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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Active Arts - the Purdy place to be on August 30th

Back on September 28th 2013, fans of the work of Al Purdy who gathered at one of Prince Edward County's premier performance spaces, Active Arts Studio, were mesmerized by actor/director Richard Turtle's powerful performance of David Carley's play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel'.

At that same event folks were introduced to gifted local musician Morley Ellis and to poet Martin Durkin, author of  Steeltown for Mary, who did a reading at the Second Annual Purdy picnic last week.

Also at the picnic, Richard Turtle presented an excerpt from the Carley play. A-frame picnickers now have an idea of what's in store on August 30.
photo courtesy John Reeves

On August 30, 2014, at 3:00 PM, Richard Turtle will once again be performing the David Carley play at Active Arts Studio. Can't wait to see it again. Rumour has it that David Carley may be in attendance. Would love to hear him talk about the genesis of the work.
Katherine Leyton at the Purdy Picnic 2014

As if that weren't enough, the Active Arts bill includes the first A-frame writer in residence, Katherine Leyton, who will share insights into her summer work on Roblin Lake, and present the world premiere of the Ameliasburgh/Purdy installment of her poetry project How Pedestrian.

To round out this astonishing Purdy A-frame fundraiser in another artistic form, jazz artist composer Gerry Shatford and his trio (Gerry on piano, Brendan Davis on bass and Dave MacDougall on drums) will be performing Gerry's original jazz suite based on the poetry of Al Purdy, 'When I Sat Down to Play the Piano. An audio sampler (and CD ordering information) is available on Shatford's website.

This is DEFINITELY the not-to-miss Purdy event of 2014.
As always, proceeds go to support the work of  the Al Purdy A-frame Association.
Signed copies of some Purdy titles, copies of the A-frame anthology, and original artwork will be available for purchase.

Admission is by a $50 per person donation. Advance booking (advisable as we anticipate great interest) is available through Active Arts. Visit Active Arts Studio for booking information. See you on the 30th!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"a heart-warming moment for Literature" *

Ernestine Lahey, a Purdy scholar from the Netherlands
and husband Hans Bloemsma
Denis and I went back to the A-frame last Sunday morning to take down the tents. The place looked odd without its crowd (one count reports 103 of us, enjoying poetry and the A-frame day).

We had a word with Katherine and her mom Barb. Collected the 'Sensitive Man' empties and the garbage.

Sound guys Rob and Paul from 'Through the Cedars'

Saturday's Second Annual Purdy Picnic, last Saturday July 26, was better than we'd even hoped. Three months of planning, a tiny hard-working can-do team. Brilliant weather.

L: Bruce Sudds of Engagers, R: Alexandra M.

Al and Eurithe's A-frame.
Michele, poet-wrangler and emcee
Writer in Residence Katherine Leyton owning that stage

Poets on the A-frame stage. Well, Al and Eurithe's deck. "Hallowed ground", a couple of folks said. Visiting poets Phil Hall, Robert Priest and Stuart Ross travelled to the A-frame and astonished us with their work and their reading. The A-frame's first writer in residence Katherine Leyton shared new poems and her reflections on living and working in Al Purdy's old haunts.
Richard Turtle, actor, performing an excerpt from
David Carley's play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel'

Local poet Martin Durkin read several poems, and dipped into his newly released long poem Steeltown for Mary. Kathy Figueroa brought poems from the country north of Belleville. Local writers Louise O'Donnell (whose Shuffling into Place is my current favourite) and Janet Kellough (she of the Thaddeus Lewis historical mysteries) read poems of Al's.

the student voice - Steven Mullin
David Edward Sweet
Raconteurs. David Edward Sweet, owner of Books & Company recounted his meetings with Al Purdy. So did Ameliasburgh local Brian Way (whose ancestors built the mill which predated Roblin's Mill) - and shared a fine poem about his response to Al's work. Steven shared his student response to visiting the A-frame with his high school class.

