Friday, December 11, 2009



My work, as a Canadian, obviously had to do with identity -- which is not         you are but how you embody yourself. I hope there's something about my work which is quite typical, & perhaps unexpected, of Canada. We might yet be of use to the world. I'm only hinting, but you can't be eager without being vulnerable. As a Canadian, I am ashamed that in my time our vulnerability is seen as a weakness -- that's a cowardly attitude, & it's the official one, constantly trying to destroy what keeps insisting on growing here -- openness?

from Grounds, Talonbooks, copyright Gerry Gilbert, 1976


Poetry is an evolving language, constantly giving each language back to the place -- like the group or the tribe or class of people -- it comes from. I test language.

Interviewer asks: To see what it can do?

Gilbert answers: & cant. I'm concerned with the syntax, the housekeeping. The language is ours. Poets garden it, keep it new, which is ancient.

from Grounds


The book has to be linear, the corniest kind of time: but it isn't an act painted on the velvet of the imagination: it's a discovery. It's what I've always been doing -- and hopefully I can bend that fantasy that the imagination has to be a straight line, bend it from a sword into the curve of space, a plow.


It's their sense of time & power equals speed that I'm trying to derail...and that's not some crazy weird stoned reflex of mine, it's my view of myself in the situation, I keep looking so I won't vanish into the tube. They are scared to look, which is scary, that the people who claim to own the world are running on fear. Be brave me hearties! Let me show you what fear is! Watch me dance!

Interviewer "A": ...and does it mean anything outside your small circle of friends?

G -- [falters]...I have a sense of the world as being, well, a real place, this place, here; wherever anyone right now is standing stays there. Our history may go back & forth over it, &I live in history, civilization, but I also have a responsibility, as everyone does, to this real estate. The part of ourselves which does that well, kinda, the tribal part of ourselves. We arent very far removed from the tribal, we haven't been under the influence of civilization for very long. And civilization on top has been essentially destructive, so I feel like not contributing to the on-going isolation of people from each other and the world, but I'm going down with the ship too. A tribe is a circle of friends, like the people who own this country -- my poems don't mean anything in the massman language they use to keep people apart. My poems get to you from another direction, they work -- someone is reading one right now, and being cured of whatever else he or she was thinking of.

I'm a lyricist, a moralist. I draw lines. I write laws. Speech is all we have to do or not to do, to work & play it all out. Maybe poems are the transcripts of the trials we must go through.


I've got a sense of history -- and here's some good advice: the only material you can make history our of is honesty. Honesty is judging time in terms of space, and not the other way around. The other way around, time (the money, the lie, the makeup) is the death of space. What I get from next spring is distance. I'll go the distance. Because, like a slug, I'm always right there. In the way. On the way. Speed for me is how far I can see. From here. You should see me really go. Honestly.

from "The Slug," From Next Spring, Coach House Press, Toronto, 1977, pp. 188-89

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