Charles Henry Gervais
Poet, playwright, journalist, essayist
Charles Henry Gervais was born in Windsor in 1946. Although he attended school in Windsor, he graduated from high school in Bracebridge, Ontario. He is better known as “Marty” Gervais. He attended the University of Windsor, and studied creative writing with Morley Callaghan.
In 1969, Gervais founded the Black Moss Press to publish fine creative writing and promote the fine arts in Windsor and southwestern Ontario. His first published work was an anthology of poetry, “Storm Warnings” in 1971.
The Windsor Star hired Gervais in 1974. At first he covered the news from Chatham and Kent County. Recognizing his talents as a writer, the Editor of the Windsor Star asked Gervais to write a column about various personalities in Windsor – not just celebrities, but “plain folk” who had a story to tell. This column was called “My Town” and became one of the features of the paper. This was then turned into a book, “My town: faces of Windsor”. In 1979, he was also given the assignment to cover religious matters in Windsor and beyond. This column was called “The Religious Beat”.
Although he continues to write many poems, he has also written some plays. In 1976 he wrote a play “Baldoon” which was based on the mysterious happenings that took place in the early pioneer settlement of Baldoon, near Wallaceburg. This was followed by “The fighting Parson” in 1983. This play took place during Prohibition, and tells the story of the Rev. Leslie Spracklin and his dedication to eradicate rum running in Windsor.
His talent for writing has been recognized in many places. Gervais won the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry award for his book, “Tearing into a summer day” in 1996. He won the Harbourfront Festival Prize in Toronto in 1998 for his contribution to Canadian literature.
The University of Windsor appointed Marty Gervais the Resident Writing Professional. He has continued working in this position to 2015 and will continue in this position. Gervais also started teaching digital journalism at the University in 2011. Also, in this year, he was appointed the first poet laureate of Windsor and continues to hold this post.
Marty Gervais is a man of many interests. One of his interests is the prohibition era in Windsor during the 1930’s. This led him to write a book about prohibition in Windsor. It is called “The Rumrunners: a prohibition scrapbook”, and was published in 1980. For the 30th anniversary of its publication, it was revised and expanded. Using his skills as a journalist and an interviewer, Gervais was able to interview many people who were involved in rum-running during those wild days in the 1930’s.
Awards and Honours
– 1998 Harbourfront Festival Prize (Toronto, Ont.)
– Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award
– 2011 1st Poet Laureate of the City of Windsor