Why Purdy deserves the Nobel Prize
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.
. Purdy however was more curmudgeonly when he visited with schoolchildren and was once overheard muttering, "Here they come, the little bastards," when the children approached. The Edmonton Journal, April 24, 2000
. Ondaatje recalled the frequent visits young poets would make to Roblin Lake in his foreward to Purdy's Beyond Remembering. "All this changed our lives," Ondaatje described. It allowed us to take poetry seriously. This happened with and to numerous other young poets all over the country, right until the last days of Al Purdy's life. He wasn't just a 'sensitive' man, he was a generous man."
. "Apart from that instant of communication between two people, generally male and female, in which vistas and landscapes are opened up and limitless there is simply nothing at all like writing what you believe to be a good poem. It is an incandescence in your head, coruscation in your guts. Writing a good one is a twenty-four-hour high, and reading it again much later produces a strong echo of that original elation. The memory of that feeling does not fade." Al Purdy, Reaching for the Beaufort Sea, (1993).
. In this excerpt, Purdy reads from one of his famous poems Necropsy of Love. The poem begins:
"If it came about you died
it might be said I loved you:
love is an absolute as death is,
and neither bears false witness to the other -
But you remain alive.
Program: The Arts Tonight
Broadcast Date: Nov. 11, 1996
Host: Eleanor Wachtel
Speaker: Al Purdy, Dennis Lee
Last updated: March 22, 2012
Page consulted on August 21, 2012
All Clips from this Topic
At age 48, poet Al Purdy breaks through the literary ranks.
Al Purdy defends his new book and his anti-American sentiments.
Poetry pays a pittance but Al Purdy manages to get by.
Al Purdy's new project is a labour of begrudging love.
Al Purdy describes Ameliasburgh, his rocky start, riding the rails, fa...
A dramatization of Purdy's "sensitive man" poem.
Purdy pokes fun at a formidable CanLit icon.
Poet Dennis Lee makes the case for Purdy.
Friends, family and associates describe the formidable grand old man o...
Canadians remember the life of legendary poet Al Purdy.
At the age of 81, Purdy succumbs to cancer.
Purdy's correspondence with politicians, poets and personal heroes is ...
Al Purdy discusses his autobiography.
During the first forty-odd years of his life, Al Purdy wrote a lot of ...