Late in August, Harbour Publishing head Howard White asked me, together with Harbour’s Emma Skagen, to edit an anthology of poems honoring the 100th birthday of Canadian poet Al Purdy, who died in 2000. I was delighted to accept this request, since I had a long history with Purdy, and in fact owe him a lot.
I first met him when he was a guest in an undergraduate poetry writing workshop at UBC I had taken, conducted by Earle Birney. Then while I was doing graduate work at the University of California at Irvine, I submitted material to an anthology of contemporary Canadian poems Purdy was editing for Ryerson Press. When it appeared, I was surprised and pleased to learn that Purdy had titled the anthology after a poem of mine he had accepted, Fifteen Winds (published in 1969).
Subsequently, Purdy included me in his first Storm Warning anthology, published by McClelland & Stewart in 1971. That volume featured thirty Canadian poets under thirty. On the strength of this happy event, during a visit to Ontario I travelled to the poet’s Ameliasburgh home to solicit his advice about a first book manuscript I had compiled. He read it, and suggested I approach John Newlove, then M & S’ poetry editor. This collection became my first book of poems, Waiting for Wayman, published by M & S in 1973.
But even if Purdy had not been so helpful to me, I’ve always very much enjoyed his poems’ rambling talkative style, a variation of Birney’s compositional strategy, and have frequently employed it myself.
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