Phyllis Webb: A Canadian Poet

Phyllis Webb was born in 1927, in Victoria, British Columbia. She attended the University of British Columbia as well as McGill University, earning herself the title of a Canadian ‘Writer and Poet’. She has published many collections of poetry, a well known one being “Wilson’s Bowl”. Although this book’s nomination was overlooked for a Governor General’s Award, many other famous Canadian poets went out of their way to collect money to award her with. In total, they collected $2,300, stating that “this gesture is a response to your whole body of work as well as to your presence as a touchstone of true good writing in Canada, which we all know is beyond awards and prizes”. They collected the money because they believed that she earned the award for her amazing writing.

Phyllis Webb had a few different kinds of careers, teaching being one of them. She taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and the Banff Centre. She also worked for CBC ‘s radio program “Ideas”, where she displayed and discussed many of her thoughts with other broadcasters. This is an audio link of the program, where she is the topic on her own “Ideas”. It’s quite interesting to listen to. Her life is slowly unraveled in this audio recording, and we are given a better idea of who she is and how her poems were influenced by her life.

An example would be around the middle of her career. Phyllis Webb was dramatically influenced by the impact of feminism. Her broadcasts, poems, and writings were where she responded to ageing, death, and despair. One of her colleagues squarely states that Ms. Webb’s poem were always questions. Instead of giving people a pronouncement, a place that’s closed, she asked questions. These questions were never claiming an idea to be correct or incorrect. Her questions were neutral and inspiring, as was she as a person. We are lucky to have such an amazing poet, Phyllis Webb here in Canada with us.


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