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Al Purdy

Alfred Wellington (Al) Purdy was born December 30, 1918, in Wooler, Ontario and died at Sidney, BC, April 21, 2000. Raised in Trenton, he dropped out of high school and rode the rails to Vancouver, where he began the life of an itinerant labourer. During WWII he served in the Canadian air force and lived in BC from 1942 to 1944, publishing his first book of poems, The Enchanted Echo, which he later pronounced "atrocious." Although he cherished the idea of being a poet from the age of thirteen, Purdy had little formal education and travelled from coast to coast working at odd jobs until his forties, which gave him a worms-eye view of Canadian reality he never lost.

He served a long apprenticeship as a poet, finally breaking through with The Cariboo Horses (1965), which won the Governor General's Award. From that time forward he was able to support himself from his writing, travelling widely with his wife Eurithe while alternating their permanent residence between Ameliasburg, Ontario and Sidney, BC. Purdy published thirty-three books of poetry along with a novel A Splinter in the Heart (1990, 2000), an autobiography, Reaching for the Beaufort Sea (1993) and nine collections of essays and correspondence. His Collected Poems (1986) won a second Governor General's Award. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1983 and the Order of Ontario in 1987. His ashes are buried in Ameliasburg at the end of Purdy Lane.