A prominent Saskatchewan poet, educator and volunteer, Gary Hyland has contributed greatly to the Saskatchewan writing community. Born in Moose Jaw on November 25, 1940 to Kenneth Hyland and Iris Frances Bourassa, he grew up in Moose Jaw’s South Hill area. After graduating from St. Louis College in 1958, Hyland spent a year studying at Campion College in Regina. He then went to the University of Saskatchewan and graduated with a BA in 1962 and a BEd two years later. In 1962, Hyland married Linda Bell, with whom he had three sons. Upon completion of his BEd, he returned to Moose Jaw to take a position teaching English at Riverview Collegiate. Hyland and his first wife divorced in 1984, and he married Sharon Nichvalodoff in 1988. After his retirement from teaching in 1994, he instructed English classes for the University of Regina.
Hyland began publishing poetry in various journals and magazines in the late 1960s, shortly thereafter publishing the chap-books Poems from a Loft (1973) and Home Street (1974). He has published five full-length collections, entitled Just Off Main (1982), Street of Dreams (1984), After Atlantis (1991), White Crane Spreads Wings (1996), and The Work of Snow (2003). His poems have appeared in various literary magazines and have been collected in a number of poetry anthologies. In addition to his own writing, Hyland has co-edited several collections, including the Saskatchewan poetry anthologies Number One Northern (1977) and A Sudden Radiance (1987), and the humour collections 100% Cracked Wheat (1983) and 200% Cracked Wheat (1992).
Hyland has been an active member of the Saskatchewan writing community for many years and was instrumental in the creation and survival of several organizations devoted to Saskatchewan writers. He has been a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild since 1972, and is a founding member of the Moose Jaw Movement. Along with Robert Currie, Geoffrey Ursell, and Barbara Sapergia, he founded the Thunder Creek Publishing Co-op and Coteau Books in 1975. One of his most prominent contributions has been as founder of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words, with which he still serves as artistic coordinator.
Hyland has won several awards for both his poetry and his community involvement. He was named Moose Jaw Citizen of the Year in 1998. In 2001, he was awarded the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal by the province of Saskatchewan and was named, along with Robert Currie, lifetime Poet Laureate of Moose Jaw. He has won several Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild awards for his poetry, and in 2003 he obtained the inaugural Thistledown Press-sponsored John V. Hicks Memorial Award for The Work of Snow. He was awarded the Lieutenant-Governor’s Arts Award for Leadership in 2004. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2005; the same year, he was granted an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Regina.