On Wednesday, February 6th, there's going to be a heck of a party in Toronto and if I wasn't still doing beach time in Mexico I'd be seriously tempted to head out there for it. If you're in Toronto and can spare $50 for a fabulous evening ($20 for students), I really, really, REALLY encourage you to go.
Some of you may remember that about four and a half years ago I wrote a letter in support of saving Al Purdy's A-Frame, a funny old house located on Roblin Lake in Ameliasburgh, Ontario. Well, happily it has been saved from the wrecker's ball and now funds are being raised in order to restore it to the point where it will be able to house a poet as writer-in-residence. Also in the works is putting it on literary tour. Think of it! A literary tour in Canada!
There are those of us who seek out the places where writers have written. We like to wander about where writers who have gone before us have wandered, imagine we’re traveling the same path, in both a physical and metaphorical sense. To walk such paths is to walk through history, for it is through words and images and sounds and movement that we are able to discover vestiges of our commonality as human beings, a sense of our place in the world as it is now, and a glimpse of where we may be in the future. This kind of thing is ever so possible in many places—England, Ireland, the USA, Chile, to name a few. In Canada? Not so much. I'm thinking of my friend Rita Moir who found herself in Neepawa, Margaret Laurence's hometown, and had to find someone to let her have a look in Margaret's house because she wasn't there between May and October, and then discovered the stone angel in the cemetery on her own.
Al Purdy is one of Canada's favourite, best known, best loved, all those things (subjective as they are) poets. He wrote of the land. He wrote with humour and passion. He won awards. There's a bronze statue of him in a Toronto park. I visited it when I was there in October.
Geographically, Canada is huge. Compared to other places on the planet, it is still a very young country. But already our writers have made an impression in the world, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that future travelers in Canada—from within this huge land as well as abroad—will make their way to the former haunts of some of our artists, if we have the foresight to preserve them. Soon, they'll be able to go see Al's place, the one he and his wife, Eurithe, built.
Over dinner one night, I mentioned to Ted that I was writing a letter to support the initiative to preserve Al’s house. “I went there once,” he mused, “it was 1972, the summer Judie and I drove across Canada with the kids. She grew up around there so we were able to find the place. Al wasn’t home, but his wife was, and she opened her house to us when I explained how I’d taken courses from Al at Simon Fraser and was a big fan of his poetry.”
Here are a couple of pictures from that visit to Roblin Lake.
|In the distance you can just make out "God's belly-scratcher", the spire Purdy refers to in his poem, Wilderness Gothic, which you can read here.|
|A young Anthony and Shannon Crosfield on the dock at Al's place. Ted thinks it was a neighbour's boat.|
So, Toronto. Koerner Hall. Wednesday, Feb. 6th. Go for me, okay? Go for Al. Go for all the poets who have learned from and loved him.
Thanks for reading.