Gary Geddes

Poet, playwright and non-fiction writer, Gary Geddes was born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1940 and, except for a four-year sojourn in Saskatchewan as a child, was resident on the west coast until 1963, gillnetting, driving water-taxi, working at the B.C. Sugar Refinery, taking a degree in English and Philosophy at U.B.C. and teaching for a year on Texada Island. After completing a postgraduate Diploma in Education at Reading University in the U.K, followed by the M.A. and Ph.D. in English at University of Toronto, he taught English briefly at the University of Victoria (1972-1974).

He has taught English and Creative Writing widely throughout Canada to support his passion for writing, but mainly at Concordia University in Montreal from 1978-1998, after which he was given an honorary three-year visiting appointment as Distinguished Professor of Canadian Culture in the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University in Bellingham. In addition to writing and editing more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, criticism, translation and anthologies, Geddes has been very active in promoting other writers. He was founding-editor of a series of critical monographs called Studies in Canadian Literature (Copp Clark / McGill-Queens). He reviewed poetry regularly for the Globe & Mail and started several publishing companies, including Quadrant Editions and Cormorant Books, famous for its ethnic and literary titles, including Nino Ricci's Lives of the Saints, José Leandro Urbina's Lost Causes, and John Asfour's When the Words Burn: Modern Arabic Poetry in Translation.

Geddes’s best-known anthologies, 20th-Century Poetry & Poetics and 15 Canadian Poets (both from Oxford), have gone into numerous editions and have had an enormous impact on the teaching and writing of poetry in Canada. He has lectured and performed his work in China, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Palestine, Portugal, and Italy. His work has been translated into Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. His national and international awards include the E.J. Pratt Medal, the National Poetry Prize, the 1985 Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region), the Writers' Choice Award, National Magazine Gold Award, Poetry Book Society Recommendation (U.K.) the Archibald Lampman Prize (twice), the Lt.-Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence (2008), and the Gabriela Mistral Prize in 1996 for service to literature and the people of Chile (awarded simultaneously to Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Vaclav Havel and to Ernesto Cardenal, Rafael Alberti, and Mario Benedetti).    

Geddes lives on Thetis Island with his wife, the novelist Ann Eriksson. His "return" to BC in 1998 is celebrated in his floating memoir, a non-fiction book called Sailing Home: A Journey Through Time, Place and Memory (HarperCollins, 2001), which became a coast-to-coast bestseller in Canada. His most recent books of poems Skaldance (2004) What Does A House Want? (2014) and The Resumption of Play (2016); and his most recent non-fiction books are The Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things: An Impossible Journey from Kabul to Chiapas (2004), Drink the Bitter Root: A Search for Justice and Healing in Africa (2011) and Medicine Unbundled: A Journey through the Minefields of Indigenous Health (2017).

Geddes is best-known for his dramatic monologues, which have been dramatized and broadcast on CBC and BBC radio. Hong Kong Poems was staged by Per Brask at the University of Winnipeg; and Falsework, a book of monologues about the collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge in Vancouver, was presented by Playwrights Theatre Centre at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. He is currently working on a one-man show about Trotsky called Norwegian Rabbit.

He can be reached at Box 13-3, Thetis Island, B.C., V0R 2Y0 (250-246-8176; or at gedworks@islandnet.com.

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