Fonds MsC-36 - Peter Trower fonds

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Peter Trower fonds

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  • Multi-media

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  • 1929-2014 (Creation)
    Trower, Peter

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Physical description

4.7 m of textual records
197 photographs
ca. 320 drawings : multiple processes
4 sketchbooks
2 mimeographs
2 prints : col. ; 66 x 51 cm and 38 x 25 cm
2 collages : 12 x 10 cm and 91 x 122 cm
1 painting
35 audio cassettes
32 optical discs
9 videocassettes

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Biographical history

Peter Trower was born on August 25, 1930, in St. Leonards-on-Sea in England, and was educated at Dragon School, Oxford. His father, Stephen Trower, an air survey pilot, died as a result of a plane crash in 1936. In July 1940, Trower's mother Mary brought himself and his brother to Canada aboard an evacuee ship, and they settled in Vancouver, B.C. Not long after their arrival, his mother married mill superintendent Trygg Iversen and the family moved to Port Mellon, B.C. Following Iverson's death in 1944, the family subsequently lived in Gibsons and Vancouver. In 1948 Trower left school; he began working at his first logging camp in 1949, and he worked off and on in logging camps along the B.C. coast for the next twenty-two years. Between logging jobs he also worked as a smelter worker in Kitimat, a surveyor, pulp-mill hand, shakecutter and baker. While in the logging camps, he pursued cartooning and writing interests in his spare time. Aspiring to become a professional cartoonist, he enrolled in the Vancouver School of Art in 1958. However, at the same time, he was also becoming increasingly interested in writing, and he dropped out of art school in 1960. Around this time, Trower frequented the Alcazar Hotel on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver, in the company of a number of other poets, including Milton Acorn, John Newlove, and Al Purdy. The hotel appears in the poem "Alcazar Requiem" from Trower's 1997 book "Hitting the Bricks." In 1967, Trower was arrested for the possession of marijuana, serving a one-month sentence at Oakalla Prison in Burnaby, B.C., an experience documented in a number of his future writings, including the five-part "Okalla Suite" of poems in his 1982 book "Goosequill Snags."

Trower self-published his first collection of poetry, "Poems for a Dark Sunday," as a mimeo in 1965. Talonbooks released his first commercially-published poetry collection "Moving Through the Mystery," in 1969. In 1971, he stopped logging and became the Associate Editor of Raincoast Chronicles. In 1972, Trower wrote a letter to Al Purdy after meeting him in MacLeod's bookstore years before; Purdy responded positively and over the next two decades became an important friend and mentor to Trower. During this period in the early 1970s, Trower began writing and publishing prose alongside his poetry, contributing articles and short stories to various publications including the Coast News and Vancouver Magazine. Much of his writing has been influenced by his years spent in logging camps. His experiences as a logger and poet were explored in the 1976 CBC documentary "Between the Sky and the Splinters," titled after his 1974 book of poetry of the same name.

In April of 1979, Trower's mother Mary passed away. He eulogized her in the Coast News article "A Very Special Little Lady." Shortly thereafter, Trower reconnected with an old friend, writer and amateur B.C. historian Yvonne Mearns Klan, and the two began a romantic partnership that would last until her death in 2004. In 1982, Trower and Klan embarked on a writing project about the life of Herbert Emerson Wilson (aka Herb Wilson), tentatively titled "Holy Herb" and later "Gangsterquest." The book was never completed, but their work did produce the poem "The Legend of Holy Herb" in Trower's 1989 book "Unmarked Doorways." In 1985, Alan Twigg and Tom Shandel made a second CBC-produced documentary about Trower, entitled "Peter Trower: The Men There Were Then."

Beginning in the 1980s, Trower performed with the blues-rock band "Industrial Accident," and with the variety show "Caulk Boots and Marlin Spikes," which featured stories and songs of loggers. He published his first novel in 1993; "Grogan's Cafe" is the first book in what would come to be known as the Terry Belshaw Trilogy of novels, also including "Dead Man's Ticket" (1996), and "The Judas Hills" (2000). The same year "Grogan's Cafe" was published, Trower played himself in "The Diary of Evelyn Lau," a film based on the life and writing of the eponymous Canadian writer. In 2003, he released his first musical album, "Sidewalks and Sidehills," which features Trower reading his poems to a jazz back beat. He frequently performed at Vancouver's Railway Club on Dunsmuir street.

Trower received several awards and honours during his career, including the Gillian Lowndes Award (1997), the BC2000 Book Award (2000), the first annual Peter Trower Alternative Poetry Award (2000), the BC Gas Lifetime Achievement Award (2002), the Terasen Lifetime Achievement Award for an Outstanding Literary Career in British Columbia (2002), and the Canadian Authors Association Jack Chalmers Poetry Award (2005).

Trower passed away in North Vancouver on November 10, 2017.

Custodial history

Records in this fonds were in the custody of Peter Trower until the time of acquisition by the Simon Fraser University Library. The first accession, MsC 36, was acquired between 2002 and 2006. Due to the lack of original order of material and to the overlap in contents, the material was processed as a single unit. Accrual MsC 36a was acquired in 2007. Accrual MsC 36b was acquired in 2015.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records related to the life and creative work of Peter Trower in his activities as a poet, prose writer, cartoonist, and musician. Fonds also includes records pertaining to Trower's collaborative projects with Yvonne Klan, as well as works by other authors and artists that were accumulated by Trower. Records include poetry and prose manuscripts, drafts and outlines, movie scripts, journals, notebooks, correspondence, business records, photographs, articles, cartoons and other drawings, awards, certificates, and sound and video recordings.

The fonds has been arranged into the following twenty-three series: Correspondence (1934-2006); Journals and calendars (1961-2005); Notebooks ([ca. 1953]-2003); Prose - published books ([197-?]-2000); Prose - unpublished books (1969-2005); Prose - articles, short stories and related material (1953-2002); Poetry - published books (1964-2004); Poetry - unpublished books ([198-?]-2003); Poetry - draft poems (1958-2005); Poetry - published poems ([ca. 1972]-1997); Film scripts and related material (1993-2005); Musical performances, sound recordings and related material (1981-2004); Business and financial records (1964-2005); Articles, reviews and interviews regarding Trower (1965-2005); Readings, festivals and events records (1974-2005); Awards and honours records (1979-2005); Photographs (1929-2005); Cartoons and other artwork (1949-1998); Website records (1999-2002); Yvonne Klan records ([199-?]- 2005); Reviews and articles regarding other writers and artists (1982-2006); Works by other authors (1950-2003); and Personal records ([ca. 2000]).

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Physical condition

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Accrual MsC 36a was accompanied by an inventory prepared by the donor. However, the inventory was not in the same order as the records themselves, which were loose in the box, and the items were not labelled in accordance with the inventory. Thus, it was often difficult to ascertain which entry in the inventory referred to which files or items. Titles taken from Trower's inventory have been added as file-level notes wherever appropriate. See notes for individual file descriptions for more information.

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Finding aids

An inventory of the fonds is available in Special Collections. An online finding aid for the first accession (MsC 36), with series description and file list, is attached above as a PDF. The finding aid for accruals MsC 36a and MsC 36b is available in AtoM.

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General note

A collection of literary magazines were included in the accrual material received. As publications they were not deemed significant enough to be included in this fonds, however a list was compiled of any issues that contained contributions from Trower.

Poetry Australia: The sea runs diagonally. No. 18, October 1967; The Indian within. No. 19, December 1967; The summit conference. No. 25, December 1968; The rouse for Roethke. No. 29, August 1969; The poem rower. No. 38, 1971; Dogdance. No.45, 1972.
BC Studies : The British Columbian Quarterly: The Corkscrew Trees of Kitselas. No. 112, Winter 1996-97; Breakfast in the Portal Country. No. 121, Spring 1999; The Sacked Forsaken Places. No. 123, Autumn 1999; Letter to Peter Trower, Sechelt Peninsula, BC by Kuldip Gill. No. 128 Winter 2000/2001; Backcountry blues. No. 133, Spring 2002; Loggersong. No. 134, Summer 2002.
Canadian Literature : A quarterly of criticism and review: Dwindling Sally. No. 184, Spring 2005.
Prism International: “Boondocks 1947”. Vol. 24: 2, Winter 1986.
West Coast Review: Requirements / The Falling Away. Vol. XIV, no.2. October 1979.
Raven: Sailor / Sunday Puppets / Goosequill Snags. No. 3, Spring 1982.
3¢ Pulp: “3 poems by Peter Trower”: The Eastend Toronto Railroad Insomnia Blues / Progress Report for Malcolm Lowry / Love in a Season of Death. Vol. 4:2, 1 March 1977.
Poetry: Grease for the Wheels of Winter. Vol. CXXI, no. 3, December 1972; The Presumers / The Last Stand of Magic. Vol. CXXIII, no. 4, January 1974; Relearning Winter / Along Green Tunnels. Vol. CXXVI , no. 4, July 1975; The Reclaimed. Vol. CXXIX, no. 5, February 1977.

Also included in the accrual was a collection of books on logging that it is suspected Trower used as references for his work. Again, these were not included in the fonds, but the list of references is as follows:

Garner, Joe. Never chop your rope. Nanaimo, British Columbia : Cinnibar Press. (inscribed)
Gibson, Gordon (with Carol Renison). Bull of the woods : The Gordon Gibson Story. Vancouver : Douglas & McIntyre, 1980.
Tyler, Robert L. Rebels of the woods : the I.W.W. in the Pacific Northwest. Eugene, Oregon, 1967.
Empire of wood : the MacMillan Bloedel story / by Donald MacKay. Vancouver/Toronto : Douglas & McIntyre, 1983.
One union in wood : a political history of the International Woodworkers of America / by Lambcke, Jerry and William M. Tattam. Madeira Park, BC : Harbour Publishing, 1984.
Tough timber : the loggers of B.C. – their story / by Myrtle Bergren. Vancouver : Elgin Publications, 1979. (inscribed)
Lind, Carol J. Big timber, big men. Saanichton, B.C. : Hancock House Publishers Ltd., 1978.
Timber : toil and trouble in the big woods / by Ralph W. Andrews. Seattle : Superior Publishing Company, 1968.
Andrews, Ralph W. Glory days of logging. New York : Bonanza Books, 1956.
Roberge, Earl. Timber Country : logging in the Great Northwest. Caldwell, Idaho : The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1973.
Sound Heritage Vol. VI : 3, 1977. Provincial Archives of British Columbia. Men of the Forest, compiled and edited by David Day.

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Created May 16, 2014, LZ
Revised May 2016, NT: Added accruals MsC 36a and MsC 36b
Edited 19 AUG 2019, JMH

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  • English

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