25th Trillium Award

Purdy Country LitFest (PurdyFests)

 
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Bush land scrub land — 

Cashel Township and Wollaston

Elvezir McClure and Dungannon

green lands of Weslemkoon Lake

where a man might have some 

opinion of what beauty

is and none deny him 

for miles —

-Al Purdy "The Country North of Belleville"

PurdyFests are annual tributes to Al Purdy (December 30, 1918 - April 21, 2000) and his famous poem, "The Country North of Belleville."

Purdy and his wife Eurithe played host to many Canadian writers at their famous A-frame house on the south shore of Roblin Lake in Ameliasburg. The guest list included the likes of Margaret Atwood, Earle Birney, Steven Heighton, Margaret Laurence and Jack McClelland.

Inviting urban poets to the natural allure of the Quinte region keeps Purdy’s tradition of cottage poetry gatherings alive.

It was the summer of 2006 when poet James Deahl and professor/author Terry Barker visited poet Chris Faiers in Marmora. At the time James and Terry were organizing “controversy” symposiums on the state of Canadian People’s Poetry in the tradition of Milton Acorn and many others.

James and Terry wanted to expand the “controversy” meetings geographically to honour Purdy’s legacy, so they suggested the next meeting be held in Marmora. Chris started to envision the symposium with poetry readings on the islet in the dam. When James visited Purdy in Ameliasburg, Big Al suggested the legacy of his poetry gatherings be expanded and formalized.

In 2007, honouring Purdy’s wishes, PurdyFest was born.

On August holiday weekends, in the hamlet of Malone, festivalgoers set up tents at Chris’ ZenRiver Gardens retreat on the Upper Moira River. When the symposium ends and the readings are over, they make their way to Purdy’s grave, his A-frame house and explore the sacred First Nations’ Petroglyphs Park. Chris currently organizes PurdyFests.

On Friday evenings of the August long weekend there is a potluck supper at ZenRiver Gardens. These dinners kickoff the official start of PurdyFest and they give everyone a chance to mingle in a casual and outdoor atmosphere.

Poets and writers who have attended the event include Allan Briesmaster, Kent Bowman, Katherine Beeman, Jeff Seffinga, Carol Malyon, Julie McNeill, Anna Plesums, RD Roy and Tai Grove.

For more information on PurdyFests, click here. Chris can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]. And don't forget to check out his blog, Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver gardens.

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