CBC Digital Archives

Al Purdy's "At the Quinte Hotel"

During the first forty-odd years of his life, Al Purdy wrote a lot of bad poetry. Where others would have quit, Purdy persevered until he found his own distinctive voice. And what he said startled people. His unconventional works poeticized barroom brawls, hockey players and homemade beer. Al Purdy's work forced Canadians to re-evaluate their understanding of poetry and themselves. CBC Archives looks back on the long career of one of Canada's most beloved poets.

"I am drinking/ I am drinking beer with yellow flowers/ in underground sunlight/ and you can see that I am a sensitive man," begins Purdy in his celebrated poem At the Quinte Hotel (1968). The poem is quintessential Purdy - a seamless blend of lyrical elegance, barroom brawl and melancholic mourning. Purdy's narrator sits in a pub, stops a fight and breaks into verse. He is at first congratulated and subsequently mocked by the other patrons. Purdy discusses At the Quinte Hotel in this CBC Television feature. 
. In this CBC interview, host Daniel Richler asks Purdy about his boozy, punch-drunk poet image. One of Purdy's most famous poems revolved around his misadventures with home-brewing in Home-made Beer. Here, he rejects the notion that his persona has been manufactured. "I don't cultivate images which I think are a lot of shit anyway," he told Richler. "I talk the way I like."

. In 2003, At the Quinte Hotel was made into a short film starring The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie as the narrator. The film, directed by Douglas Bensadoun, featured Downie reciting poetry in sync with a recording of a Purdy reading.

. "In a Purdy poem, high diction can meet the scrawl on the washroom wall and, as in a collision between matter and anti-matter, both explode." -- Margaret Atwood, Beyond Remembering (2000).
. The Quinte Hotel is located in Trenton, Ont.
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Jan. 2, 1987
Guest(s): Al Purdy
Interviewer: Daniel Richler
Duration: 4:23
Photographs courtesy of D'Arcy Glionna.

Last updated: February 7, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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