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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

In Search of Al Purdy: Lindi Pierce's Excellent blog

 from Lindi Pierce's blog - please check it out
click below The Last Picture in the World
copyright remains with Lindi Pierce for her words & photographs
copyright remains with Al Purdy and his estate for his poems
and photographs

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Last Picture in the World

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
 Today is Purdy Day. We lost Al 13 years ago today. It's also Sunday, and it was (somewhat) warm and undeniably sunny. Someone dear to me really needed to get out of his office, so we visited the A-frame, hiked the conservation area around the millpond, visited the graveyard in Ameliasburgh.

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.

Deep breath.

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
almost sculpture
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)

April 21, 2000

"On a green island in Ontario...built a house and found the woman..."
Today is Al Purdy Day.
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.

We celebrated Purdy Day all day. Visited the graveyard. Sat in the sun on the A-frame deck. Listened to Al read some stuff on cassette. Read some poems. Wanted to revisit the poem that provided the lines for Al's gravestone, so I reread 'Her Gates Both East and West'.

"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..."

"I suppose it's like a kid growing up
to see the parts of your own country
like a jigsaw that suddenly comes together
and turns into a complete picture
and you've touched nearly all the parts...

The millenium really makes little difference
except as a kind of unsubtle reminder of 
the puzzle that is yourself and always changing
the country that you wandered like a stranger
but stranger no longer
yourself become undeniable to yourself
wearing the lakes and rivers towns and cities
a country that no man can comprehend..."
"Camped by the South Saskatchewan"...
"the Rocky Mountains fold themselves upward/giants rising slowly"...
"Beside the seething Fundy waters my friend sleeps..."
Actually, Al. The millenium, if by that you mean the year 2000 (the mathematically challenged among us still struggle with that concept) made a great deal of difference to many of us. Lost you.

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.

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