Tag Archives: Peter Trower

My Friend Peter


Sadly, Peter Trower has died. I met the legendary west coast poet in 2008 at a launch party for ROCKsalt, the Mother Tongue Press anthology of contemporary BC verse. Afterwards we convened at a local pub with Rob Taylor and Zach Wells. A consummate raconteur, Peter regaled us with stories including the time he got high with Leonard Cohen at a party in Kits. Kindred spirits, we became fast friends. I had a lot more time and resources then so was able to squire him around to various events and the readings we performed together, often meeting at his favourite watering hole, Sailor Hagar’s. Pete liked to imagine I was his agent, that we were a couple and could get extremely jealous and possessive. But he was lonely after losing his long-time companion Yvonne. Outwardly tough and gruff, Pete was an utter romantic softie.

He was passionate about music as well, especially jazz and blues, often idly whistling or humming, which could drive me me nuts. Naturally Pete knew all the words and delighted in singing together. He performed on several CDs including Kisses In the Whiskey with Greg Potter at the producer helm.

He asked me to be his literary executor and though I knew that wouldn’t pan out happily assisted with errands, packing up his house in Gibsons and acting as go-between for Pete and Where the Nights are Twice as Long/Love Letters of Canadian Poets editor David Eso.  I did love the old scoundrel, miss him and his voices, both the sandpaper speaking and the distinctive poetic.


Goodbye Peter, goodbye Leonard


Peter Trower gave me this record when I was helping him close up his house in Gibsons. R.I.P. Leonard and sadly, Peter is suffering from Alzheimer’s, sequestered in an institution. I haven’t talked to him in a long time as he doesn’t know who I am. We met in 08 at a launch for ROCKsalt, the Mother Tongue Press anthology of BC poets, having beers after with Rob Taylor and Zach Wells. Peter regaled us with stories naturally including the time he got high with Cohen at a party in Kits. We became buddies. Moneyed then, I used to squire him around to various readings and events, including Leonard Cohen’s 2010 Vancouver concert. I miss Peter and will miss Cohen, whose songs and verse and constitute an integral thread in the fabric of my life. “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is the ash.”


Rockin’ Art Song Lab and Our friend Pete, as in Trower


I’ve long been intrigued by the Art Song Lab program so I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been selected as one of 12 poets participating in Art Song Lab 2015! Vancouver (May 31st – June 5th). I am paired with composer Brian Topp. Our piece will premiere at the Orpheum Annex in downtown Vancouver in a culminating concert on June 5th, performed by professionals from within the Vancouver music scene. I’m grateful to Ray Hsu and Michael James Park who encouraged me to apply. Now I just have to figure out how to schedule it into my crazy schedule. First step is for Brian and I to discuss our work and mutual interests next week.

Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi
Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi

I met legendary West Coast poet Peter Trower in 2008 at a book launch party for ROCKsalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry at 32 Books Company in Edgemont Village, North Vancouver which fortunately, remains standing. Owner Deb McVittie is a big booster of writers and authors, hence the launch event. We wound up at a local pub with Rob Taylor and Zach Wells and became fast friends. I had a lot more time and resources then so was able to drive Pete around, attend events  and do readings together, which sadly he doesn’t largely remember. His memory is failing badly and sometimes it puts him into a panic.  I contact him by phone and visit whenever possible. He lost his beloved companion Yvonne in 06 and can get very lonely and depressed. He needs help. Talking with friends is reassuring and conversation helps to cheer him up. If you are one of Pete’s comrades, I encourage you to call or visit, or write. I, or Jamie Reid can put you in touch.

