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The Ivory Thought

Essays on Al Purdy

Edited by Gerald Lynch, Shoshannah Ganz and Josephene Kealey

Publication Year: 2008

If one poet can be said to be the Canadian poet, that poet is Al Purdy (1918–2000). Numerous eminent scholars and writers have attested to this pre-eminent status. George Bowering described him as “the world’s most Canadian poet” (1970), while Sam Solecki titled his book-length study of Purdy The Last Canadian Poet (1999). In The Ivory Thought: Essays on Al Purdy, a group of seventeen scholars, critics, writers, and educators appraise and reappraise Purdy’s contribution to English literature. They explore Purdy’s continuing significance to contemporary writers; the life he dedicated to literature and the persona he crafted; the influences acting on his development as a poet; the ongoing scholarly projects of editing and publishing his writing; particular poems and individual books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction; and the larger themes in his work, such as the Canadian North and the predominant importance of place. In addition, two contemporary poets pay tribute with original poems.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Reappraisals: Canadian Writers

Reference Key

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pp. ix-xi

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pp. 1-8

As unofficial Canadian poet laureate from the early 19605 till his death in 2000 (the third such to occupy that role, after Bliss Carman and E. J. Pratt), Al Purdy was a renowned traveller both within Canada and internationally. In Canada he took the unusual route of using Canada Council grants to finance extended stays in remote areas ...

Ingredients for Certain Poems by Al Purdy

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pp. 9-12

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Materials for a Biography of Al Purdy

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pp. 13-30

This essay is to a great extent an attempt to answer the following question: If P. K. Page is right, and Al Purdy is a great poet, then what kind of biography should be written about him? And if someone wonders what "great" implies, let's just say that it points us in ...

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Unremembered and Learning Much: LAC Alfred W. Purdy

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pp. 31-50

"I was in the air force then, and it was 1944," wrote Al Purdy in 1968; "Hitler was hugging Eva Braun and Montgomery was drinking champagne in Egypt.1 I had just published a terribly important book, at least it was to me, in Vancouver, called The Enchanted Echo' and it was crap. Of course, I didn't know that, I thought it was a combination of Shakespeare and Francis Bacon and Christopher ...

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Al Purdy: Ivory Thots and the Last Romantic

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pp. 51-62

I first met Al Purdy in 1970 when he became poet in residence at Simon Eraser University. He knew very little about university procedures and was assigned the office next to mine, so I fed him a great deal of tea and sympathy—actually coffee and admonitions. After he discovered that I was a Newfoundlander and taught the poetry of E. J. Pratt, we became friends. In 1974 he asked me to read a drafted manuscript, parts of which later ...

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Purdy among the Tombs

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pp. 63-70

AL Purdy and I exchanged letters, as they say, for forty years,1 so of course we had some differences of opinion. The last time I saw him was a week before he died on Good Friday, 2000. It happened ...

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Beyond Forgetting: Editing Purdy] Purdy Editing

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pp. 71-90

From the late 1960s onward, Al Purdy participated in the editorial construction of Canadian poetry, both his own and that of his contemporaries. The year 1978 proved pivotal in his editorial career as Purdy shifted from his position as a solo editor of anthologies and poetry collections1 to his role as collaborator with editors of his later ...

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'I couldn't write it like that anyway': Al Purdy's Hiroshima Poems

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pp. 91-102

But that "mother lode" of poems—"bomb poems, human poems" as he would later call them (YA 180)—never materialized. In a letter dated 24 May 1971, addressed to George Woodcock and sent from Japan, Purdy's former enthusiasm is replaced by an acknowledgement of poetic defeat or, at the very least, frustration: ...

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Purdy's Ruins: In Search of Owen Roblin, Literary Power, and the Poetics of the Picturesque

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pp. 103-118

In his perceptive reading of Al Purdy's work as an instance of "contemporary pastoral/' Doug Jones suggests that Purdy's poetry repeatedly demonstrates a deep concern with the question of "how to live without power" (42). Indeed, power is the central question of pastoral writing, which conventionally enacts a necessary "acceptance of ...

