Monday, September 13, 2021

Margaret Avison*

Margaret Avison (1918—2007) is one of Canada’s most-celebrated poets. She received the Governor General’s Award twice ― for her collections Winter Sun (1960) and No Time (1990) ― was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984, received the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2003 for Concrete and Wild Carrot, and the Leslie K. Tarr Award (2005) for outstanding contribution to Christian writing in Canada. Her archives are held at the University of Manitoba.

I had the privilege of contributing twice to presentations she gave at a writers’ conference near her home in downtown Toronto ― first in November of 2003 where I read a few of her poems for her (including the one in this post) as extended readings were becoming taxing for her ― and again one year later when I interviewed her. That interview (which I believe is the last she ever gave) appeared in Image, and was later included in her autobiography I Am Here And Not Not-There (2009, The Porcupine’s Quill).

The following poem is from her collection Concrete and Wild Carrot (2002, Brick Books). It also appears in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry (2016, Poiema/Cascade).

On a Maundy Thursday Walk

The Creator was
walking by the sea, the
Holy Book says. Finely-tuned
senses — flooded with
intense awareness — tested
a clear serene constancy.

Who can imagine it, sullied
as our senses are? Faulty as are even our
most excellent makings?

The perfection of
created Being, in the perfect
morning was born from the walker-by-the-sea's
imagination. At a word —
the hot smell of sunned rock, of
the sea, the sea, the sound of lapping, bird-calls,
the sifting sponginess of sand
under the sandals, delicate.
April light—all, at a word
had become this almost-
overwhelming loveliness.

Surely the exultation —
the Artist
Himself immersed in
His work, finding it flawless —
intensified the so soon
leaving (lifted out of
mortal life for good

That too eludes
us who disbelieve that we
also shall say goodbye to
trees and cherished friends and
sunsets and crunching snow
to travel off
into a solo death.

How much more, that
(suffering this
creation to go under
its Maker, and us all)
He, the Father of love, should stake it all
on a sufficient
indeed on an essential

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Margaret Avison: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.