Since her untimely death in 1975, the life and work of the Vancouver poet Pat Lowther have often been referred to as 'the Lowther legacy.' In The Half-Lives of Pat Lowther, Christine Wiesenthal seeks to convey what that legacy actually entails.
Combining biography with an analysis of literary and cultural history, Wiesenthal examines the critical legacy of a writer whose remarkable life and poetry have remained overshadowed by her notorious death. Working within a new form of biography, which employs multiple narrative arcs - or 'half-lives' - that interpret Lowther's life and poetry within and across several interpretive frameworks, Wiesenthal retraces the influences on the public memory of the poet. She charts Lowther's complex creative evolution: from her modest beginnings as a high-school drop out and single mother, to her emergence as one of the most distinctive poetic voices of the seventies.
A wealth of previously uncollected and unpublished letters, notebook entries, court documents, interviews, and archival materials illuminate Pat Lowther's manifold achievements in her domestic, political, and intellectual lives. The Half-Lives of Pat Lowther is the premier work on this remarkable figure.
Christine Wiesenthal is a Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta.
Introduction: Toward a Half-Life of Pat Lowther I The Craft of Memory 1 Three September Twenty-Threes 2 Not about Poetry 3 Canonicity and the 'Cult of the Victim' II Complicated Airflows in the House 4 'At, Rat, Cat, Sat, Pat' 5 5823 St George Street 6 A Difficult Flowering 7 That 'Spinning Female Thing' 8 It Happens Every Day III Ready to Learn Politics 9 The First 'Red Flag' 10 The Local Left 11 The Age of the Bird 12 Longitudes, North 13 Longitudes, South 14 Welcome to the League IV Philosophy's First Molecule 15 Infinite Mirror Trips 16 The Land Is What's Left 17 'History, and Context, and Continuity'
'Deftly analyzing both the canonization and desecration strategies that have shaped the Lowther legacies, Wiesenthal wisely moves beyond the victimization myth and characterizations of the poet as a "prescient Cassandra".…Few poets would be fortunate to have so intelligent and painstaking an advocate. Wiesenthal has not only rescued many precious and vanishing fragments of the life story, but also brought into focus the very complex mythological and scientificmaterial Lowther was consuming like a blast furnance and trying to incorporate into her work.'