Turnbull, Gael Lundin 1928-2004

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TURNBULL, Gael Lundin 1928-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born April 7, 1928, in Edinburgh, Scotland; died July 2, 2004, in Hereford, England. Physician, anesthesiologist, and author. Though his primary vocation was in medicine, Turnbull is best known as a poet and founder of Migrant Press, which promoted the works of cutting-edge poets. Born in Scotland, a country he would ever after hold fond memories of and for which he advocated self-government, he spent much of his life in Canada, England, and America, settling back in his homeland only after his retirement. His family immigrated to Canada at the start of World War II, and he returned to England to take a B.A. at Cambridge University in 1948; his medical degree, earned in 1951, was from the University of Pennsylvania. Turnbull then practiced medicine in northern Ontario, moving to London, England, in 1955, where he first set up Migrant Press. But Turnbull only stayed in London a year before accepting a job as senior house officer in anesthetics at the Rookswood Hospital in Worcester, England. In 1958, he returned to North America, this time settling in California, and several years later was back again in England. He lived and worked in Malvern, where he established the Malvern Group of Poets. In 1983, after divorcing his first wife and marrying his second, he continued his peripatetic ways, moving his private practice to Barrow-in-Furness, where he remained until his retirement in 1989. All through these years, Turnbull wrote and published poetry, beginning with 1954's Trio and continuing through dozens of collections, including A Very Particular Hill (1963), A Random Sapling (1974), What Makes the Weeds Grow Tall (1978), A Winter Journey (1987), and the more recent works A Rattle of Scree (1997), Mighty Shape of Words (2000), and Selected Poems, which was to be published posthumously in 2005. Turnbull was considered a modernist who was influenced by the Charles Olson's projective verse theories; he was also noted for his belief that the stresses in a poem should be dictated by natural speech rhythms, an idea known as the "breath-line," which made him a unique public performer when he read for live audiences. Though never gaining the fame of some of his contemporaries, he was appreciated by his peers and for his work with Migrant Press, which helped poets release their works in limited editions.



Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Guardian (London, England), July 12, 2004, p. 19.

Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), July 22, 2004, p. 22.

Independent (London, England), July 7, 2004, p. 34.

Times (London, England), July 20, 2004, p. 30.