Al Purdy was born in Wooler, Ontario in 1918. He's known as a "poet of the people" writer, his roots firmly entrenched in the Canadian working class culture. During the Depression he rode the rods to Vancouver and worked there for several years as a labourer. Purdy loved to travel. He became well-known internationally not only for his poems but also as a TV and radio play writer, anthologist, editor, travel writer and book reviewer. He won the Governor General's Literary Award in the poetry category in 1965 with The Cariboo Horses and again in 1986 with Collected Poems, 1956-1986. In 1987 he won the People's Poet Award for the same book.

Al Purdy died in 2000

Al Purdy is surely one of the great names in Canadian literature.

Like most Canadian poets, Purdy never made his living as a poet, but as all the other things a poet does--radio play writer, anthologist, editor, travel writer and book reviewer--and also as something of a parody of himself.

I admit that I never found his stage poet all that engaging, never could get through the abrasiveness, or the gruffness.

His son, Brian (to my mind a finer poet--though maybe just a poet of my generation), did point out the Cariboo Horses as a poem to read. He was right.

With his passing, the generation of poets that came to prominence in the 1960's is passing on--this includes Gwendoline McEwan, Milton Acorn, and others who were active at the Bohemian Embassy Coffeehouse in Toronto.

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