Seven Canadian Writers Chosen for Residency

Seven Canadian writers chosen for A-frame residency in first two years

January 21, 2014For immediate release
AMELIASBURGH, Ont. – Seven Canadian writers have been chosen for the first working retreats at the Al Purdy A-frame house in Prince Edward County. They were chosen from dozens of submissions.
The seven are Katherine Leyton, Sue Sinclair, Nick Thran, Kath MacLean, Laurie Graham, Rob Taylor and Helen Guri.
“I’m so excited about the projects,” said Jean Baird, president of the Al Purdy A-frame Association. “The first writer-in-residence will be in the house by July.”
The A-frame house was built on Roblin Lake in 1957 by the late Al Purdy, one of Canada’s greatest poets, and his wife, Eurithe. Thanks to the generosity of Eurithe Purdy and donors from across Canada, the A-frame was acquired in 2012 by the Al Purdy A-frame Association, a national non-profit organization with a mandate to promote Canadian literature and to preserve the home as a retreat for future generations of Canadian writers.
The A-frame, a cottage beside Roblin Lake, was the centre of Purdy’s writing universe and a crossroads on Canada’s literary map. In their 43 years there, the Purdys hosted a who’s who of Canadian authors: Margaret Laurence, Milton Acorn, H.R. Percy, Michael Ondaatje and hundreds of others.
The Al Purdy A-frame Association gratefully acknowledges the generosity of all donors to the project. They are crucial to the success of this effort.
Special thanks are extended to major donors ($5,000 to $40,000): The Glasswaters Foundation, The Good Foundation, Avie Bennett, The Metcalf Foundation, George Galt, The Chawkers Foundation, Michael Audain, Jeff Mooney and Suzanne Bolton, Leonard Cohen, Rosemary Tannock, Tom and Helen Galt, The Griffin Foundation, Harbour Publishing, and Yosef Wosk.
For a full list of donors, go to www.alpurdy.ca.
Fundraising efforts continue and are critical to the success of the writer-in-residence program. Online donations are being accepted through PayPal at alpurdy.ca, or cheques may be sent to The Al Purdy A-frame Association, 4403 West 11th Ave., Vancouver, B.C. V6R 2M2.
For further information:Steven Heighton: 613-546-9677Jean Baird: jeanbaird@shaw.ca
Biographies of the writers-in-residence are found below.

The Al Purdy A-frame Writers-in-Residence, 2014-2015

Katherine Leyton lives in Toronto. Her work has been published in various reviews and newspapers, including The Edinburgh Review, The Malahat Review and The Globe and Mail. She is the founder of HowPedestrian.ca, a video poetry blog. In addition to working on her own writing at the A-frame, Katherine plans to travel in the region and through her blog promote the poetry of Al Purdy and other local poets.
Sue Sinclair is a highly acclaimed poet and novelist living in Montreal. Among her published works are four books of poetry and three novels. Sue is completing a PhD in philosophy, and at the A-frame will work on a series of poems investigating theories of beauty, including its relationship with human technology.
Nick Thran is a widely published writer of poetry and prose. His book of poems titled Earworm won the 2012 Trillium Book Award for Poetry. He will undertake two projects during his time at the A-frame: completing work on poems for his third manuscript, and an essay incorporating his experience at Roblin Lake and what it means to be a Canadian poet in today’s social and political environment. Nick lives in Montreal.
Kath MacLean, a writer and filmmaker living in Edmonton, spent a week with Al and Eurithe Purdy when they lived in Victoria, B.C., and looks forward to residing where Al did so much of his writing. She will be working on a collection of poems based on the actions, manners and etiquette of characters found in the Nancy Drew mystery series. And as a certified Ontario teacher, she proposes to involve local students in the project.
Laurie Graham plans to use her time at the A-frame to complete a series of poems about the North-West Resistance, tracking events involving the Cree, Métis and government forces in the spring of 1885. It is a time-consuming and research-heavy project supported by a 2012 Canada Council grant. Laurie, a native of Alberta, lives in Toronto and is assistant editor of Brick magazine. Her first collection of poetry, Rove, was published by Hagios Press in Fall 2013.
Rob Taylor is the author of The Other Side of Ourselves, a collection of poems published in 2011 by Cormorant Books. He is working on a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, and on a second collection of poems. Al Purdy’s writing has had a major influence on Rob’s style, and working at the A-frame will be like a homecoming for him. He plans outreach with the local community to promote and expand the writer-in-residence project.
Helen Guri is the author of Match, a collection of poems published by Coach House Books in 2011. Her poetry column on Random House of Canada’s Hazlitt website was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2013. She plans to continue work on her second collection of poetry, tentatively titled Oracle, during her residency at the A-frame. Helen lives in Toronto.

 

 

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.

