Title and statement of responsibility area
Margaret Avison fonds
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CA UMASC MSS 64
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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
1926 - 2006 (Author)
- Kent, David A.
Physical description area
3.14 m of textual records.
2 compact discs.
21 computer diskettes.
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Margaret Avison was born in Galt, Ontario in 1918. She moved to Regina with her family in 1920, and then to Calgary a few years later. The Avisons moved to Toronto in 1930, where Avison attended high school. She entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1936. When she completed her B.A. in English in 1940, she was already a published poet; her poem "Gatineau" had appeared in the Canadian Poetry Magazine the previous year. Avison had a wide and varied professional career including working as a file clerk, proofreader, editor, and in the Registrar's Office and Library at the University of Toronto.
In 1951, Avison's History of Ontario, a high school textbook, was published. She was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Grant in 1956, enabling her to spend eight months in the United States writing poetry and attending creative writing classes at the universities of Chicago and Indiana. She then undertook freelance work editing, indexing, and ghostwriting a book entitled A Doctor's Memoir. Her first book of poetry, Winter Sun, was published in 1960 and won the Governor General's Award.
Deeply moved by the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, Avison translated eight Hungarian poems, which appeared in The Plough and Pen: Writings from Hungary 1930-1956, which brought recognition to many of the great twentieth-century Hungarian poets. The following year The Research Compendium was published. In 1963 Avison returned to the University of Toronto for graduate work. She completed her M.A. thesis and began doctoral studies in 1964, but never earned her doctorate because she did not write a thesis.
The Dumbfounding, her second book of poetry was published in 1966. From 1966-1968 she taught at Scarborough College, University of Toronto. During this time, she volunteered as a women's worker for a Presbyterian mission called Evangel Hall. In 1973 Avison spent eight months as writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, after which she took a position in the CBC Radio Archives. In 1978 she returned to charitable work, working as a secretary for the Mustard Seed Mission. In 1978 her third book of poetry, sunblue, was published. It was the product of her profound religious convictions.
In 1986 Avison retired from the Mustard Seed Mission. She received her second Governor-General's Award in 1990 for No Time, which had been published the previous year. An anthology of her work titled Margaret Avison: Selected Poems was published in 1991. In 1994, A Kind of Perserverance was published, consisting of two lectures describing the tensions she experienced when trying to live out her Christian values in secular society, specifically within a university setting. A further book of poetry, Not Yet but Still, was published in 1997. Her book of poetry Concrete and Wild Carrot, which was published in 2002 by Brick Books, won the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize in 2003. Between 2003 and 2005 the Porcupine's Quill published Always Now: The Collected Poems, Volumes One to Three. In her later years, Avison published three books, two of them post-humously: Momentary Dark (2006), Listening (2009), and I Am Here and Not Not-There, an autobiography (2009). In addition to her two Governor-General's awards, Avison's contribution to Canadian literature has been recognized through the bestowal of honorary degrees from Acadia University (1983), York University (1985), and Victoria University (1988). Avison was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1985. She died in 2007.
The fonds was donated to University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections in February 1990 after a series of meetings between the author and Dr. Richard E. Bennett, who was Head of the Department of Archives and Special Collections. Margaret Calverley, a graduate student at Victoria College in Toronto, had physical possession of the papers -- with Margaret Avison's consent -- until the final transfer to the University. A second accession, A.96-23, arrived in 1996 and was designated Cultural Property by the National Archives Appraisal Board in 1997. A third accrual, A.01-22, was donated in 2001. A fourth accrual (A.03-109) was donated by Margaret Avison in the fall of 2003. The fifth and sixth accruals (A.07-55 and A.07-64) were donated by Joan Eichner in 2007. The seventh and eighth accruals (A.08-44 and A.08-110) were donated to University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections by Joan Eichner in 2008 whilst the ninth (A.09-54) was donated by her in 2009.
Scope and content
The initial collection consists of several hundred unpublished poems written by Margaret Avison between 1935 and the late 1970s. The second accession, received in 1996, consists of correspondence from various literary associates between the 1950s and the mid-1990s. In several instances other writers and poets send samples of their work for Avison's comments. There is a lengthy correspondence between Avison and the American poet Fredrick Bock. The Collection includes two theses about the works of Margaret Avison and several of her unpublished essays and poems.
The third accrual consists of photographs, audiotapes, and material relating to Avison's work such as worksheets, manuscripts, published copies, and reviews. It also includes correspondence from the 1980s to 2001.
Immediate source of acquisition
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Restrictions on access
One folder in accession A.07-64 has been restricted. One folder in accession A.08-110 has been restricted. Two folders in A.09-54 are restricted. One folder of letters of recommendation by Margaret Avison for the Order of Canada is restricted from access for twenty five years from the final creation date of 2007. One folder of medical information is restricted as is access to Avison's birth certificate.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
a) Open to all; b) Quotations of excerpts allowed but no unpublished poem by, or any item of correspondence from, the donor may be published in full; c) All quotations are to provide the source and to convey Margaret Avison's judgement that the quotation is unpublishable; d) Any publishing in full can not proceed until twenty years after the author's death; e) Use of the collection is governed by this Department; f) It is the user's responsibility to abide by all Canadian copyright legislation as amended by Parliament from time to time.
Printed finding aids are available in Archives reading room and an online finding aid is available at the link below: https://umlarchives.lib.umanitoba.ca/margaret-avison-fonds
No further accruals are expected.