Trade Customers click here

Al Purdy

'Most Canadian Poet' Al Purdy dies at 81
As Al Purdy lay in his sickbed for weeks, he came up with the title for his last collection of poems, Beyond Remembering.

"He came up with it just a few days before he died," Purdy's publisher, Howard White said Sunday.

"It was his final stroke. Lying there, knowing he was dying, knowing this is what he was leaving for the world. He may have been thinking that his life up to this point is what he remembered but that when he died it would go into the next stage of beyond remembering. It would be what was left," said White.

Purdy died at his home Friday after an 18-month battle with lung cancer. He was 81.

He published 33 books of poetry. He won the Governor General's Literary Award in 1966 for The Cariboo Horses and in 1986 for Collected Poems, 1956-86. Purdy was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1983.

Beyond Remembering, a 652-page collection of the poems, will be published by Harbour Publishing in September.

White first met Purdy in 1965 at a reading at the University of British Columbia.

"I said, 'This guy's not a poet. He looks like a boom man from my dad's logging camp. He's sort of stooped and he shuffled and he used slang and talked like an ordinary person.'"

In some ways, Purdy's secret was in just being ordinary, said White.

"Everyone else was trying to imitate great writers or bring in British or American styles. Al just acted, thought and wrote like an ordinary Canadian guy and yet he elevated that idiom into a high level of art."

Not everyone will agree that Purdy was the best poet ever, said White.

"But I don't think anyone would argue with the fact that he was the most Canadian poet ever," said White.

Poet Patrick Lane described Purdy as the Canadian poet of the century. "He has about three generations that follow him," said Lane. "In 1958, he published a little book of poetry which changed the nature of poetry in Canada. It changed the way we thought a poem could be put together. It also changed the way we thought of our country."

Purdy was born in Wooler, Ont. on Dec. 30, 1918. He is survived by his wife, Eurithe, and his son, James. A memorial celebration and internment of ashes will take place on an unspecified date in Ameliasburg, Ont.
-Canadian Press