Smith, (James Marshall) Arthur (1902-1980) By Barclay, Adèle
A.J.M. Smith was a poet, scholar, and anthologist of Canadian literature. As an editor of little magazines and anthologies, Smith was an important figure in the founding of Canadian modernism.
Born on November 8, 1902 to English parents, Smith grew up in Westmont, Quebec. He studied at McGill University (1921-1926), obtaining a BSc (Arts) and an MA. His Masters thesis was on the poetry of W.B. Yeats. Smith associated with F.R. Scott, A.M. Kein, Leo Kennedy, and Leon Edel, the circle of Montreal poets who, influenced by T.S. Eliot and Anglo-American modernism, sought to establish the practice of modernist poetry in Canada in order to counter the Victorian-style Confederation Poets of the early twentieth century.
As an undergraduate student, Smith founded and edited the Literary Supplement of the McGill Daily. He continued his editorial efforts as a graduate student, creating, with Scott in 1925, the McGill Fortnightly Review—the first journal of modernist writing in Canada. The journal helped initiate the tradition of Little Magazines in Canada, publishing the surge of Canadian modernist poetry in the 1920s and 1930s. After marrying Jeanne Dougall Robins in 1927, he began his PhD at the University of Edinburgh and completed his dissertation, ‘Studies in the Metaphysical Poets of the Anglican Church in the 17th Century’, in 1931. Smith worked as a professor at Michigan State University (1936-1972).