Macpherson, Jean Jay

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 13 June 1931 - 21 March 2012


Victoria College

b. London, England

Family (mother and brother) emigrated to Newfondland in 1940

Attended Bishop Spencer College, St John's and Glebe Collegiate, Ottawa

Victoria College (1951-1996)

BA Carleton University 1951

BLS McGill University

MA, PhD University of Toronto (supervised by Northrop Frye)

"Jay Macpherson was one of Canada’s great poets and a widely admired scholar and teacher. She
won the Governor General’s Literary Award for her 1957 collection, The Boatman, and for
nearly four decades from 1957 to 1996, she was a professor in the English Department at
Victoria College in the University of Toronto. Jay was fully engaged in the political life of
Toronto and joyfully composed songs of political protest.... She began publishing her poems in 1949,

at the age of eighteen,and her first pamphlet, Nineteen Poems, was published in 1952 by Robert Graves’s

Seizin Press. In 1954 Macpherson began her own small press, Emblem Books, which published her second

volume, O earth return. Between 1954 and 1963, Emblem Books published eight chapbooks featuring the work of

Canadian poets, including Dorothy Livesay, Alden Nowlan, and Al Purdy. Macpherson's two earlier collections

were incorporated into The Boatman, which gained her an
international reputation. Dedicated to Northrop Frye and his wife, The Boatman is highly
original and technically dazzling in its combination of pathos, comedy, and tough-minded wit, in
a re-writing of classical mythology. In 1974, she followed this withWelcoming Disaster, a
journey through crisis, equally original and compelling. They were combined later in Poems
Twice Told. In addition to poetry, Macpherson published scholarly and critical work, notably The Spirit of
Solitude: Conventions and Continuities in Late Romance, as well as Four Ages of Man: The
Classical Myths, written for younger readers. At the time of her death, she was working on a
book about The Magic Flute and a collection of her lively protest songs. 
Macpherson was included in the recent U.K. anthology, Modern Canadian Poets: An Anthology
of Poems in English, edited by Evan Jones and Todd Swift. Earlier, she was one of two Canadian
poets chosen by Harold Bloom for his anthology of American Women Poets, the other being
Margaret Atwood. Her poem "Ark Apprehensive" was set to music by Gene Kondusky for his
2010 Kites Overhead album, “You are a secret, and you must never tell it.” Along with her
Governor General’s literary award, Macpherson wonPoetry (Chicago) magazine's Levinson
Prize and the University of Western Ontario President's Medal in 1957."