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Concrete and Wild Carrot

by Margaret Avison

With her latest poetry collection, Concrete and Wild Carrot, 84-year-old Margaret Avison has once again proven she is a poet who should not be marginalized or forgotten. The poems here are deceptively accessible but open to multiple readings. Returning to reread a poem, simply for the pleasure of it, readers find a slight cadence missed or a word or two playing off each other that had previously passed unnoticed.

Avison’s use of alliteration in poems such as “Ramsden” helps the poem move briskly along like the children she is watching run “under the sombre old trees,” and her division of stanzas in “Balancing Out” echoes the desolation of the “widow” and the “ruined fellow.” Even when Avison falls into a poetry suffused with images and observations about her Christian faith she does so eloquently and gracefully. In poems such as “Leading Questions,” “Uncircular,” and “On a Maundy Thursday Walk” she resists sermonizing in favour of evocative storytelling, with none of the “let’s end the poem with a moral” clichés of too much devotional poetry.

Most of the poems in Concrete and Wild Carrot are rooted in Toronto and the people Avison has met and/or observed there, but the themes of love and loss, of spiritual and physical exploration, are ones that, whether we like it or not, must concern us all. And like the clown in “Remembering Gordon G. Nanos,” this book, Avison herself, and the body of work she has produced to date exist within a peaceful “spacious dignity.”