Jay Macpherson

Fonds number:
Title: Jay Macpherson
Dates of Material:
1931-2012, predominant 1950-2005
3.18 m of textual records
12 photographs: b&w
7 photographs: sepia toned
2 contact sheets
1 charcoal drawing
Biographical sketch

Jean Jay Macpherson (1931-2012) was an award winning Canadian poet. She was born in 1931 in London, England, to James Ewan Macpherson and Dorothy Macpherson. She immigrated to Canada in 1940 with her mother and younger brother Andrew as a “war guest”, living in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with a local family for four years before joining her mother and brother in Ottawa where her mother worked for the National Film Board.

She received a BA in classics, German, and philosophy from Carlton College in 1951, followed by a Library Science degree from McGill University. She obtained her MA in English in 1955 and PhD in 1964 from the University of Toronto where she was mentored by Northrop Frye, with whom she later co-wrote Biblical and Classical Myths: The Mythological Framework of Western Culture. She spent her career teaching in the Department of English at Victoria College, University of Toronto.

Jay Macpherson's work was heavily influenced by her mentors Northrop Frye, George Johnston, and Robert Graves. She published her first poem at age 15 and her poems regularly appeared in Canadian poetry magazines such as Contemporary Verse and The Fiddlehead. In the 1950s and early 1960s she ran her own small press, Emblem Books, and produced eight chapbooks by emerging poets, starting with her own O Earth Return in 1954. Her publications include Nineteen Poems, 1952, The Boatman, 1957, Welcoming Disaster, 1974, a high school mythology textbook Four Ages of Man, 1962, The Spirit of Solitude: Conventions and Continuities in Late Romance, 1982, as well as numerous papers on the connections between The Magic Flute and Freemasonry.

She has received the E.J. Pratt Medal, the Levinson Prize, and the Governor-General's Literary Award for her poetry.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of Jay Macpherson's records relating to her poetry, academic career, and personal life. The fonds is arranged in the following series:

Source of supplied title

Title based on the contents of the fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition

Records were acquired from Diana Macpherson in 2012. In 2013, records from accession 2013.03 were acquired from the Heather Spears archives at the University of British Columbia. Records from accession 2013.05 were acquired by Diana Macpherson. The poem "Jonah" was acquired in 2014 from the estate of Milton Wilson. Records from accession 2019.11 were acquired from Anne McWhir.

Access restrictions

Some restrictions apply. See series 1 and series 4.


Further accruals may be expected.

Finding aids

Box/File List available

Access points

Provenance access points: Macpherson, Jay, 1931-2012

  • Women Poets, Canadian
  • Poets, Canadian