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Margaret Avison
Don Mills (Out.), Oxford University Press, 1991. 166pp, paper, $17.95
ISBN 0-19-540859-4. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Pat Bolger.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

This collection is drawn largely from the four volumes Margaret Avison has published in over thirty years as a poet: Winter Sun (University of Toronto Press, 1960), The Dumbfounding (New York: Norton, 1966), sunblue (Lancelot Press, 1978} and No Time (Lancelot Press, 1989), which was awarded the Governor General's award for poetry. A dozen new and previously uncollected poems round out the selection.

Avison's inspiration rises commonly from her deep religious faith, and, like the Metaphysical poets such as Donne and Herbert, she creates poetry that is highly complex and greatly compressed:

...far fallen in the
ashheaps of my
false-making, burnt-out self and in
hosed-down rubble of what my

Sometimes the reader will be defeated by passages such as

What mathematics must,
also the pert,
they will
as the dark river runs.

In strong contrast are a few brief poems such as "Until Christmas," which is marked by simplicity and clarity:

The all He created
hangs on this infant
helpless human,
son. God only...

Young adult readers would enjoy the sonnets 'Tennis," "March Morning" and "Scar-face" with its wry conclusion. Student poets would be fascinated by Avison's masterly handling of near rhyme in poems such as "Micro-Metro." Many high school libraries will want to have this collection available for mature readers with a strong interest in poetry - Avison's natural audience.

Pat Bolger, Renfrew, Ont.
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