Trevor Carolan has published many books of poetry, non-fiction, translation, fiction and anthologies. He has also produced documentary films and held senior arts positions with the Olympic Games and Banff Centre. Co-editor of the award-winning edition Cascadia: The Life and Breath of the World, and a former elected Councillor in North Vancouver, he holds a Ph.D. in International Relations and has advocated on behalf of Conservation issues and Indigenous land claims in B.C. He taught for many years at the University of the Fraser Valley near Vancouver. Find out more at:



Chinese Benevolent Association former headquarters,

500-block Main St.

In Return To Stillness: Twenty Years With A Tai Chi Master (2003), Trevor Carolan has detailed his his 23-year apprenticeship with Tai Chi master Ng Ching-Por and recalls Chinatown in the 1970s. "I met Sifu Ng, the master of these tales, after he arrived from Hong Kong. I was searching for harmony in my life and he was a Taoist of 75 who moved like a small, alert dragon. The community loved him for his humility and the supple grace of his movements-like wild rye weaving in the wind. Sifu taught a small group of disciples upstairs at the Chinese Benevolent Association- landscape scrolls on the walls, cabinets of antiquities, gongs, lion-dance costumes, and the Peking Opera band's instruments jammed every nook. He always instructed by example. Some things, he said, we can only comprehend with our heart. 'Fong sung, fong sung,' he'd repeat: 'Make it soft...' "For years we studied and moved in rhythm together like shadows after the ox, like water flowing over the mill... Our old school was like a family." Watershed conservation activist and professor of English at University of the Fraser Valley, Carolan is a Buddhist who has written many books and co-translated The Book of the Heart and The Supreme Way from Chinese.


Trevor Carolan was born to a Yorkshire Irish family and settled in B.C. in 1957, at New Westminster. He began writing at 17, filing dispatches from San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury music scene. For three years he traveled Britain, Europe and India before mastering in English at Humboldt State University in 1978. He studied with Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, was the first Executive Director of the Federation of BC Writers, and served as literary coordinator for the XV Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.

His published works include non-fiction, memoir, poetry, fiction, translation, stories for children, and anthologies. A contributor to Shambhala Sun, The Bloomsbury Review, Choice, Nguoi Viet, and Kyoto Journal, he travels widely in Asia. Active in Pacific coast watershed issues, he lives in North Vancouver where he served for three years as an elected municipal councillor. He has written as a civic affairs columnist for the North Shore News and taught English and Asian Religion at University College of the Fraser Valley near Vancouver. He has also been affiliated with the Department of International Relations at Bond University, Queensland, Australia.

His travel novel The Pillow Book of Dr. Jazz is published by Anchor. Giving Up Poetry: With Allen Ginsberg At Hollyhock is a memoir of his acquaintance with Allen Ginsberg. Return to Stillness: Twenty Years With a Tai Chi Master (Marlowe & Co., New York) is an account of his 20 years as a student of the traditional Chinese wisdom path with Tai Chi Master Ng Ching-Por in Vancouver's Chinatown. He has collaborated with composer/pianist Mark Armanini as a librettist and has twice gathered excerpts for International Writers Calendars. He has been a research associate with the David See-Chai-Lam Centre at SFU, he has written regularly for Shambhala Sun magazine and he has edited a collection of writing from the Fraser Valley entitled Down in the Valley. In 2005, Trevor Carolan began co-producing a revival of the Pacific Rim Review of Books with Richard Olafson of Ekstasis Editions in Victoria. In 2006, Carolan accepted a new position as Banff Centre director of Literary Arts and republished The Pillowbook of Dr. Jazz: Travels Along Asia's Dharma Trail, recalling the Japanese Pillowbook of Sei Shonogan. The story follows the travels of a late-night deejay, Dr. Jazz, and his girlfriend Nori as they backpack their way through Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Nepal, Burma and Japan. Carolan resigned from his Banff position on a point of principle and returned to the West Coast in 2007.

Another Kind of Paradise from Boston-based Cheng & Tsui Publishers includes writers from Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh and elsewhere, with brief introductions to each author's works and life.

