Poems by Gary Geddes
“Skaldance is faultless. I like the narrative strategies, I marvel at them. And the way Geddes moves inside varieties of language, from the colloquial to quotation. And the novel's worth of characters.” - Robert Kroetsch
Skaldance weaves in and out of Orkney history the way wind, ocean, and invaders have shaped that unique Norse-Scottish landscape and culture. With wry, quiet humour or bold drama, Gary Geddes establishes connections with a people and a land where his forebears fished long ago.
An outsider with a stake in these remote northern islands, Geddes takes on the role of skald, the poet of Old Norse tradition, who reports on love, politics, and the past. He creates a polyphony of voices, some ironically detached, others passionately engaged. They tell of hardship and desire in comic vignettes, heartbreaking lyrics, or sagas of survival. Whether lighthearted or tragic, the poems in Skaldance are intelligent, witty, exquisitely crafted, and supple in their expression.
One of Canada's most respected men of letters, Gary Geddes has won the Gabriela Mistral Prize, the Archibald Lampman Prize, the National Magazine Gold Award, and the Americas Best Book Award in the Commonwealth Poetry Competition. Active Trading: Selected Poems 1970-1995 (Peterloo Poets, 1996) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
“Gary Geddes in 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 Canada, but anywhere. His work is achieved technically; it is moving and, above all, it is interesting and accessible.” - Douglas Dunn
How I was Launched
Mother was a McGregor from Inverness,
a beanpole but ambitious. And tough as gorse.
She would not so much turn her head
as swivel her gaze so one eye peered at you
across the bridge of an aquiline nose.
My father was a short almost comic
figure from Exmoor whom she had met
while stationed in the Orkneys. She admired
the way he danced in foxtrot, swallowed
his vowels. His natural vulgarity
survived military service unscathed.
As a teenager I would nickname them
Jiggs and Maggie after the cartoon
characters, Maggie the great pretender
and social climber, Jiggs the constant
embarrassment with his top hat, cigar,
and bad manners, who was always ducking
out to eateries in Boston for a snack
of corned beef and cabbage. My father
finally persuaded her to sleep with him
in the summer of 1919 in a small cottage
overlooking Scapa Flow, where the German
fleet was anchored, awaiting the results
of the Versailles talks. She was sitting
upright in bed, the sheet to her shoulders
while he undressed, a cigarette in one hand.
As he stepped out of his bellbottoms
and dropped his underwear, not a bit shy
of his enthusiasm, she put her hand
over her mouth to suppress a Scream.
Behind him fifty-four ships, scuttled by
defiant crews who jammed open seacocks
and took to the boats, were listing at odd
angles in the glittering waves. My parents
stood in the window naked, his arm
around her hips, hers slung across his shoulders,
and watched. He flicked a benediction
of fine ash on the windowsill, looked down
at his wilted submariner, and laughed.
Price £9.00 per copy post free (£6.00 post free to Associate Members)
Cover illustration: ‘Black Ladder’ © Martin Honisch, 1985
Publication: SUMMER 2004 (102 pages laminated paperback)