Gerry Gilbert
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GILBERT Gerry "I've used up my reality" Tuesday, April 7, 1936 - Friday, June 19, 2009 Gerry, poet, moved into the past tense Friday in Vancouver after a lifetime dedicated to writing, photography and art. He will be greatly missed by his son Jeremy in Toronto and daughter Tamsin Bragg (Ritchie) in Saltspring Island, and by his grandchildren Cassandra and Drew Storey in Saltspring, and Matilda in Toronto. Gerry waspre-deceased by his daughter Lara, sister Linda, and parents Ralph and Betty, all of Vancouver. Gerry, once called the "Jude the Obscure of the Vancouver poetry scene," published many books of poetry and prose, including "Moby Jane," "Grounds" and "Azure Blues" and was for many years host of "radiofreerainforest" on Co-op radio. He published "BC Monthly," a writing journal, and had numerous photographic and audio-visual exhibitions. Through BC Monthly and radiofreerainforest, he was the most active of all the poets in the Vancouver poetry community in promoting and supporting the work of other poets from all the many groups and schools in the city. He lived for the last 40 years in and around Vancouver's Downtown East Side, subsisting on his writing. His family would like to extend their gratitude to Marlene Swidzinsky and James Campbell, Jamie and Carol Reid, and the staff of St. Paul's Hospital palliative ward. Gerry's ashes will be spread over the waters by Jericho Beach, to join his family there who preceded him.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province on Jun. 23, 2009.
Memories & Condolences
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25 entries
April 7, 2010
I saw Gerry first in 1988, on Commercial Street at a poetry reading I'd stumbled into fresh off the bus from Ontario, off the bus into my first big life adventure across the country from anyone I knew--and there he was, long pony tail and fisherman's cap reading from Moby Jane, not just reading but reading my bus journey I'd just been on, showed us the cigarette burn in the top of his cap and walked on out down the street. I saw him read again many time during that year in East Van, he had a profound influence on my own writing...

and will continue to.
Brian Braganza
March 13, 2010
I loved Gerry – and its hard to realise that I won’t again be walking and talking with him in some new place I didn’t know about in Vancouver.
He showed me something of his city, in those times every now and then that I spent with him. We’d go by bicycle or foot or bus or even rowboat, and he made me feel welcomed in his private stamping ground. Even from a distance he included me in his present with a bounty of poems and writing, and notes on the back of photographs.
‘ I know when I’m getting up here, in the afternoon, you’re getting up, there, in the morning, tomorrow’
For me, a lovely, generous, constant friend: who kept me smiling, , and surprised, and touched by the sweet urgency of his writing.
Gwyn Hanssen
August 15, 2009
I'll betcha I saw Gerry more often than anyone, because I drove bus through the Downtown East Side five times a day, five days a week. He'd be peddling anywhere from Nanaimo to the Bentall Center.

It was a rare event when he didn't have something in his satchel to give me with a combination of humility, certitude, and industry that always disarmed me. On a couple of occasions, if I had a huge crowd on the bus, I would announce him as "Gerry Gilbert, Famous Poet," to the confused masses behind us.

I notice that Brad Robinson has written, and Brad and I were editing the infamous Grape offshoot of the Georgia Straight when we worked with Gerry to include BC Monthly as an insert to our weekly until the Grape went the way of all good things of the 1970s. George Stanley was there too.

I'm gonna miss Gerry, but I've been missing him since I retired from the buses.
Bob Smith
August 6, 2009
so there you go - reality used up - not quite - a couple full bags still sitting in an attic somewhere - waiting to be unearthed in some millennial discoverers archeological thesis.

look at all these amazing beings writing about you gerry. look at em all here writing about you.

my most vivid memory of you is seeing you staring into the face of a gargoyle - a seemingly favorite past time of yours.

i thank you for everything you gave me, for everything you gave to all of us young poets on fire - i thank you for your perfect lack of patience at exactly the right moments - and your profound sense of patience at all of the others.