Trevor Carolan guest-edited Cascadia: The Life and Breath of the World (2013), a collection of environmental writing from the B.C./U.S. Pacific Northwest region that was cited as a "Notable Special Edition 2013" by the selectors of the annual Best American Essays in the U.S. It includes work by writers, poets, and orators such as Hugh Brody, Wade Davis, Robert Bringhurst, Gary Snyder, Rex Weyler, Jan Zwicky, Susan Musgrave, Barry Lopez, Charles Lillard, Theresa Kishkan, Eve Joseph, John Schreiber and Red Pine The collection was published as special book edition of Manoa Journal from University of Hawaii in Honolulu, partly because Hawaiians share an old affiliation with B.C. Recruited by the Hudson's Bay Company in fur-trading days, and known as "Kanakas", some settled at old Fort Langley and at Stanley Park and were used in helping portage canoes up the wilder reaches of the Fraser River. Place names in the area still bear evidence of this old connection-Kanaka Bar on the Fraser, Kanaka Creek and, in Maple Ridge, there's Kanaka Drive. First Nations authors from B.C. in the book include Lee Maracle, Richard Van Camp, Eden Robinson, Richard Wagamese, Chief Dan George and Chief William K'HHalserten Sepass. Artwork is by Emily Carr from her original journals when she first visited the old native villages up the B.C. coast in the early 1900s. Permission to reprint these sketches came from the Provincial Museum and Archives.

Trevor Carolan has long balanced his literary life with his spiritual concerns. Five years after the Beatles famously hung out with the Maharishi and Mia Farrow in India, Trevor Carolan first encountered Buddhism in Calcutta in conversation with a pilgrim monk on the banks of the Hooghly River. Having since written and edited an excellent history of the Literary Storefront in Vancouver, Carolan has revisited his Buddhist affinities with New World Dharma: Interviews and Encounters with Buddhist Teachers, Writers and Leaders (SUNY State University of Albany Press 2016). Including his encounter with Allen Ginsberg on Cortes Island, Carolan has chapters on Gary Snyder, the Dalai Lama, Governor Jerry Brown and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others. In a 2016 message to Alan Twigg, Carolan wrote, "This one's a kind of generational legacy document that I wanted to leave for those interested in how Buddhism has percolated into North American life in our time. I figured a good university press would have the reach to get it into libraries and SUNY in New York was excellent to work with. You'll see the preponderance of writers among the interviewees. Less theological and more cross-cultural/literary/ethical. Thich Nhat Hanh, Robert Aitken-roshi, and HH the Dalai Lama take care of the doctrinal material. Interesting to see Sulak Sivaraksa's influence on John Ralston Saul here in Canada. About Nanao, his importance to 1960s culture will probably be the focus of someone's PhD somewhere. Snyder was introduced to the southern Japanese island commune (Banyan Ashram) Nanao had gathered and he was writing about this when he returned to San Francisco during the Haight-Ashbury phase. Gary wasn't the only one talking about "Back to the Land"; just then, but he was a strong voice for that generation and the lessons he got from Nanao were important. He's also introduced Allen Ginsberg to the commune there too, and Allen later helped found a community in New York state. So it's an interesting trans-Pacific connection that a Japanese proto-hippie deserves at least some mention in that whole late-Sixties cultural revolution. Nanao also knew the rad Tokyo poet Kazuko Shiraishi, who was born in Vancouver, so he was no stranger to the town when he arrived here first time. He's certainly also been a heroic figure for some folks in Vancouver's/B.C.'s Japanese-Canadian community. I remember Takeo Yamashiro, the shakuhachi player, and I seeing Nanao off at the train station on Main St. bound for Seattle. These guys were shouting Banzais! to each other like something out of an old novel."

In October of 2019, at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver jazz guitar great Henry Young, and singer Marlowe Ferris provide accompaniment as Trevor Carolan launched his newest poetry collection, Formless Circumstance: Poems from the Road and Home.


Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Making Waves: Reading BC and Pacific Northwest Literature


Road Trips: Journeys in the Unspoiled World (Mother Tongue 2020) $21.95 978-1-8969-4980-2

Formless Circumstance: Poems from the Road and Home (Ekstasis Edition 2019) $23.95 978-1-77171-330-6

New World Dharma: Interviews and Encounters with Buddhist Teachers, Writers and Leaders (SUNY State University of Albany Press 2016). $75 978-1-4384-5983-7

The Literary Storefront, The Glory Years, Vancouver's Literary Centre 1978-1984 (Mother Tongue 2015).

Along the Rim: Best of Pacific Rim Review of Books, Volume 2 (Ekstasis 2014) Anthology co-edited with Richard Olafson. $22.95 978-1-897430-66-8

Cascadia: The Life and Breath of the World (University of Hawaii Press 2013) $20 U.S. 978-0-8248-3936-9. Co-editor with Frank Stewart.

Making Waves: Reading B.C. and Pacific Northwest Literature, ed., (Anvil Press, 2010) 9781897535295 $20.00

Another Kind of Paradise: Short Stories from the New Asia-Pacific, ed., Cheng & Tsui, 2009. 978-0-887276-84-2 $19.95 U.S.

Against the Shore: The Best of the Pacific Rim Review of Books (Ekstasis, 2009), anthology co-edited with Richard Olafson. 978-1-897430-34-7 $22.95

The Pillow Book of Dr. Jazz: Travels Along Asia's Dharma Trail, Ekstasis, 2006

Down In The Valley: Contemporary Writing of B.C.'s Fraser Valley, ed., Ekstasis, 2004

Return To Stillness: Twenty Years With a Tai Chi Master, (non-fiction) Marlowe, NY: 2003

Celtic Highway: Poems & Texts, Ekstasis Press, 2002

Giving Up Poetry: With Allen Ginsberg At Hollyhock, (memoir) Banff Centre Press, 2001

The Supreme Way: Inner Teachings of the Southern Mountain Tao, (co-translation with
Du Liang), North Atlantic, Berkeley, l997

Big Whiskers Saves The Cove, Concorde, Vancouver, l995 (children's environmental mystery)

The Colours of Heaven: Short Stories From The Pacific Rim, ed., Vintage, New York,
1992. Foreign editions, '96 (anthology)

The Book of the Heart: Embracing the Tao (with Bella Chen) , Shambhala Pub; Boston,
1990; foreign language editions, 1994. Canadian ed., Heron Press, Vancouver, l988

Closing The Circle, Heron Press; Vancouver, 1985 (poetry)

[BCBW 2020] "Poetry" "Travel"


Road Trips. Journeys in the Unspoiled World. Trevor Carolan.

Mother Tongue Publishing.

reviewed by John Moore

Restrictions on international travel in response to the world health emergency spawned by the Covid-19 virus will probably give a kick up the best-seller ladder to travel writing as self-isolating readers settle into their favourite chairs to vicariously hit the road in the company of veteran ramblers.

Trevor Carolan's Road Trips: Journeys in the Unspoiled World, should top the stack of everyone's Quarantine Reading List. The two dozen chapters are mostly brief, elegant essays, almost haiku-like in their reduction to essentials, but fired with a serious jolt of 'the creature', as they call moonshine in Ireland.

The stories in Road Trips dispel conventions of time and space, ranging from San Francisco in the Sixties to the Catholic-Solidarity revolution in Poland, from Nepal to Madrid, from Laos to Paris.

The constant in all these stories is the timeless-centered lives of people, whether they are French artists or Irish farmers, who live beyond the frenetic glare of neon lights and digital monitors, preserving values and skills that might actually save the world if the shit really does hit the fan.

Quite simply, it is time to give Carolan his due.

If don’t know him; let me introduce you.

Trevor Carolan has been a road-runner since he was 17 in the mid-1960s. In those days he wangled an assignment from his hometown New Westminster Columbian newspaper to report on the mysterious ‘hippie’ movement in San Francisco. A fan of Beat Generation writers who emerged in the Fifties—Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlingetti, Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac—Carolan hitch-hiked a thousand miles to get his story. It was the first of many shoestring journeys in search of what would prove to be just one part of a much longer, very ancient, on-going story.

