The Essential Margaret Avison
The sixth volume of the Porcupine Quill’s acclaimed series of ‘Essential Poets,’ this collection provides an excellent introduction to this prominent Canadian poet and the evolution of her work. Robyn Sarah’s selections amply celebrate Avison’s diverse styles and forms, and reveal Avison’s unique perspective on and response to her world.
Here, one can experience Avison’s dazzling diction (‘‘a saucepantilt of water,’’ ‘‘birds clotted in big trees’’), her metaphoric and tonal complexities, and her quiet examination of the world in which she lived. The Essential Margaret Avison also traces her movement from skeptical intellectual to committed Christian.
Though some scholars have dismissed her later religious poetry as simplistic and inferior to her earlier work, the truth is more complex, and the line between what is religious and what is not in Avison’s poetry is difficult to draw. Robyn Sarah describes how Avison’s work became ‘‘more and more a poetry of inquiry, an inner pondering of her daily givens,’’ in which her experience of the worldly and the transcendent are inextricably tied.
Margaret Avison, honoured by the Griffin Prize and twice by the Governor-General’s Award, was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1985, and died, at the age of 89, in 2007. This singular poet’s legacy is well represented in Robyn Sarah’s thoughtfully chosen selection.