Monday, September 3, 2012



Counterfeit Pennies, a work of art produced in 1996 by Vancouver poet, Gerry Gilbert, has been rescued from obscurity amongst the 25 boxes of memorabilia, films, videos, photograph albums, books and unpublished manuscripts found in the home of Gerry Gilbert after his death on June 20, 2009. This remarkable treasure trove from a hugely prolific life in poetry and art remains still unsorted in the Simon Fraser Special Collections Library. It has found a place there owing to the efforts of Gilbert’s daughter, Tamsin, and his son, Jeremy, as well as to the generosity of the Simon Fraser Special Collections Library and its director, Eric Swanick.
The Special Collections Library has generously agreed to lay out thousands of dollars for a special freezing treatment that rescued this unpublished legacy of one of Canada’s most sparklingly innovative avant garde poets from the ravages of the bedbugs infesting Gilbert’s apartment in an East Vancouver public housing project where Gilbert lived his final days in poverty and seclusion.
A very rough inventory of this incredible legacy reveals that a significant portion of this work has never been published and is therefore completely unknown to the public. The many admirers of the truly special qualities of Gilbert’s work will be delighted to see the re-emergence of this new material.
Explaining the process and purpose of his own writing activity, Gilbert once wrote:
“... the sense of my writing is incidental, it is the incidental itself, the tooth, the worms way from the inside of life to the surface. A path which opens at the heart of the house, where we're wearing the sky and having a cup of tea. You look down at us and the first thing we do with your surprise at the end of a perfect day is put on the kettle against the hot belief that anything we'd write or say is itself the sense that life makes.” (From Next Spring, page 27)
In felicitous keeping with his modest and unspectacular approach to the writing and publishing process, Gilbert’s book appears in the form of a scrapbook, a large loose-leaf binder containing poems, photographs and improvised collages laid out in individual pages each under a cellophane cover.
There are at least two other loose-leaf binder scrapbook works to be found within the 25 boxes of the collection, plus other unpublished notes and manuscripts. Thanks to the dedication and technical expertise of fellow poet Lary Bremner, the first of these works will now appear in electronic format on the Internet, entirely for the delight of those poetry aficionados ready to appreciate the special and irrepressible character of Gilbert’s enormous and totally singular contribution to the body of Canadian avant garde poetry.
JAMIE REID, September, 2012


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