Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1989

Publication Title

Canadian Poetry



First Page



Margaret Avison

Last Page



Margaret Avison's most concise statement on the faculty of imaginative vision appears in the early and darker stages of her mature career, in her most controversial poem; the thought embodied by this statement, however, flows through most of her poetry in various channels, undergoing various transformations.

Nobody stuffs the world in at your eyes.
The optic heart must venture: a jail-break
and re-creation.

The central principles here — the equation of seeing with being; the bursting of generally-accepted boundaries of perception; and "the imagination's re-creation of the world of experience" — are fairly general and underlie equally the intellectual twists and questions of some poems and the celebratory imagism of others. More particularly, however, the venture/jail-break/re-creation pattern repeats itself through Avison's work, changing significantly as it does so: venture and jail-break dominate the earlier poems, often in a pattern of challenge and questioning; in the later poetry, however, altered perception is not overtly proclaimed or examined so much as it is enacted and celebrated. In the imaginative and religious re-creation taking place, the venture and jail-break themselves are radically transformed, dissolving together into an "opening-out" ("The Bible to be Believed," sunblue, p. 57).


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