Phyllis Webb was born on April 8, 1927 in Victoria, BC. She was educated at the University of British Columbia and McGill University. The first major publication of her poetry was in Trio, which also included poetry by Eli Mandel and Gael Turnbull. For many years she worked as a writer and broadcaster for the CBC, where she created the radio program Ideas in 1965 and was its executive producer from 1967 to 1969. Webb served as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta from 1980 to 1981 and taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and the Banff Centre. She died on Salt Spring Island in November, 2021.
Her 1980 work Wilson’s Bowl was hailed by Northrop Frye as “a landmark in Canadian poetry.” When the book was passed over for a Governor General’s Award nomination, a group of fellow poets—led by Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, bpNichol, and P.K. Page—collected $2,300 and sent it to Webb, 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” (John F. Hulcoop).
As Stephen Scobie once wrote, the work of Phyllis Webb “has always been distinguished by the profundity of her insights, the depth of her emotional feeling, the delicacy and accuracy of her rhythms, the beauty and mysterious resonance of her images – and by her luminous intelligence.”
Phyllis Webb received the BC Gas Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, the Order of Canada in 1992, and the 1982 Governor General’s Award for Selected Poems: The Vision Tree.