Brian Way
Actor, director, writer, editor, journalist Richard Turtle performed an excerpt from David Carley's brilliant play 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel', which he will be offering at another A-frame fund-raiser at Prince Edward County's Active Arts Studio on August 30. Here's a link to last year's event. The fine local group Station Road, composed of Conrad Beaubien, David and Michele Simmonds and Eric Pilgrim were once again generous with their time and talents.
Robert Priest

Owner Chris Hall and barman Brett French from Barley Days Brewery, which has issued a beer in Al's honour (and a mighty fine hoppy beer it is too) spoke about the brew. I wrote about it here. Warning: an extremely fine beverage, made even more so by the brewery's sponsorhip of APAFA - for every six-pack sold they donate a loonie to the Association. The brewery provided two cases of the brew, which were discretely savoured by poets and volunteers as the day ended.

Poets, and people wanting to hear them. Denis our shuttle driver (and another sensitive man) ferried well over 60 folks to the A-frame, and many more back. And to and from the PicnicPEC gourmet food truck parked at the village hall.

Thanks to our sponsors: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Barley Days Brewery, Books & Company,  Brighton Arts Council, West City Honda, Kopamees Construction and donor artist Anne Rector. And to our partners: County of Prince Edward Public Library, Picnic PEC gourmet food truck, Through the Cedars Productions

Thanks to the team Barb, Matti, Michele and your humble scribe. Small but mighty crew.

See you Saturday July 25, 2015 (tentative date).

I'll let the photos speak for themselves. Travel back  to Saturday's sun and gentle heat on Roblin Lake.

Novelist Janet Kellough

Stuart Ross

Phil Hall
Martin Durkin

Kathy Figueroa
what's the word for a gathering of poets?

Station Road

my own sensitive man enjoying a Barley Days ale
and nosh prepared by Katherine's mom Barb

after the ball is over...silence returns to the point

*Well, you know where it's from. 'At the Quinte Hotel,' Al Purdy. First published in Poems for All the Annettes (revised edition, 1968).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

..."we must enquire the way of strangers*." Not this time!

A'burgh town hall. Park, get gourmet nosh at PicnicPEC
Take shuttle to A-frame
Ameliasburgh's fine stone Town Hall,  the hub of the village since 1874, will once again be the centre of operations for the Purdy Picnic July 26th. Parking, a gourmet food truck, and a map and schedule of events (look for Brian) are all there.

PicnicPEC gourmet food truck
Trish will feed you well - Town Hall parking lot
As we've mentioned before, there is no entrance to Gibson Road for picnic-goers. Parking is at the Town Hall (take the Honda shuttle to the entrance to Gibson, from there it's a short walk to the A-frame).

Alternative parking is along Whitney Road, near the intersection with Gibson Road but you will have missed 'start' in your A-frame pilgrimage.

the 'Wilderness Gothic' church is part of the
Ameliasburgh Historical Museum

Stuff to do in Ameliasburgh:

Have a look at the church which inspired 'Wilderness Gothic'.

See if you can find the plaque marking the location of Owen Roblin's mill.

Drop in to Ameliasburgh's welcoming Purdy Library to see Purdy memorabilia and chat with friendly staff.

signage to Grove Cemetery and the millpond which
stars in 'In Search of Owen Roblin'

Take the turn down Purdy Street to Grove Cemetery and pay your respects to 'the Voice of the Land'.

Victoria Schoolhouse - Ameliasburgh Historical Museum

Visit Ameliasburgh's outstanding Historical Museum pioneer village.

There's even a meet of the Quinte Section of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group going on near the museum, for those who love the nostalgia of beautiful old bikes. They're a friendly bunch and would welcome a drop-in.

the unprepossessing entrance to the A-frame property
And then...come by the Purdy A-frame. The readings and music will run from 1:00 to 4:00. You are welcome any time after 11:00 AM.

