Margaret Avison:

An Inventory of Her Papersat the University of Manitoba and Special Collections

Inventory prepared by Emma Prescott
University of Manitoba
330 Dafoe Library, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2
(August 2009)

Finding aid encoded by Emma Prescott (August 2009)
Finding aid written in English.

Collection Summary

University of Manitoba
330 Dafoe Library, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2

Margaret Avison

Margaret Avison fonds

1926 - 2009


MSS 64, PC 151, TC 97, EL 16 (A.09-54)

English and Italian

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Biography of Margaret Avison

Margaret Avison was born in Galt, Ontario in 1918, the daughter of a Methodist minister. She moved to Regina with her family in 1920, and then to Calgary a few years later. The Avisons returned to Ontario in about 1930, to Toronto where Avison attended high school, and entered Victoria College, University of Toronto in 1936. When she completed her B.A. in English in 1940, she was already a published poet as her poem “Gatineau” had appeared in the Canadian Poetry Magazine the previous year. Avison had a wide and varied professional career that commenced when she worked as a file clerk at North American Life Insurance (1940-42) and, for a few months, proofreader at Gage Publishing. Avison then worked at the Canadian Institute of International Affairs – Information Service (1943-45) where she edited a publication called “The Nations Have Declared,” about documents issued by the United Nations. After the war she moved on to the University of Toronto to a position in the Registrar’s Office, and then in the Library (1946-1954). In 1951, Avison’s History of Ontario, a textbook for use in high schools was published. She was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Grant in 1956, so she spent 8 months in the United States writing poetry and attending creative writing classes at the universities of Chicago and Indiana. Following this she undertook freelance work editing, indexing, as well as ghostwriting a book entitled A Doctor’s Memoirs. Her first book of poetry, Winter Sun was published in 1960, and won her the Governor-General’s Award. The year 1963 marked a major milestone in Avison’s life. She had drifted from her Methodist religious upbringing since her young adulthood; early in 1963 she converted to the Christian faith. During that same year her father died, so Avison’s mother moved to Toronto where she would live with Avison until a few months before her death in 1985 at the age of 102. Deeply moved by the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, Avison undertook the translation of eight poems to The Plough and the Pen: Writings from Hungary 1930-1956, published in 1963. The work was edited by Illona Duczynska and Karl Polanyi and brought recognition to many of the great 20th century Hungarian poets. The following year The Research Compendium was published. This volume consisted of précis, written by Avison, of theses by students in the School of Social Work at the University of Toronto. In 1963 Avison returned to the University of Toronto for graduate work, writing her M.A. thesis on “Byron and the Newspapers” examining how the style of Don Juan reflected the new journalism of Byron’s day. She began doctoral studies in 1964, but never earned her doctorate, as she did not write a thesis. The Dumbfounding, her second book of poetry was published in 1966. From 1966-1968 she taught at Scarborough College, University of Toronto. During this time Avison also volunteered at a Presbyterian mission called Evangel Hall, where she went on to work as a women’s worker until 1973. Avison then spent eight months as writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, after which she took a position in the CBC Radio Archives. After 1978 she returned to her charitable work, working as a secretary for the Mustard Seed Mission. This year also saw the appearance of her third book of poetry, sunblue, which was the product of her profound religious convictions. In 1986 Avison retired from the Mustard Seed Mission. She received her second Governor-General’s Award in 1990 for No Time, which had been published the previous year. An anthology of her work entitled Margaret Avison: Selected Poems was published in 1991 and contains selections from previous volumes interwoven with new material and ‘adaptations’ of poems by the Hungarian poets Gyula Illyes and Ferenc Juhasz, from the literal translations by Illona Duczynska. In 1994, A Kind of Perseverance was published, consisting of two lectures delivered at the annual Pascal Lectures on Christianity and the University, at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. The lectures describe the tensions she experienced when trying to live out her Christian values in secular society, specifically within the university setting. A further book of poetry, Not Yet but Still, was published in 1997. In 2002, her book of poetry Concrete and Wild Carrot (2002) published by Brick Books won the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize. One of the poems from the manuscript of Concrete and Wild Carrot was published in The Presbyterian Record and won a Canadian Church Press Award for 2000. From 2003-2005, The Porcupine's Quill published Always Now: The Collected Poems, Volumes One to Three. In 2006 her book of poetry Momentary Dark published by McLelland & Stewart won the Griffin Poetry Prize. Avison had two books published post-humously: Listening (2009) and I Am Here and Not Not-There, an autobiography (2009) . Apart from her two Governor-General’s awards, Avison’s contribution to Canadian literature has been recognized in the bestowal of honorary degrees from Acadia University (1983), York University. Margaret Avison died in 2007.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The ninth accrual (A.09-54) consists of manuscripts of I am here and not not-there as well as photographs, other textual material and electronic media.

