Tom Wayman was born in 1945 in Hawkesbury, Ontario, half way between Montreal and Ottawa in the Ottawa River valley. Wayman’s father was a pulp mill chemist who worked in the Hawkesbury mill. Also employed in the mill lab were Pat Partridge and Howard Rapson, and the families of the three young men formed a sort of extended family that endures to this day. In 1952, Wayman’s father took a job in the pulp mill at Port Edward, B.C., on the outskirts of the fishing port and deep sea harbour Prince Rupert, just south of the Alaska panhandle. In 1959, the family moved to Vancouver, B.C., where Wayman’s father worked as a pulp mill design engineer, and Wayman’s mother took an advanced degree in her occupation, social work. Wayman finished high school, and attended the University of B.C., graduating in 1966 with a B.A. in Honors English. During his undergraduate years Wayman worked as a general assignment and features reporter on the Vancouver Sun daily newspaper, and on the UBC student newspaper The Ubyssey (of which he was editor-in-chief in 1965-66).
In 1966, Wayman won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and used it to attend the University of California at Irvine, south of Los Angeles, to do graduate work toward a M.F.A. in English and writing, which he received in 1968. He subsequently worked at a range of manual and academic jobs in Colorado, Ontario, Michigan, and Alberta, as well as British Columbia. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of Windsor, University of Alberta, Simon Fraser University, University of Winnipeg and University of Toronto. Much of his teaching career was spent in the B.C. community college system. He is also a co-founder of two alternative post-secondary creative writing schools, the Vancouver Centre of the Kootenay School of Writing (1984-87) and the writing department of Nelson, B.C.’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.
Wayman has published more than 20 collections of his poems, including My Father’s Cup (2002; shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award), Dirty Snow (2012; winner of the Acorn-Plantos Award) and Winter’s Skin (2013; shortlisted for the Canadian Authors Association Award). His most recent book of poems is Watching a Man Break a Dog’s Back: Poems for a Dark Time (2020). Three collections of his critical and cultural essays have been published, most recently If You’re Not Free At Work, Where Are You Free?: Literature and Social Change (2018). A monograph, Songs Without Price: The Music of Poetry in a Discordant World, was published in 2008 based on a lecture he gave as the 2007 Ralph Gustafson Chair of Poetry at Malaspina College, Nanaimo, B.C. A play of his, “The Parts Yard,” was produced in the 1984 DuMaurier Festival of Plays in Vancouver.
Three books of Wayman’s short fiction have been published: a collection of short stories, Boundary Country (2007); a collection of novellas, A Vain Thing (2007); and a second collection of short stories, The Shadows We Mistake For Love (2015). A novel, Woodstock Rising, was published in 2009.
Wayman has also edited a number of poetry anthologies, including East of Main: An Anthology of Poems From East Vancouver (with Calvin Wharton; 1989), The Dominion of Love (Canadian love poems, 2001), and Paperwork , an anthology of contemporary U.S. and Canadian poems about daily employment (1991). For decades, Wayman has had a particular interest in people writing about their own workplace experiences, including about how their jobs affect their lives after work. He was a co-founder of the Vancouver Industrial Writers’ Union (1979-1993), a work-writing circle, and has participated in a number of labor arts ventures. He has been a member of several mainstream unions, as well as holding for a time a card in the Industrial Workers of the World. He was the founding president of the Kootenay School of the Arts Faculty and Staff Association bargaining unit.
In 2015, Wayman was named by the Vancouver Public Library a Vancouver Literary Landmark with a plaque on the city’s Commercial Drive commemorating Wayman’s contribution to Vancouver’s literary heritage based on his championing of work writing in the 1970s and 1980s. He is a director of the Calgary Spoken Word Festival Society (board president 2003-2012). He co-founded Nelson BC’s Kootenay Literary Society and its main project, the annual Elephant Literary Mountain Festival, and was a KLS director and member of the EMLF organizing committee (2012-2021). He also served on the organizing committee for the New Denver BC annual Convergence Writers’ Weekend (2012-2019), and has helped organize literary programming and readings over the years for Nelson’s artist-run Oxygen Art Centre. In 2022, he was given BC’s George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, which honours an outstanding literary career in the province.
Since 1989, Wayman has been the Squire of “Appledore”, his estate in the Selkirk Mountains of southeastern B.C. He raises flowers and vegetables, employing various strategies to keep the deer from eating them. He likes to bike and cross-country ski on the Slocan Valley Rail Trail, and is fond of hiking area trails and paddling slowly up Slocan Lake or the Slocan River in his Old Town Discovery 16 canoe.
“Appledore” is a 9-acre parcel in Appledale, a suburb of Winlaw, an unincorporated area straddling both sides of the Slocan River along southeastern B.C.’s Highway 6 about 50 km. west of Nelson, B.C. in the Selkirk Mountains. In 1989, when Wayman took possession, the estate was named by his then-partner who drew his attention to A.A. Milne’s poem, “The Knight Whose Armour Didn’t Squeak.” The poem observes that “of all the Knights in Appledore / The wisest was Sir Thomas Tom.” Furthermore, the knight’s castle, “Castle Tom,” is described as being “set / Conveniently on a hill,” just as the manor house at Wayman’s Appledore estate is sited above the road (Perry’s Back Road) that winds along the base of the ridge that at this point forms the Slocan Valley’s west wall (Perry Ridge).