Born in Vancouver on September 27, 1948, Allan Safarik was raised in a commercial fishing family in Vancouver Heights in North Burnaby from where he spent much of his childhood exploring the waterfront. When the Second Narrows Bridge collapsed in 1958, he was outside playing baseball. There was a tremor, like a small earthquake. He and his older brother rushed to the scene of the tragedy and were among the the first to witness the death and devastation.

At age eighteen, Safarik met the poet and activist Dorothy Livesay. As a student at Simon Fraser University, Safarik was introduced to fellow student Brian Brett by Tom Wheeler. Brett and Safarik were both aspiring writers. The pair began to print and publish five issues of their own literary magazine from 1971 to 1973. Blackfish Press soon evolved into a book publishing operation located at the rear of a print shop in White Rock, on Johnson Road, from where they began to produce titles by the likes of Patrick Lane, Dorothy Livesay, Milton Acorn, Earle Birney and John Newlove. Originally they made limited edition broadside folios in runs of 150 to 200, each one signed and numbered. The earliest works were For the West Coast by Brian Brett, Face by Seymour Mayne, Disasters of the Sun by Dorothy Livesay and The Age of the Bird by Pat Lowther. While Brett mostly handled the considerable mechanical challenges of printing and binding, Safarik chiefly handled administration.

Significant Blackfish titles included North Book (1975) by Jim Green, winner of the Canadian Author's Association gold medal for poetry, Poems of French Canada (1977) translated from French by F.R. Scott, and Venus in Furs (1977) translated from the German by John Glassco. Safarik's partnership with Brett gradually dissolved and no Blackfish Press titles appeared after 1982. From the outset of the press, Safarik was a close observer of the circumstances that led to the horrific murder of his friend, Pat Lowther, by her second husband. Safarik knew Pat Lowther from 1970 until her death in 1975.

Allan Safarik's memoirs in Notes from the Outside: Episodes from an Unconventional Life (Hagios 2006) recall his literary relations with Dorothy Livesay, Milton Acorn, Anne Szumigalski, Joe Rosenblatt, Patrick Friesen and William Hoffer. Most significantly, Safarik concludes the volume with his recollections of Pat Lowther, as well as his central role in the documentary film Watermarks, directed by Anne Henderson, in which the filmmaker focuses on the family story of how the daughters of the murdered poet [See Pat Lowther entry] gradually overcame the loss of their mother and their father who died in prison.

Around 2000, Safarik had decided to no longer make himself available for queries about Lowther. "The body of rumours and misinformation that had taken over left appalled and depressed by the way history was being constructed like bad plumbing that leaked all over the place," he wrote. [See a portion of Allan Safarik's memoir BELOW]

Allan Safarik has a B.A. in English from Simon Fraser University. He has also edited Vancouver Poetry (Polestar Press, 1986) to mark the Vancouver Centennial. He and Dolores Reimer co-compiled Quotations From Chairman Cherry (Arsenal Pulp, 1992) and Quotations on the Great One: The Little Book of Wayne Gretzky (Arsenal Pulp, 1992). Safarik was the National Book Festival organizer for B.C. until the program was disbanded in 1993. In 1998 Safarik edited Bill Macdonald's The True Intrepid: William Stephenson and the Unknown Agents (Timberholme, 1998). He also edited Marie Annharte Baker's Being On The Moon (Polestar Press, 1990) and WHT Olive's The Olive Diary (Timberholme, 1997), a tale of adventures in the Klondike of 1898.

Allan Safarik lived above the pier in White Rock for 15 years prior to moving to Dundurn, Saskatchewan, and settling into the 100-year-old Jacoby house there. In Saskatchewan, where he befriended publisher Paul Wilson of Hagios Press, he won the 2003 John V. Hicks Manuscript Award for Literary Non-Fiction and the 2005 Anne Szumigalski Poetry Award at the Saskatchewan Book Awards for When Light Falls from the Sun.

More recently, Safarik has co-written Bluebacks and Silver Brights: A Lifetime in the B.C. Fisheries from Bounty to Plunder (ECW 2012) with his father, Norman Safarik, who worked in the fishing industry for six decades and "knew every fisherman and wholesaler in British Columbia, and along the west coast of the United States." At 93, he had spent over sixty-five years running Vancouver Shellfish & Fish Company at Campbell Avenue Fisherman’s Wharf in Vancouver. His memoir doubles as an ecological warning, describing an ecosystem forever transformed by the folly of over-fishing and mismanagement.

Safarik has since turned to writing novels. Described by Safarik as "a rogue western," Swede’s Ferry (Coteau Books 2013) was a bestseller in the prairies, where it is set. It was a story written for his ailing wife, the poet and editor Dolores Reimer, who simply said to him. “Tell me a story.”
Specifically, she asked for a story about the prairies. Dolores Reimer subsequently died of cancer. [See two reviews BELOW]

As of 2015, Allan Safarik still owned his house in White Rock, chiefly occupied by his son.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Bluebacks and Silver Brights: A Lifetime in the BC Fisheries From Bounty to Plunder


Okira (Blackfish, 1975)
Green Lights Stones and Trees (Cold Turkey Press, 1977)
The Heart is Altered (1979)
The Naked Machine Rides On (Blackfish Press, 1980)
God Loves Us Like Earthworms Love Wood (Porcupine’s Quill, 1983)
Vancouver Poetry (1986). Editor.
Advertisements for Paradise (Oolichan, 1986)
On the Way to Ethiopia (Polestar, 1992)
All Night Highway (Black Moss, 1997)
How I Know the Sky Is a River: Selected and New Poems (Regina: Hagios Press, 1999)
Bird Writers Handbook (2003)
Blood of Angels (2004)
When Light Falls From the Sun (Hagios Press, 2005). With artworks by Terry Fenton.
Notes from the Outside: Episodes from an Unconventional Life (Hagios Press, 2006).
Yellowgrass (Hagios Press 2008)
The Day is a Cold Grey Stone (Hagios Press, 2009)
Bluebacks and Silver Brights: A Lifetime in the B.C. Fisheries from Bounty to Plunder (ECW Press 2012). $22.95 978-1-77090-182-7
Swede’s Ferry (Coteau Books 2013) $19.95 Novel.

[BCBW 2015] "Poetry" "Publishing"