Peter Culley died of a heart attack at his home in South Wellington on April 10.

Peter Culley died of a heart attack at his home in South Wellington on April 10.

Respected poet remembered

Peter Culley died at the age of 57 on April 10.

Warm, generous, kind and intelligent  are just some of the words that describe longtime Nanaimo resident and artist Peter Culley.

“He was very funny,” said his wife of more than 20 years, Daphne Culley. “He was a gentle guy.”

Earlier this month, Peter Culley, 57, died from a heart attack at his home in South Wellington.

“I was amazed the day after he died, when people on Facebook started putting  up tributes,” Daphne Culley said.

On Friday (May 1) the Cascadia Poetry Festival will pay tribute to Culley, who was scheduled to speak at the event, with a short ceremony at 7:30 p.m.

“So many people at the festival were close to Peter,” longtime friend, poet and festival organizer, Kim Goldberg said.

Culley was born in Sudbury, Ont., in 1953 and moved to Nanaimo in early 1970s.

He became known for his Hammertown book series as well as his photography.

Culley met his wife Daphne more than 30 years ago a book store in Nanaimo.

“As I recall I invited him over for dinner and he never left,” she said. “We were together from that time.”

In his earlier years, Peter Culley heavily involved with the Kootenay School of Writing in Vancouver.

Goldberg, who met Culley when he was a young adult in the late 1970s, says he was a great guy.

“He was very funny and very smart,” she recalled. “We would get into these intense intellectual debates about Latin American authors and surrealism and post-modernism.”

While Culley was connected with the Nanaimo poetry scene, he was also involved in poetry circles throughout North America, often travelling to the United States for readings.

“At a larger level Peter was very connected to, involved in and important to the literary scene,” Goldberg said.

Shortly after his death, Adrian Dix, MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, paid tribute to Culley in a speach  to the provincial legislature.

“Culley’s work evoked the lives of working people and communities, both full of heart and social and political context,” Dix said in a statement. “He was an innovator in form and unafraid to challenge conventional norms.”

Most of Culley’s photography, which was exhibited at the Nanaimo Art Gallery last year, was taken on his walks through South Wellington and Nanaimo. His photos would often include the family dog, Shasta.

“He would often just set up the camera and wait for her [Shasta] to walk into the frame,” Daphne Culley said.

At home, Peter Culley was a funny guy, who loved to read books, including the dictionary, watch movies and cook.

“He was such a good cook,” Daphne Culley said. “I think I miss that more than anything. That was my favourite time of day.”

Culley is survived is survived by his wife, step-son, step-sister, mother, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

For more information on the ceremony, please visit

arts@nanaimobulletin.comFollow @npescod on Twitter


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