Margaret Avison


Griffin Poetry Prize 2003
Canadian Winner

Book: Concrete and Wild Carrot

Poet: Margaret Avison

Publisher: Brick Books

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.



Margaret Avison was born in 1918 in Galt, Ontario, raised in Regina, Calgary and Toronto, where she completed high school in 1936. She continued her studies at University of Toronto earning a B.A. in 1940 and an M.A. in 1963. Her work has been recognized with two Governor General’s Awards for Poetry (Winter and Sun and No Time), by three honorary doctorates and by an officership in the Order of Canada. One of the poems in Concrete and Wild Carrot (‘Prospecting,’ retitled from ‘An-astronomy’) was awarded first place in the category of the Canadian Church Press Awards for 2000. Her other publications include The Dumbfounding, sunblue, Selected Poems, A Kind of Perseverance (prose) and Not Yet but Still. She was most recently honoured with the the Leslie K. Tarr Award for outstanding contribution to Christian writing and publishing in Canada.

The Porcupine’s Quill published a collection of Margaret Avison’s in three volumes under the title Always Now. Read more about the collection on the Porcupine’s Quill Web site. Avison also completed a collection entitled Momentary Dark, published in early 2006.

Margaret Avison died in July, 2007. Numerous moving tributes to her and her work have been published, including ones in the Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail.

Judges’ Citation

“If beauty, as Alfred North Whitehead defines it, is ‘a quality which finds its exemplification in actual occasions,’ and if beauty is more completely exemplified in ‘imperfection and discord’ than in the ‘perfection of harmony,’ then Margaret Avison’s Concrete and Wild Carrot is an occasion of beauty. Avison’s poetry is also alive in its sublimity and its humility: ‘wonder, readiness, simplicity’ – the gifts of perception Avison attributes to her Christian faith – imbue every poem in this book with a rare spirit of disorderly love. Margaret Avison is a national treasure. For many decades she has forged a way to write, against the grain, some of the most humane, sweet and profound poetry of our time.”

Margaret Avison reads Rising Dust

Rising Dust, by Margaret Avison

Rising Dust

The physiologist says I am well over
half water.
I feel, look, solid; am
though leaky firm.
Yet I am composed
largely of water.
How the composer turned us out
this way, even the learned few do not
explain. That’s life.

And we’re in need of
more water, over and over, repeatedly
thirsty, and unclean.

The body of this earth
has water under it and
over, from
where the long winds sough
tirelessly over water, or shriek around
curved distances of ice.

Sky and earth invisibly
breathe skyfuls of
water, visible when it
finds its own level.

Even in me?
Kin to waterfalls
and glacial lakes and sloughs
and all that flows and surges,
yet I go steadily,
or without distillation climb at will
(until a dissolution
nobody anticipates).

I’m something else besides.
The biochemist does not
concern himself with this.
It too seems substance,
A vital bond threaded on an
as-if loom out there.
The strand within
thrums and shudders and twists.
It cleaves to this
colour or texture and
singles out to a rhythm
almost its own, again,
anticipating design.

But never any of us
physiologist or fisherman
or I
quite makes sense of it. We
find our own level

as prairie, auburn or
snow-streaming, sounds forever
the almost limitless.

From Concrete and Wild Carrot, by Margaret Avison
Copyright © Margaret Avison, 2002

More about Margaret Avison

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Photo credit: Joan Eichner

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