Sponsor a Fixture at the A-Frame!

The Purdy A-frame A-list: your money, your name, forever

Originally posted on by Leslie Kenney on the Descant Blog, Jan. 24/14

People are funny and generous and kind. But mostly funny.

That’s why Descant blog commenter “RW” had such a great idea: why not print the actual list of items needed to restore the Al and Eurithe Purdy A-frame? Sure, folks who can will click a website’s “donate” button from time to time. But if you knew you could have the most famous and literary septic pump named after you, wouldn’t you dig deeper and jump at the chance?

Thanks to the help of the Purdy A-Frame Association President, Jean Baird, and Project Manager, Duncan Patterson, Descant now has the list. The A-frame A-list. But since it’s just a list of items and amounts, I’ve taken some poetic liberty. Some would say a lot of poetic liberty.

Leonard Cohen has donated, although it’s not clear what he would like his name on. I’m guessing something close to the lake, where you can hear the boats go by.

What about you? What would you like to install in your name at Al and Eurithe’s famous house on the shores of Roblin lake, where for 50 years the couple entertained, supported and (Al) argued with the Canadian writers we have come to love and appreciate?

All monies raised go to fixing up the physical structure of the house and property, impressively and carefully managed by Al Purdy admirer, Duncan Patterson, and to sustain a Writer-in-Residence program that will support and promote Canadian writers and literacy.

If you know Al Purdy’s poetry, you know that he, of all people, could make even a list poetic. With kind permission, I’ve tried to conjure him, in his own words, even though we all know that “poems will not really buy beer or flowers” [from At The Quinte Hotel… but you knew that].

So, whoever you are, “RW,” here’s that list. Get out your chequebook. You started this.

The Purdy A-frame A-list

Item                                                                   Price                     Quantity

Decks 3k                                    2

This is where it happened – the heated discussions and arguments about poetry and politics. Young poets and novelists of the day came to eat and drink on the deck off the A-frame kitchen. And now new young writers will sit there, “between lightning flashes/writing” [After Rain], with “fingers like fireflies on the typewriter” [For Margaret]. Keypad, whatever.

Margaret Laurence and Al Purdy outside the A-frame. Their correspondence was published in Margaret Laurence, Al Purdy: A Friendship in Letters (McClelland & Stewart, 1994). (photo credit Hazel Legate, Flickr Creative Commons).

Trickle Pump 1k                                    1

The trickle pump ensures that there is always some water to pump to the house. It’s a kind of recovery system, if the well were to run dry. Need I say more? Al certainly didn’t love all his poems, but his well never dried up and he never gave up.

“my poems you have failed/but when I have recovered from/this treachery to myself/I shall walk among the hills chanting/and celebrate my own failure/transformed to something else.” [On Realizing He Has Written Some Bad Poems]

Well Pump 1k                                    1

When Al and Eurithe started building the A-frame in 1957, according to Al,

“… we pounded nails/and sawed boards, cussing and sweating a little/without money for electricity or plumbing/three lamps together and you might read a book/chopping thru winter ice for water/If the result wasn’t home it was a place to camp/and whatever gods there were/who permitted pain and defeat/also allowed brief content” [Old Man]

You can have a private chuckle, every day, knowing that all their hardship was, in the end, rewarded. By you. Someone who knows Al only through his poetry. You have to admit, he’d probably like that.

Septic Pump 1k                                    1

If I could swing it, this one’s for me. That is, if Michael Enright hasn’t beaten me to it. So very necessary, practical, unpoetic and yet…

“I am drinking beer with yellow flowers,” [Quinte Hotel] wrote Al, who once stood “…outside at night/after the requisite number of beers/and with a graceful enormous parabola/trying to piss on the stars/failing magnificently” [Attempt].

Al’s restored “gingham highrise.”

Washing Machine 600                                    1

Imagine that the cleaning machine you donate could one day wash the skivvies of a new Michael Ondaatje, George Elliott Clarke or Susan Musgrave? And washing machines are necessary, especially for poets, because “… love survives in the worst cologne” [Married Man’s Song].

Baseboard Heaters 500                                    5

“Later when it gets colder/one of the ladies/gives me a big piece/ of canvas to throw over the tent/and sews it on securely/ to keep me warm at night/ -What can I say?” [What Can’t Be Said]

Well, you could say that you are keeping warm the next generation of writers, a kind of incubator for creativity, the results of which often bring us to our knees. And our senses.

Front Hall Floor 600                                    1

The front hall floor at the Purdy A-Frame was a bit of a hazard when I was there last summer. I imagined the treacherous journey across it, after a few drinks. The front hall is the first thing you see when you enter the house and the piece of floor everyone must traverse, drunk or sober. It’s where writers you love have hugged hello and kissed goodbye for 50 years. Yours for $600. A deal at twice the price.