Why These Shoes Matter More than an MFA

I’m paraphrasing; read an interesting book review of British sociologist Katherine Hakim’s Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, which argues that “erotic capital can be as professionally useful as a university degree,” and that, “women have been conditioned not to exploit their attractiveness for economic benefit.” I didn’t agree with her entire hypothesis but certainly she makes valid points. “Hakim claims heterosexual women’s erotic capital and fertility— their greatest trump cards—have been systematically undervalued and suppressed by religious fundamentalists, the patriarchy and even radical feminists who want to restrict women’s ability to benefit from their one major advantage over men, and to humiliate women who gain money or status though such activities.” Well, growing up, I was always uncomfortable with my sexuality and certainly didn’t feel at liberty to exploit it. I covered up, equating sexy with sleazy. I was actually loath to admit that I was afraid of men, their oh so keen response to my body nothing but overwhelming. I still don’t believe that being desired makes one powerful, not in and of itself, but as a happily lapsed Catholic, I’m able to revel in my body, mainly grateful it works, and do not hesitate to flaunt.

On the novel front, I’m working hard on a proposal, completed a synopsis and now must compose a scintillating query letter in order to avoid the dreaded slush pile. Feeling very good about this book, vital because I’m acting as my own agent. Apparently there are no agents in Canada worth pursuing. With a large part of the story set in United States, I suppose I could look down there, but the head reels at the thought, so I’ll focus my efforts north of the border for now, though I did contact several American colleagues to receive some promising leads. I’m very grateful for the help and guidance of friends Dennis E. Bolen, Gretl Rassmussen, Peter Trower, Julie Vik and Jenn Farrell.

So here’s the synopsis. Please don’t ask if it’s autobiographical. I feel much the way Beauty and Pity author Kevin Chong does. “You’d have to be an intellectual dwarf from Cloverdale to make that assumption.” My protagonist Fiona is not me and I am not Fiona. And though I may be a Surrey girl, I have a high IQ and stand 6 foot in heels.

The Town Slut’s Daughter


The Siren of Howe Sound, AKA Canadian poet Heather Haley’s debut novel, The Town’s Slut’s Daughter, is a tale of loss and transcendence, peopled with unforgettable characters. Fiona Larochelle’s journey unfolds in three sections with a mix of fact, fiction and startling events.

In part one, Girls With Guitars, Fiona flees a tortured relationship with mother Jeanette, and a harrowing home life of terror and physical abuse only to land in Vancouver’s violently blazing punk rock underground. Music provides a catalyst however; Fiona mines a talent for singing and songwriting to form an all-girl band, the Virgin Marries.

In part two, Girl With Guitar, Fiona is stranded in the United States after her bassist ODs and the Virgin Marrries scatter. Fiona is forced to navigate a minefield of vice, drug abuse, jealous lovers and predatory record producers as she works to rebuild her dream.

In part three, Girl with Ratty Hair, Fiona struggles to retain her voice while indulging in an obsession with cruel, dangerous men. She discovers that peace of mind is not possible with the volume cranked to ten. Rage may have facilitated Fiona’s quest in the beginning but it cannot deliver her. Amidst the tumult of the LA Riots, Fiona bolts her cocaine-fueled marriage to a modern-day Bluebeard. Throughout it all, a fierce, indomitable spirit prevails.

Bloodied But Unbowed-Jazz cats on stage, old school punks on the big screen

Canucks won their do or die match against Chicago! I don’t understand why they can’t play that well consistently. I suppose beating the Hawks in two more games is within the realm of possibility but seems unlikely. Funny, I try to ignore hockey but you know you’ve got it bad when you find yourself actually reading the Sports section. I always manage to get caught up in the excitement, recently and entirely sucked into Team Canada-Olympics games. I can’t help it; it’s in my DNA according to my long gone mother Corona Beliveau, second cousin to the great and beloved Montreal Canadian  Jean Beliveau, still going strong, last I heard.

They do share the same thick, dark hair and good looks but I took everything Ma said with a grain of salt. She was also Irish, a real queen of blarney and consummate storyteller. I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons I am a poet. She also said my grandmother Genora Beliveau, would throw empty mickey bottles at the opposing team’s players, ejected from more than a few games. Grandma was quite the spitfire, sadly dying of cancer when I was just a toddler. On that note, Happy Mother’s Day! My boys took me out to dinner, a nice break from the routine.

