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.

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

Poet Al Purdy’s House Saved from Wrecking Ball

By Mark Abley of the Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL  – Canada’s battered literary community got an infusion of hope Friday. Having begun with the shocking news that the largest Canadian-owned book publisher, D&M, was seeking bankruptcy protection, the week ended with word that the home of one of the country’s finest poets, Al Purdy, has been saved from demolition. Starting in 2013, it’s expected to become the centre of a writer-in-residence program.

The house is a modest and unconventional A-frame, built by Purdy, his wife, Eurithe, and his father-in-law in the late 1950s near the shores of Roblin Lake in Prince Edward County, Ont. Experts call it a unique piece of “vernacular architecture.”

After the poet died in 2000, his widow maintained it as best she could. But now, in her late 80s and in fragile health, she needed to sell. And a likely outcome appeared to be a purchase by someone who might have demolished the building and erected a monster cottage in its place.

But a four-year campaign led by Jean Baird, a cultural activist in Vancouver, has finally borne fruit. The campaign succeeded in raising a little over $200,000 — much less than Eurithe Purdy could have raised by putting the property on the real-estate market, but enough to enable her to sell the house to the non-profit Al Purdy A-frame Association.

A longtime friend of the Purdys, Baird lives in British Columbia. So does the poet’s former publisher, Howard White. But they, rather than people in Toronto, were the driving force behind the movement.

There are, Baird said in a phone interview this week, challenges in trying to save a house from a distance of several thousand kilometres. Yet the campaign managed to gain attention and funds from across Canada.

One of the major donors was Toronto writer George Galt. “If Lawren Harris or Emily Carr had built a homemade house on a lake less than two hours from Toronto and no one had tried to save it,” he asked, “wouldn’t we all be kicking ourselves now? I believe the Purdy house is a national treasure and that generations to come will be grateful that Jean Baird and Howard White led the campaign, against some heavy odds, to see it preserved.”

Montreal poet and editor Carmine Starnino agrees. “Great to hear such a mythologized place will stay standing,” he said. “It’s a boon for the preservation of our literary and cultural history. Speaking as someone who has benefited from the nesting quality of writing retreats, I hope new myths get their start at Roblin Lake.”

Baird’s idea, from the start, has been that today’s writers should be able to stay in the house for a flexible period and use the time to create original work. She also hopes the writers in residence will form links with the local community.

As a slouching rebellious teenager, Al Purdy attended Trenton Collegiate Institute — not his favourite place in the world — and he would doubtless have enjoyed knowing that in the past year, students from the school’s technical program repaired his outhouse.

Fundraising efforts will continue, Baird emphasized, even though the house has now been saved from the threat of a wrecker’s ball. Some upgrades are required, and an endowment fund must be created to place the writer-in-residence program on a financially secure footing. A gala event planned for February at Toronto’s Koerner Hall will feature readings by well-known authors and an auction of literary treasures.

One of those treasures will be a rare first edition of Leonard Cohen’s first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies, which is sure to raise several thousand dollars. Cohen has already donated $10,000 to the campaign. Among the other items at the auction will be two handwritten letters by the great English writer D.H. Lawrence.

Baird waxes lyrical about the involvement of young people in the campaign — it has not been waged only by people in the second half of life. Thanks to their love of Purdy’s work, both the lawyer who managed the house purchase and the architect who will oversee the upgrades got in touch with her while they were still university students. Similarly, Canadian poets of all stripes — notorious for their fractious infighting — have come together to support this project.

“What a priceless gift we can offer to future generations,” Galt wrote while the fate of the property was still unclear, “if we can save the house that Al and his wife, Eurithe, built with their own hands, the place where so much of his work evolved, an irreplaceable cultural landmark … It was this little haven that allowed him to live his unusual life, offering encouragement to so many other writers and imagining his own remarkable poems.”

Or as Baird puts it: “The fact that we’ve now got this far is a tribute to Al Purdy and his unique voice.”