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Arctic Al: Purdy's Humanist Vision of the North

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pp. 119-136

The title of this paper is indebted to a remark by Hugh MacCallum about Purdy's volume North of Summer (1967): 'The north, in fact, is humanized by the poet," he declared in the issue of "Letters in Canada" for 1967 (362). MacCallum spoke of "a complete mastery of the techniques with which the poet ha[d] experimented in his earlier work. The casual opening, the free-wheeling development, ...

Good People

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pp. 137-141

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'Living in a Land of Giants': Locating and Sustaining Boyhood

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pp. 143-157

Al Purdy's 1983 text Morning and It's Summer consists of twenty pages of prose memoir followed by thirteen poems introducing "Some of the People." The prose memoir falls within the genre of the "Childhood/' defined by Richard N. Coe as ...

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'Kind of ludicrous or kind of beautiful I guess': Al Purdy's Rhetoric of Failure

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pp. 159-171

He organizing image of this volume is the ivory swan from Al Purdy's "Lament for the Dorsets" (1968).* At the beginning of the poem, the speaker contemplates the "carved ivory swans" that, along with a few bones, tent rings, and tools, are "all that remain . . . of the Dorset giants," an ancient Arctic people now extinct. Attempting to ...

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Song and Silence in Al Purdy's Family Elegies

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pp. 173-190

... Sacks' first two examples, Moschus's "Lament for Bion" and W. H. Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats," certainly belong within this tradition— as do John Milton's "Lycidas," Percy Shelley's "Adonais," and Algernon Swinburne's "Ave Atque Vale" (Sacks devotes a chapter to each of these three poems). While issues of poetic inheritance are clearest when the elegiac subject (the deceased, in other words) is a poet, ...

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'Buried bones and ornaments and stuff': Purdy's Reliquary Poetics

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pp. 191-211

In discussions of Al Purdy's writing, the terms elegy and elegiac repeatedly emerge, but neither adequately describes Purdy's instinct that the dead, ruins, fragments, stones, fences, bones, "ornaments and stuff" populating his poems concentrate some precious essence that remains hauntingly ineffable ("In Etruscan Tombs/' BR 585). In an effort to identify that essence, Dennis Lee reaches for religious and theological language to say that Purdy's poems ...

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On Trying to Wear Al's Shirts

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pp. 213-220

One afternoon sometime in 1983 or '84, Dr Leslie Monkman of the Queen's University English Department managed to bring both Al Purdy and Earle Birney into our Canadian Literature class for a reading. I was in my early twenties, just beginning to write poetry, and in awe of both poets. Birney, tall and cadaverous, read first, in a croaky voice, ancient and wavering. He read for about twenty minutes ...

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Reflections on a Dynamic Collaboration

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pp. 221-226

I knew Al for a quarter century, first as an acquaintance, then friend, till finally in the last five years of his life, after several early semi-articulated fumblings, we worked virtually side by side, absorbed in our common interest—which I can best describe in Emerson's words as "caring about the same truth/' I can add only that I felt humbled by the experience of being in such company, although we seldom made ...

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Al Purdy, Sam Solecki, and Canadian Tradition

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pp. 227-238

In The Last Canadian Poet: An Essay on Al Purdy, Sam Solecki brings his wide knowledge of Modern poetry to bear on "Purdy's song of myself—The Collected Poems as a single poem" (105-106) and includes a polemical attack on contemporary Canadian criticism. Unusual in both his ambition and his achievement, Solecki shows some typical Canadian critical biases, espe.

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Conclusion, Retrospective, and Prospective

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pp. 239-246

Few Canadian poets have attained the near-mythogenic status of Al Purdy and none has been accorded the dubious honour of being described as the "most," "first," and "last" Canadian poet.1 So by 2006—several years after his great early influence, Bliss Carman, and almost in the sparkling wake of Margaret Atwood (whose ideas about Canada he disliked)—Purdy's time for a symposium in the University ...

Select Bibliography of Secondary Materials

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pp. 247-249


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pp. 251


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pp. 253-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780776617572
E-ISBN-10: 0776617575
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776606651
Print-ISBN-10: 0776606654

Page Count: 282
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Reappraisals: Canadian Writers