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Always Now by Margaret Avison  

Since childhood Margaret Avison has written poetry and published it. Always Now: The Collected Poems (three volumes), stretches from the 1930s to the twenty-first century, through Winter Sun in 1960 and Concrete and Wild Carrot in 2002 (winners, respectively, of the Governor-General’s Award and the Griffin Prize for Poetry) to nineteen new poems selected for inclusion here.

Table of contents

A Note on the Text

Not Yet But Still

Looking Out
Old Woman at a Winter Window
Beyond Weather or From a Train Window
From Now -- On?
Contemplative Hour
Lit Sky and Foundered Earth
Thought in a Sick-Room
Not Quite Silently
Being Out
Slow Advance
There Are No Words For
When Their Little Girl Had Just Died 26
When the Bough Breaks
Knowing the New
Sultry Day
asap; etc.
Making a Living
Air and Blood
Late Perspective
‘Tell them everything that I command ... ’
We Are Not Desecrators
Now A Peculiarity: Local Loyalties
A Basis
Music Was in the Wind
Communication at Mortal Risk
Artless Art
Cross-Cultural or Towards Burnout
Cultures Far and Here
The Risk of No Communication
Family Members
A Women’s Poem: Now
A Women’s Poem: Then and Now
Aftermath of Rebellion
For a Salty and Sainted Friend in Her Nineties
Seer, Seeing
How Open, Who Are Compassed Here?
The Familiar Friend, But by the Ottawa River
Astonishing Reversal
In Season and out of Season
To Counter Malthus
And If No Ram Appear
What John Saw
Prodded out of Prayer
Embrace Change?
Breath Catching
High Days
Christmas Doubts Dissolved
Two Perilous Possibilities
That Friday -- Good?
‘One Rule of Modesty and Soberness’
It Isn’t Really True? (in Four Voices)
For the Fun of It
A Seed of History
Word: Russets
A Kept Secret
Resting on a Dry Log, Park Bench, Boulder
News Item
Instrumentalists Rehearse
Three Bears
Job: Word and Action
Confrontation and Resolution, in Job

Concrete and Wild Carrot

Pacing the Turn of the Year
Present from Ted
Towards the Next Change
Prairie Poem
Dividing Goods
Balancing Out
The Crux
Audrey: A Posthumous Portrait
Reversing a Crater
Third Hand, First Hand
Notes from Dr Carson’s Exposition of I John 5
He Was There/He Was Here
Remembering Gordon G. Nanos
Other Oceans
The Whole Story
Cycle of Community
Dead Ends
Lament for Byways
Rising Dust
Leading Questions
The Endangerer
To Wilfred Cantwell Smith
Four Words: A Gloss on I Cor. 14: 6
On a Maundy Thursday Walk
In Our ‘Little Nests’
Contextualizing, or Neither Here Nor There
Alternative to Riots But All Citizens Must Play

Too Towards Tomorrow: New Poems

The Fixed in a Flux
Ne Cedere: ‘Won’t Go Away’
Too Towards Tomorrow
Resolute Lament
Nahuatl/Tomana (to Swell)
Early Easter Sunday Morning Radio
Three Shore Breakfasts
But One Recoiled
Because Your Hour Is Dark
Sad Song
The End Not Yet
Betrayed into Glory
‘I Wondered As I Wandered’


Index of Titles

Review quote

‘The language of these poems is lively and energetic, her observations searching, as if she is ever on the lookout for new insights as she contemplates the city’s streets and parks, and the changing seasons.... Even with an impressive body of work behind her, Margaret Avison’s mind is on new beginnings.’

—Barbara Carey, Toronto Star

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‘The first two volumes of this remarkable poet of the spirit’s collected poems were duly celebrated in these pages. This third one deserves equal praise.’

—Globe & Mail

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‘Avison writes a searching religious poetry in precise and concrete language, firmly anchored in the physical as she contemplates the spiritual. ... Her work reveals a freshness out of her own vivid exploration of ideology and image. Her idiosyncratic voice is steady, exacting, and speaks to a lifetime of work. Always Now, Vol. 3 is a clear bell of a book from one of Canada’s most important poets.’

