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"AVI" 2007 Obituary


AVIS o@ca.on.grey_county.owen_sound.the_sun_times 2007-10-27 published
LOSIAK, Beatrice Lynne (née AVIS)
At the Grey Bruce Health Services, Owen Sound, on Thursday, October 25th, 2007 at the age of 58 years, the former Lynne AVIS of Port Elgin. Wife for thirty-nine years of Nick LOSIAK. Mother of Ronald and his wife Jennifer of Ajax, Murray and James, both of Scarborough, and Peter of Port Elgin. Niece of Dorothy and Alex McFADDEN of London, and Bernice and Ron HINES of Sarnia. She was the neighbourhood mom to many. She is predeceased by her parents Beatrice (ORR) and Reg AVIS. Friends may call at the W. Kent Milroy Port Elgin Chapel, 510 Mill Street, Port Elgin, (Town of Saugeen Shores) from 2: 00 to 4:00 and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 28th, 2007. Funeral services will be conducted in the chapel on Monday at 11: 00 a.m. with the Rev. Chuck MOON officiating. Interment Sanctuary Park Cemetery. Memorial contributions to the Canadian Diabetes Association would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy. Memorial online at

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AVISON o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-08-09 published
AVISON, Margaret Kirkland
At Toronto on Tuesday July 31, 2007 in her ninetieth year. Dear aunt of Bob McKIM (Patricia,) Joan ERB (Bob,) Barbara DUTTON (Charles,) David McKIM (Fran BEER,) the late Margaret McKIM (Paul FERGUSON) and Karen McKIM. Also mourned by many devoted Friends. Margaret wrote poetry almost all her life. She twice received the Governor General's Award (Winter Sun, 1960, and No Time, 1989). She held three honorary doctorates and in 1985 was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Her Concrete and Wild Carrot, 2002, was awarded a Griffin Prize for Poetry. Her first six volumes of poetry were collected as Always Now, 2003, and a seventh, Momentary Dark, appeared in 2006. In accordance with Margaret's wishes, a memorial service was held privately. Donations in her memory may be made to Yonge Street Mission, 270 Gerrard Street East, Toronto M5A 2G4, or to Evangel Hall Mission, 552 Adelaide Street West, Toronto M5V 3W8, or to a charity of your choice.

