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WINTER SUN/THE DUMBFOUNDING: POEMS 1940-66

Margaret Avison.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1982.
191pp, paper, $12.95.
ISBN 0-7710-0983-6.


Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Pat Bolger.

Volume 11 Number 2.
1983 March.


The standard Canadian poetry anthologies allow a very limited acquaintance with Avison's work: the apparent obscurity of "The Apex Animal," the precise images of "New Year Poem," the individualistic handling of the sonnet form in "Butterfly Bones." This volume, however, makes it perfectly clear that readers cannot "be acquainted with" her work. They can puzzle over it, read and re-read by stanza, by line, by word, and eventually feel a tentative sort of triumph, whispering "EurekaŚmaybe!" An intensely religious poet, Avison is like Donne, or Herbert, or even T.S. Eliot (especially in the longer poems "The Agnes Cleves Papers" and "The Earth That Falls Away"). But most of all, she is herself, and she offers no easy reward to the casual reader.

High school libraries will want this high-quality edition of the work of a major Canadian poet. Although it will not likely attract the browser, it will be useful to mature readers with an interest in Canadian literature. Among the critical works on Avison, Ernest Redekop's (in Copp Clark's Studies in Canadian Literature series) is a good choice for high school students.


Pat Bolger, Renfrew C. I., Renfrew, ON.
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