Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Purdy and Acorn

Two poets I absolutely adore are Al Purdy and Milton Acorn. Purdy I love for his nonchalant way of sneaking gorgeous turns of phrase in where the words themselves are as ordinary as you can imagine. And Acorn for his power of emotion and ability to draw you into his heart.

My father tells me that when I was very young he and Milton Acorn would go for walks with me walking along in between each, holding one hand each while they smoked cigars far above me and talked. Maybe Acorn's views about the complexity of ravens' and crows' societies have stuck with me since I find them endlessly fascinating now.

Anyway, I came across this in my general surfing tonight and had to re-post it so so you could enjoy it too. It's a recounting by Al Purdy of the arguments he and Milton would have.
"When Purdy describes how he and Acorn argued over everything, for example, you simply know it's the truth. Besides, I know these guys and trust me, knowing Al and knowing Milton, you can trust it's pretty much the absolutely accurate truth. For one thing, Milt'd argue with a fencepost. For another, Al would probably take the side of the post, if only to get Milt going . . . BUT, that's not what makes it a great poem, no. You tell me why it's a great poem."

. . . For two months we quarrelled over socialism poetry how to boil water
doing the dishes carpentry Russian steel production figures and whether
you could believe them and whether Toronto Leafs would take it all
that year and maybe hockey was rather like a good jazz combo
never knowing what came next . . .
and working with saw and hammer at the house all winter afternoon
disagreeing about how to pound nails
arguing vehemently over how to make good coffee
Marcus Aurelius Spartacus Plato and François Villon
And it used to frustrate him terribly
that even when I was wrong he couldn't prove it
and when I agreed with him he was always suspicious
and thought he must be wrong because I said he was right . . .
we argued about white being white (prove it dammit) & cockroaches
bedbugs in Montreal separatism Nietzsche
Iroquois horsebreakers on the prairie
death of the individual and the ultimate destiny of man
and one night we quarrelled over how to cook eggs
In the morning driving to town we hardly spoke
and water poured downhill outside all day for it was spring
when were we gone with frogs mentioning lyrically
Russian steel production figures on Roblin Lake which were almost nil
I left him hitch-hiking on #2 Highway to Montreal
and I guess I was wrong about those eggs . . .
("House Guest," Poems for All the Annettes, 1962)
I just ordered Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy from Amazon. I even did the shamelessly adult thing of ordering it as a hardcover just to have something nice on my shelf to hold and pick up again and again later. I should thank this rotten cat outside that won't stop wailing for waking me up, but he doesn't get credit for putting me in the mood for poetry. Lord knows how that happened.


By al - 6:07 a.m. |

i remember...all the children crows gather every morning in victoria park for school. funny, i remember actually believing in that though i can't remember ever having believed in santa. actually, i think part of me still believes it.
Yep, I remember that. I checked Chapters and and finding an in-print collection of Acorn seems to be not that easy, sadly, or I'd have bought one as well.
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