.
Gradually
All but the lovers' ghostly windows close.

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Writing the Terrain

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets
contributions by Karen Solie; Rosalee van Stelten; Joseph Pivato; Charles Noble; Stacie Wolfer; William Latta; Christopher Wiseman; Cyril Dabydeen; Yvonne Trainer; Robert Boates; Monty Reid; John O. Thompson; Alexa DeWiel; Tom Howe; Leslie Greentree; John O. Barton; Tammy Armstrong; Doug Beardsley; Laurence Hutchman; Murdoch Burnett; Stephen Scobie; Aleksei Kazuk; Colleen Thibadeau; Colin Morton; Sid Marty; Greg Simison; Nancy Holmes; Vivian Hansen; Walter Hildebrandt; P.K. Page; Richard Woollatt; Gail Ghai; Kim Maltman; Joan Shillington; Robert Stamp; Wilfred Watson; Michael Cullen; Robert Hilles; Erin Michie; Deborah Miller; Jan Boydol; Robert Kroetsch; Miriam Waddington; Jon Whyte; Leonard Cohen; r. rickey; Tim Bowling; Ivan Sundal; Phyllis Webb; Weyman Chan; Bruce Hunter; Ryan Fitzpatrick; D.C. Reid; Cecelia Frey; Sally Ito; Bonnie Bishop; Ian Adam; Deborah Godin; Margaret Avison; Joan Crate; Rajinderpal Pal; Miriam Mandel; James M. Moir; Anne Swannell; Tim Lilburn; Pauline Johnson; Lorne Daniel; James Wreford Watson; Erin Moure; Ruth Roach Pierson; Stephan Stephansson; Aritha van Herk; Fiona Lam; Jan Zwicky; James M. Thurgood; Roberta Rees; E.D. Blodgett; Gordon Burles; Eva Tihanyi; Carol Ann Sokoloff; Jim Green; Dennis Cooley; Christine Wiesenthal; Vanna Tessier; Douglas Barbour; Richard Hornsey; Ken Rivard; George Bowering; Aislinn Hunter; Anne Campbell; Tom Wayman; Peter Stevens; Anna Mioduchowska; David McFadden; Gary Geddes; Rita Wong; Barry McKinnon; Tom Henihan; Michael Henry; Alice Major; Allan Serafino; Gerald Hill; Jason Dewinetz & Sheri-D Wilson
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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The Research Compendium

The Research Compendium

Review and Abstracts of Graduate Research, 1942-1962
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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