by George J. Dance


A.J.M. Smith (1902-1980). Courtesy Poetry In Voice.

A.J.M. Smith
Born Arthur James Marshall Smith
November 8, 1902
Montreal, Quebec
Died November 21, 1980 (aged 78)
East Lansing, Michigan
Occupation professor of English
Nationality Canada Canadian
Alma mater McGill U, U of Edinburgh
Literary movement Montreal Group
Notable work(s) News of the Phoenix, and other poems (1943)
Notable award(s) Governor General's Award, Lorne Pierce Medal, FRSC

Arthur James Marshall Smith (November 8, 1902 - November 21, 1980) was a Canadian poet and anthologist.[1]



Smith "was a prominent member of a group of Montreal poets" – the Montreal Group, which included Leon Edel, Leo Kennedy, A.M. Klein, and F.R. Scott – "who distinguished themselves by their modernism in a culture still rigidly rooted in Victorianism." [2]


Smith was born in Montreal, Quebec.[3]

From 1918 to 1920 he lived in England from 1918 to 1920, where he "studied for the Cambridge Local Examinations, 'and failed everything except English and history' (he later wrote)." In England he became aware of contemporary poetry: "he frequented Harold Monroe's bookshop, then the citadel of Georgian poetry, and read much in the recent war poets and the Imagists." [3]

Montreal GroupEdit

Main article: Montreal Group

Returning to Montreal, Smith entered McGill University in 1921. While an undergraduate there in 1924 he wrote for and co-edited the McGill Daily Literary Supplement. In 1925, as a graduate student, he and F.R. Scott founded the McGill Fortnightly Review, which billed itself as a "an independent journal of literature, the arts, and student affairs edited and published by a group of undergraduates at McGill University." [4] The Review was "the first journal to publish modernist poetry and critical opinion in Canada." [5]

"The McGill Fortnightly drew to it other young writers -- among them A.M. Klein, Leo Kennedy, and Leon Edel -- on whom, as well as on Scott, Smith had an enduring influence." [3]

"While still at McGill," Scott later noted, "Smith had poems accepted by the Dial, then in the last days of its glory as an expounder of new aesthetic values, and which only a few years previously had printed Eliot's Waste Land. Such an honour was a stimulus to our whole group." [2]

Smith received his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh in 1931.

New ProvincesEdit

Main article: New Provinces

In various editorial roles, Smith significantly contributed to promoting the poetry of others. With Scott and Kennedy he co-edited the "milestone selection of modernist verse," New Provinces, which was published in 1936 (although Smith's Preface was "rejected by the publisher as being too impatient with traditional Canadian poetry. The 'Rejected Preface' was resurrected in 1964, and was made an important feature of the new edition of New Provinces published in 1976.") [6]

Critical successEdit

Ajm smith

A.J.M. Smith. Courtesy PoemHunter.

In 1936 Smith became a professor at Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) and taught there until his retirement in 1972.[7] "He became a naturalized American, but spent all his summers in his country place near Magog, Quebec." [3] He became well known as both a scholar and an author of poetry, with many of his best known works focusing on Canadian themes (for example his 1929 poem "The Lonely Land," which was inspired by a 1926 Group of Seven exhibition).[8]

As early as 1939, Smith applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the preparation of an anthology of Canadian poetry.[2] In 1943 his first anthology was published: The Book of Canadian Poetry, in which he argued that there was a distinctive Canadian voice.[5] The book was praised by literary critic Northrop Frye, who called its publication "an important event in Canadian literature. For instead of confining his reading to previous compilations, as most anthologists do, he has made a first-hand study of the whole English field with unflagging industry and unfaltering taste." [9] The Encyclopædia Britannica says that The Book of Canadian Poetry, and Smith's later anthologies, "contributed greatly to the modernization of literary standards in Canada." [10]


Literary critic George Woodcock declared Smith's anthologies The Book of Canadian Poetry (1943) and The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English and French (1961) to be "the first important (one could equally call them 'great') anthologies of the poets of Canada".[11]

Smith won the 1943 Governor General's Award for English language poetry or drama for his first collection of poetry, News of the Phoenix and Other Poems.[5]

In 1966 the Royal Society of Canada awarded him its Lorne Pierce Medal.[5]

On Smith's retirement in 1972, Michigan State University established the A.J.M. Smith Award, given annually to a noteworthy volume by a Canadian poet.[7]

In popular cultureEdit

Smith's poem "The Lonely Land" was set to music by Violet Archer in 1978.[12]



