Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

AL PURDY, POET OF THE LAND

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POET OF THE LAND are the words on Al Purdy's tombstone, which my husband designed in the spring of the year 2000. Al and Eurithe had hope to have a bench at their gravesite, so visitors could sit a while and read or write, or just dream, but when they found out they'd have to buy a doublewide, they changed their minds; and the stone that marks the place where Al's ashes mingle with the soil his ancestors cultivated is a book.

Shortly before he died, an anonymous donor gave $10,000 for a one-time award to ease Al's last days. A few of us went to the Purdy's house in Sidney to present the cheque and kill a bottle of champagne. David Grierson came along to record the moment for the CBC. Sadly, David was to die, in the prime of life, not long after.

Al was not ready for the big poetry reading in the sky. He liked his creature comforts, his wife and his books. He took the superflowers Margaret Atwood sent as a sign. They lasted forever and he would too, because he had lots more poems to write.

Right to the end, Al stayed engaged with his life in art. He thought about what to put in and leave out of his last book ("They can put my ashes on the cover," he lamented, and I thought he'd said, "Ass.") He loved getting poems in the mail from friends who couldn't resist tweaking the old guy one more time.

Many of those friends had helped build the A frame at Ameliasburg that Al and Eurithe called home. Now we are asking Canadians to buy the property from his widow so that younger poets can have a refuge, a place to reflect and write.

No angel has come forward, but Hidden Brook Press and Harbour Publishing are planning tribute books this year, and the proceeds will go toward buying the house.

Across the country, Poets and poetry lovers will celebrate the anniversary of his death, April 21, as Al Purdy day.

If you have any spare cash or a fundraising idea, go for it.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page