I did go out Saturday night though, to W2 and Jamie Reid’s book launch for Prez, his Lester Young book, Prez being Billy Holiday’s nickname for the legendary saxophonist. Kim Goldberg opened with a performance of poetry from her book Red Zone, shining an unerring spotlight on Nanaimo’s homelessness and urban decay. Pete (Trower) read some of his musical jazz poems and Jamie read from his lyrical homage, backed sublimely by Craig McCaul on guitar, Niko Friesen and Jen Hodge on bass. I met fellow ROCKsalter George Payerle and got to visit with pals Daniela Elza, Kagan Goh, Warren Dean Fulton, Shannon Rayne, Carol Reid and Kedrick James, a superb master of ceremonies.  A fabulous evening and as Jamie said, “Dancing until the dust rose in clouds from the floor, / they put sweet rhythms into Lester’s horn.” Pete remarked he was happy to see young people playing jazz. It’s not going away. Jazz will always have its aficionados, just like punk rock, the Vancouver breed immortalized in Susanne Tabata’s Bloodied But Unbowed, premiering at DOXA Documentary Film Festival this Thursday. I’m sure to run into some of my punk rock homies though DOA is on the road, not surprisingly. Susanne got in touch with me at one point for an interview as I was in the 45s with Randy Rampage and Brad Kent but the meeting never happened. Story of my life, I swear! Surely I’m not the only one. Reportedly there are over 100 hours of out-takes.

Oh well, it’s a . . .

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Reading the ground with a bear’s eye

Frantic week behind, hectic week ahead but I always make time for a walk in the woods. Josef opened up some of the deer trails on our property recently which has encouraged my bushwhacking—or our bushwhacking—the mutts and mine. I love it when they kick up layers of needles, lichen and loam. Is there any richer smell? It’s a fairly strenuous workout, with all the climbing up and down boulders green with moss and crumbling cedar logs. Like all the islands and the Sunshine Coast, Bowen was clear-cut about 100 years ago. Imagine how convenient it must have been tossing all that timber into the ocean. I’m kidding. Sort of.

I spotted this remnant lying on the ground and it brought to mind the cover of Robert Bringhurst’s A Story as Sharp as a Knife. I’m no anthropologist—though I harboured aspirations at one time—but it would appear the shape could have inspired west coast native artists. It’s an eye! See?

A bear’s eye. Bringhurst talks of reading as an “ancient, preliterate craft. We read the tracks and scat of animals, the depth and lustre of their coats, the set of their ears and the gait of their limbs. We read the horns of sheep, the teeth of horses. We read the weights and measures of the wind, the flight of birds, the surface of the sea, snow, fossils, broken rocks, the growth of shrubs and trees and lichens. We also read, of course, the voices that we hear.”

Speaking of voices, I’m still recovering after hosting Penn Kemp at a boisterous salon on Saturday. Is that an oxymoron? Well, our salons get pretty festive. Penn is droll and vivacious, possessing a singular voice, literally, figuratively. She was a big hit with the 35 or so die-hards who turned out despite a nearly constant downpour, including some of my favourite urbanites Kyle Hawke, Warren Dean Fulton, Shannon Rayne and Rhonda Milne who took pleasure in the food, poetry and water taxi experience from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove. Penn had Josef perform some of her poetry in German! Now that’s a first, I’m glad we got pictures. I participated in another piece called Poem for Peace in Two Voices. Soundings—what Penn calls her readings, and sublimely sonic they are. Later, we let our hair down, madly dancing and rockin’ out, then lolled about in the hot tub before finally conking out around four in the morning. “Thanks to you, Beauty, for your magnificent presence and hospitality. What a hoot and holler! Glorious to be with you. And I so know how much work went into the grace of the evening!” Penn’s right. It was a hoot.

Last Thursday, I attended Anvil Press’s launch for a deluxe edition of Continue reading

Nature of time

Heather Haley & the Zellots

It’s running out! This picture was taken when I still felt like I was going to live forever. I don’t know if 40 is the magic number, but at some point it hits you—maybe when musicians stop lining up to play for free—that the vicious rumours are true, that indeed, you are going to die. It’s only a matter of time. Bittersweet knowledge that’s supposed to make us appreciate life more. One life. Short and sweet.

