In 1993, after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Accord, Gary Geddes travelled through Israel with the blind poet and scholar John Asfour, he serving as Asfour's eyes, Asfour as his tongue. The contrast between his friend's competence in the sighted world and his own incompetence in Asfour's Arabic world forced Geddes to ponder the blindness, physical and metaphoric, that is central to human nature.
The poems in Flying Blind meditate on seeing and not seeing in many ways. Flying Blind, the section documenting Geddes's eye-opening trip, confirms his status as Canada's foremost political poet, while the poems in the other three sections are riffs on sight and vision, some extended, some as trenchant as haiku.
Gary Geddes was born in Vancouver and raised mostly on the west coast, where he gill netted, loaded boxcars at BC Sugar Refinery, stocked shelves at Woodwards, worked as a fishing guide at Whytecliffe, taught on Texada Island, and drove a water-taxi. After doing graduate studies at Reading University in England and at the University of Toronto, he embarked on a varied career as a writer, teacher, editor, and publisher. Gary taught for twenty years at Concordia University in Montreal before returning to the west coast, where he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Canadian Culture at Western Washington University (1998-2001) and served as writer-in-residence at Green College, and the Vancouver Public Library. He has written and edited more than thirty-five books of poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, criticism, translation and anthologies, including 20th Century Poetry & Poetics and 15 Canadian Poets x 3. His literary awards include the E.J. Pratt Medal and Prize, the National Poetry Prize, the Americas Best Book Award in the 1985 Commonwealth Poetry Competition, National Magazine Gold Award, the Writers Choice Award, Archibald Lampman Prize, the Poetry Book Society Recommendation and the Gabriela Mistral Prize, which he shared with Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Vaclav Havel and with Rafael Alberti, Ernesto Cardenal, and Mario Benedetti. Gary Geddes lives on Vancouver Island, where he divides his time between Victoria and French Beach.
"Geddes, who has written some of the finest political poetry of our time, knows how to celebrate the private without ever losing sight of the larger public issues." — Vancouver Sun
"Gary Geddes is undoubtedly the best of the contemporary Canadian poets I've read. Flying Blind is one of the best collections of poems published in English in recent years — not just in Canada, but anywhere. His work is achieved technically; it is moving; and, above all, it is interesting and accessible." — Douglas Dunn
Pub date: June 1, 1998