Sunday, April 21, 2013
Recently I had occasion to type the poem, The Last Picture in the World, several times, in different fonts, colours, sizes.
A friend was making a gift of the poem printed beside a lovely woodcut produced by an art student. Perhaps one day it will be available as a broadside, so for now, I won't share the image. Just you wait.
Despite all the industry, the poem lost none of its spell for me. Al loved the great blue heron. So do we. It's a talisman for us, always appearing as reassurance at very tough times.
|the point at the A-frame|
We parked at the library and walked to the A-frame, the route Al would have done on his explorations of the village in the early A-frame years.
As we rounded the corner of the house on our way to the point (how many people do you know who would build a point, when they couldn't afford to buy one of their own?), a great blue heron (very great) rose up from the point in high dudgeon and left us speechless.
That you, Al?
"A hunched grey shape
framed by leaves
with lake water behind
standing on our
little point of land
like a small monk in a green monastery
except that it's alive
brooding immobile permanent
for half an hour
a blue heron
and it occurs to me
that if I were to die at this moment
that picture would accompany me
wherever I am going
for part of the way"
(from New Poems, 1999 - in Beyond Remembering, 2000)
|"On a green island in Ontario...built a house and found the woman..."|
In 2009 the League of Canadian Poets proclaimed it.
It is the day on which, in 2000, Al's "body left his body" and entered into the Al Purdy legend (although he was doing a decent job of entering that legend while still very much alive). The league of poets suggests you recognize this day: barbeque red meat, read, write, drink... and make poetic history by donating to the A-frame trust.
Appropriately, the A-Frame Residency program, that longed-for writer-in-residence idea made reality for the A-frame, has just announced its call for applications. Here's the link . Good a way as one can possibly think of to celebrate Purdy day!
This portal to Harbour Publishing provides all the links and background you could possibly want about the day, the man, the poetry, the next steps.
"This is where I came to
when my body left its body
and my spirit stayed
in its spirit home."
We all know those lines so well. The other lines in Her Gates Both East and West, not so well. I read it aloud, and the pictures Al painted took me to many places we'd been also. Nice to compare notes.
|"In the Alberta prairie badlands camped by the vanished Bearpaw sea..."|
Nice to see our country in your poem. Robert Wiersema, in a Quill and Quire review of Beyone Remembering, stated that the poem is "probably the finest poem about Canada one is likely to read." Not much argument, I'm guessing.
|"the freight train a black caterpillar climbing,climbing,climbing..."|
|"Camped by the South Saskatchewan"...|
|"the Rocky Mountains fold themselves upward/giants rising slowly"...|
|"Beside the seething Fundy waters my friend sleeps..."|
Snippets of Al's wonderful poem reduced to captions to say thanks for giving us our country. For naming these places for us. For making us more Canadian somehow, and damned proud of it. Miss ya Al.