This photo was taken in the beautiful Al Purdy Library at Trenton High School. I have yet to do justice to the people and the place.
For today, I am thinking about this quote, which was selected for the library wall:
"I searched out chinks of reality in the high walls around me and found perilous escape in books."
The lines are taken from a poem called What it Was-
in which Al Purdy describes his time in schools, including a boarding school we all know as Albert College.
A working class kid, accustomed to wandering the mean streets of Trenton, smothered by the love of a mother who had only him, he speaks of "how cruelly alien boys were" and of his escape into books...and listening.
This man who found school oppressive and irrelevant, and who dropped out in Grade 10, went on to read widely, to collect thousands of books and to fill a vast oeuvre with his discoveries from classical literature, archaeology, the wider world.
So in a way have I, retired from a challenging career with high walls of its own, entered into a new exciting stage of life, in books. I am following all the threads in Purdy's work - other poets, critics, novelists, contemporaries and successors in Canadian letters.
After years of technical writing and reading, I am once again reading... poetry.
More from What it Was-
" It was not exactly the inequalities
of schoolboy against bullying teacher
or later the fear fitting into a
strange conformity at a boarding school
or how cruelly alien boys were
-for at the time I searched out chinks
of reality in the high walls around
me and found perilous escape in books with
night flights west and sky causeways-"
(from the Cariboo Horses, 1965)