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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The 'master' of free verse

“I started writing poetry when I was about 13.” – Al Purdy

Canadian free verse poet Purdy's writing career spanned 56 years. His works included a remarkable 39 books of poetry, plus 1 novel, 2 volumes of memoirs and 4 books of correspondence. He has been called Canada's "unofficial poet laureate” and "a national poet in a way that you only find occasionally in the life of a culture."

Purdy was born on Dec. 30, 1918, and died at age 81 while still writing.  His death bed, in fact, was cluttered with his books and papers.   He was a bit chagrined by the fact that his publisher was planning a “collected works” version of his poems.  “A ‘collected poems' is either a gravestone or a testimonial to survival,” he said.  Here, from Beyond Remembering – The collected poems of Al Purdy (published shortly after his death) – and for Saturday’s Poem – is Purdy’s

Listening to Myself

    I see myself staggering through deep snow
lugging blocks of wood yesterday
an old man
almost falling from bodily weakness
— look down on myself from above
then front and both sides
white hair — wrinkled face and hands
it's really not very surprising
that love spoken by my voice
should be when I am listening
yet there it is
a foolish old man with brain on fire
stumbling through the snow

— the loss of love
that comes to mean more
than the love itself
and how explain that?
— a still pool in the forest
that has ceased to reflect anything
except the past
— remains a sort of half-love
that is akin to kindness
and I am angry remembering
remembering the song of flesh
to flesh and bone to bone
the loss is better

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