go in peace poet.
T Crane
August 5, 2009
What causes me to grieve your memory is the last days when you seemed so alone. Curmudgeon carapace developed just like the snail symbol signature you used. Was I glad to hear you quit riding the bike 50 kms a day because of the story of your injury and you crawling on the ground at night. Such pain yet I remember you weaving in the lanes down Commercial Drive while on that bike! Nothing could hurt you then. Well, you gave me a chance to escort you to readings which you taped for Co-op Radio. I was the duckling and you the mama duck in full waddle. I remember your account of an audience screaming at you to eat more meat and I wrote about your "ribboned boniness" blue jeans you wore. The first time I saw you was in this performance place in Vancouver during the 60's. I adored both you and Jamie Reid when I did not know I was a poet. You knew and came all the way via Greyhound to Regina. You let me know I was one. Thank you for allowing me to celebrate myself in my writing the way you did.

Marie Baker
August 1, 2009
I remember being struck by something Gerry once said, when I ran into him in the West End years ago, as I did occasionally. It was about his then very young daughter, Tamsin, I believe. He was talking about her playing in the yard: "I can see the whoosh of her tail after she's goes flying by." That statement seems to sum up the lightness of his being and his ability to envision the invisible.
More recently, I would somtimes see him on his bike at Jericho Beach, always riding, always smiling, always active, like the sprite he was.

Yes, he was an important force in BC poetry, constantly helping and encouraging other writers and poets. I called him 'The Good Footsolidier of vancouver Poetry" but, like all good footsoldiers,he was much more than that - a kind of good fairy or fairy godfather.

Thanks for your generous spirit, Gerry. I'll miss you.
Cath Morris
July 31, 2009
thanks for the encouragement
and wisdom
the poems and the tapes
the gleam and the smiles

James McAuliffe
July 30, 2009
As I sd to Peter, last week, the Last Poet I called you, by which I meant the classic uncompromising all-or-nothing lifestyle, the writing life everything to you, during everybody-tenured academic poet days, long before language fashion, long after leaving CBC cameraman 'job' behind, something born of the good old beat sensibility that lasted for Eras. A profile like Cocteau, wrangler stepping out of a daguerreotype in dust-chaps and a droopy soup-straining mustache, or bowler-hatted & vaudevillian on the Western Front, Mao-capped and oratorial all over town, radial rainforest man, on air & live. I've missed you & I'll miss you more.
Lary Bremner
July 22, 2009

Got the news of your last bicycle ride while in Barcelona. We sure mimeo'd and rubber stamped a lot of pages from poets near and far, cranking out the BC Monthly at New Era Social Club. You made every syllable count, podner.

Still cranking.

Bob Rose
July 14, 2009
I know this may be a bit unusual but, I can't help thinking, that when you were in full flight on some topic or reading your poems you had that certain way of pulling out your rolling tobacco and papers and roll a smoke without missing a beat.
You lived your words. see yeah.
Claude Breeze
July 4, 2009
Gerry's conscientious recording of practically every poetry reading in Vancouver from the mid-70's onward for his radio show and whatever else is, will be, an invaluable archive. His own readings were oddly few and far between--I remember his incredible performance at the Language poetry conference at ECIAD in the mid-eighties. There was that shy twisting intelligence, and a sort of gleam--of genius, or of mischief, or of tragedies--who knows. Rest in peace, Gerry.

Sharon Thesen
Sharon Thesen
June 29, 2009
So long Slugger. You'll be missed.
Bob Johnson
June 27, 2009
In the autumn of 1977,Gerry gave me a tiny-sized notebook with a picture of Quen Victoria on the frontispage and flower drawings on each subsequent page. I used this small book to write a series of poems entitled "A Book of Flowers".

I loved Gerry's poetry; his dedication to poets; his discipline as a writer; the enormous contribution he made to other people's writing through BCMonthly and radiofreerainforest; his sense of humour and of the absurdity in life; his continual exploration of how we use language.

