Al Purdy's autobiography 'Reaching for Beaufort Sea' is quite the most candid 'story of myself' that I have ever read. Al records in detail (and recycles in poems and other prose) not just the shenanigans (bar fights, drunk tank visits, bootlegging), but the mistakes, the doubts and fears, the depressions, the unflattering things that most of us don't want to face - for he had a poet's soul.
|The former Bata shoe plant - modernist style|
Al recounts his early rootlessness and later desperate poverty in works which feature two local 'landmarks'. This is their little story, should you travel past.
"During my schoolboy summers, and after I quit school,there were odd jobs - picking apples, making boxes for apples, farm work, almost anything. When the Bata Shoe Company built their shoe factory, they took me on as a machine operator. I was a terrible workman and never did learn how to make shoes. I left after only five or six weeks." (Reaching for the Beaufort Sea, p.45)
|former Jay Sprague canning factory, Mountainview|
After moving to Ameliasburgh in 1957, Al and Eurithe had some pretty difficult years. At one point, they did what many local folks did - worked at the local canning factory - in those days when Prince Edward County was famous for its canned produce, and its many canneries. The factory pictured above canned green beans until just recently, when the operation moved to Belleville. It was owned by the family who ran the original cannery where Al and Eurithe would have worked, just a short distance away in the village (thanks to Terry Sprague, local naturalist for helping me get the story straight).
"Eurithe and I both worked at Jay Sprague's Mountainview canning factory in 1958. She peeled tomatoes. I operated a machine which capped the 28-ounce cans." (RBS, p. 173)
Funny all those links. Pedestrian and poetic.