LITERARY LOCATION: 1111 Commercial Drive, Vancouver

The Vancouver Industrial Writers' Union (1979-1993) staged many readings throughout the 1980s at La Quena Coffee House at this address. After Tom Wayman had emerged with his poetry collections Waiting for Wayman (1973), For and Against the Moon (1974), and Money and Rain (1975), plus the work poems anthologies A Government Job at Last (1976) and Going for Coffee (1981), as well as Inside Job: Essays on the New Work Writing (1983), he became the most widely known exponent of literature about daily work: blue- and white-collar, paid and unpaid. In Vancouver he was variously employed at journalism, construction and demolition, high school marker, factory assemblyman and college teacher. Other members of VIWU included Kate Braid, David Conn, Glen Downie, Kirsten Emmott, Al Grierson, Phil Hall, Zoe Landale, Erin Moure, Sandy Shreve, Pam Tranfield, M.C. Warrior, and Calvin Wharton. VIWU produced the anthologies, Shop Talk and More Than Our Jobs, as well as a cassette recorded with the Vancouver folk song group Fraser Union, Split Shift. Wharton and Wayman edited the first anthology of poems from East Vancouver, East of Main (1989). Wayman's poem "The Face of Jack Munro," about the sellout of the 1983 B.C. public sector general strike, captures the turmoil of the B.C. labour movement's defining event of the 1980s.


"Only Philip Levine, and he not so consistently, writes as well as Wayman about work, particularly the rhythms and trials and miracles of the work-place." -- Gary Geddes

Tom Wayman was born in Hawkesbury, Ontario in 1945, but after 1952 grew up in Prince Rupert and Vancouver and has spent most of his life in British Columbia. He studied at UBC and the University of California at Irvine, where he received an MFA in creative writing. Subsequently, he worked at a number of jobs, both blue- and white-collar, across Canada and the U.S., and helped bring into being a new movement of "work poetry" in these countries--the deliberate incorporation of the conditions and effects of daily employment into literary writing. His critical essays, collected in such volumes as A Country Not Considered: Canada, Culture, Work (Anansi, 1993), consider the social, political and artistic implications of work-based literature. Wayman co-founded the Vancouver Industrial Writers' Union (1979-1993), a work-writing circle. He has been awarded the Canadian Authors Association medal for poetry, the A.J.M. Smith Prize for distinguished achievement in Canadian poetry and first prize in the USA Bicentennial Poetry Awards competition. In 2022, Wayman received the George Woodcock Award for outstanding literary career in British Columbia. He taught for many years in the B.C. community college system, and was co-founder of two alternative B.C. post-secondary creative writing schools: the Vancouver Centre of the Kootenay School of Writing (1984-87) and the writing department of Nelson's Kootenay School of the Arts (1991-2002). He holds Associate Professor Emeritus of English status from the University of Calgary, where he taught 2002-2010. In 2007 he was the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Creative Writing at Arizona State University, and the same year served as the Ralph Gustafson Chair of Poetry at Malaspina University-College. Wayman's 2002 poetry collection, My Father's Cup (Harbour), was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry. His eighteenth collection of poems, Dirty Snow (Harbour, 2012), which unflinchingly considers the impact of the Afghan War--its absence and presence in Canadians' everyday lives as citizens of a nation at war--won the 2013 Acorn-Plantos Award for People's Poetry. See press release below. In 2014 two selected poems of Wayman's appeared: The Order in Which We Do Things: The Poetry of Tom Wayman (Wilfrid Laurier University Press), selected and with an introduction by Owen Percy, and Built to Take It: Selected Poems 1996-2013 (Spokane, WA: Lynx House Press, 2014). In 2007, a collection of Wayman's short fiction, Boundary Country (Thistledown, and Eastern Washington University Press), and a collection of four novellas, A Vain Thing (Turnstone), appeared. Boundary Country was shortlisted for the Writers' Union of Canada Danuta Gleed Literary Award. Helpless Angels: A Book of Music (Thistledown, 2017) was shortlisted for the Lohn Foundation Prize for Poetry (Western Canada Jewish Book Awards).

Half the stories in Boundary Country are set in the B.C. southern Interior, and in 2015 Wayman published a second collection of short fiction entirely set in the Slocan Valley of southeastern B.C., The Shadows We Mistake For Love (Douglas & McIntyre). See starred Quill and Quire review below. Tom Wayman observes and celebrates how music is integral to modern lives with Helpless Angels: A Book of Music (Thistledown, 2017). In particular he examines how "the ubiquitousness of widespread personal access to music performed by others that began in the 1950s" has continued to expand.

Wayman's first novel Woodstock Rising (Dundurn, 2009) chronicles the apogee and collapse of the radical student movement in 1969-70 against a sub-plot in which some members of the counter-culture in Laguna Beach, California--including a Canadian graduate student--break into a mothballed missile silo to commandeer a rocket with which to launch a satellite in honor of the recent Woodstock music festival.

Tom Wayman chiefly resides at "Appledore," his property at Winlaw in the Selkirk Mountains of B.C.'s West Kootenay district, from where he has served as a director for the Calgary Spoken Word Festival, Nelson's Kootenay Literary Society and the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

For more information:

The Road to Appledore: Or How I Went Back to the Land Without Ever Having Lived There in the First Place by Tom Wayman
(Harbour $26.95)

Review by Sonja Pinto (BCBW 2024)

Describing an almost giddy joy that comes with rural living, Tom Wayman writes, “I was suffused with the happiness I had known as a child now and then: pure enjoyment just of being alive.” Wayman, a poet and sometime college instructor, recounts several decades of his life in interior BC as well as the practical challenges that come with the transition from city to country living in The Road to Appledore.