Too many of the best are leaving. I just wrote a long essay about the poetry scene in Vancouver in the 1970s and 80s. Of course, Gerry was part of what I wrote about. I finished this essay in May, while Gerry was still alive. Many years ago, I wrote these two lines for Vancouver's own Gerry Gilbert:

and April is the season
when you smile

Gerry was always smiling, through the poetry and the pain. Who could not like a poet who titled his selected poems, Moby Jane?
Carolyn Zonailo
June 26, 2009
I met Gerry once at Vehicule, his endless poems made me wonder/wander.


Endre Farkas
Endre Farkas
June 26, 2009
I first met Gerry in 1978. I was organizing the reading series at Vehicule Art in Montreal and invited Gerry to come and read. It was a time when performance was popular and the "badboy of Vancouver" didn't disappoint. I just dug out an old video of some readings at the gallery and posted his performance. It's at

- Tom Konyves
June 25, 2009
And if you'd ask Gerry what time it was, he'd look at you & exclaim, "IT"S RIGHT NOW!"

George Stanley
June 25, 2009
heart felt condolences 2 surviving frends n relativs salud gerry th times we workd n playd 2gethr wer awesum love n all best bill
bill bissett
June 25, 2009
June 25, 2009
Every time I passed through
You were in Vancouver, living on the edge
a song for all of us,
know it or not
we dance on wet and shaky ground.

May your next birth be even closer to the light.

David Cull
Poggio Catino, Italy
June 25, 2009
Fare well, my teacher and my friend.

Brad Robinson (Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand)
June 24, 2009
I met Gerry when I was a very young woman and he was a very young man. Where? Of course, at the UBC cafeteria and its outlying adjuncts of writing, reading, interesting conversation and lust for life. In our more senior years, I spent hours here and there with Gerry; interestingly enough, always talking about the present and never the past. Gerry's death has hit/hurt me. I will always miss him.
Karen Sorensen
June 24, 2009
You were a giant in the Canadian poetry scene. If poetry is word play, then you were the big kahuna of poetry. If poetry is saying the same old profound things in startling new ways, you were an absolute master.
I think that as time goes on, your work will achieve greater and greater readership because you were not only keeping up with the continually changing and morphing face of written and spoken English, you were creating it anew as you lived and wrote.
I always considered you one of the "downtown" poets, you were in the streets living language while others were studying and writing about it in the academies. I'm sorry that old man death caught up with you so soon, too soon, I"m sure you still had a lot to say.
Your friend (since 1968)
Ed Varney
Ed Varney
June 24, 2009
Gerry was a poet's poet. In other places he'd be famous. Died obscure, like many a poet before him. Contributed enormously to every scene. Mic on a stick. Or when reading, one leg twisting like a pretzel around the other, as if he could untie himself, Houdini-like, from gravity's tether, fly away on a cosmic bicycle, across the Gore avenue that transverses the Universe. Vancouver needs its own heroes, and Gerry's a contender for that role: Implacable and irreplaceable. May we keep his memory alive...
Kedrick James
June 24, 2009
So long Gerry,

Thanks for the insight; thanks for the poems, thanks for the work of keeping it going. See you in the rainbows,

from the rainforest,

Trev Carolan
Deep Cove
Trevor Carolan
June 24, 2009
Met Gerry through a friend, spent an afternoon at his place. I remember Tamsin was there, a few others in and out. Many times we crossed paths at Co-op Radio where we each hosted a show. He always had something for me, a new poem, some good craic, a glinting eye. When I didn't see him for a period, I'd find some poems in my mailslot. The bicycle, always. The satchel. The time to be interested, alive. He lived himself.
Doug Lang
June 24, 2009
Gerry's work was always made a la minute, but it will be remembered as the most unique poetry made here in Vancouver to date.....ahead of its time, because it was almost forever on the spot.

This city needed you, Gerry, and you did your work well. You were the only poet of your kind, truly one of a kind. The testament of Grounds, Moby Jane, Azure Blues, radiofreerainforest and BC Monthly will always be here to be seen and remembered. Farewell.
Jamie Reid
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