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Purdy, Alfred Wellington
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Alfred Wellington Purdy, a prominent Canadian poet, was born on 30 December 1918 at Wooler, Ontario and died on 21 April 2000 at Victoria, British Columbia. Purdy was one of an important group of poets recognised as "working class" poets, or "poets of the people." His formal education ended after only two years of high school, and he spent the Depression years "riding the rails" and worked at a number of jobs in British Columbia.
When the Second World War broke out, Purdy joined the R.C.A.F. and served for six years. After his discharge, he lived in British Columbia, supporting himself and his wife as a labourer. In 1956, they returned east, living for a period in Montreal -- where Purdy encountered the leaders of the contemporary Canadian literary scene, among them poet Irving Layton -- and then settling in Ameliasburgh.
By the mid-sixties, Purdy had found his own voice and was able to establish a considerable reputation as a poet. Purdy received several Canada Council Grants that enabled him to travel to such places as the interior of British Columbia in 1960, to Baffin Island in 1965, and to Greece in 1967, in order to broaden his base of experience. He published steadily in the sixties and seventies, to wide acclaim, and by 1982, had twenty-five volumes of poetry plus numerous works of prose, radio plays and dramas, and book reviews. In 1968, he edited the collection of essays, The New Romans. In the eighties, Purdy reached the critical pinnacle of an illustrious career with the publication of The Stone Bird (1981), Piling Blood (1984), and The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, 1956-1986 (1986). In 1990, Purdy published his first novel the semi-autobiographical Splinter in the Heart, and then the autobiography Reaching for the Beaufort Sea (1993).
Purdy's work won him the Governor General's Award for poetry twice; the first time in 1965, for The Cariboo Horses (1965) and the second in 1986, for "The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, 1956-1986." He also won the A.J.M. Smith Award for "Sex & Death" (1973). In 1982, he was also rewarded by the larger community with an Order of Canada and, in 1987, an Order of Ontario.
Al Purdy married his wife, Eurithe Mary Jane Parkhurst, in 1941. Al Purdy is survived by his wife.
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