Last modified: 2021-02-09
This is an argumentative page of
David Casperson
Associate Professor
Computer Science
University of Northern British Columbia

Why read al purdy's selected poems  1962 – 1996?

…because they provide a wonderful patchwork in both time and space. The quintessential Canadian novel, or for that matter the quintessential Estonian novel, is an exploration of mainly one theme, one place in time, one historical perspective. Purdy's collection of poems on the other hand is more like a collection of short stories. It is a collection of seventy-five diverse photographs rather than one feature-length film.

…because you get to watch Purdy wrestle with ideas and themes over time. For instance, you see the title of his book Naked with Summer in Your Mouth (1994) first shows up as a line in “Transient” from 1962; you see ideas from “Lament of the Dorsets” reappear in “Adam and No Eve”.

…because they are both specifically and universally Canadian. For instance, “House Guest” begins:

  For two months we quarreled over socialism   poetry   how to boil 
  doing the dishes   carpentry   Russian steel production figures and
  you could believe them and whether Toronto Leafs would take it all 
  that year and maybe hockey was rather like a good jazz combo
  never knowing what came next

This poem is anchored in place in central Canada and anchored in the time of Soviet Russia, but it also speaks to that universal shared Canadian experience.

…because they are poignant, whimsical, and fun!!

David Casperson
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This page was written in 2006 as part of the UNBC Canada Read's competition. I did not convince enough people to read Al Purdy to win the competition, but I had fun reading the book.