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Restrictions on Access

Two folders in this accrual are restricted. One folder contains medical information, the other is a copy of Avison's birth certificate from Ontario.

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Restrictions on Use

a) Open to all; b) Quotations of excerpts allowed but no unpublished poem by, or any item of correspondence to or from, the donor may be published in full; c) All quotations are to provide the source and to convey Margaret Avison's judgement that the piece is unpublishable; d) Any publishing in full must wait until twenty years after the author's death; e) Use of the collection is on terms of use placed by this Department; f) It is the user's responsibility to abide by all Canadian copyright legislation as amended by Parliament from time to time.

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Custodial History

This accrual was donated to the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections by Joan Eichner in 2009.

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Other Finding Aids

MSS 64 (A.90-11, A.96-23) MSS 64, PC 151, TC 97 (A.01-22, A.02-64, A.03-109, A.07-55, A.07-64).MSS 64 (A.08-110) MSS 64, PC 151 ( A.08-44)

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Detailed Description of the Collection

Margaret Avison manuscripts, photographs and correspondence [ 1926 - 2009 ]

This accrual was donated by Joan Eichner in the fall of 2009. It contains 76.2 cm. of textual records mostly relating to recent books published and 12.7 cm of electronic records. There are 29 photographs covering 1930-2007, one audio tape, two audio CD’s, twenty-one ‘floppy’ discs and nine CD ROM’s.

1 Published and/or bound material [1951 - 2008]
  • Margaret Avison / Ernest Redekop. 1970.
  • Cemento e carota selvatica = Concrete and Wild Carrot / Margaret Avison. 2005.
  • The Griffin poetry prize anthology : a selection of the 2003 shortlist / edited and introduced by Sharon Thesen. 2003.
  • Poets learn from poetry / Margaret Avison in ARC: Canada’s National Poetry Magazine. 2004.
  • Where the words come from: Canadian poets in conversation / edited by Tim Bowling. 2002.
  • Canadian Poetry: Studies/Documents/Reviews / edited by D.M.R. Bentley. 2006.
  • Margaret Avison’s Voice / Cristina Cassan-Magnago in Rivista di studi Canadesi = Canadian studies review / edited by Jacques Godbout. 1999.
  • A conversation with Margaret Avison / D.S. Martin in Image / edited by Gregory Wolfe. 2005
  • History of Ontario / Margaret Avison. 1951
  • Margaret Avison: a tribute / Michael Redhill in Brick / edited by Michael Helm & Michael Ondaatje. 2008
  • Two short pieces / Margaret Avison in Brick / edited by Michael Helm & Michael Ondaatje. 2008.
  • Scrapbook of trips to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Festival of Books and Edmonton for the CAA Awards. 2003 [mostly by Joan Eichner with input from Margaret Avison]
  • Attendees at the private memorial service held for Margaret Avison. 2007
  • Merry Christmas Margaret/ Booklet of drawings by George Whipple. 2005
  • Sliverick / Margaret Avison
  • Bible used by Margaret Avison at the time of her conversion in 1963.
21 Original manuscript of I am Here and Not Not-There (later revised and rearranged) (1 of 3) [n.d.]
2 Original manuscript of I am Here and Not Not-There (later revised and rearranged) (2 of 3) [n.d.]
3 Original manuscript of I am Here and Not Not-There (later revised and rearranged) (3 of 3) [n.d.]
4 Edited proofs of I Am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography 2009
5 Final edited and typed version of I Am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography 2009
6 Edited proofs of I Am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography 2009
31 Manuscript of I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography as received from PQL. 2008
2 Final draft of I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography 2008
41 First run through of I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography from Stan Dragland’s file. 2008
2 Autobiography. Margaret Avison’s own corrections before her death, and revisions. [2007]
51 Edited pages and correspondence with Stan Dragland and Joan Eichner regarding I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography. 2002
2 Edited pages and correspondence with Stan Dragland and Joan Eichner regarding I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography. 2006
3 Edited pages and correspondence with Stan Dragland and Joan Eichner regarding I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography. 2007
4 Edited pages and correspondence with Stan Dragland and Joan Eichner regarding I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography 2008
5 Edited pages and correspondence with Stan Dragland and Joan Eichner regarding I am Here and Not Not-There: An Autobiography. 2009
6 Miscellaneous items (including photocopies of material held at U.N.B. archives) used in or connected with “Documents” part of I am Here and Not-Not There. [1945 - 1956, 1990, 2005]
7 Letters from Marion (Maisie) D. Cameron, school friend, about Margaret’s early years. 2007 - 2009
8 Clippings and articles relevant to people and events in autobiography. [1963, 1990 – 2008]
9 Autobiographical and biographical memories. Avison and the Postmodern 1960s article from Canadian Poetry 59. [1991 – 2006]
10 Correspondence and uncollected poems for Always Now Volume 1 [1932 - 2002]
11 Correspondence with McClelland and Stewart re. Listening. 2009
61 Juvenilia. [1926, 1931 – 1935]
2 Original of note to her mother. 1926
3 Drafts of published articles. 1992 & 2008
4 Notes and drafts. [n.d.]
5 Correspondence including correspondence with Daniel Bratton (Doshisha University), and with Shannon Less (Dalhousie University). [2000 – 2006]
6 Correspondence and clippings regarding different awards (Griffin Prize, Jack Chalmers Poetry Award, Leslie K. Tarr Award) as well as correspondence about “Poetry of the 1940s” Conference. 2003 - 2005
7 Correspondence with and work by other writers: John Bemrose, Jeremy Ashton, George Whipple and D.S. Martin. [1990 – 2006]
8 Poetry and correspondence from Robin Farrah Brox (J. Eichner could not contact him). 2004 - 2005
9 Poetry from Henry Knight. (J. Eichner could not contact him). 1999
10 Poetry and correspondence from Richard Osler. (J. Eichner could not contact him). [n.d.]
11 Poetry by John Grovers with notes by his wife. (J. Eichner could not contact him). [1993 - 1996]
12 Photocopies of notes from Margaret Avison to Connie Stokes (her neighbor at Fellowship Towers). [Originals with Connie Stokes]. [n.d.]
13 Family and personal letters. [1983 - 2005]
14 Correspondence with University of Toronto for access to information about Avison’s graduate course titles and professors. 2008
15 Record of doctor’s visits during Avison’s last few years when her health was failing. RESTRICTED [1999 - 2007]
16 Birth Certificate(s). RESTRICTED UNTIL 2015. 1973
17 Funeral instructions and arrangements and Margaret Avison’s Order of Service 1982 & 2007