—Allison Sivak, Canadian Book Review Annual

Review quote

‘The project represents a lifetime’s work, completed by a woman for whom paying attention has become a habit of being. The bright or dingy corners of a city, nature in its infinite variety, human experience of all kinds, and Divine activity have all engaged her keen eye and lively mind. Her thorough scrutinies are informed by knowledge of history, western literature and science, and illumined by faith.’

—Sarah Klassen, Prairie Fire

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‘It is also hard to contest Avison’s ability to find great poems while searching through the demands of everyday life. [...] Margaret Avison rules now -- and always.’

—James Reaney, London Free Press

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‘Margaret Avison is a national treasure. For many decades she has forged a way to write, against the grain, some of the most humane, sweet and profound poetry of our time.’

—Griffin Prize Judges’ Citation

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‘Margaret Avison has outlasted many of her contemporaries and she is deserving of rediscovery. The reappraisal of the Canadian modernist movement gives Avison a foothold on The Re-Making of Modern Poetry in Canada. Indeed, for some revisionists, she was a "major" figure. Avison’s poems are an antidote to the notion that an aesthetic of hard, abstract, learned verse was an implicitly masculinist-modernist contribution.’

—Anne Burke,

Description for reader

The three volumes of Always Now contain all of Margaret Avison’s published books of poetry. The author has removed a very few poems: ‘Public Address’ (from Winter Sun), ‘The Two Selves’ and ‘In Eporphyrial Harness’ (from The Dumbfounding), ‘Highway in April’, ‘The Evader’s Meditation’, and ‘Until Christmas’ (from sunblue), ‘Living the Shadow’, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Beginning Praise’ (from No Time), ‘Having Stopped Smoking’ and ‘Point of Entry’ (from Selected Poems). The opening section of volume one, ‘From Elsewhere’, is arranged according to date of publication, from 1932 to 1991, the date of Selected Poems. ‘From Elsewhere’ includes the ‘Uncollected’ and ‘New Poems’ of that book, except for the two noted above and ‘The Butterfly’, which is here in its original form. All of the poems in Always Now having been considered and reconsidered, and small corrections having been made, the book contains definitively all of the published poems up to 2002 that Margaret Avison wishes to preserve.

Back cover copy

‘... how is an unbeliever to approach not just parts of the work but all of the work of a poet who believes, through and through, in a personal God? ... I listen to her infinite sympathy for the natural world, her sensitivity to the physical weather of the soul, her razor-sharp eyes which move like a hawk’s and a sighted mole’s, her wry debates with herself, her ornery, unfashionable courage, her poetic genius for placing words in such a way that I feel as if I’m meeting them for the first time.’

—Elizabeth Hay

Unpublished endorsement

‘Margaret Avison is the best poet we have had.... ‘‘Searching and Sounding’’ and the poem that rimes with it, ‘‘The Dumbfounding,’’ are not likely to be bettered by any work that any poet will ever publish.’

—Poet Laureate George Bowering


One of Canada’s most respected poets, Margaret Avison was born in Galt, Ontario, lived in Western Canada in her childhood, and then in Toronto. In a productive career that stretched back to the 1940s, she produced seven books of poems, including her first collection, Winter Sun (1960), which she assembled in Chicago while she was there on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and which won the Governor General’s Award. No Time (Lancelot Press), a work that focussed on her interest in spiritual discovery and moral and religious values, also won the Governor General’s Award for 1990. Avison’s published poetry up to 2002 was gathered into Always Now: the Collected Poems (Porcupine’s Quill, 2003), including Concrete and Wild Carrot which won the 2003 Griffin Prize. Her most recent book, Listening, Last Poems, was published in 2009 by McClelland & Stewart.

Margaret Avison was the recipient of many awards including the Order of Canada and three honorary doctorates.

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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POETRY / Canadian

POETRY / Inspirational & Religious

ISBN-13: 9780889842618

Publication Date: 2005-03-10

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 232

Price: $19.95