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Remembering Al Purdy

The Story

At the age of 81, Al Purdy succumbs to cancer on April 21, 2000, in Sidney, B.C. Canadians remember Purdy as an eloquent trailblazer who wrote accessible and exciting poetry. Friends and contemporaries praise him as an exceedingly generous mentor. Before Purdy's death, CBC's Rex Murphy visited with the poet and his friends. They discussed his long career and enduring legacy. "It's been a very rewarding life to me," Purdy says in this documentary, "I can't imagine any other life I'd like to live." 

Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: April 25, 2000
Guest(s): Margaret Atwood, Patrick Lane, Dennis Lee, Al Purdy
Host: Brian Stewart
Reporter: Rex Murphy
Duration: 15:02
Photograph courtesy of D'Arcy Glionna.

Did You know?

• In March 2000, the League of Canadian Poets presented Purdy with the Voice of the Land Lifetime Achievement Award and a $10,000 prize. The award was established to recognize Purdy's contribution to Canada. The award will be presented every five years with a cash prize of $5,000.

• Over the course of his career, Purdy published a total of 33 books of poetry, one novel, an autobiography and nine collections of essays and letters.

• Al Purdy's ashes were buried in Ameliasburg, Ont., at the end of Purdy Lane. His gravestone is shaped like a book and features a quatrain from his poem Her Gates Both East and West:

This is where I came to
when my body left its body
and my spirit stayed
in its spirit home.

• "All of us -- Peggy Atwood, Dennis Lee -- would acknowledge Al's influence. His poetry told me I could write about the trees and the animals and the loggers and the workers, that poetry came out of the ordinary. His was really a voice of the common man and the common woman." -- poet Patrick Lane in Calgary Herald, April 29, 2000

• Purdy also had his share of critics who argued that he had a negative impact on the development of Canadian literature. For example, author David Solway wrote, "From the early 70s on, owing to Purdy's gathering influence, Canadian poetry began to sound and look increasingly generic, as if despite whatever differences in specific content might be found in the work of individual poets, the writing were being done by consortium." -- in the National Post, June 23, 2001


Al Purdy, An Uncommon Poet more