The Dumbfounding by Margaret Avison (New York, 1966), is a major document of the new poetry in English Canada.
The Dumbfounding by Margaret Avison (New York, 1966), is a major document of the new poetry in English Canada. Having already demonstrated her range and skill as a master of organic form in Winter Sun (1960), in this influential collection, Avison explored with linguistic and rhythmic daring a deeply held and highly personal Christian vision. Some critics rightly compared these poems to those of such 17th-century "Metaphysicals" as Herbert and Vaughan, but this was to miss their formal affinities with the work of such poets as Louis Zukofsky, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov and others.
Avison's achievement in The Dumbfounding was to bring the new poetics of the "opening of the field" to a series of poems that undertook to explore Christian life as it ought to be lived and so seldom is. Thus there are poems about the crucifixion that seem to be about a happening attended in downtown Toronto that very year; but, as well, there are poems about the present that insist on seeing even the minutest event under the aegis of eternity.
Many younger poets have celebrated Avison's poetic integrity and her influence (eg, George Bowering's "Avison's Imitation of Christ the Artist" in his A Way with Words, 1982). The poems stand as marvelous examples of commitment to and engagement with language and life.