For more information, go to www.alpurdy.ca

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Poet+Purdy+house+saved+from+wrecking+ball/7451987/story.html#ixzz2AQgWu4PD

 

Purchase of A-Frame Announced

A NEW LIFE FOR THE AL PURDY A-FRAME

Work now turns to RAISING FUNDS TO UPGRADE AND INSTALL a writer-in-residence

October 26, 2012

For immediate release

AMELIASBURGH, Ont.  The A-frame home built here in 1957 by the late Al Purdy, one of Canada’s greatest poets, and his wife, Eurithe, has been assured of preservation and a continued vocation as a place for writers to gather and work.

Thanks to the generosity of Eurithe Purdy, who dramatically reduced the asking price for the property, and donors from across Canada, the A-frame was acquired on October 9 by the Al Purdy A-frame Association, a newly incorporated national non-profit organization with a mandate to promote Canadian literature and Canadian writers. A major benefit is planned for Koerner Hall in Toronto on February 6th to continue the restoration of the A-frame.Now we can turn our attention to the next phase of this effort, said Jean Baird, president of the association. It’s not only a celebration of Al Purdy’s legacy, but a mission to educate today’s students on the value and worth of Canadian literature, and to preserve the Purdy home as a retreat for future generations of Canadian writers.

The A-frame, a lakeside cottage in Prince Edward County, was the centre of Purdy’s writing universe and one of the most important crossroads on Canada’s literary map. In their 43 years residing 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 association plans to begin work on upgrading the property immediately, and hopes to have its first writer-in-residence installed next summer and working in local schools by fall 2013.

Donors acknowledged

The association gratefully acknowledges the generosity of all donors to the project to date, including writers, poets, publishers, academics, students, booksellers, librarians, lovers of literature and, especially, Eurithe Purdy, who was crucial to the success of this effort.

Special thanks are extended to major donors ($5,000 to $40,000): The Good Foundation, Avie Bennett, George Galt, The Chawkers Foundation, The Glasswaters Foundation, The Metcalf Foundation, Michael Audain, Jeff Mooney and Suzanne Bolton, Leonard Cohen, Rosemary Tannock, Tom and Helen Galt, and Josef Wosk.

For a full list of donors, go to www.alpurdy.ca.

Fundraising efforts continue and are critical to the next stage of this project–upgrades on the property are required and the association will be building an endowment. Online donations are being accepted through PayPal at www.alpurdy.ca, or cheques may be sent to: The Al Purdy A-frame Association, 4403 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V6R 2M2.

For further information:

Jean Baird

jeanbaird@shaw.ca

or 604-224-4898

Meet APAFA: New Association to Manage Project

Preparations are going forward all the time as organizers of the campaign to save the legendary Purdy residence on Roblin Lake move inexorably closer to the day when they can take ownership of the property and begin operating it as a public attraction and a writer’s residence.

A recent donation of $40,000 from the Glasswaters Foundation has pushed the fund to over $200,000 and within striking distance of the amount needed to buy the .65-acre site from Al Purdy’s widow, Eurithe. Anticipating that development, the organizers have formed a non-profit society with headquarters in Toronto. The new association, the Al Purdy A-frame Association (APAFA), received its federal charter on October 9 and will be the official body that holds title to the property as well as managing programs and directing ongoing fundraising. Charitable status is pending. The provisional directors are Jean Baird, President; George Goodwin, Secretary; and Duncan Patterson and Howard and Patrick White, directors. The ad-hoc campaign body “The Al Purdy A-frame Trust” has now been replaced by  APAFA and the former name will no longer be used.

