Curt Gesch is a long time valley resident, and a thoroughly interesting gentleman to interview.
His talents are diverse, his voice on the quieter side which belies the depth of the experiences he has had.
When he and wife Betsey came to the Bulkley Valley in 1974, he wanted some land so he could farm a bit, “nothing serious,” he says. The couple found the perfect spot in Quick, and purchased 150 acres of land which they both enjoy.
They have what would be deemed a hobby farm, but in fact it keeps them both busy much of the time.
Curt and his wife, Betsey, came to the Bulkley Valley from the United States with a stop over for a brief period in Surrey where Curt taught at a Christian school.
Curt’s an American by birth and Betsey is from Peru. They met in Georgia and decided upon Canada as their new home after agreeing that Canadians were among the best people they had met.
Curt continued to teach, sometimes in Houston and other times in Smithers. He went where they needed him. He loved it at the time, and still interacts with some of his former students.
“I would not want to be teaching now in our current times, it would be too stressful and frustrating,” Gesch said.
It was later on after teaching, and mostly spending time on his farm, working the land, experimenting a bit with different crops, that he would turn to writing in agricultural newsletters, journals, and eventually he put his mind to writing two books of poetry.
The first was named A World of Small Things: Poems from Iqaluit. Mostly this poetry reflects the experiences and interactions he had in a cafe, and about the observations he made of the natural habitat in Iqaluit. It is a enjoyable read.
His next book and latest to be published is poetry and is called Humanity, and is completely different. It is best to turn to another author, Hannah Main-van der Kamp who lives on the Sunshine Coast.
Poet, editor, columnist, reviewer, gardener and birder, she has published six volumes, including a limited-edition letter press chapbook. Her review follows:
“Surround me with mystery beyond my ken.”
Small is beautiful! Remember that catch phrase from the seventies? Tired of ho hum industrial publishing? Then be refreshed by a small, beautifully printed, collection of poems by Smithers writer/farmer Curt Gesch.
Not literary — accessible to readers who may not usually open a book of poems, and a pleasure to hold, this little chapbook has varied topics including aging, music, birds, tools, memories and personal spiritual journeys.
Gesch is a serious, light-hearted writer. He has an appreciation for Biblical characters and some of these poems are queries to Moses and Elijah. He talks to Jesus about wood working. Some of them are prayers but not pious, just the way we live now with our real needs.
Gesch identifies himself as “one who fluctuates between rosy cynicism and jaundiced optimism.”
But his poems are not rosy, just joyful, and his optimism is not jaundiced but wise and clear. Through them all runs a quiet alertness.
To Miles Davis he says,“Tease me with tendrils wisps of air and moisture visible?”
Both the poet and the book maker display fine crafts we want to heed in this time of shoddy, disposable stuff. The way to savour these is slowly. A chapbook is to a best seller like good wine is to vinegar.
Beyond his poetry, Gesch writes for numerous agricultural publications, and writes an informal agricultural newsletter deemed “Just Farmers.”
He is contemplating his next book, but has writers block at the moment, so he writes for journals, newsletters, and the occasional magazine.
If you are up for a great read of a couple of books that are completely opposite, but make you think and reflect, then pick up your copy, grab a comfy spot, maybe a coffee and enjoy the read, I know I did.
Humanity is published by Hardscrabble Press, Sackville, New Brunswick.
A limited edition of 100 copies is available at Mills Stationery in Smithers.