Peter Quartermain's Page

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Peter Quartermain's long awaited memoir, Growing Dumb: An Autobiography of an English Education, is now in print from Erín Moure’s Zat-So Productions. You can order it at Here’s the back cover:

Growing Dumb is a spirited and gentle investigation of bafflement and perplexity in a boys’ world. It plunges us into England in World War II – where a child is uprooted from conventional life in a Birmingham suburb and stuck in a series of isolated country villages. The boy, Peter Quartermain, witnesses the Blitz in Birmingham, and navigates a world of rationing and hunger, shortage and inhibition, accents and class mannerisms. He and his brother both end up at Brewood Grammar School, which like many of its kind was loosely modelled on the quintessential English Public School in Tom Brown’s School Days. Education at Brewood is conferred by a rather eccentric crew of teachers who operate as though the Empire were still in its heyday. Quasi-military chains of command and intense competition are the order of the day. What is learned and what is unlearned on such a journey? How is speech itself at stake?

Beautifully written and consistently interesting and fascinating.” Marjorie Perloff


“The depiction of stuff (corporal punishment, loneliness, fear and its repression) in the child's point of view is uncanny. So you get this individual tiny beam of light at the same time that whole bunches of people seem to be present/presented in the sentences. It is a remarkable effect and it floods into and from the past like waves, so that there is a tidal suck back, and then one of these sentences comes forth and emerges with a whole bunch of sea wrack, shells and old plastic on our shore. It is really a remarkable prose rhythm.” Rachel Blau DuPlessis  




Peter Quartermain is the author of Stubborn Poetries: Poetic Facticity and the Avant-Garde (U of Alabama P, 2013), which consists of essays on Eliot and Williams; Bunting and Zukofsky; Niedecker; Blaser; Richard Caddel; Mina Loy; Oppen; Creeley; Hejinian; McCaffery; and Bruce Andrews, as well as four essays on more general topics.  The introduction to Stubborn Poetries was reprinted in Poetry 203.1 (October 2013), and responses to his work by Marjorie Perloff, Michael Davidson, Miriam Nichols, Fred Wah, Mark Scroggins, Daphne Marlatt, Charles Bernstein, and Aaron Peck were published in Golden Handcuffs Review 1.17 (Fall-Winter 2013-14).


His edition of The Collected Early Poems and Plays of Robert Duncan appeared in 2012, and the Collected Later Poems and Plays of Robert Duncan appeared in 2013, both from the University of California Press. These books (with James Maynard's edition of Duncan's Collected Essays) won the Pegasus Award for Criticism and a Northern California Booksellers Special Mention for 2013. The introduction to the first volume appeared in The Capilano Review 3.9 (Fall 2009): 63-77, and the introduction to volume two appeared  in Golden Handcuffs Review, Spring 2013. In 2012-2013, he also edited Lorne Dufour's book of poems, The Silence of Horses for Caitlin Press (Halfmoon Bay, BC, 2013), and Geoffrey Smedley, Dissections, a substantial book published to accompany Smedley's sculpture, Descartes' Clown, exhibited at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal.


At the University of British Columbia, he taught contemporary poetry and poetics for over thirty years, retiring in 1999. He was the first Mountjoy Fellow at the University of Durham, UK, in 1990, was a Resident Fellow at the Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio Study and Conference Centre, Bellagio, Como, Italy in 1997, and was awarded a Killam Research Prize at the University of British Columbia in 1997. He has written or edited numerous articles and books, including Basil Bunting: Poet of the North (1990) and Disjunctive Poetics (1992); with the English poet Richard Caddel he edited Other: British and Irish Poetry Since 1970 (1999), and, with Rachel Blau DuPlessis, The Objectivist Nexus: Essays in Cultural Poetics (1999).


From the late seventies until the late nineties he and his wife Meredith ran Slug Press, producing hand-set letter-press poetry broadsides by such writers as Helen Adam, Charles Bernstein, Robin Blaser, George Bowering, Richard Caddel, Robert Creeley, James Laughlin, Daphne Marlatt, Michael McClure, bpNichol, Sharon Thesen, Fred Wah, Phyllis Webb, Jonathan Williams, Louis Zukofsky and others. They closed Slug Press in 1997 and disbanded its equipment, and then operated Keefer Street Press, for limited-edition letter-press work, as well as Nomados Literary Publishers.


