Toronto Al Purdy Memorial 03

Statue of Al Purdy, by Edwin and Veronica Dam de Nogales, Toronto (2008). Photo by Shaun Merritt. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Flickr.

Alfred Wellington Purdy
Born Wooler, Ontario
Nationality Canada Canadian
Field writer, editor and poet
Training Albert College and Trenton Collegiate Institute

Alfred Wellington Purdy, OC, O.Ont (December 30, 1918 - April 21, 2000) was one of the most popular and important Canadian poets of the 20th century. Purdy's writing career spanned more than fifty years. His works include over thirty books of poetry, a novel, two volumes of memoirs, and four books of correspondence. He has been called Canada's "unofficial poet laureate" and "a national poet in a way that you only find occasionally in the life of a culture."[1]


Born in Wooler, Ontario Purdy went to Albert College in Belleville, Ontario, and Trenton Collegiate Institute in Trenton, Ontario. He dropped out of school at 17 and rode the rails west to Vancouver. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Following the war, he worked in various jobs until the 1960s, when he was finally able to support himself as a writer, editor and poet.[2]

In 1957, Purdy and his wife Eurithe moved to Roblin Lake in Ameliasburgh, Ontario (south of Trenton in Prince Edward County), where they built an A-frame cottage, and this became his preferred location for writing.[3] In his later years, he divided his time between North Saanich, British Columbia, and his cottage at Roblin Lake.

In addition to his poems and novel, Purdy's work includes two volumes of memoirs, the most recent of which was Reaching for the Beaufort Sea. He also wrote four books of correspondence, including Margaret Laurence - Al Purdy: A Friendship in Letters and radio and television plays for the CBC. He was writer-in-residence at several Canadian universities, and edited a number of anthologies of poetry.[2]

He wrote the introduction to the last book of poetry by his friend Milton Acorn, The Whiskey Jack. Purdy was also a long-time friend of American author Charles Bukowski. Bukowski once said: "I don't know of any good living poets. But there's this tough son of a bitch up in Canada that walks the line."

Purdy died in North Saanich, B.C., on April 21, 2000. His final collection of poetry, Beyond Remembering: The collected poems of Al Purdy, was released posthumously in the fall of 2000.[2]


A grass-roots movement to preserve Purdy's A-frame cottage in Ameliasburgh has been organized by Jean Baird (wife of poet George Bowering) and Purdy's publisher Howard White of Harbour Publishing, who together founded the A-Frame Trust with the intent of raising $1 million to preserve the house as a memorial to Purdy and a writing retreat for other writers.[4]


Honours and awards Purdy received include the Order of Canada (O.C.) in 1982, the Order of Ontario in 1987, and the Governor General's Award, in 1965 for his collection The Cariboo Horses, and again in 1986 for The Collected Poems of Al Purdy. The League of Canadian Poets gave Purdy the Voice of the Land Award, a special award created by the League to honour his unique contribution to Canada.

Purdy's collection of poems, Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets: Selected poems, 1962-1996, was chosen for inclusion in Canada Reads 2006, where it was championed by poet Susan Musgrave.[2] On May 20, 2008, a large bronze statue of Purdy was unveiled in Queen's Park in downtown Toronto.



