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Preserving Canadian (Literary) Culture

I’ve posted here several times about one of my favourite Canadian poets, Al Purdy (just do a search at the top of this blog), and after reading this excellent and inspiring article, I’m doing it again.

Several times throughout the article, Marnie Woodrow observes that Canadians seem to suffer from cultural apathy, and when I first read that, my heart began to pound. It’s exactly the reason behind my concept of Biblio: a bookshop/literary hub to preserve but more importantly encourage and grow support of our literary contribution to this world. This means promoting not only Canadian literary output but also that which is tied to it, like Al Purdy’s A-frame house, once a meeting place of literary genius, now threatened by Canadian disinterest.

As Woodrow mentions in her article, Purdy’s wife Eurithe promised him that she would turn the A-frame into a writers’ retreat, and while her efforts are bolstered by hardworking individuals like Jean Baird and George Bowering, who initiated the project to save the A-frame, and by Harbour Publishing, there is yet a sense of urgency, of struggle in making this happen. Why don’t we care about stuff like this? The million-dollar question.

I’m not a writer looking for a place to work on my novel or chapbook (yet). But if I were, I would definitely want to be creating at the A-frame, where the ghosts of past literary celebrations were held and the muses still reside, in among the chittering chipmunks and whispering pines and by the peaceful lake.

I feel a sort of desperation in me when I read about things like this, the kind you get when you find a cause you firmly believe in.

My own financial situation is too close to where the Purdys found themselves when they first started out, but my plan is to begin support by buying the Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology, published by Harbour, since the proceeds will go toward saving the A-frame and helping Eurithe fulfil her promise. Then I hope to convince a local bookstore to participate, one where I plan to be working very soon (discussions as to how are in the works — woohoo!). The library could be next by way of working together to garner support.

If I can start now to cultivate the type of atmosphere and mission I envision for Biblio, I’ll be a happy woman with a purpose. Helping save the A-frame and thus provide a place for Canadian writers to produce their works while at the same time honouring Purdy’s own contribution and attempting to banish Canadian cultural apathy sound like very worthy causes to me. There is no harm in thinking big.

After all, that’s how Purdy and the rest of our literary notables started out.

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5 Comments

  1. Kathy Miller

    I totally agree with you and hope you reach your dream. I remember when I majored in French a billion years ago, and sadly remember very little, how ashamed I was that I knew nothing about francophone writers, actors, musicians, etc., even though the media were ardently promoting Canadian content. There were exceedingly talented and famous people in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada who should have been known in our households also. The same must be said regarding aboriginal cultures (nations?) here. We have such a wealth of diverse traditions and backgrounds in Canada, whether indigenous or not, from which we all could benefit but the best seller lists don’t always reflect that. I hope you will open many doors and eyes :o).

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