Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gerry Gilbert: 1936 -2009

Bursts of friendliness

when a chunk of the story repeats itself
& homer & chandler do it all the time
there's a faintly mental smell
& you can tell
you're in the presence of poetry

i went to the convention of
the american institute for the conservation of
historic and artistic works
i heard there was someone here
who could make my poems last forever

rock & roll is all one song
kids want to be beautiful
any poem is one more

Gerry Gilbert, from Azure Blues, Talonbooks, 1991

from Peter Culley's blog

Farewell to Gerry Gilbert 1936-2009, the great poet of Vancouver in the second half of the twentieth century. When David Bromige died last week I remembered that I'd had a number of conversations with him & Gerry in the kitchen of Gerry's place, called the "New Era Social Club", which consisted of a small two story house with warehouse space above, in a narrowish alley in the Japanese section of the Downtown Eastside, a couple of blocks off the water. This was in the early 80's, when Rob Johnson took the above portrait. The other photo is of how it looked last winter. Gone is the pear tree and the ivy-covered fence, gone too the hole through which one had very carefully to retrieve the key on a string. I stayed there a lot during that period, helping & hindering his work on his own poetry, his magazine BC Monthly & radiofreerainforest, his show on Co-op Radio. Whatever literary community I've ever been a serious part of had him at its center. I remember little
(tennis? Ava Gardner?) of the content of the

conversations with David & Gerry but recall with great clarity David opposite me at the table, still-longish hair, a patterned shirt under a patterned vest, Gerry making pancakes, a pony-tailed short order cook, his vest limp pinstripe with a little bit of satin in the back. I forget thin men need that little extra warmth. Both men had bright, translucent eyes & used a lot of neat quick motions to both do & describe things & their exchanges had a musical, bantering, ping-pong lightness to them, a quality I used to call "zen", but with their neat beards & underlying toughness of wit it could sometimes be a bit Jacobean too..

Photos and text: Peter Culley's blog at

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