Phyllis Webb

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Phyllis Webb
Born (1927-04-08) April 8, 1927 (age 92)
Victoria, British Columbia
Occupationpoet and radio broadcaster
Notable worksThe Vision Tree
Notable awardsGovernor Generals Award, Officer of the Order of Canada

Phyllis Webb, OC (born April 8, 1927) is a Canadian poet and radio broadcaster. The Canadian Encyclopedia describes her as "a writer of stature in Canadian letters", and calls her work "brilliantly crafted, formal in its energies and humane in its concern".[1]


Born in Victoria, British Columbia, she attended the University of British Columbia and McGill University. In 1949 she ran as a candidate for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in the British Columbia general election, 1949, the youngest person to do so.

Her poetry was published in 1954 in Trio, an anthology of poems by Eli Mandel, Gael Turnbull, and Webb published by Raymond Souster's Contact Press.[2]

In 1957 Webb won a grant that allowed her to study theatre in France.[1]

Webb has worked as a writer and broadcaster for the CBC, where in 1965 she created, with William A. Young, the radio program Ideas. From 1967 to 1969, Webb was its executive producer. In 1967, she travelled to the Soviet Union, carrying out research on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and on the anarchist Peter Kropotkin, much of which appears in her serial poem "The Kropotkin Poems".

Webb has taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and the Banff Centre, and was writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta 1980-1981.[2]

She lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.


In 1980 Webb was awarded a prize of CA$2,300 by fellow Canadian poets in recognition of her book Wilson's Bowl, which was overlooked for a Governor General's Award nomination that year; "the letter accompanying the prize money stated 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'".[2]

Webb won the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry, 1982, for The Vision Tree.

She won Canada Council Senior Arts Awards in 1981 and 1987.

She became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1992.[2]



  • Trio: First Poems by Gael Turnbull, Phyllis Webb, and Eli Mandel. Toronto: Contact Press, 1954.
  • Even Your Right Eye. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1956.
  • In a Garden of the Pitti Palace; A Pang Cantata: 2 New Poems. Vancouver: Pica Press, 1961.
  • The Sea is Also a Garden: Poems. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1962.
  • Naked Poems. Vancouver: Periwinkle Press, 1965.
  • For Fyodor. Toronto: M. Ondaatje, 1973.
  • Broadside Poems. Vancouver, British Columbia: Slug Press, 1979-1982.
  • Wilson’s Bowl. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1980.
  • The Bowl. Lantzville, BC: Island Magazine, 1981.
  • Selected Broadsides. Charlotte Town, PEI.: Island Magazine, 1981-1982.
  • Talking. Dunvegan, ON.: Quadrant Editions, 1982.
  • Sunday Water: Thirteen Anti-Ghazals. Lantzville, BC: Island Writing Series, 1982.
  • Prison Report. Vancouver: Slug Press, 1982.
  • Water and Light: Ghazals and Anti- Ghazals: Poems. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1984.
  • Eschatology of Spring. Salt Spring Island, BC: Salt Spring Island Voice of Women, 1984.
  • Pepper Tree: For Breyten Breytenbach. Toronto: Imprimerie dromadaire, 1986.
  • Nine Poets Printed = 9 Poets Printed. Toronto: Imprimerie dromadaire, 1986-1988.
  • Hanging Fire. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1990.
  • Grape Vine. Vancouver: Slug Press, 1992.
  • Four Swans in Fulford Harbour. Salt Spring Island, BC: (m)Other Tongue Press, 1999.
  • Hulcoop, John, ed. Selected Poems, 1954-1965. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1971.
  • Thesen, Sharon, ed. Selected Poems: the Vision Tree. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1982.
  • Butling, Pauline, ed. Seeing in the Dark: the Poetry of Phyllis Webb. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997.


  • Nothing but Brush Strokes: Selected Prose. Edmonton, AL: NeWest, 1995.
  • “Radio Talks: From the Phyllis Webb Papers, National Library.” West Coast Line 25.3 (1991): 95-102.


The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology: A Selection of the 2004 Shortlist. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2004.

Except where otherwise noted, bibliographical information courtesy Brock University.[2]

Sound/video recordings[edit]

  • Alex [sound]. Toronto: CBC Pub., 1966.
  • Canadian Poets I [sound]. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1966.
  • Phyllis Webb: The Question as an Instrument of Torture. [sound] Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1971.
  • Phyllis Webb: Poetry and Psychobiography. [sound] 1993.
  • Fall Equinox Reading at the Literary Storefront. Tape #4, Mona Fertig, Phyllis Webb, David Frith, Robert Tyhurst & Lakshmi Gill. [sound] Vancouver: s.n., 1981.
  • Phyllis Webb. [video] Burnaby, BC: SFU Art Gallery, 1981.

Except where otherwise noted, sound/video information courtesy Brock University.[2]



  • Butling, Pauline. "Seeing in the Dark: The Poetry of Phyllis Webb." Waterloo, Ont: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997.
  • Collis, Steve. Phyllis Webb and the Common Good: Poetry, Anarchy, Abstraction. Vancouver, BC: Talon, 2007.


  • Cash, Gwen. “Portrait of a Poet: Victoria's Phyllis Webb.” B.C. Magazine 6 April 1957: 17.
  • Fagan, Cary. “The Articulate Anger of Phyllis Webb.” Books In Canada 20.1 (1991): 21-23.
  • Frey, Cecelia. “Phyllis Webb: An Annotated Bibliography.” The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors. Eds. Robert Lecker and Jack David. Vol.6. Toronto: ECW, 1985. 489-98.
  • Hulcoop, John. “Phyllis Webb and the Priestess of Motion.” Canadian Literature 32 (1967): 29-39.
  • Kamboureli, Smaro. “Seeking Shape, Seeking Meaning: An interview with Phyllis Webb.” West Coast Line 25.3 (1991): 21-41.
  • Knight, Lorna. “Oh for the Carp of a Critic: Research in the Phyllis Webb Papers.” West Coast Line 26.2 (1992): 120-127.
  • Macfarlane, Julian. Rev. of Selected Poems, by Phyllis Webb. The Capilano Review 1 (1972): 53-58.
  • Munton, Ann. “Excerpt from an Interview with Phyllis Webb.” West Coast Line 25.3 (1991): 81-85.
  • Potvin, Liza. "Phyllis Webb: The Voice That Breaks"
  • Sujir, Leila. “Addressing a Presence: An Interview with Phyllis Webb.” Prairie Fire 9.1 (1988): 30-43.


  1. ^ a b Sharon Thesen, "Webb, Phyllis," Canadian Encyclopedia, (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988), 2288.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Phyllis Webb," Canadian Women Poets,, Web, Apr. 12, 2011

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