* from The Country North of Belleville - Al Purdy. First published in The Cariboo Horses (1965)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This beer oughta be worth some poems

"Warning: Contains Fart and Horse Piss".

You have to admit that as a marketing strategy, Prince Edward County's Barley Days Brewery might have wanted to think about that label a bit.

At least that would be in the ordinary beer market. But Greg Landucci's market, for this beer at least, is not the ordinary light summer ale drinker. 'A Sensitive Man' beer will appeal to folks who 'get' the literary references - for people who know and love the poetry of one Al Purdy, a national icon who just happened to spend most of his writing years in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County.

The well-known Purdy poem 'At the Quinte Hotel' was the inspiration for the label. You know it. The one that begins:

"I am drinking
I am drinking beer with yellow flowers
in underground sunlight
and you can see that I am a sensitive man
And I notice that the bartender is a sensitive man too
so I tell him about his beer
I tell him the beer he draws
is half fart and half horse piss
and all wonderful yellow flowers..."

If you don't know (or can't recite) the poem in its entirety you might want to view the Bravo! production of Gord Downie's astonishing dramatization of the poem (warning: violence) which ends with Al Purdy's unforgettable voice intoning those familiar lines.

Barley Days owner Chris Rogers, brewer Alex Nichols and sales manager Greg Landucci were inspired to brew the beer and offer it as a fund-raiser to the Al Purdy A-frame Association, because, as Greg says, "Al had strong roots in the County and we want to help keep his legacy alive. And let's face it, he liked his beer." Admittedly, there is a nice resonance.

Barley Days Brewery will donate $1 for every six-pack sold, to the APAFA, to support ongoing A-frame restoration, and the writer in residence program. The beer will be ready by July 25; it will be available at Barley Days and on tap at select locations.

For more information - visit the Barley Days website to find out about 'A Sensitive Man' and the line-up of other fine ales, lagers and stout.

A note about Barley Days labels. I've always appreciated that Barley Days brewery uses images by local painter Manly Macdonald on many of their labels. For 'A Sensitive Man' Greg obtained permission to use that famous Krieger caricature of Al -  plaid pants, pocket protector, huge glasses and flying white hair.

Me, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when folks approach the bar, and ask for Greg's new ale by name.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

2nd Annual Al Purdy Picnic - July 26th

photo credit D.Scott
It's happening again.
The Al Purdy Picnic.
Saturday, July 26, 11:00 - 4:00.
To celebrate Al Purdy and his work, and the home he built with Eurithe.
To celebrate Canadian poetry and poets.

thanks again, Doug!

If you attended last year's First Annual event, you'll recall these scenes (you may even see yourself!)

The 2014 event celebrates the arrival of our first writer in residence at the restored A-frame. Katherine Leyton will be your host this year.

Poets Lynn Crosbie, Phil Hall and Robert Priest will be guest readers, along with a number of local poets and raconteurs.

Music will be provided once again by Station Road.

Station Road

Bring your own picnic to enjoy at the A-frame or pick up something delicious from Rebecca and Trish from PicnicPEC, a local gourmet food truck. Have a look at the menu.

For more information visit the Al Purdy A-frame Association on Facebook.
A'burg town hall - photo courtesy Wellington Times

This is really IMPORTANT:

Al and Eurithe's A-frame is at 45 Gibson Road, south of the village of Ameliasburgh. Gibson Road is a narrow, bumpy cottage road, with NO turnaround. We implore you not to enter the road - we want to befriend our neighbours at this early stage of the writer in residence program!

Purdy Public Library, Ameliasburgh

There is lots of parking at the Town Hall (that's where you will find PicnicPEC and pick up village maps), and an air-conditioned shuttle to take you to Grove cemetery, the Purdy library, and the A-frame.

Or bring your bikes and enjoy the village.

You are also welcome to park along Whitney Road, a left turn at the Purdy Library. Then it's a short walk
in to the A-frame along Gibson Road.
Books and Company 

More scenes from the 2013 First Annual Purdy Picnic...

Purdy titles, A-frame anthologies, apples
Geoff Heinricks

Michele introducing a guest reader

Purdy-fest creator Chris Faiers and Chase

Playwright, editor, actor Richard Turtle and Rita

Friday, July 4, 2014

Big Voices

OPERA! and lots of it

"Dust the rest of Al's records," Eurithe asked as she prepared to leave for the West.

Another dusty day in paradise.

And Paradise it was indeed.

All Russian labelling - a souvenir?

I'd read about Al's prodigious record collection, and his enthusiasm for sharing his favourites.

David Helwig writes in The Years (a chapter in the Al Purdy A-frame Anthology, Harbour Publishing 2009) about Al playing favourite recordings during one of Helwig's and Tom Marshall's visits to Roblin Lake.
so many big voices in the collection - surprised?

He remembers listening to Burns' 'Ae Fond Kiss, Kenneth McKellar singing about the Bonny Earl of Moray.

 In 'Remembering Al' (same anthology) Janet Lunn recalls Al's enthusiasm for Paul Robson and the Soviet Army Chorus "singing as loudly as his record player would play....He'd dance around the room - well, maybe not exactly dance, it was more like leaping - wildly directing the chorus with his arms and demanding of everyone in the room, 'Isn't that wonderful!'"

Isn't that a picture to take home with you?
eclectic! These 3 titles came off the shelf, one after the other 

Acorn's influence?

I checked Al's poetry for reflections of this love of music. Sure, there's 'The Freezing Music', which has to do with the tiny crystalline tinkling of ice crystals forming. No Red Army Chorus grandness there.

The poem 'Orchestra' (from Collected Poems -1986) doesn't suggest a lover of symphonic music (but Al's collection would belie that):

"Hairs of dead horses torturing wood
-the sound remotely equine
reminds me of a dream classroom
of nightmare urchins their fingernails
all at once scraping a blackboard
I listen and go mad...."

Lots more violent imagery and sound pictures. None of it suggests musical passion.

A different 'Orchestra' appears in The Woman on the Shore (1990). It talks about musicians'  experience of performing - of transcendence. A grand poem, with a symphonic structure. Need to be read in its entirety. But I do like these lines especially:

"They do not know where their bodies are
their flesh has fled
inside the blonde cello
into the warm red darkness
of the cherry-coloured violin
-and they are looking for their souls"

There must be more. I must consult George Bowering or Sam Solecki, both waiting on my shelf to edify me.
But for now, must go turn up some very loud music. And direct. And imagine Al doing the same.

interview tapes - I have the Wild Grape Wine copy
Al signed for Ron Bates of CBC Sudbury

'The Grundig' with its fine voice

 Michele says that she and Eurithe once had the Grundig - a fine piece of German sound technology - working. Hope we can do that again sometime. Play some Soviet Army Chorus records. Loud.

recordings were sorted using home-made dividers
Spoken word. Big male choirs. Folk music, from cowboy and roustabout songs to Benjamin Britten and the folk songs of John Donne. Opera and lots of it. Miriam Makeba. Symphonies. Old smarmy standards like John McCormach's 'Come into the Garden Maude'.

Some pretty arcane stuff. Poems of A. Tennyson read by Dame Sybil Thorndike (99 cents).

A lot of Corby Public Library discards.

budget consciousness ran in the family
not a lot of call for spoken word - bargains!

the original record 'album' - old lacquer records
embossed albums, brown paper sleeves, indexes

From the days when owning music was serious stuff. Not for the faint of heart. The collection was sorted, divided by home-made tabs created from over-runs of Purdy's A Handful of Earth book covers.

 New words like 'Stereophonic', 'Long Play 33-1/3'
'Capitol Duophonic - for stereo phonographs only.'

The album art...there's another rainy day exploration.

Oh A-frame dwellers, do have a close look at this astounding relic of an omnivorous music lover.
Never know where a poem might come from.