In the late 1980s he exhibited a number of collage/mixed media mail-art pieces to shows in England, France, and Germany curated by the English painter John Furnival, and has since his retirement in 1999 been painting in watercolour. In between spasms of book- and manuscript-reviewing, he has taught in the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University.

Peter Quartermain was Writer in Residence at Capilano College in 2003, and during his residency gave the Koerner Lecture on life-writing.  A song entitled "Coeurs d'Amitié" was set to music by Doug Smith and performed at The Song Room in Vancouver, February 18, 2006. In 2008, he received an SSHRC standard research grant for the years 2008-2010 to complete the two-volume edition of Robert Duncan's poems, plays and non-critical prose.


Marjorie Perloff on Stubborn Poetries

This is an outstanding collection of essays on some of the key poets of our time. Quartermain is a superb critic/scholar of a kind very rare these days: he reads, not only closely, but with X-ray attention, sensitive to every nuance and irony in the material under scrutiny. Stubborn Poetries is a genuine pleasure to read as well as a true learning experience.

Bob Perelman on Stubborn Poetries

Peter Quartermain's new collection displays a profound depth of scholarship while always staying engaging, due to the fundamental fact that he is immensely interested in what he's writing about. His attentiveness and excitement communicate themselves to readers.


Praise from readers of the Duncan Collected Volume 1

e-mail, Marjorie Perloff, 24 November 2012

Well, your book arrived the day before Thanksgiving and even though I have been busy cooking, cleaning up, whole family here, I snatched moments to start reading this great work!  I am simply OVERWHELMED by what you have done.  Not only is this one of the finest editions I’ve ever seen but it does change one’s whole sense of Duncan.  True, as you say, I have not been an admirer but I think I will now become one.  The Introduction is so moving and beautiful and then I have found so many poems I didn’t know before that are fascinating.  I’ll elaborate at later time.  But all in all, to come to Duncan afresh in this edition is to come somehow to a new poet and to realize that, with all his faults, he’s better than most current poets put together.  He’s really A POET—and that shows everywhere and it’s so interesting.

And you have done an amazing job: I don’t know how you did it but this should win you all kinds of recognition.  


e-mail on Facebook, Norman Finkelstein, 13 December 2012

Reading Peter Quartermain's introduction to the Collected Duncan, I relish his  remarks about the legendary Medieval Scenes--and once again thank my dear  Alice Finkelstein, who found a copy of the original for my birthday earlier  this year.                                                                                            

e-mail on Facebook, Robert Adamson, 6 January, 2013

That's wonder-full Peter ! Just a while back when this seemed a wondrous but fleeting dream; you have done a brilliant job toward bringing these two volumes into print. Thank you so much and I know many others who would pass on their gratitude. Now we have an answer to Duncan's question 'What does the Worm work in its cocoon?


e-mail, Norman Finkelstein, 6 January 2013

Mazel tov, Peter! It's magnificent.


e-mail, Alan Golding, 7 January 2013

It's a spectacular edition, Peter--I'm utterly delighted to have it.


e-mail, Susan Howe, 7 January 2013

Peter, I have no email for you to say how much I love the book! Wonderful work and wonderful editing and intro.


e-mail, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, 7 January 2013

Yes, a tremendous result for a tremendous amount of work--all praise to Meredith, too


e-mail on Facebook, Robert Adamson, 9 January, 2013


NEWS FLASH: We are astounded, Duncan's Collected arrived this morning, as soon as Percy and I unwrapped the book, Emily [one of two cats] claimed it! She loves Robert Duncan's poetry. She is transfixed, Emily, who has never really been a reader, let alone a great scholar, is guarding the book. We can't get it off her! Percy wants me to order another copy. This is a total outrage.


and then, later:

Peter it's such a beautiful book, the cream and red cover, the image of the young Robert , the Bembo font (that suits the poetry so well. (as used by Olson while he lived) , the binding, the hand drawn Blake influenced initial on the hard cover, the Jess oval with all Duncan's company of masters, the grand collage. the cream paper, the running italic titles along the bottom pages, the artwork from Caesar's Gate. All the rare poems, the unseen and uncollected, the abandoned called back into play. The red trim along the top and bottom of the bindings, blue-grey endpapers, the handcrafted blurbs, Rachel's perfect 'This is a grand work of self-fashioning and poetic urgency.' Her tribute to your 'magisterial job of editing' and 'major contribution to scholarship' framing the poetry of our time.' So clear and true. Stephen Fredman's 'It is a stellar achievement' is right and that word belongs to Duncan's  particular world. I am just looking at surfaces use and as soon as Emily goes to sleep I will pounce on the Preface and introductions and all the notes.


and then:

There's a whole world here that poetry lovers can embrace and love. I have only had it in my hands for less than an hour and know you have contributed a grand effort and a work of love. And I think the acknowledgement to Bertholf is most gracious and deserved. I remember him at Kent State working on Credences to get Duncan's name and work around the world. Those issues were devoured in Australia in the early Seventies. I will write a review and include this book in my next Lecture at UTS. I can't thank you enough but this might embarrass you if it continues. Thanks for this gift of a book. And what a wonderful price. Yes, I have ordered two more. Onward. Bob


 Selected Publications


“Robin and Jim” Golden Handcuffs Review 2.30 (2021)

“Queuing for Food” Sustenance Ed. Rachel Rose (2017)

“Teachers and Pupils” Golden Handcuffs Review 1.24 (2017)

“Boarding School” Golden Handcuffs Review 1.22 (2016)

“The Village” Golden Handcuffs Review 1.20 (2015)

“The Farm” Golden Handcuffs Review 1.17 (2013-4)

"Fun and Games" [from Growing Dumb] Golden Handcuffs Review 1.13 (Summer-Fall 2010): 107-120.

"Momently: the Politics of the Poem." Form, Power and Person in Robert Creeley's Life and Work.  Stephen Fredman and Steve McCaffery, Eds. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2010. 118-139.

"Dreams and Prognostications" [review of Avia by Nathanial Tarn] Golden Handcuffs Review 1.11 (Spring-Summer 2009): 190-194

Two Poems, West Coast Line 57 (42.1) (Spring-Summer 2008): 135-6

"Growing Dumb. Chapter One" Golden Handcuffs Review 1.10 (Summer-Fall 2008): 34-52

Three Poems. Origin (6th ser.) 3 (Spring 2007): 323-325

Four Poems, Capilano Review 3.1&2 (Winter-Spring 2007): 176-180

"Good Morning Sir" [from Growing Dumb], Guilty as Charged: 32nd Summer Writing Program Magazine [Naropa University] (Summer 2006): 225

Four Poems, Golden Handcuffs Review 1:7 (Summer, Fall 2006)   Read a poem

"Sentence Bit" [from Growing Dumb] New Yipes Reader No. 5 (January 2006): 41

1976: What I Did for Christmas (2005), designed, hand set and printed on letter press by Peter Quartermain.

Getting Here [thirteen poems], Backwoods Broadsides 95 (Ellsworth, Maine, 2005)  Read a poem

"Rounders," 71(+) for GB: an Anthology for George Bowering (2005)

"Blitz. 1942." Terminal City (9 Dec 2004): 12

"Nickname." Terminal City (2 Dec 2004): 16

"Getting the Milk." Terminal City (25 Nov 2004): 14

"Marbles." Terminal City (18 Nov 2004): 15

"When It Snowed" Kiosk (spring 2004)

[as Harriet Moorcock] "Fruit Teas" Windsor Review 37.1 (spring 2004): 1-5

edited "In Memoriam: Richard Caddel (1949-2003)" Jacket 22 (2003)

"Delivering the Bread: from Where I Lived and What I Learned There: Part I: Growing Dumb" Capilano Review 2.38 (fall 2002): 5-10

about peter quartermain:

Andrew Klobucar, "Slow Learner: An Interview with Peter Quartermain,"  Capilano Review 2.44 (Fall 2004): 5-24


Stubborn Poetries: Poetic Facticity and the Avant-Garde. U of Alabama P, 2013.

Editor. The Collected Early Poems and Plays of Robert Duncan. U of California P, 2012.

Editor. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volumes 45, 48 and 54: American Poets 1880-1945. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986.