“I am thinking home is the ghost of home/and we are somewhere in between” [Old Man]

Things have improved since I took this photo of the front steps last summer.

Firewood shelter 500                                    1

In his poem House Guest, written about poet Milton Acorn, Purdy writes, “how the new house built with salvaged old lumber/bent a little in the wind and dreamt of the trees it came from.” Your shelter would protect the dreams of its inhabitants. For awhile.

Benches 500                                    10

What a lovely idea to donate a bench in your name, or your family’s name. Okay, it’s a tad cliché, but it’s one of the good ones. Writers and Purdy admirers will be able to sit on your bench, “like a small monk/in a green monastery/meditating/   almost sculpture” [The Last Picture in the World]. And when you come to visit, you too can sit there and watch for the great blue herons that left Al transfixed.

Writing Cabin Ceiling 500                                    1

A cabin without a ceiling is … a lean-to? For $500 it could be your ceiling that future renowned poets and novelists stare up at, searching for just that one right word that will propel them to infamy. Or the next sentence. You will be able to say that you are, literally, providing a roof (come on, the ceiling is attached to the roof) over the heads of future generations of Canadian writers. The cabin isn’t fancy and doesn’t face the lake, but, on the positive side, there’s nothing about it that would distract a writer from doing anything but write. While “there are rooms for rent in the outer planets,” [Married Man’s Song] Al’s writing cabin will do just fine.

The writing cabin, to the right of the A-frame. Here Purdy wrote many of the poems that would be published in 39 books. His poetry is filled with animals, birds, flowers, and the forests, mountains and lakes of the Canadian landscape; public figures and private friends; and many of his poems are shot through with a deep sense of failure, mourning, struggle… and the colour yellow.

Trees & Shrubs 250                                    20

The other items on this list are imperative for the structure to run well and last a long time, but let’s face it – trees and shrubs will last longer. How great to have a tree growing on the Purdy property, in your name. Your literary soil-and-sun dependent metaphor, something to feed your “… small passion for permanence” [An Arrogance]. Something to block out the sounds of the busy-body world, “Beyond our trees that belong/to themselves the highway/traffic’s sullen sounds/a quietness in our bones” [Our Wilderness].

And buying a shrub is good, too, although, “expect only a small whisper/of birds nesting and green things growing/and a brief saying of them” [The Dead Poet].

Still can’t find the perfect thing, the one pragmatic item you would like affixed with your name for all eternity (or whatever the guarantee states)? Well, “the bill is due and the desk clerk wakes” [Married Man’s Song] so I’ll leave you with the rest of the list. Grab a book of Al’s poems and see which of these strikes at your core. It’s just a little A-frame on a little treed property, but, as Al observed, “…the way humans attach emotion/to one little patch of ground/and continually go back there/in the autumn of our lives/to deal with some of the questions/that have troubled us” [Red Leaves].

Ceiling fan 120                                    2

Exhaust fan 300                                   3

Pressure tank 500                                    1

Sprayed Polyurethane Insulation 3k                                     1

Sump Pump 1k                                     1

Drainage ditch 4k                                     1

Air to Air heat exchanger 6k                                     1

If you leave a comment below, I can put you in touch with the A-Frame Association and you can discuss with them the size of the name plaque you want for literary eternity. For $25,000, the entire list is yours and I’m sure something legacy-worthy can be arranged.

***

The Al Purdy poems from which the lines above were borrowed, with all due respect to Al, appear here with permission. All for the ultimate purposes of making more sturdy the house, the memories and the future that Eurithe and Al Purdy built, on the shores of Roblin Lake.

All these poems can be found in Al’s last book, Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, which he and Sam Solecki put together before Purdy’s death in 2000, for Harbour Publishing. And for Eurithe.

 

 

 

Original Call for A-Frame Residency Applications

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 jeanbaird@shaw.ca. 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

 

 

PURDY DRINKS: A NIGHT OF POETRY AND HISTORY

Please come raise a glass with us to the legacy of famous Canadian poet Al Purdy at the MONARCH TAVERN in Toronto on MONDAY, JANUARY 20th, 2014. “Purdy Drinks” will be a casual night featuring readings by acclaimed poets Paul Vermeersch, Jim Smith, and Stuart Ross, and the announcement of the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at the A-Frame by none other than Karen Solie.  If you like poetry and are in Toronto, this is not an event to be missed.

RSVP here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/753928301304013/

Tickets will be available in advance at Soundscapes on College.

All proceeds from the evening will go towards the restoration, rehabilitation, upgrades, and general maintenance of the Al & Eurithe Purdy A-Frame in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County and the funding of the Writers-in-Residence program. While the A-Frame has been purchased, lots of work still needs to be done – so please come out and help out!

