APAFA ANNOUNCES CALL FOR A-FRAME RESIDENCY APPLICATIONS
The A-frame house at the edge of Roblin Lake was built in 1957 by Al Purdy and his wife Eurithe, who had set aside $1200 dollars from CBC radio plays Al had written in Montreal. They bought a piece of land and a load of used buildings material from a structure being torn down in Belleville, then set to work, building from architect’s plans ordered from a popular magazine. As Al made clear in his autobiography, Reaching for the Beaufort Sea, in the first years they endured fierce cold and poverty and worry. “But Roblin Lake in summer, planting seeds and watching things grow; doing a marathon swim across the lake while Eurithe accompanied me in a rowboat; working at the house, making it grow into something that nearly matched the structure already in your mind. Owls came by night, whoo-whooing in a row of cedars above the house; blue herons stalked our shallows; muskrats splashed the shoreline; and I wrote poems.”
At 39 Al was a little known poet, still publishing what he later decided was bad poetry. He called a book from that period The Crafte So Long to Lerne. But he and Eurithe hung on, and in the following years, Al’s poetry took a new turn and his reputation began to grow. In 1965 he won the Governor-General’s Award for The Cariboo Horses. Many of Al Purdy’s best-known poems were written in Ameliasburgh, a lot of them derived from the history and geography of the village. He lived in the A-frame house—which was gradually improved and expanded—for many years, and he spent at least part of every year at Ameliasburgh until his death in 2000. He and Eurithe were always warm and welcoming to writers who came to visit, and dozens—some would say hundreds—did. There is surely no house in Canada so strongly connected with an important poet and his literary community.
The Purdy house is now the site of the A-Frame Residency Program, under which writers are offered a time and place to work in a location that is attractive and of historic significance. Each year between April 1 and November 30 the house will be open for the residency. Writers who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents may apply for a term of one to three months. The residency will be open to all such writers, but preference will be given to poetry and poetry projects. Each year the jury will also consider proposals for a one-month project in critical writing about Canadian poetry and will be open to unusual and creative ideas for residencies.
Travel to Ameliasburgh will be paid. Those awarded the residency will be given a stipend of $2500 dollars ($2,000 honorarium and $500 travel) a month* while living in the A-frame, and will be free to spend their time on their writing. Residents will be expected to participate in one public event for each month of their stay—the event could be a reading, lecture, workshop, an event in a local school or some other literary activity—and to consider other reasonable requests. These events will take place in one of the larger communities nearby, Picton, Belleville, Kingston. As well there is an event at the Town Hall in Ameliasburgh each April to coincide with National Poetry Month and National Al Purdy Day, April 21. All this will be organized in collaboration with the Prince Edward County Arts Council, and a dedicated group in Ameliasburgh. Residents will be offered a temporary library card for the excellent library at Queen’s University in Kingston, where many of Al Purdy’s papers are held. Those awarded a residency will be asked to donate at least one copy of one of their books to the Residency Library. Writers in residence will also be encouraged to make themselves known at the Purdy Library in Ameliasburgh and to donate a book. They may also wish to discuss with the local liaison the possibility of working with local schools.
Applications should include:
• A brief professional curriculum vitae (max. 2 pages)
• A plan for your residency at the A-frame (max. 2 pages)
• A letter of reference (if desired by the candidate),
• And a 10-20 page sample of recent writing.
Applicants should propose alternate residency dates if possible. Five copies of the application and the accompanying material should be sent to:
Jean Baird, The Al Purdy A-frame Association, 4403 West 11th Ave., Vancouver BC V6R 2M2.
Any questions can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications for the calendar year 2014 will close on May 10 of 2013—mailed materials must be postmarked May 10, 2013 or before.
*Pending successful fundraising
About the Al Purdy A-frame Project:
So we built a house, my wife and I
our house at a backwater puddle of a lake
near Ameliasburg, Ont.
–Al Purdy “In Search of Owen Roblin”
And that A-frame house, made out of second-hand lumber and original poetry, became the most famous writer’s house in the country. Hundreds of writers and their housemates found their way to Roblin Lake to visit the Purdys and talk about poetry and history while downing beer or wild grape wine. Coleridge and his friends had their lake country, and now the Canadian poets would have theirs. A lot of poetry and prose came out of that hard-to-find place.
To prevent its second-hand wood from ending up on someone’s scrap heap, and with the blessing and support of Al’s widow, Eurithe Purdy, The Purdy A-frame Association raised funds to purchase the property and is now raising more funds to preserve it, create an endowment and establish a poet-in-residence program.