Gerry Gilbert was conceived in Toronto and born in Calgary on April 7, 1936, on the way to Vancouver. He was a noteworthy catalyst for poetry and writing in Vancouver from the 1960s. "For many years," wrote reviewer Jamie Reid in 1992, "he lived in a tiny two-storey cottage not much larger than a child's play house sequestered in the lane behind a Powell Street restaurant, half a block from Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver's Downtown East Side... Gilbert is legendary among the other poets of the city as the poet who rides a bicycle, a kind of Hermes on two wheels." He has been dubbed Canada's best street poet by another reviewer--as well as 'the Jude the Obscure of the Vancouver poetry scene' by filmmaker Tom Shandel.

Gilbert had primary education in Prince Rupert, Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto. He attended secondary school in Vancouver. He went to UBC (1954-1956) and also lived in Montreal for six months and visited Europe for extended periods four times. His experiences in the arts were varied. He worked as a propsman, stage manager and studio director for theatre and TV; he made many videos, he was a photographer and he studied pottery. His books include the large collection, Moby Jane, and prior titles such as From Next Spring, Grounds, Journals to the East, Skies, Lease, Phone Book and White Lunch.

Gilbert could be chiefly remembered for producing the writing anthology magazine called B.C. Monthly. B.C. Monthly changed formats several times since its inception in 1972. He published 48 issues between 1972 and 1978. "The magazines basically functions for the people who read it," he wrote in 1978. "I've sold 300 copies of #15 & about 50 have gone free to contributors and reviewers. There's a few copies left--but this issue will be out of print soon, along with most of the earlier issues... I sold 20 copies in 20 hours standing outside the Library at Burrard & Robson during the hot spell last summer; & there were more winners amongst BCM buyers than among those who bought lottery tickets there then. I'm not much of a businessman, but I try to make BCM pay for itself. Victor Coleman called me "the best writer in the country" -- not the 'greatest'. He must have been referring to my typing; my handwriting isn't very good."

Gilbert frequently organized poetry readings and hosted CFRO Radio's 'radiofreerainforest', originally a poetry magazine.

Gerry Gilbert's daughter wrote a non-fiction book describing her struggles to countenance alleged sexual abuse by her father prior to her suicide. Carole Itter, mother of Lara Gilbert, published an edited version of her daughter's confessional journals, I Might Be Nothing: Journal Writing (Trafford, 2004), in which her daughter describes feelings of intense anguish over an eight-year period prior to taking her own life in 1996. A gifted student who excelled in pharmacology at UBC, Lara Gilbert experimented with prostitution and drug abuse while attempting to come to terms with her recollections of alleged incest in her journal.

Gerry Gilbert died on June 19, 2009


White Lunch. Periwinkle Press. Vancouver, 1964.
Phone Book. Weed/Flower--Ganglia Press. Toronto, 1969.
Doi,ngng. Ottawa: National Film Board of Canada, 1970.
And. Vancouver: Blewointmentpress, 1971.
Money. Georgia Straight Writing Supplement: Vancouver Series 2. Vancouver:
York Street Commune, 1971.
Lease. Toronto: Coach House P, 1972.
Skies. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1974.
Journal to the East. Vancouver: Blewointmentpress, 1974.
Grounds. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1976.
From Next Spring. Toronto: Coach House P, 1977.
Moby Jane. Toronto: Coach House P, 1987.
So Long Song. Gorse Press, Prince George, 1988.
The 1/2 of It. Wave 7 Press. Vancouver, 1989.
Azure Blues. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991.
Year of the Rush. Toronto: Underwhich Editions, 1994.
Sex & the Single Mushroom. grOnk inadmissable series 5, Letters Books. Toronto, 1995
Poem Booooooooooooook, BC Monthly, Vancouver 1998.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015] "Poetry"