Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Silver Reaches of the Estuary

Margaret Avison died last week at 89. I'd say it's sad, but by all accounts she led a very full life and left behind an important body of work. While I respect and admire her writing a great deal, I can't say I'm a huge Avison fan. In particular, I'm not crazy about much of her explicitly Christian verse, which readers of this site might chalk up to my general anti-Christian bias, but it's not a problem I have with other writers of the Xian sacred (Dante, Milton, Donne, Hopkins). That said, she is one of the finest writers of metaphysical poetry this country has seen--and who knows if she could have been without her Christianity--and I do like a number of her poems quite a lot. There's a serious playfulness and a linguistic resourcefulness in her work that is rare indeed.

One of her most anthologized poems is "The Swimmer's Moment." It's not my favourite Avison poem (her sonnet "Snow" probably occupies that position), but it breaks every workshop show-don't-tell rule beautifully and I love the intersection of introspection and outward critical judgment that happens in it. And it seems appropriate for the occasion. Hear me read it here.

See also Paul Vermeersch's post, which includes links to a number of obituaries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I think "Butterfly Bones; or Sonnet against Sonnets" may be my favourite Avison poem, but "Snow" runs a close second. Nice reading.

Steve M.