While other young scribblers for underground newspapers of the time were carving out new niches in the trade, such as ‘rock critic,’ Carolan cut his own trail, eventually becoming Canada’s pre-eminent ‘Buddhist journalist,’ freelancing articles on Buddhism, its influence on the Beats and their hipster descendants; and always traveling, looking for the story.

Along the Dharma Trail he met a lot of interesting people from the great circle of the Pacific Rim, which led to him to editing three ground-breaking anthologies that introduced contemporary writing from the Far East to readers of the North American Far West on the other side of the pool. All worthwhile are The Colors of Heaven: Short Stories from the Pacific Rim, (Vintage-Random House 1992), Another Kind of Paradise: Short Stories from the New Asia-Pacific, (Cheng & Tsui 2009), and The Lotus Singers: Stories from Contemporary South Asia (Cheng & Tsui, 2011).

The route of Carolan’s own writing was set by his first two books; Closing the Circle, a collection of poems published in 1985 by Heron Books, followed by The Book of the Heart: Embracing the Tao (with Bella Chen) (Heron, 1988), reissued by Shambala Publishing in 1990.

The freewheeling Celtic poet, descendant of famed itinerant Irish bard Turlough O' Carolan, as well as the philosopher-student of Buddhism, with its tradition of monkish mendicant road-work, are parallel rails on which the Carolan train rides—a milk-run that stops at every out of the way halt on the map and many that aren't.

I read his Return to Stillness: 20 Years with a Tai Chi Master (Marlowe & Co. 2003), while painting my house in bright sunshine and a spring wind. What could have been a drudging chore enlivened by sunburn and hypothermia was somehow transformed into a profound expression of the love I felt for my wife and children.

It took me awhile to figure out that the book I was reading during tea breaks had subtly rearranged my attitude. I often recall the Taoist saying I first encountered there: Tao resides in the hearth.

Carolan has a knack of sneaking up like the Ancient Mariner, telling a story out of the side of his mouth that changes your life, then vanishing in the crowd. His secret is that he never turns preachy but remains resolutely ecumenical, on the side of whatever works for the betterment of the world and the sense of community among its inhabitants.

He follows the ancient spiritual practice of 'deep journeying', dodging the trap of glitzy all-inclusive resorts, accepting discomfort, disease, bugs, officious commissars and cops with equal aplomb to seek out and befriend people wherever he goes.

[BCBW 2020]



Notable Literary homes & graves

Here is a list of authors to whom Trevor Carolan has paid tribute by visiting their graves or former residences, as 2020.

Warsaw,  Powazki Cemetery for the grave of Ryszard Kapuscinski, the unrivalled travel journalist whose work in Granta defined what Creative Nonfiction really is.

Hydra, Greece, way up the steps from the bay is the fabled island house where Leonard Cohen courted Marianne.

Lisbon, Belém’s Monasterio de Jeronimo is resting place of Portugal’s greatest poet, Luís de Camões, author of The Lusiads, and seadog Vasco de Gama who cracked the Arab monopoly on Asia’s spice trade with Europe, inspiring The Lusiads and kickstarting globalization.

London, John Keats’ House in Hampstead, just off the Heath where Antonioni’s Blow Up was filmed is a classic. Near Soho, stroll past P.B. Shelley’s residence at 15 Poland St.  Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived at #52 Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury; T.S. Eliot had his office here overlooking the same lovely square; and Charles Dickens lived on the square’s NE corner.  The Cheshire Cheese in Wine Office Court, Fleet St near St Paul’s Cathedral, where Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and chums caroused is still in business.

John Betjeman, the beloved poet laureate is buried at St. Enodoc’s Churchyard near Wadebridge, Cornwall.  In Yorkshire, The Bronte Sisters’ legend is kept alive in the family parsonage and Black Bull pub in the village of Haworth near Bradford.  Ted Hughes was raised around the corner from the still-operating clogmaker’s in little Mytholmroyd not far off, and his wife Sylvia Plath rests nearby in Heptonstall churchyard.  Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley St. in Stratford-on-Avon  is obligatory, and no U.K. literary pilgrimage is complete without seeing the rocking Cavern Club at 10 Mathew St. near Liverpool docks where John Lennon & Paul McCartney launched brilliant songwriting careers with The Beatles.

