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In an interview titled “The Quiet Centre Inside” Margaret Avison answers “What is a poem, in your definition?”

We discussed this topic in a university English class I taught in the 1960s. My small senior “A” class set the topic they wanted to discuss from September to May as “What is a Poem?” That was their topic, up to me to devise a method. In each class someone was named to lead the next class discussion, illustrating and explaining his definition based on one poem of his choosing, photocopied the week ahead so that everybody had a copy. When he presented his “A poem is… (such and such), the others were to challenge his definition from that poem and from any others they were planning to choose in turn or simply others that we all could look up in a common anthology. One by one, definitions were knocked down or edited down until in May we were all satisfied. Their conclusion: A poem is that form of art in words that requires from the reader the same creative energy as from the writer. To me, this was an exercise done in fun but at some level I concur with the conclusion they came to (162).

Bowling, Tim. Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation.

Margaret Avison was born in Ontario in 1918. She has won two Governor General’s Awards for Poetry – in 1960 for A Winter Sun (Routledge) and in 1989 for No Time (Lanelot). She holds three honorary doctorates and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.