My Tribute to Jay MacPherson, Delivered at Victoria College, June 11, 2012

When the four quarters shall

Turn in and make one whole,

Then I who wall your body,

Which is to me a soul
– Jay Macpherson, The Boatman

Margaret Atwood: Year of the Flood

Jay MacPherson was a rare creature — one of a kind. Everyone who knew her would agree.

            Eleanor Cook has spoken about her poetry. I can only add that those few who heard her read it have never forgotten the experience. She was not a person who was interested in poetry as a “career” – she wrote poems only when impelled – and that is clear from the poems themselves.

            I first met Jay in 1957 because she was my English professor at Victoria College – which did hire women then, unlike some colleges at the University of Toronto and very many universities and colleges throughout the English-speaking world.  Jay must have been a mere twenty-eight years old, but she seemed to me very experienced and accomplished – she had, after all, just won the Governor General’s Award for The Boatman, at the unprecedented age of twenty-seven.  At…

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