In 1989, Wayman moves to Winlaw, an area just northwest of Nelson, in search of a Henry David Thoreau-like escape into nature writing (Walden; or, Life in the Woods, 1854) and to take space from an unsatisfactory partnership. He purchases a modest cabin on a plot just under nine acres. His property, which he affectionately terms “Appledore,” is named after a line from an A.A. Milne poem combined with the name of a road adjacent to his home called “Appledale.”

The Road to Appledore spans decades of Wayman’s time at Appledore, from the late 80s to the present and documents changes that come to the surrounding area such as new developments and franchises. With wit and humour, Wayman describes the metamorphosis of even regular coffee shops to “an espresso tsunami” as “a consequence of the Starbucks earthquake,” rendering the old style of coffee bars obsolete.

His memoir at times reads something like a beginner’s instruction manual for transitioning from urban to rural living. Establishing and maintaining the Appledore property is no piece of cake: appliances and amenities regularly break down and must be fixed, from washers to wells. Wayman recounts an expedition to fix a leaky water distribution box, the tribulations of party-line phones and the worries of fire season smoke, to name but a few examples.

Wayman’s approach is pragmatic and practical, reflecting his systematic attention to detail with the repairs and maintenance of his home. This meticulousness, too, is a lesson imparted by Appledore. At times, Wayman imagines the place speaking to him: “‘I keep telling you: pay attention to what you’re doing,’ the cabin would chuckle … ‘Apply this maxim to every facet of your life, and you will be rewarded. Fail to do so, and, more than metaphorically, you’ll find yourself in the dark, hungry and cold.’”

But this insight hardly masks the difficulty of repetitive tasks necessary to rural living: “snow-clearing becomes less appealing when the white stuff descends day after day. By the third or fourth snowy day in a row, I feel a kinship with Sisyphus.” Yet, Wayman still gleans wisdom from the work, he writes, when “issues do arise, I remind myself that there are no paradises without snakes.” Indeed, Wayman recounts many such “snakes,” from seeing literal garden snakes to surviving a face-to-face encounter with a bear cub in his kitchen.

Interspersed throughout the book are snippets of poems and prose from writers both well-known and local, demonstrating the rich and interconnected literary scene of which Wayman is part. He also excerpts his own writing from previous collections and reviews his early literary career, a time when “poems were deemed vital cultural artifacts.” Lamenting that poetry has become less culturally significant, he cheekily names his flower bed the “Grave of Literary Ambition,” complete with a plaque that reads “R.I.P. Literary Ambition 1966-89,” the dates representing the start of his creative writing in graduate school to his move to Appledore.

Struggling to reconcile the end of a long-term partnership, Wayman describes how living at Appledore impacts his perception of past relationships. He devours one self-help book after another before meeting a therapist who leads him to a breakthrough. “I was stuffing away my emotional responses to people and events in my life,” he learns. He attributes this revelation partly to his lifestyle change, musing: “would I ever have gathered this practical, angst-reducing knowledge if I hadn’t moved to the country?”

These insights on interpersonal relationships accompany new knowledge about how to sustain himself on the land. Wayman nurtures a plethora of perennials, fruit trees and edible plants on his property and finds himself “savouring the sharp tang of one of my own radishes on my tongue,” an experience that is “entirely different from sampling the generic vegetative blandness of a purchased radish, even one marketed as organic.”

Wayman develops an appreciation for simple things that city folk often take for granted: “as with water from my well, I’m grateful each time I hoist a glass of gravity-fed water. I’m certainly aware this water hasn’t appeared by magic. Yet given all I know about how much can go wrong between the creek and Appledore, when such water splashes out of a faucet, I can’t help but feel some magic is involved.”

It is this sense of magic that drives Wayman’s narrative. The Road to Appledore is a contemplation of Wayman’s relationship to home, and the humility, reverence and care needed to find that true sense of belonging. 9781990776632

Sonja Pinto is a writer, photographer, printmaker and book reviewer. They reside on the unceded territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples (Victoria, BC).




Waiting For Wayman (1973)
For And Against The Moon (1974)
Money And Rain (1975)
Free Time (1977)
A Planet Mostly Sea (1979)
Living On The Ground (1980)
Introducing Tom Wayman: Selected Poems 1973-80 (1980)
The Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (1981)
Counting The Hours (1983)
The Face of Jack Munro (1986)
In a Small House on the Outskirts of Heaven (1989)
Did I Miss Anything? Selected Poems 1973-1993 (1993)
The Astonishing Weight of the Dead (1994)
I'll Be Right Back: New & Selected Poems 1980-1996 (1997)
The Colours of the Forest (1999)
My Father's Cup (2002)
High Speed Through Shoaling Water (2007)
Dirty Snow (2012)
Winter's Skin (2013)
The Order in Which We Do Things: The Poetry of Tom Wayman (ed. Percy Owen; 2014)
Built To Take It: Selected Poems 1996-2013 (2014)
Helpless Angels: A Book of Music (Thistledown, 2017) 978-1-77187-131-0
Watching a Man Break a Dog's Back (Harbour, 2020) $18.95 978-1-55017-912-5


Boundary Country (2007)
A Vain Thing (2007)
Woodstock Rising (2009)
The Shadows We Mistake For Love (2015)


Inside Job: Essays on the New Work Writing (1983)
A Country Not Considered: Canada, Culture, Work (1993)
Songs Without Price: The Music of Poetry in a Discordant World (2008)
The Road to Appledore: Or How I Went Back to the Land Without Ever Having Lived There in the First Place (Harbour, 2024) $26.95 9781990776632


Beaton Abbot's Got The Contract (1974)
A Government Job At Last (1976)
Going For Coffee (1981; 1987)
East of Main (co-edited with Calvin Wharton; 1989)
Paperwork (1991)
The Dominion of Love (2001)

[BCBW 2024]