Geddes, Gary

Gary Geddes, poet, anthologist, translator (b at Vancouver 9 Jun 1940). Described by George WOODCOCK as "Canada's best political poet," Gary Geddes is the author and editor of numerous books of poetry and non-fiction. He was raised in British Columbia and Saskatchewan and educated at UBC, the University of Reading in England and the University of Toronto, where he earned an MA and PhD. Prior to his retirement and return to the West Coast in 1998, Geddes taught for many years at Concordia University in Montréal and was a distinguished professor of Canadian culture at Western Washington University. His poetry depicts characters considering their responsibilities to the larger human community.

Gary Geddes's first significant work, Letter of the Master of Horse (1973), examines the dilemma of a man subject to political authority, a recurrent theme in his writing. He published 4 other volumes in the 1970s, including War & Other Measures (1976), a sequence of dream-memory lyrics that addresses one of his national themes, the predicament of an outcast Québecois who must live his life in another's language. This issue is prominent in several poems of The Acid Test (1981) and in his one play, Les Maudits Anglais (1984).

Several trips to China sparked Gary Geddes's interest in oriental art, resulting in The Terracotta Army (1984, republished in Britain in 2007), a sequence of dramatic monologues, and many poems in Changes of State (1986), which develop the encounter between a Western artist and Chinese art forms. No Easy Exit (1989) is a series of poems about the courage of Chileans who resist political oppression, and Letters from Managua (1990) is a prose meditation on the social and political realities of Nicaragua. The Chilean government awarded Geddes the Gabriela Mistral Prize in 1996. Geddes's 2001 memoir, Sailing Home: A Journey Through Time, Place and Memory, was a Canadian bestseller. He returned to his lifelong interest in the human cost of political conflict in his non-fiction work The Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things: An Impossible Journey from Kabul to Chiapas (2005).

Gary Geddes has made significant contributions to the study and teaching of Canadian poetry. He edited several important Canadian poetry anthologies, including the widely used 15 Canadian Poets (and the subsequent editions, 15 Canadian Poets X 2 and 15 Canadian Poets X 3) and 20th-Century Poetry & Poetics. Geddes has also continued to write poetry, including Skaldance (2004), and Falsework (2007), an epic poem about the 1958 collapse of Vancouver's Second Narrows Bridge. Gary Geddes was the 2008 recipient of the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence.