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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Literary Friends of the A-frame II - Conrad Beaubien

Another friend of the A-frame is Conrad Beaubien - writer, musician and champion of Prince Edward County's Millennium Trail project.

If you dropped by the A-frame during last year's Purdy Picnic, you would have enjoyed music graciously donated by 'Station Road', a group Conrad formed with PEC musicians Eric Pilgrim, David Simmonds and Michelle.

Conrad writes for Northumberland/Quinte area's  Watershed magazine (his lovely portrait of Eurithe Purdy appeared in the Fall 2012 issue) and reflects on nature in the fine local paper, the Wellington Times.

Conrad is also a playwright. On 6 dates in April and May, packed houses experienced the world premiere of Conrad's play 'Back of Hoards Station' at historic Hillier Town Hall- all in support of the Millennium Trail Hillier Wetlands project.

The night was a treat. Local food. Communal table of interesting folks.

The play was a wonder. Tender. Tough. True.
And tears, yes there were tears in the audience at the end.

Conrad and 'Station Road' played the first Purdy Picnic July 27, 2013

'Station Road' at the A-frame July 2013

Conrad sneaking up on Eurithe
Here's a link to The Belleville Intelligencer's April 24 review of 'Back of Hoards' Station.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Literary Friends of the A-frame - Martin Durkin

Not surprisingly, a number of the folks dedicated to the Purdy A-frame story are writers.

Martin Durkin is a Marmora-based poet (whose heart lies in Hamilton) who has just released a book of poetry - an enticing long poem entitled SteelTown for Mary. Its narrator is a retired detective, who has lost his identity, his peer group, his town...and most cruelly, his wife. It is powerful and beautiful stuff.

Martin is a prolific poet, called a working man's poet by some. He publishes almost daily on his poetry site The Crazy Irishman. His work is accessible, original, intelligent. Martin talks about SteelTown for Mary in this Q&A session posted on his site.

Martin reading at Active Arts Studio
SteelTown for Mary was released as an e-book yesterday (Purdy Day, coincidentally I don't think so) and will appear in print form soon. Martin admits to being influenced by Al Purdy's writing, and indeed, contributed work to the anthology And Left a Place to Stand On, inspired by the work of Purdy.

SteelTown for Mary was edited by Richard Turtle, talented local actor, director and writer. Martin and Richard met at a Purdy fund-raiser hosted by Active Arts Studio last September. Richard performed the outstanding David Carley one-man show 'Al Purdy at the Quinte Hotel'. Masterfully, did I mention that? Martin read a number of his poems that same show. Synergy.
Kelly Bacon, Martin, Chris Faiers, Richard Turtle

I am very excited about SteelTown for Mary. Fortunately I printed out all 70-some pages of it a few months back, when Martin did me the great honour of inviting me to read and review it (he couldn't have known that I cannot read and enjoy print fully unless it's on paper). I say fortunate, as the actual physical book has yet to be released. Expect that soon.

But in the meantime, you can settle down with your Kindle, your iBOOK, Nook or Kobo and enjoy SteelTown for Mary.
Here are links for Kobo and Amazon.

Purdy Day, 2014

I sometimes think how incredibly lucky I am, as one who loves Al Purdy's work, to live so close to Eurithe and Al's A-frame home, and to the places that inspired his poetry and live on in his prose. Yesterday was Purdy Day, 14 years to the day since Al died. Al puts it more poetically, in words that Eurithe selected for his iconic black granite book-shaped stone:

"This is where I came to
when my body left it body
and my spirit stayed
in its spirit home".

Michele left pansies 
I blogged about last year's coolish Purdy Day. We wandered around Grove cemetery, the millpond, the house and property, surprised a great blue heron on the point.

Yesterday was a kinder and gentler day. I spent two lovely sunny hours, propped up against Owen Roblin's gravestone, reading Al's long poem 'In Search of Owen Roblin'. I loved being able to do that - to read Al's words about ancestors and early A'burg history, occasionally glancing up to see the very gravestones across the sunny slope.

It meant a lot to be able to look down toward the millpond's edge to that shiny book-shaped marker, which will always remind us that a great poet lived here - and wandered in despair, believing himself a failure, in early days.

All watch  a huge blue heron explore the shorelines of the millpond, wander the old Valley Road beside the graveyard fence, listen to a grieving widower who brought yellow flowers to his wife's new grave.

That's why the A-frame people have held onto Jean Baird's compelling vision of saving the A-frame property and its legacy. There may not be many folks in Ameliasburgh Ontario who know, or even care. But there are countless readers and writers worldwide for whom this spot will always be important.

Michele left pansies
This year, the spot is even more evocative -  Al and Eurithe's son Jim was laid to rest here in the summer. And in that practical way that practical folks have, Eurithe had her name engraved at the same time.

I found a yellow flower

old Valley Road - Grove Cemetery

'my' John Reeves photo - from the PurdyShow silent auction

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday, May 25 (10:00 - 4:00) A-frame Work Party invitation - bring your lunch, your rake, your wheelbarrow, your broom, maybe your chainsaw?

photo courtesy APAFA

Well it's that time again. The snow is leaving..and oh what it's leaving behind! At the A-frame the stage is set for some serious (well not so serious) yard work. As the A-frame's contractor and friend Matti Kopamees puts it: 

"We took down the dead ash by the water and trimmed a bunch of broken branches yesterday. There is nary a patch of grass to walk on between the house and the lake as it is covered in tree detritus."

Compelling image. But not the one I recall from the first annual Purdy Picnic. And then there's that second annual Purdy Picnic scheduled for Saturday, July 26, 2014, to get ready for.

Al might describe the off-season landscape this way. (Did, actually, in Dark Landscape, Wild Grape Wine, 1968).

"Summer cottagers gone
a pair of tall elms
long since dead of Dutch Elm disease
are indistinguishable from other trees
their small bones leafless
Well I've no doubt weather
does influence human mood..."

So it's time to get together at the A-frame and help it move beautifully into spring and summer. And influence the mood at Roblin Lake. Get that deck moved back into place. Maybe even get inside the cottage and make the beginnings of a good spring cleaning. Start getting the place ready for writer-in-residence Katherine Leyton in July.

The local Friends of the A-frame have chosen a date for the annual clean-up of the A-frame property ~raking, picking up and removing fallen branches. The ice storm of 2013 has left some pretty sizeable branches which can be sawed into firewood and stacked under shelter. Our September-November writers in residence Sue Sinclair and Nick Thran may be grateful to see a towering woodpile at their disposal. 
Centennial SS students resting
after their A-frame labours

You're seeing it here first. We've decided on Sunday May 25, 10 - 4 PM at the A-frame. The snow should be gone, the lawn dried up enough that we can get work. And play! See you there.

We'll be emailing this date to Friends of the A-frame and  announcing it at our May 4th Town Hall meeting (1-3 PM, Ameliasburgh). But in the meantime, help us spread the word. Thanks!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Birth of a Network, A Acronym? May 4, Ameliasburgh

 On Sunday May 4, from 1:00 until 3:00 there will be a gathering of the Friends of the A-frame at the Ameliasburgh Town Hall. This will be the first time we have had a 'meeting'.

The Friends of the A-frame at this point exists as a growing email network of folks who have indicated a willingness to assist with some aspect of the A-frame's life , who've said or written the words "I want to be involved".

The Friends of the A-frame (I admit to resorting to FOAF in my notes to myself) includes writers, builders, artists, students, musicians, winemakers, educators, people from all walks of life- all of us just folks who can wield a rake, or a hammer, raise funds or donate goods, sell books or put up tents, offer ideas and make them happen...

It includes (and honours) local folks who have "been there since the beginning" when the dream of saving the A-frame for future generations was little more than a desperate hope.

So, on May 4, plan to join us at Ameliasburgh Town Hall. We'll share the vision, encourage each other, and make some plans together for the events of summer/fall 2014 at the A-frame.

It takes a village...Ameliasburgh.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

National Al Purdy Day - Monday April 21

photo courtesy APAFA and Eurithe Purdy
 In 2009 The League of Canadian Poets proclaimed April 21 as Al Purdy Day. This year, Al Purdy day falls on Easter Monday, which will provide many of us with a day off work, which we could use for paperwork, cleaning the garage, starting to work in the garden. Or we could take an hour and observe Al Purdy Day.

If you're not too far away, you could travel to Ameliasburgh, park on Whitney Road and walk in to the A-frame behind its hedge of unruly cedars. Being careful of your footing because of winter tree damage and construction obstacles, you could wander down to Roblin Lake and think of how many poems it inspired. Carefully you might peek through the windows into the dining room where so many writers ate and drank and talked poetry with Al and Eurithe.
Centennial high school Purdy Day 2010

Or you might go take Purdy Lane down to Grove Cemetery, find Al's grave with famous book-shaped gravestone, and pay your respects. Wander around the lovely old Grove cemetery overlooking the millpond immortalized in 'In Search of Owen Roblin.' Find Owen Roblin -  he's buried there too.

photo courtesy John Reeves
The Voice of the Land
Owen Roblin 1806-1903

 Or you could light a fire in the fireplace, put some spaghetti sauce on to cook, and sit down with a good book.  Suggestion? Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy. Published 2000. The year Canada lost its first, its best, its last poet, it's been said of Al.

Read a poem to your lover. To yourself. Read it out loud.

Al Purdy 1916 - 2000      photo courtesy John Reeves

 If you feel in need of a bit of inspiration, have a look at what Chris Faiers, Marmora poet and host of the Annual PurdyFest, has to say about Al's influence. Read Chris' poem 'Picnic with Al'.

I invite you to travel back with me to a post I wrote last April 21st, or I could share what happened to us on Purdy Day 2013.

Happy Purdy Day everyone.