Ireland, Oscar Wilde was raised at #1 Merrion Square, downtown Dublin.  There’s a fabulous colour statue of him across the road in the park.  Graves of poets? –W.B. Yeats in Drumcliff churchyard at Sligo, Co Mayo; Seamus Heaney in Bellaghy Catholic churchyard, Co. Derry; and Patrick Kavanagh in the village of Eniskeen, Co Monaghan are Ireland’s three modern greats. Auden’s pal, poet Louis MacNiece is buried in Carrowdore churchyard on the way up to Belfast where a city plaque honours Van Morrison’s birthplace at 125 Hyndford St.  For deep journeying, the grave of Gaelic poet Máirtin Ó Direáin at Inishmore cemetery in the Aran Islands takes work some getting to, but is worth it.

Brussels – A great street marker at 1 Rue de Brasseurs, still an arty area, notes where Paul Verlaine shot fellow poet Artur Rimbaud in their sensational lovers’ bust-up, 1873.

Paris, a bonanza! Check the notorious (now boutique) Beat Hotel at 9 Git-le-Coeur, just off Rue St. André-des-Arts.  W.S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Edmonton’s Brion Gysin, and temporarily Jack Kerouac resided hereIn Montparnasse Cemetery, find the graves of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, also Charles Baudelaire. The little Square Charles Péguy honours the poet directly below the elevated Promenade Plantée section of Avenue Daumesnils—a hidden treasure. Pere Lachaise Cemetery is a magnet for literary graving:  Epstein’s memorial for Oscar Wilde; Balzac’s and singer/lyricist Jim Morrison’s graves are permanently visited; Gertrude Stein made it here; Edith Piaf rests near Modigliani.  The Left Bank’s Le Select, Les Deux Magots and La Coupole bistros still flourish where Sartre, de Beauvoir, Hemingway, Morley Callahan, and occasionally Henry Miller got existential.

Collioure, in this tiny southern French cemetery, grave of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, murdered by WW II fascists.  Across the border in Port Bou, Spain is the wrenching memorial for Jewish art critic Walter Benjamin, forced to take his life steps ahead of the Gestapo in 1940.

Villefranche-sur-Mer, on the Riviera, a favourite haunt of novelist David Watmough. The park above the harbour is site of his naughtiest gay seduction scene in “Villefranche.”

Marrakesh,  Peter Mayne, English author of the superb A Year in Marrakesh wrote daily at the Café de France on Djemma el Fna down from Katoubia Mosque and lived nearby.

New Delhi, Social justice novelist Mulk Raj Anand lived in his unusual spherical house that’s now a museum in funky Haus Khas district.

New York, The Chelsea Hotel, 222 W. 23rd has sheltered a legion of literary immortals: Mr L. Cohen wooed Janis Joplin here, and Dylan Thomas walked out of here to die. 15 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village was home to singer/writer Dave Van Ronk; his young sidekick, Bob Dylan also crashed and worked on being famous here.

San Francisco, North Beach is a mecca for literary hounds. Centenarian Lawrence Ferlinghetti still keeps an office at City Lights Books on Columbus Ave. Caffe Trieste over the road is where he and all the Beat gang drank their coffee (you’ll see Jack Hirschman here).  Jack Kerouac lit candles for his mum across the lane at St. Francis Church. Allen Ginsberg lived at 1010 Montgomery St. around the corner while writing Howl.

Toronto, The Waverley Hotel, 484 Spadina Ave. was home to nationalist poet Milton Acorn. The El Mocambo club where The Rolling Stones often opened N. American tours is at #464.

A few favourites: terrace of the Hotel Continental, Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, and terrace of the Hotel Casa Grande, Santiago, Cuba where Graham Greene wrote notes for The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana respectively.  The Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore: Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and Paul Theroux all propped up the bar at this home of the Sling.


Dollarton, North Vancouver, the Tsleil-Waututh Reserve was lifelong home to orator/writer Chief Dan George. His son Chief Leonard also wrote, and poet Lee Maracle and eco-hero poet Will George hail from this same small powerground place. Drive slowly in admiration.