Speaking of sweet, Happy Easter! Another Christian holiday we must work hard to ignore. 5 pounds. Apparently that’s the amount of chocolate the average kid will eat this long weekend, and you know it’s going to be crappy chocolate. I haven’t chowed down on bunnies since I was a kid, when I didn’t know bad from good chocolate or anything else. Maybe all chocolate was better quality or I had more taste buds or they were more sensitive. I’ve noticed the texture of chocolate bars has changed; they’re waxy. Yuk. My mother was a good lapsed Catholic and never did much to observe Easter besides buy us candy. My sisters and I would collect pop bottles those years when Ma was broke and we’d go to the store and buy our own. I always got a pop and a comic book too.

Ah, country living. A pair of Northern Flicker woodpeckers is mating on the roof of the house, which entails Continue reading

Adapt or die

Brutal, Darwinian. Natural. Around the dinner table last night my family and I discussed life in the 21st century, digital native Junior marveling at how much technology has changed in his 15 years on the planet. An island boy, he doesn’t text yet but understands the appeal of the iPad. Me too. I’m getting tired of lugging my laptop around but it wasn’t so long ago that my iBook provided mobility as compared to my desktop-personal computer. We want it all!

A self-taught code warrior since the age of 14, Josef mentioned there are now laptops available for a few hundred dollars, but right away, Junior dismissed the idea along with their limited capability and RAM. Josef admitted that a USB port and word processing doesn’t cut it these days. People want to text, Tweet, iTune, email, Facebook, GPS, snap photos, shoot video, read the Globe and Mail and Google on the go. They want power, convenience. What’s so great about having a pound of newsprint delivered to your house so you can read one, or two, maybe even three articles, before running out the door? So wasteful, inefficient, messy and involves an errand- hauling it all down to the recycling depot. The other adaptation we’ve all made in this family is watching television on the Internet. We no longer have the patience to sit through network TV and its oppressive and boring commercials.

I’m slowly learning to text, with both thumbs, motivated in part by Continue reading

A life roiling with verse, visible and otherwise

Let there be confusion and terror, bleached bones in the closet, crows soaring into the chimney. Here I sit, sweating in the dead of winter, mind and guts roiling. My new collection, Three Blocks West of Wonderland, is out, I’m feeling fabulous and working hard at workin’ it. That’s actually the cover of Gabrielle Everall’s remarkable verse novel Dona Juanita and the love of boys but there is so much life within this one life! My life. Such as it is. Still, precious.

This frenzied phase began about a month ago, in Gibsons of all places. Brian Palmu kindly invited me to read my poetry along with my dear friend Peter Trower. I had reassured Pete that I would go up there to help clear out the 40-year long residence he was vacating. Small house, big job. So, I thought I would kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, keep my promise and do the reading.

Pete grovelled, grateful for my well-honed organizational skills. I walked in, opened cupboards and drawers, asking, “What’s this? You keeping it? Giving it away?” Then I made piles, one for the Salvation Army, one for Stuff To Keep and one for The Dump. This town still has a town dump! Bear Watching we called it in Salmo, cheap entertainment, featuring the best in local talent. Voila! The packing took a while, we had to retrieve boxes and tape, but the work was accomplished with a minimum of fuss.

The next day, Brian and his girlfriend Verna graciously hosted Pete and I Continue reading

Play It LOUD-“Caniculares dies” 09

Ugh. Caniculares dies. Dog days of summer! Staying cool isn’t easy today. I am relatively used to it, having lived in southern California for so long but still, these low 30 temperatures are brutal. One of the worst aspects, besides the fire hazard, is the perspiration. I’m just sitting here and sweating as if I were hiking up a hill. I wash my hands all day, still feel grimy. Think I’ll do my workout after the sun goes down. Fortunately, things usually cool down around here at night. It’s much worse back east, heat and humidity relentless.

I can’t seem to get the video shoot off the ground, feeling vexed that certain aspects are not coming together. I need a costume sewn, was given references to two people on the island but they aren’t getting back to me. So screw the Great Gatsby spoof, I won’t bother with the period piece clothing, will just dress Continue reading