  • The Enchanted Echo. Vancouver: Clarke & Stuart, 1944.
  • Pressed on Sand. Toronto: Ryerson, 1955.
  • Emu, Remember!. Fredericton, NB: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1956.[5]
  • The Crafte So Longe to Lerne. Toronto: Ryerson, 1959.
  • The Blur in Between: Poems 1960-61. Toronto: Emblem, 1962.
  • Poems for All the Annettes. Toronto: Contact Press, 1962.
  • The Caribou Horses. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1965.
  • North of Summer: Poems from Baffin Island. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1967.
  • Wild Grape Wine. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1968.
  • Love in a Burning Building. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1970.
  • The Quest for Ouzo. Trenton, ON: M. Kerrigan Almey, 1969.
  • Hiroshima Poems. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1972.
  • Selected Poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1972. ISBN 0771071891
  • On the Bearpaw Sea (illustrated by Jean Wong). Burnaby, BC: Blackfish Press, 1973; Toronto: Red Maple Foundation, 1974. ISBN 0969868707
  • Sex & Death. McLelland & Stewart, 1974. ISBN 0771072007, ISBN 0771072015
  • In Search of Owen Roblin. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1974. ISBN 0771072023
  • The Poems of Al Purdy. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1976. ISBN 0771095104
  • Sundance at Dusk. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1976.
  • A Handful of Earth. Coatsworth, ON: Black Moss Press, 1977. ISBN 0887530222 ISBN 0887530230 ISBN 0887530249
  • At Marsport Drugstore. Sutton West, ON: Paget Press, 1977. ISBN 0920348025
  • No Other Country. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1977. ISBN 0771072082
  • Moths in the Iron Curtain. Cleveland, OH: Black Rabbit Press, 1977.
  • No Second Spring. Coatsworth, ON: Black Moss Press, 1978. ISBN 0887530389
  • Being Alive: Poems 1958-78. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1978. ISBN 0771072074
  • The Stone Bird. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1981.
  • Bursting Into Song: An Al Purdy omnibus. Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press, 1982. ISBN 0887530850
  • Birdwatching at the Equator: The Galapagos Island poems. Sutton West, ON: Paget Press, 1982. ISBN 0920348270
  • Morning and It's Summer. Quadrant Editions, 1983. ISBN 0864950322 ISBN 0864950225
  • Piling Blood. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1984. ISBN 0771072139
  • The Collected Poems of Al Purdy. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1986. ISBN 0771072155
  • The Woman on the Shore. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990. ISBN 0771072171
  • Collected Poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990. ISBN 9780771070310
  • Naked with Summer in Your Mouth. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1994. ISBN 077107221X
  • Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets: Selected poems 1926-1996. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1550171488
  • To Paris Never Again. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1550171739
  • Beyond Remembering: The collected poems. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1550172255
  • Home Country: Selected poems. Parry Sound, ON: Church Street Press, 2000.


  • A Splinter in the Heart: A novel. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990.


  • Reaching for the Beaufort Sea: An autobiography. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publising, 1993. ISBN 1550170880
  • Starting from Ameliasburgh: The collected prose of Al Purdy (edited by Sam Solecki). Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1995. ISBN 1550171275
  • No One Else Is Lawrence! (with Doug Beardsley). Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1998.
  • The Man Who Outlived Himself: An appreciation of John Donne (with Doug Beardsley). Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2000.


  • The New Romans: Candid Canadian opinions of the U.S.. New York: St. Martin’s Press / Edmonton: Hurtig, 1968.
  • Fifteen Winds: A selection of modern Canadian poems. Toronto: Ryerson, 1969.
  • Storm Warning: The new Canadian poets. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1971. ISBN 0771071914
  • Storm Warning 2: The new Canadian poets. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1976. ISBN 077107204X
  • No One Else Is Lawrence! (with Doug Beardsley). Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1550171941
  • The Man Who Outlived Himself: An Appreciation of John Donne (with Doug Beardsley). Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2000.



At The Quinte Hotel05:19

At The Quinte Hotel

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy Open Library.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. Brooke, James (April 26, 2000). Al Purdy, Poet, Is Dead at 81; A Renowned Voice in Canada. The New York Times. Retrieved on: April 18, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 University of Toronto Library. Al Purdy, Biography. Canadian Poets Series. Retrieved on: April 19, 2008.
  3. The A-Frame
  4. Save Al Purdy's House Campaign
  5. The Great Purdyana Auction, Harbour Publishing. Web, May 20, 2013.
  6. [ Charles Bukowski 1920-1994], Poetry Foundation, Web, Aug. 13, 2012.
  7. The Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology, Harbour Publishing. Web, May 20, 2013.
  8. Search results: Al Purdy, Open Library, May 13, 2011.

External linksEdit

  • Canadian Poetry Online: Al Purdy - Biography and six poems (At Evergreen Cemetery, Lu Yu (AD 1125-1209), Married Man's Song, The Dead Poet, Listening to Myself, The Last Picture in the World
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