Graeme Gibson, writer, cultural activist, teacher (born at London, ON 9 Aug 1934). Educated at the UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, Graeme Gibson taught at the Ryerson Institute of Technology, later RYERSON UNIVERSITY, from 1961-69. He later served as writer-in-residence at the UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO and the UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA (1985). Gibson has made considerable contributions to Canadian letters through his publications and his involvement in organizational initiatives.
Graeme Gibson's first NOVEL, Five Legs (1969), is a complex, intertextual modernist work that exhibits Gibson's thematic concerns with mortality and writing as it surveys the cultural malaise of its time. A sequel, Communion, continuing the story of one of Five Legs' characters, was released in 1971. Gibson's next novel, Perpetual Motion (1982), is widely regarded as his finest work. A critique of humanity's drive to dominate and exploit the natural ENVIRONMENT, set in 19th century Ontario, the novel traces protagonist Robert Fraser's attempt to build a perpetual motion machine by harnessing natural energy. 1993's Gentleman Death is an ambitious, successful novel searching for the meaning in contemporary life. It is as much about writing, the occupation of the central character, also named Robert Fraser, as it is about ever-present death. Gibson has also produced a short story, "Pancho Villa's Head," and has written for film, radio and television as well as penning many travel articles. He released a book of interviews, Eleven Canadian Novelists, in 1973.
A committed BIRD WATCHER and naturalist, Gibson led birdwatching tours to Cuba for years and was instrumental in founding the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, which he also serves as chairman. In 2005 Gibson published the bestselling, widely acclaimed The Bedside Book of Birds, a collection of representations of the avian world in poetry, prose and art throughout human history. Birds, reflects Gibson, "are imagination and longing and spirit." A companion volume, The Bedside Book of Beasts (2009), surveys the relationships between predators and their prey. The volumes speak not only to the beauty and wonder but also the fragility of the planet's creatures and ecosystems (seeENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSERVATION MOVEMENTS).
Gibson has contributed substantially to the development of writers' organizations in Canada. He was instrumental in forming the WRITERS' UNION OF CANADA, which he chaired from 1974-75. In 1973 he began a literary resources guide, concurrently developing the Book and Periodical Development Council, which he later chaired (1975). Gibson also founded and has chaired the Writers' Development Trust (1978) and is a past president of PEN Canada (1987-89). The Writers Union of Canada recognized his service to Canadian writers by establishing the Graeme Gibson Award in 1991, given "for varied and remarkable contributions to improve the circumstances of writers in Canada." Gibson was its first recipient.
Graeme Gibson's literary achievements have been recognized with the Toronto Arts Award (1990) and the Harbourfront Festival Prize (1993). He became a Member of the ORDER OF CANADA in 1992, and an honourary Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2007. Gibson lives in Toronto with author Margaret ATWOOD.