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Photographs PC 151 [1930 - 2007]
618 Photocopy of photograph of Marvin Gelber, Eleanor (Godfrey), Bill Graham, Marion (Darte), Jack Johnson and Margaret Avison. [n.d.]
19 Professional photographs of Avison taken for Concrete & Wild Carrots 2001
20 Professional photographs taken after the Griffin Award by Sue Careless 2003
21 Photographs of Margaret Avison in High Park. [1930 - 1940]
22 Avison with Connie Stokes and Genevieve Carder and with Doris (Mosdell) Sangster. 1990 & 2003
23 Miscellaneous photographs [n.d.]
24 Farewell for Diana Wright. 2002
25 Jane (Eichner) Best and Anna Best. 1988, 2004 & 2006
26 Margaret Avison and the Scharfs. [n.d.]
27 Visitation Evangelism group and various chapel members. 1992 & 2007
28 In the home of Judy and Don MacLeod 1998
29 Various photographs of Avison outside and of her favourite places. [1998 - 2005]
30 Avison with Ottilie and Oke Koel. 2000
31 Avison with Rev. Dr. Shepherd. 2003
32 Before and after Griffin Reading 2003
33 University of Toronto Book Fair. 2003
34 Marianne and Heinz Wetzel. 2003, 2005 - 2006
35 Margaret Avison and Wayne Clifford. 2004
36 Marion (Maisie) Cameron. 2005
37 Last pictures of Margaret Avison. Avison's grave stone. 2007

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Tape Collection TC 97 [n.d.]
7 Sunblue. Poems by M. Avison
Winter Sun. Poetry by Margaret Avison
Margaret Avison’s Readings

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Electronic Records EL 16 [n.d.]
7 New poems
M & S […] copy
Post PQL unpublished poems
Post M & S Poems
“Influences” of Poets learn from poetry
Concrete and Wild Carrot. LACKS “Ambivalence” and “Audrey”
MA Bio: The Farm
MA Bio: Out West
MA Bio: Out West (2)
MA Bio: West Toronto
Bio Disk 1
MA Bio: Student years and Short term
MA: Jobs on Campus
Bio 7: Escaping a Career
Bio 8: Graduate Studies
Bio 9: Scarborough College
MA Bio 10: Evangel Hall
MA. Bio 11: London, Ont (UWO)
MA. Bio 12: CBC Archives
Bio 13: Mustard Seed Mission
Bio 14: My Mother’s death and After
MA Autobiography original. Winter/05 2005
Autobio – Revised and Stan 2006 - 2008
MA’s revisions as sent to Stan 2007
Post M & S Poems 2007
Avison – Verwitterunger 2007
Weatherings/ Verwitterunger
Revised Memoir 2006
Post M & S Poems in 12 point

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