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Peter Trower 1930-2017

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 5:28pm

By Alan Twigg

BC Booklook

Peter Trower, one of B.C.’s most beloved poets, has died at age 87 on November 10, 2017 at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. In 2015, Peter Trower had moved into the Inglewood Care Centre in West Vancouver after living mainly on the Sunshine Coast and in North Vancouver. He had a fall several weeks before his death. After surgery, he had a blood clot that led to his death.

Peter Trower, dubbed a “logger poet” early in his writing career, received the eighth George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in British Columbia in 2002. In December of 2015, the town of Gibsons decided to name Trower Lane in his honour.

Peter Trower was born at St. Leonard’s-on-Sea, England, on August 25, 1930. He immigrated to British Columbia at age ten, following the death of his test-pilot father in a plane crash. He arrived on an evacuee ship with his mother and brother to stay with an aunt on Nelson Street in the West End of Vancouver. His mother married a West Coast pulp mill superintendent who drowned soon after.

Peter Trower quit school for financial reasons to work as a logger for twenty-two years. He also worked as a surveyor, smelter worker, pulp-mill hand, shakecutter and baker. He says he began writing seriously in the late 1950s after an abortive fling at professional cartooning. As a writer, he fraternized with John Newlove at the Alcazar Hotel in the Sixties “and forced bad poetry upon him, some of which he was charitable enough to read.” There he also met poets Milton Acorn and Al Purdy, both influences and comrades.

Since 1971, Trower published more than a dozen books of poetry and contributed to numerous issues of the Raincoast Chronicles and Vancouver Magazine. Among his supportive early influences were editor Mac Parry of Vancouver Magazine and publisher Howard White. His two most important influences were his mother, Mary Cassin, who pushed him to write from an early age and critiqued his drafts until her death and Sunshine Coast writer Ted Poole. After publishing his first collection of poems in 1969, Trower quit logging and went to work for the Raincoast Chronicles as an Associate Editor in 1971.

Poetry collections such as Moving Through Mystery, Between the Sky and the Splinters, The Alders and Others and Ragged Horizons have expressed his awe and resentment at the magisterial and dangerous power of nature. The Judas Hills was his third novel on the West Coast logging life, after Grogan’s Cafe and Dead Man’s Ticket.

In 2005, Peter Trower was awarded the Canadian Authors Association's Jack Chalmers Poetry Award for Haunted Hills and Hanging Valleys: Selected Poems 1969–2004. Trower could start a story called Runaway Jill with this sentence, and have it be true: “It was 1965, the year I pulled rigging for Big Bart Clapperton on the risky eastern slopes of Goatfoot Mountain.”

With an introduction by Mac Parry, who published many of Trower’s stories in Vancouver magazine during that publication’s golden age, Hellhound on his Trail and Other Stories (Ekstasis $22.95) was more proof that Trower was one of the few irreplaceable talents in British Columbia writing. Trower’s coastal tales were memoirs in the realm of fiction, artfully poignant, unsettlingly from a bygone era. Eloquent with a raspy voice.

A Ship Called Destiny reflected his love and admiration for his partner Yvonne Klan of North Vancouver. It was published not long before she died.

Mike Poole made an effective documentary about Trower as a logger/poet called Between the Sky and the Splinters (1976), filmed at Jackson Bay. Alan Twigg and Tom Shandel made a CBC documentary about Trower that aired in 1985; Peter Trower: The Men There Were Then. Trower released a music & poetry CD, Sidewalks and Sidehills, in 2003, and a collected volume of his poetry in 2004.