  • News of the Phoenix, and other poems. Toronto: Ryerson Press / New York: Coward-McCann, 1943.
  • A Sort of Ecstasy: Poems new and selected. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State College Press / Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1954.
  • Collected Poems. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1962.
  • Poems: New and collected. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1967.
  • Poets between the wars (by E.J. Pratt, F.R. Scott, A.J.M. Smith, Dorothy Livesay, & A.M. Klein; edited by Milton Wilson). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart (New Canadian Library, 1967.
  • The Classic Shade: Selected poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1978.
  • Complete Poems of A.J.M. Smith (edited by Brian Trehearne). London, ON: Canadian Poetry Press, 2007.


  • "Our Poets": A sketch of poetry in the nineteenth century. Toronto, 1942.
  • The Poetic Process: Of the making of poems. East Lansing, MI: College of Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University, 1964.
  • Essays for College Writing. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965.
  • Some Poems of E.J. Pratt: Aspects of imagery and theme. St. John's, NL: Memorial University, 1969.
  • Towards a View of Canadian Letters: Selected critical essays, 1928-1971. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1973.
  • On Poetry and Poets: Selected essays of A.J.M. Smith. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1977.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Selected Writings (edited by Michael Gnarowski). Toronto: Dundurn (Voyageur classics), 2006.


  • New Provinces: Poems of several authors (edited with F.R. Scott & Leo Kennedy). Toronto: Macmillan, 1936; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976.[13]
  • The Book of Canadian Poetry: A critical and historical anthology. Toronto: Gage / Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943.
  • Seven Centuries of Verse, English and American: From the early English lyrics to the present day. New York: Scribner, 1947.
  • The Worldly Muse: An anthology of serious light verse. New York: Abelard Press, 1951.
  • The Blasted Pine: An anthology of satire, invective, and disrespectful verse, chiefly by Canadian writers (edited with F.R. Scott). Toronto: Macmillan, 1957.
  • The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse: In French and English. Toronto & New York: Oxford University Press, 1960.
  • Masks of Fiction: Canadian critics on Canadian prose. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1961.
  • Masks of Poetry: Canadian critics on Canadian verse. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1962.
  • The Canadian Experience: A brief survey of English-Canadian prose. Toronto: Gage, 1964.
  • The Book of Canadian Prose. Toronto: Gage, 1965.
  • 100 Poems. New York: Scribner, 1965; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries, 1970. w
  • Modern Canadian Verse in English and French. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1967.
  • Anne Wilkinson, Collected Poems, and a prose memoir. Toronto: Macmillan, 1968.
  • The Colonial Century: English-Canadian writing before Confederation. Toronto: Gage, 1973; Ottawa: Tecumseh Press, 1986.
  • The Canadian Century: English-Canadian writing since Confederation. Toronto: Gage, 1973.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[14]

Audio / videoEdit

The Lonely Land by A.J.M

The Lonely Land by A.J.M. Smith

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[14]

See alsoEdit



  1. "A.J.M. Smith", Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.,, Web, Apr. 15, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ruth Whidden-Yates, A.J.M Smith: A chronological description of his poetry and criticism; Master of Arts thesis, Simon Fraser University, 1976, Web, Mar. 15, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Leon Edel, "A.J.M. Smith Biography", Encyclopedia of Literature, Web, Mar. 17, 2011.
  4. Dean Irvine, "Montreal Group," Encyclopedia of Canadian History, Web, Mar. 15, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Marlene Alt, "Smith, Arthur James Marshall," Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988), 2015. Print.
  6. Michael Gnarowski, "New Provinces: Poems of Several Authors," Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988), 1479
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Biography/History," Arthur James Marshall Smith fonds, Trent University Archives. Web, Mar. 13, 2011.
  8. William H. New, Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, 819. Google Books, Web, Mar. 16, 2011.
  9. Northrop Frye, "Canada and Its Poetry," The Bush Garden (Toronto: Anansi, 1971), 129.
  10. "Montreal Group," Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.,, Web, Mar. 27, 2011.
  11. George Woodcock, "Canadian Poetry: The emergent tradition", The Yearbook of English Studies 15:239-252. Modern Humanities Research Association, JSTOR, ITHAKA, Web, Feb. 6, 2013.
  12. William H. New, Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, 819. Google Books, Web, Mar. 16, 2011.
  13. New Provinces: Poems of several authors, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Feb. 22, 2015.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Search results = au:Arthur James Marshall Smith, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Feb. 22, 2015.

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