Basil Bunting: Poet of the North. Durham: Basil Bunting Poetry Archive, 1990.

Disjunctive Poetics: from Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe. New York: Cambridge UP, 1992.

Editor, with Richard Caddel. Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970. Hanover, NH and London: UP of New England for Wesleyan UP, 1999.

Editor, with Rachel Blau DuPlessis. The Objectivist Nexus: Essays in Cultural Poetics. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1999.

Editor. Geoffrey Smedley: Memory, Measure, Time, and Numbers. A Sculptural Meditation on a Drawing by Piero della Francesca. Farnham: Surrey Institute of Art and Design; Wakefield: Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2000. [Exhibition catalogue]

1976: What I Did for Christmas . Vancouver: Keefer Street, 2005.


"Disturbing Poetry: Robert Duncan's Early Poems" The Capilano Review 3.9 (Fall 2009): 63-77

"Take Oil / and Hum: Niedecker /Bunting." Radical Vernacular: Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of Place. Elizabeth Willis, ed. Iowa City: U of Iowa Press, 2008. 271-283 [forthcoming]

"Thinking with the Poem," Golden Handcuffs Review 1.5 (Summer-Fall 2005): 169-181

"Writing on Air for Dear Life: Richard Caddel." Open Letter 12.2 (Spring 2004): 108-120

"Caddel" Jacket 20 (2002) [400 words]

"The Pleasure of Text" Kenning 5.1 No. 13 (2002): 74.

“The Value of Scholarship: Mina Loy as Fact and Fiction.” PN Review 137 (Jan-Feb 2001): 42-45.

"How I Read Bruce Andrews." Aerial 9 (1999): 161-182.

"Paradise of Letters" Chain 6 (Summer 1999), 175-185.

(with Richard Caddel). "A Fair Field Full of Folk." Jacket 4  (1998)

"Paradise as Praxis: A Preliminary Note on Bruce Andrews' Lip Service." Witz: a Journal of Contemporary Poetics 6.2 (Summer 1998): 5-18.

"'The Tattle of Tongue-Play': Mina Loy's Love Songs." Mina Loy: Woman and Poet. Maeera Shreiber and Keith Tuma, ed. (Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1998), 75-85.

"Sound Reading." Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word. Charles Bernstein, ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1998, 217-230.

"Introduction." Kathleen Fraser. Il Cuore: Selected Poetry 1970-1995. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP and U of New England P, 1997, xi-xiii.

"Writing and Authority in Zukofsky's Thanks to the Dictionary." Upper Limit Speech: The Writing of Louis Zukofsky. Mark Scroggins, ed. (Tuscaloosa and London: U of Alabama P, 1997), 154-174.

"Duncan's Texts." Sulfur 40 (Spring 1997): 108-120.

"Kathleen Fraser, 22 March 1935 - ." Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 169: American Poets Since World War Two. Fifth Series. Joseph Conte, ed. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996) 106-115.

"Reading Niedecker." Lorine Niedecker: Woman and Poet. Jenny Penberthy, ed. (Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1996) 219-227.

"The Mind as Frying Pan: Blaser's Humour." Sulfur 37 [15.2] (Fall, 1995): 108-116.)

"Parataxis in Basil Bunting and Louis Zukofsky." Sharp Study and Long Toil. Richard Caddel, ed. Durham University Journal special issue (March 1995): 54-70.

"Syllable as Music: Lyn Hejinian's Writing Is An Aid To Memory." Sagetrieb 11.3 (Winter 1992): 17-31.

"'Our Transported Maiden': A Note on American Poetry 1900-1945." Sagetrieb 9.3 (Winter 1990): 1-29.

publications on line:

[review] Charles Olson's Selected Poems, Robert Creeley, ed. Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford: U of California P, 1993 Durham University Journal Basil Bunting issue (March 1995)

[with Richard Caddel] "A Fair Field Full of Folk," Jacket 4 (1998)

"Paradise As Praxis: A Preliminary note on Bruce Andrews's Lip Service," Witz: a Journal of Contemporary Poetics 6.2 (Summer 1998): 5-18.

"Caddel," Jacket 20 (2002)

Five Poems, 2nd Ave Poetry (2004)

"Thinking with the Poem," Jacket 30 (July 2006).

Three Poems, Oban 06 (2006)

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