Peter Jay studied English and Classics at the University of Oxford from 1963 and became editor of the university poetry magazine New Measure and member of the Oxford Poetry Society. It was out of New Measure that Anvil Press, based in Greenwich, was born in 1968. Jay was the press’s Managing Editor until it was absorbed into Carcanet Press in 2015.
Jay published an early poem of Michael Schmidt’s in New Measure in 1966-67 and contributed poetry to the Carcanet magazine before Schmidt had taken it over. The two men did not meet however until after Jay had left university and began publishing. One of the first books he published was Flower Song, a collection of Aztec poems translated by Schmidt and Edward Kissam. Anvil went on to publish the first four full collections by Carol Ann Duffy and had an extensive list of modern European poetry including Celan, Popa, Lalic and Seferis and also published writers from the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, the Far East and Latin America.
As well as writing his own poetry, Jay translated and edited work by a number of other writers. Carcanet has published a collection of his poems Shifting Frontiers (1995) and many works of translation including Gérard de Nerval’s The Chimeras (1997), János Pilinszky’s Crater (1997) and the novel Conversations with Sheryl Sutton (1997) and selections of poems by Ana Blandiana, Ştefan Aug. Doinaş and Nichita Stănescu. Jay was editor of the Penguin Classic book The Greek Anthology (1982).