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Swimming Ginger
Swimming Ginger
Swimming Ginger

Swimming Ginger

Shortlisted, Independent Publishers Book Award, Poetry

The Qingming Shanghe Tu scroll, sometimes called "Spring Festival by the River," was thought to have been painted by Zhang Zeduan before 1127, when the Northern Song capital of Bian-Iiang was overrun by the invading Jin. Inspired by the figures in the scroll, Geddes found stories demanding to be told, tales of the droll, exacting, sometimes turbulent life of cities.

In shimmering verse, Geddes captures the voice of the painter himself and those of the underprivileged, with their not-so-subtle forms of dissent. Cleverly illustrated to intertwine East and West in dialogue, this ingenious volume juxtaposes a reproduction of the scroll that reads from back to front (experienced as Chinese reads) with Geddes' poems, which read from front to back.


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.

: Independent Publishers Book Award, Poetry
"Geddes rolls out his own richly hued tapestry of human passions and pastimes. His poems flow with a fluid, conversational ease, and encompass a wide range of personalities and tone." — Toronto Star

"The book is, as Geddes himself puts it, 'rescue work,' an attempt to recover, reconstruct and reawaken a lost time, fill it with so unique a blend of voices that it will emerge as something new. Each poem crackles with their thoughts and impressions, sometimes contradictory, always entertaining." — Canadian Bookseller

"Geddes's; accessible poetic style brings to life a rich array of characters inspired by a blend of history, culture, myth, and imagination. ... his two most recent collections offer the reader a point of entry into the inner workings of old China by bringing to life a thronging diversity of voices tinged with both creativity and lore. ... Swimming Ginger reanimates one of China's most iconic artifacts and infuses it with irreverence, gently poking fun at the fantasies of ancient Chinese culture that we might otherwise be wont to adopt. In answer to such fantasies, Geddes creates an earthy, vibrant, and altogether more pragmatic account of lives lived in twelfth-century China." — Canadian Literature

94 pages
Pub date: August 27, 2010