Present From Ted

Margaret Avison

copyright ©Margaret Avison, 2002

It must have been after a
birthday; at Christmastime
daylight hasn’t the lambency
I remember as part of
the puzzling present somebody
had given me: a scribbler, empty pages, but
not for scribbling in.
Instead of a pencil box there was
a jellyglass set out, with water, and
a brand-new paint brush.

The paper was not pretty.
A pencil-point might in an upstroke
accidentally jab a hole in it.

But, painting it –
as I was told to, with only
clear water, “Behold!”
my whole being sang out, for “see”
would not have been adequate.

The pictures that emerged
were outlines? I remember
only the paper, and the wonder of it,
and how each page was turning out to be
a different picture.

There were no colours, were there?

In the analogy, there are
glorious colours
and, in some way that lacks
deepening colours, patterns that keep
emerging, always
more to anticipate.

For that there is no other process.

Locked in the picture is
missing the quality of the analogy of
morning light
and the delighted holder of the paint-brush
and who gave him the book, and where he found it.

Notes on the Poem

Enjambment is a poetic device whereby a sentence or clause continues beyond a line break. You don't have the full meaning of a line in a poem using enjambment when you reach the end of the line - you must continue to the next and possibly multiple lines. The effect of enjambment can range from entrancing to downright suspenseful, depending how it's used. Margaret Avison uses it gently but intriguingly in "Present From Ted."   It must have been after a From the start, Avison nudges us along in her account of the "puzzling present" (which the title says was from Ted, but the poem says was from "somebody"), trying to guess what it is and how the narrator is figuring it out and taking to it ... ... or not.   Instead of a pencil box there was Clearly, the narrator was expecting a "pencil box", which which to write or possibly draw, but instead has been presented with the accoutrements of painting:   a jellyglass set out, with water, and   a brand-new paint brush. But when the line does finish, isn't something missing? Ironically, the full sentence seems to create the greatest mystery and suspense of all. Throughout the poem, enjambment seems to reinforce the narrator's own sense of discovery and not knowing what to expect during the tentative exploration of a new and clearly unconventional form of artistry.   The pictures that emerged   In the analogy, there are   Locked in the picture is Amidst the sequences of enjambment, the poem is punctuated with end-stopped lines - the opposite of enjambment - where the full parsed sentence or thought is contained in the line.   The paper was not pretty.   There were no colours, were there?   For that there is no other process. Still, while it ends in apparent delight for someone, there are still mysteries and questions unanswered, both for the painter and receiver of the gift, and for the reader and receiver of Avison's subtle gifts.

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