More information on the on-going work on the A-Frame can be found here:  akindofbump.blogspot.com

 

Upgrading Underway at A-frame

Lawrence McKeon of Montagne Enterprises rebuilds A-frame chimney

‘Tis the season of upgrading at the Al Purdy A-frame on the shores of lovely Roblin Lake as architect and director Duncan Patterson and builder-supporter Matti Kopamees oversee careful renovation of the historic building in preparation for its new role as a writer’s retreat, to begin in 2014. So far two major projects have been undertaken–the renewal of the electrical service and the repair of the stone chimney. For more detail, see Duncan’s website at http://www.akindofbump.blogspot.ca/

FRAME FOR (A)FRAME

FRAME FOR (A)FRAME: A benefit premiere of the independent Canadian
feature film “The Shape of Rex” was held in support of the Al Purdy A frame. All proceeds were for the ongoing restoration of the A Frame as a writers’ retreat.Friday, June 7th, the Royal Cinema, 608 College St., Toronto 7 p.m. 

Film critic Brian D. Johnson hosted, and presented his short film about Al Purdy. Co-Directors, Layne Coleman and Bill Hominuke, and Vivian Endicott-Douglas,
the actress nominated for an ACTRA award for her performance in “The Shape of Rex”, will be present. Reception took place afterwards at The Midtown, DJed by Casey Johnson. Event was a great success and raised $550.00 for the A-frame. 

 

What a Fabulous Night it Was!

Over 700 came out to Koerner Hall in Toronto Feb. 6 for a great evening of music by Gord Downie, the Bidiniband and Skydigger with readings by Margaret Atwood, Gordon Pinsent, Michael Enright, Karen Solie, George Elliot Clarke, Ken Babstock, George Bowering, Dennis Lee, Phil Hall, and others, in what one veteran literary event attendee called “the best event I ever attended.” The jamboree raised over $40,000 toward the renovation of the the Al Purdy A-frame, which assures it will be preserved and serving as a writer’s residence in the near future. Thanks to all who attended and all who helped.

 

Gala Fundraiser Set for Toronto Feb. 6, 2013

RENOWNED POETS AND MUSICIANS TO CELEBRATE AL PURDY

The Al Purdy A-Frame Association announced today that tickets are now on sale for THE AL PURDY SHOW on February 6, 2013 at 7:30pm. It promises to be a fun evening of poetry and music to benefit the restoration of Al Purdy’s former residence, the A-Frame. The show will take place at Koerner Hall -The TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning – 273 Bloor Street West in Toronto.

Al Purdy and his partner Eurithe began building the A-Frame cabin on the shores of Roblin Lake, in Prince Edward County, in 1957. It was here that Purdy came into his own as a poet, and the A-Frame became a gathering place for many of the writers who would shape Canadian literature. Over their 43 years at the A-Frame, Al and Eurithe hosted Margaret Laurence, Milton Acorn, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood and hundreds of others in the writing and arts community. Proceeds from the evening will support the Al Purdy A-Frame Association’s efforts to conserve the late poet’s home and to maintain it as a place for writers to come together and work for years to come. Ticket prices start at $25.00.

“This event is a true celebration of one of the most popular and important Canadian poets of the 20th century,” said Jean Baird, President of the Association. “Al loved hanging out with people, talking about poetry and having a good time. We want the evening to capture this spirit. Plus, we have some nifty surprises planned that would make Al chuckle.”

Highlights of The Al Purdy Show will include readings from Margaret Atwood, Ken Babstock, George Bowering, Michael Enright, Phil Hall, Steven Heighton, Dennis Lee, Gordon Pinsent, and Karen Solie, as well as musical guests, Bidiniband with The Billie Hollies, The Skydiggers and other Friends of the A-Frame.

“This event will be very exciting for Purdy fans,” said Jean Baird. “Eurithe Purdy has donated books and other items from Al’s personal collection for auction.”Many items have never before been available to the public, including Purdy’s signed and numbered editions of his own books, rare first editions by other poets, and original artwork from Leonard Cohen. Book-lovers, mark your calendars!

To date, over $220,000 dollars has been generously donated by writers, poets, publishers,academics, students, booksellers, librarians and lovers of literature, and most notably, Eurithe Purdy,” said Jean Baird.In October, 2012, the property was acquired by The Al Purdy A-Frame Association a national non-profit organization. As part of its mandate to promote Canadian literature and Canadian writers, the Association’s first goal is to preserve the home as a work retreat for future generations of writers.Tickets can be purchased by calling 416-408-0208 or visit www.alpurdy.ca.

TICKETS NOW ON SALE! Order Here: https://tickets.rcmusic.ca/public/loader.asp?target=hall.asp?event=904

For further information:Laura McLeod, Producer 647-631-6000 laura@schatzker.com