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AVISON o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-08-14 published
Canadian turned two epiphanies into a career of 'staggering impact'
Much lauded writer formed a bond with readers and used Christianity as a powerful element in her work
By Noreen SHANAHAN, Special to The Globe and Mail, Page S9
Toronto -- It was a June night in 2003 when Margaret AVISON accepted the Griffin Poetry Award for the book Concrete and Wild Carrot. Her humility filled the room.
"This is ridiculous," she told those in attendance, after the applause died down. "I do appreciate the occasion and the honour, but I don't see how anybody could pick only one winner." After reflecting, she added: "What makes you write a poem is so remote from this kind of honour."
However, Ms. AVISON was no stranger to applause. She won the Governor-General's Award for poetry twice - the first time in 1960 for her debut collection Winter Sun and again 30 years later for No Time. She also won a Guggenheim Fellowship (1956), a Jack Chalmers Award (2003) and three honorary doctorates, and was made an officer of the Order of Canada. She was 85 years old when she won the Griffin. Judges commended her for "the many decades she has forged a way to write, against the grain, some of the most human, sweet and profound poetry of our time."
Ms. AVISON's reputation is as a rigorously intellectual poet - to understand the depth of her words, one must return to them again and again.
"You work your way into it," said writer Dennis Lee, "and then, after six months, you wonder why you ever found the poem forbidding.
Her work was admired greatly by a wide range of writers, readers and academics, from George Bowering and Gary Geddes to Margaret Atwood.
Ms. AVISON experienced two epiphanies in her life: one specifically having to do with writing poetry, and one related to her life as a devout Christian and writing poetry from inside this frame. The first arrived in a Grade 9 poetry club at Toronto's Humberside Collegiate. Teacher Gladys STORY offered a suggestion: For the next 10 years, don't use the first person in any of your poetry. Ms. AVISON took the advice, allowing her to form a generous and committed bond with her readers, whom she believed to be part of the creative process.
"A poem needs to be received to be complete," she said. "So yes, I write for listeners out there somewhere… not to give to, teach or encourage them, but to acknowledge together that something has touched off a poem."
Her second epiphany came in her early 40s, shortly after publication of her first collection of poems. Her awakening to Christianity dramatically shaped her writing and the rest of her life; she came to be compared to 17th-century metaphysical poets John Donne and George Herbert, as well as Gerard Manley Hopkins and T.S. Eliot.
"Her poetry had a staggering impact," said Toronto writer Ken Babstock. "She is easily one of the best poets Canada has produced. [She is] theologically sophisticated… reading her work, I had not come across syntax like that in any Canadian poetry up to that point. Syntax is where real complex thought happens."
Margaret AVISON was born in Galt, Ontario, in 1918, the year the First World War ended. Her mother played the church organ and her father was a Methodist minister. Shortly after her birth, her parents, brother and sister moved west - Margaret was just 7 when she had her first poem published in the Calgary Herald.
In 1930, the family moved to Toronto. She graduated in 1940 from Victoria College, University of Toronto, having studied English literature under E.J. Pratt and Northrop Frye.
After graduation, she worked in office jobs for a number of years, freeing herself to write in the evenings. In 1956, she was awarded her Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Chicago. This was a transformative experience, not only because she was finally able to devote her time entirely to a manuscript but because this resulted in the 1960 publication of Winter Sun. She was awarded her first Governor-General's Award later that same year.
It was also the year that Christianity became a powerful element in her work. Critic Carmine Starnino warns readers not to assume that her writing is conservative, however: Beneath her words, "untapped revolutionary properties wait like the insides of a shaken bottle of bubbly."
Generations of writers received Ms. AVISON's poetry as a gift. She was a pleasure, a challenge and, in many ways, a model.
"I listen to [Ms. AVISON's] 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," said writer Elizabeth Hay.
Ms. AVISON returned to Victoria College and received her master's degree in 1964. As part of her studies, she attended an inspiring writing workshop at the University of British Columbia, where she worked with Black Mountain poets Robert Creeley, Charles Olson and Denise Levertov. Her second collection, The Dumbfounding, was published in 1966. With two published books and a spreading reputation, Ms. AVISON began teaching literature at Scarborough College, University of Toronto.
In 1968, she put poetry aside and dedicated herself more completely to religion. She began working for Evangelical Hall, a Presbyterian mission in Toronto. One of her tasks was to hold poetry workshops at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.
In 1973, she briefly returned to academia as the first writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, and published her third poetry collection, Sunblue, in 1978. Shortly afterward, her mother fell seriously ill. As primary caregiver, Ms. AVISON curtailed her literary work again in favour of a steady secretarial job at the Mustard Seed Mission in Toronto. Mr. Lee remembered Ms. AVISON's generosity toward her mother during this time.
"They were living in the same apartment, a lot of her time was devoted to taking care of a 90-year-old blind lady, and if that meant she wasn't going to get a lot of writing done, then so be it. A lot of writers go the other way - the writing comes first and life commitments come second." Her mother died in 1985.
No Time was published in 1989 and won Ms. AVISON her second Governor-General's Award. Thirteen years later, she published Concrete and Wild Carrot.
In 2005, she was awarded the Leslie K. Tarr Award for outstanding career contributions to Christian writing in Canada. She published her final collection, Momentary Dark, in 2006, at the age of Margaret AVISON was born April 23, 1918, in Galt, Ontario She died July 31, 2007, in Toronto after a brief illness. She was 89. She is survived by several nieces and nephews and many devoted Friends.

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