Visit the Special Collections exhibit, Beyond the Vision Tree: Phyllis Webb in Conversation

Web banner for the exhibit, featuring a photograph of Phyllis Webb from 1948, and a headshot of Cecily Nicholson

View the exhibit, Beyond the Vision Tree: Phyllis Webb in Conversation, on display in Belzberg Library

Portrait of Phyllis Webb

About Phyllis Webb

Phyllis Webb (1927–2021) was a celebrated Canadian poet, broadcaster, and a major Canadian cultural figure from the 1950s through the 1980s. Webb published ten celebrated collections of poetry and prose and co-founded the CBC Radio program Ideas (in 1965).

When “words abandoned” her in the early 1990s and she was no longer able to write, she took up photography, photo collage, and eventually painting. Phyllis often took on the roles of mentor and mentee, pushing the boundaries of scholarly expectation and writing about the full confrontation of both death and suicide in her work.

Her poetry collection, The Vision Tree, won the Governor General’s Literary award for poetry in 1982. Phyllis went on to win the Canada Council award in both 1981 and 1987, and became an officer of the Order of Canada in 1992.


Such a legacy has inspired the Phyllis Webb Memorial Reading, which honours a Canadian poet with a cash award and a celebration of their work. This event will occur each April and will be organized and administered by the Poetry in Canada Society.

About the exhibit

Beyond the Vision Tree: Phyllis Webb in Conversation puts Webb's personal archival materials in conversation with the personal collection of Cecily Nicholson, the winner of the first annual Phyllis Webb Memorial Reading award.

Webb's work often centered around death, politics, and the power of passiveness. By taking a look at her letters, images, and legacy from her personal archive, both readers and writers can better understand what it meant to approach broadcasting and writing with a philosophical and meaningful lens, spanning from the late 1960’s up until her death in November 2021. This exhibit is curated by Bianca Weima, a Bachelor of Arts candidate in English and Publishing at Simon Fraser University.

What's on display?

Notable materials from Webb's archive that will be on display include:

  • early and rare editions of Webb's works
  • medals and other materials related to Webb's Order of Canada
  • photographs of Webb throughout her life and career
  • cassette tapes and other ephemera

As a complement to these materials, the exhibit will also feature some of Cecily Nicholson's personal archival materials, alongside published works from Otoniya J. Okot Bitek, Junie Désil, and Stephen Collis.

Editions of Phyllis Webb's Naked Poems, Even Your Right Eye, and two broadsides of Grape Vine and The Bowl

A contact sheet of headshots of Phyllis Webb, 1981. Photographs by Fred Katz

Two cassette tapes of a recording of several Canadian poets, including Phyllis Webb, for the CBC in 1965

    Spring semester
    Belzberg Library (SFU Vancouver), Main Floor
    Contact for further information
    For further information please contact Special Collections and Rare Books at or Andréa Tarnawsky at or visit Special Collections.