 

 

A-Frame in the Montreal Gazette

Mark Abley writes about the A-Frame in the Montreal Gazette:

MONTREAL – Go to rural New Hampshire, and you can visit the Frost Place outside Franconia, a house where the American poet Robert Frost lived for five rewarding years. It’s now a museum and a non-profit centre for the arts. Go to rural Wales, and you can visit the Boathouse in Laugharne, where the poet Dylan Thomas spent his last four tumultuous years. It’s now a heritage centre. Yet in this country, the house that was constructed and inhabited for more than 40 years by one of our finest poets, Al Purdy, may soon be lost to the public, even demolished. Efforts to preserve it for the future have so far failed to raise enough cash.

“Words do have smell and taste,” Purdy wrote in a poem called “Prince Edward County,” / “these have the taste of apples / brown earth and red tomatoes / as if a juggler had juggled / too many balls of fire … ” Not for him the linguistic bravado of Thomas or the rhyming certainties of Frost. Purdy’s was a plainspoken, provisional grace – even in his best poems, you feel him trying the language out, exploring the way English Canadians speak and feel, stretching a languid conversational tone and rhythm into something original and tough.

Many of those poems are set in the accessible backwater of rural Ontario to which he moved in 1957. He and his wife, Eurithe, were fresh from a few years in Montreal, inspired and challenged by the literary life of this city. Purdy had become acquainted with Irving LaytonF.R. ScottLouis Dudek and other Montreal poets, and the freedom with which they wrote stood in sharp contrast to the constraints of his own early, unsuccessful work. But Purdy was not a Montrealer at heart, not a city-dweller of any sort, and the rolling, unkempt mixture of forest and farmland south of Trenton was a landscape he would make his own.

With the help of his wife and father-in-law, he began by building his own home – a modest A-frame cottage near the shore of Roblin Lake, constructed of wood and stray stone, a morsel of this, a fragment of that. Nobody would call it an architectural masterpiece. But it’s redolent of literary history. The young Michael Ondaatje, an aspiring writer new to Canada, went to stay there; Purdy welcomed him, as he did so many others. His poem “House Guest” describes an earlier, longer visit by the Communist writer Milton Acorn; for two months the pair quarrelled about politics, drank, wrote poems, and listened to “how the new house built with salvaged old lumber / bent a little in the wind and dreamt of the trees it came from.”

Purdy despised pretence. He loved the landscape, indeed the entire country, with a rough and sometimes awkward passion; and he had a rare gift for transforming awkwardness and silence into words that could catch fire. In the second of his poems called “Roblin’s Mills,” he imagines the forgotten, inarticulate lives of people who lived there long before him: “The black millpond holds them / movings and reachings and fragments / the gear and tackle of living / under the water eye / all things laid aside, discarded, forgotten / but they had their being once / and left a place to stand on.” The elegy is all the more beautiful for being, unlike so many elegies, honest.

I met him only once, in southern England; he was hopelessly out of place. It was the early 1980s, and he gave a surprisingly well-received reading at Oxford University, a china shop through which he charged like an aging bull. After the reading he and I drank too much whisky and he signed one of his many books for me, “with lack of elegance & erudition but with best wishes.” Needless to say, I treasure it now. In fact he had much erudition. I only wish I’d taken up his offer to visit him at Roblin Lake.

He died in 2000, a year before Mordecai Richler, nearly six before Irving Layton. We have lost giants, sometimes without quite realizing it. Eurithe Purdy is now 87, and she needs to sell the A-frame soon. A last-ditch attempt to raise the funds to buy and preserve it, spearheaded by cultural activist Jean Baird and Howard White, Purdy’s publisher, is under way. But how sad, and how revealing of this unliterary nation, that after years of effort, the outcome is uncertain. “Reality is an overdrawn bank account,” Purdy once wrote, “my myths and cheques both bounce, / the creditors close in; / and all the dead men, / chanting hymns, / tunnel towards me underground.”

For more information about the campaign to save Al Purdy’s house, including details on how to donate, visit purdyhouse.ca.

Mark Abley is a Montreal writer. His Watchwords column appears in The Gazette on alternate Saturdays.