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The Ventriloquist: Poetic Narratives from the Womb of War

The Ventriloquist: Poetic Narratives from the Womb of War

by Gary Geddes
The Ventriloquist: Poetic Narratives from the Womb of War

The Ventriloquist: Poetic Narratives from the Womb of War

by Gary Geddes


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The Ventriloquist gives us four fearless and seminal works by one of Canada's master poets and is a scathing indictment of war and its ravages. It's also a testament to the power of poetic narrative.

Gary Geddes is known for his first-person narrative poems and "seamless impersonations." He sometimes speaks of his poetry as rescue work, a term he attributes to Joseph Conrad, which involves "gathering the vanishing fragments of memory and giving them the permanence of art." For Geddes, however, it's not personal memory, but tribal or collective memory that most demands his attention.

Those figures from the past reaching out to be heard in The Ventriloquist include a youth in charge of horses on a doomed and bloody mission to the New World during the Spanish conquest; a so-called 'mad-bomber' who dies in a washroom of the House of Commons when the dynamite he is carrying explodes; a wily and outrageous Chinese sculptor and his legion of warrior subjects struggling against imperial edicts to conform; and POWs in Hong Kong and Japan in World War II doing their damnedest to survive, a struggle that continued back home in the face of shocking neglect.

Geddes finds that the phrase "the ventriloquism of history" perfectly describes his poetic process here and in other poems and jokingly admits that he's never quite sure if he's ventriloquist or dummy. His critics, however, have no doubt about his talent for giving voice, and have called his work "stunning," "wonderful," "breathtaking in its imaginative reach and verbal dexterity."

Of War & Other Measures Robert Kroetsch wrote, "It's the kind of poem poets are only supposed to be able to dream.... The sustained calibration is beautiful. I didn't know the long poem could be so taut.... The years of art and craft are in the book."

Hong Kong Poems prompted Michael Estok to say in a review in Fiddlehead: "It is a weighty and worthy and admirable undertaking.... [Geddes's] book of elegies puts him on the same level of poetic intensity (perhaps he even surpasses it) of Milton's 'Lycidas' or Tennyson's In Memoriam."

These words of praise are reflected in the awards the books received: the E.J. Pratt Medal and Prize, Writers Choice Award, the National Magazine Gold Award, and Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region).

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781772442403
Publisher: Rock's Mills Press
Publication date: 12/01/2021
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)

About the Author

Gary Geddes has written and edited more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, criticism, translation and anthologies and has received more than a dozen national and international literary awards, including the National Magazine Gold Award, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region), the Lt.-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence and the Gabriela Mistral Prize from the Government of Chile, awarded simultaneously to Octavio Paz, Vaclav Havel, Ernesto Cardenal, Rafael Alberti, and Mario Benedetti. He taught English and Creative Writing for many years at Concordia University and has served as writer-in-residence at universities and libraries in Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Nanaimo and New Westminster, as well as Visiting Writer at University of Missouri-St. Louis and Distinguished Professor of Canadian Culture at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He lectures and performs worldwide. His work has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese. He lives on Thetis Island with his wife, the novelist Ann Eriksson.

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