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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.