Avison, Margaret (Kirkland) 1918-

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AVISON, Margaret (Kirkland) 1918-

PERSONAL: Born April 23, 1918, in Galt, Ontario, Canada; daughter of Harold Wilson (in the clergy) and Mabel (Kirkland) Avison. Education: University of Toronto, B.A., 1940, M.A., 1964.

ADDRESSES: Home—17 Lascelles Blvd., Apt. 108, Toronto M4V 2B6, Ontario, Canada.

CAREER: Poet. Worked at North American Life Insurance Co. and Gage Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Canadian Institute of International Affairs, editor, until 1945; University of Toronto, Toronto, worked at registrar's office and library, 1945-55, also lecturer; worked as a nursemaid, 1955, and at Presbyterian Home Missions, Toronto; University of Western Ontario, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, writer in residence, 1972-73; Canadian Broadcasting Corp., worked in Archives Division, 1973-78; Mustard Seed Mission, Toronto, staff member, beginning 1978.

AWARDS, HONORS: Guggenheim fellowship, 1956; Governor-General's Literary Awards for poetry, 1960, for Winter Sun, for poetry and drama, 1970, for The Cosmic Chef: An Evening of Concrete, for the Winter Sun: The Dumbfounding; Poems, 1940-66, and 1990, for No Time; Griffin Poetry Prize, 2003, for Concrete and Wild Carrot.


History of Ontario, Gage Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1951.

(With A. I. Wolinsky) A Doctor's Memoirs, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1960.

Winter Sun (poetry), University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1960, new edition published as Winter Sun: The Dumbfounding; Poems, 1940-66, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1982.

(Translator, with Ilona Duczynska and Karl Polanyi) The Plough and the Pen: Writings from Hungary, 1930-1956, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1963.

(With Albert Rose) The Research Compendium, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1964.

The Dumbfounding (poetry), Norton (New York, NY), 1966.

Silverick, Ganglia Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1969.

The Cosmic Chef, Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1970.

(Translator, with Ilona Duczynska) Jozsef Lengyel, Acta Sanctorum and Other Tales, Peter Owen (London, England), 1970.

Sunblue (poetry), Lancelot Press (Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1978.

No Time, Lancelot Press (Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1989, Brick Books (London, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Selected Poems, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

A Kind of Perseverance, Lancelot Press (Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1994.

Not Yet but Still, Lancelot Press (Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1997.

Concrete and Wild Carrot (poetry), Brick Books (London, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

Contributor to anthologies, including The Book of Canadian Poetry, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1943, Recent Canadian Verse, Jackson Press, 1959, and The Country of the Risen King: AnAnthology of Christian Poetry, Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI), 1978. Contributor to periodicals, including Canadian Forum, Manitoba Arts Review, and Origin.

SIDELIGHTS: Although Margaret Avison is recognized by many critics as one of Canada's finest and most sensitive poets, she is relatively unknown internationally. Several reasons have been suggested for her lack of fame and attention. A very private person, Avison has not actively promoted her books. Another factor contributing to her lack of public recognition can be attributed to the fact that several of her books are hard to find—either published by a small press or not widely distributed by the publisher.

In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Ernest H. Redekop explained: "Margaret Avison has always been a relatively unknown poet, except among readers and critics of Canadian verse. Since 1966, critical essays on her work have increased, but the verbal and imaginative complexities of her poems have not won over many casual readers. . . . Her stature as a Canadian poet, to judge from the distribution of her poems today, is low; but those readers who have taken the trouble to study her work acknowledge the scope of her intelligence, the uniqueness of her imagination, and a virtuosity in the use of language perhaps unparalleled among contemporary Canadian poets."

Daniel W. Doerksen commented on Avison's poems in Canadian Literature: "Their rich sensitivity to all aspects of life, amounting to a wholesome 'secularity,' their deep and incisive engagement in the world of thought and meaning, their full exploitation of all the modern resources of language and technique—all these mark them with the vitality which is the essence of true poetry."



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2, 1974, Volume 4, 1975.

David, Jack, and Robert Lecker, editors, Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Author, Volume 6, ECW Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 53: Canadian Writers since 1960, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Kent, David, Margaret Avison and Her Works, ECW Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989.

Redekop, E. H., Margaret Avison, Copp Clark (London, Ontario, Canada), 1970.


Books in Canada, summer, 2003, Harold Heft, review of Concrete and Wild Carrot.

Canadian Literature, autumn, 1959; spring, 1974.

Twentieth Century Literature, July, 1970.*