Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Purdy Gift arrives back home after a long journey

Today, the postal truck drove up to my house and I was very excited to receive a huge hardcover edition of Neil Gaimen’s Sandman. I dashed right out, only to find a flat cardboard package. I knew without looking what it was. I walked slowly and quietly back to the house.

A long time ago I dedicated a picture I drew to Al Purdy, the Canadian poet who had played such an important role in my youth. I handed it over to him, and signed it at his insistence. That strange old man who carried chairs over the crowd, like he was a young buck before reading. I was grateful just to hear his voice. And then he accepted my gift.

I miss those glorious days of youth. During those days, I mixed with many prominent figures of Canadian literature. I arrogantly thought myself in the same boat. Don't you ever miss that youthful sense that you are on your way up. I felt so strongly about the matter that it was not until I had an invitation from Mr. Purdy to visit him at his farm that I paused to question.

And yet I still miss those days. So, today, the brown package that came for me was a sad sad symbol.

I was impressed though. Ms. Baird packed it flat for Ms. Purdy, in sturdy cardboard. My picture came home safe and sound, as pristine as when I handed it over to the great man himself.

I confess, I got all weepy opening it up. I felt wounded, knowing it had come home. No longer did my sweaty attempts at expression live with this hero. And it also seemed like a signpost of an era gone.

Then I looked underneath the charcoaled paper.

I do not know whether it was Eurithe’s idea or Ms. Bairds, but there was a carbon. Yes, a carbon from a typewriter, do you remember those? I do, all my old poems came out that way. There was an old carbon of a three page poem by Mr. Purdy.

I do not like suspense so I will dispense that I have not read it. I glanced through it, glanced through it a second time, glanced through it a third time. I tucked it back in with the picture. It is still sitting on my desk. I don’t even know if it was published or not. I don’t think it was, or at least I do not recognize it. I saw his own scribbling on the page, correcting his writing. I cannot bring myself to read it yet. I need to hold it for a while yet before I can do such a thing. What is important to me, and what Ms. Baird knew, is that these pieces of paper sat in his typer, he looked at them as he thought out his thoughts. He likely cursed them out. But they sat there in his typer.

What I wish to say about this mail, is a profound thank you to the sender.

I touched that paper. I smelled that paper. I rolled around delighting in it. I had been so sad to see this picture come home and then there were these carbons of a poem. A very specific poem.

My youthful dreams of creating art are long gone, and I may never be a colleague of the people I admire, but I have this reminder of the times I have had, and I have this precious paper. It probably doesn't seem like much, but then you haven’t read the poem.

None of this would have happened, except I happened to reminisce in my obscure blog. The whole thing is so unlikely and improbable, that the fact that it did is magical in itself.

So, here's to magic, to the poetry of Al Purdy, and to memories.


  1. as an update, i have since, with trepidation read the poem. It is an unpublished poem.

    I can't crudely push into words what that means.

    some snotty drunken youth gave purdy a picture a long time ago, and in return his family gave an original one of a kind poem.

    I can frame it, but i cannot hoist it to where I feel it ought be.