PurdyFests are annual ‘tribal gatherings’ of poets in the greater Marmora area. The more formal events take place on August holiday weekends, although people begin arriving days in advance, and some linger afterwards to continue enjoying the wild natural beauty of the Quinte region.
These cultural gatherings are a tribute to Al Purdy and his famous poem, “The Country North of Belleville.” Purdy, with his wife Eurithe, hosted a generation+ of Canadian writers at their famous A-frame cottage in Ameliasburgh. PurdyFests continue the Purdys’ genial tradition of hosting urban poets in our natural and relaxed environment.
PurdyFests are also a celebration of “People’s Poetry,” as exemplified by Purdy’s close friend, fellow Governor General’s poetry recipient, Milton Acorn. The first PurdyFest, held in 2007, was the brainchild of poets James Deahl and Chris Faiers, and professor/philosopher Terry Barker. Deahl and Barker had previously organized several “Controversy” symposiums on the role of People’s Poetry. These three old friends and comrades decided to expand the somewhat academic scope of the Controversies to include poetry readings and other populist events, and PurdyFests were born.
The summer gatherings have become a kaleidoscope of people camping at Faiers’ ZenRiver Gardens retreat in the hamlet of Malone, SYMPOSIUMS on key aspects of Canadian culture and literature, casual events such as the traditional Friday night POTLUCK SUPPERS, democratic ROUND ROBIN POETRY READINGS on the islet in the Marmora dam following the symposiums, and pilgrimages to local sites, such as Purdy’s grave and A-frame, the nearby sacred First Nations’ Petroglyphs Park, and leisurely hanging out at Faiers’ ZenRiver Gardens retreat on the Upper Moira River.
PurdyFest #2 in 2008 focused on Al Purdy, THE VOICE OF CANADA’s poetic legacy, and PurdyFest #4’s symposium in 2010 focused on Ted Plantos, “the Cabbagetown Kid.” 2011’s symposium will feature presentations on seminal Canadian modernist poet Raymond Souster. Now 90, Ray’s newest collection, BIG SMOKE BLUES, will debut at PurdyFest #5.
Many hundreds of poems have been performed, almost as many have been written, and dozens of poetry collections have been launched at PurdyFests. These include two key anthologies, CROSSING LINES: POETS WHO CAME TO CANADA IN THE VIETNAM WAR ERA, and LEFT A PLACE TO STAND ON: POEMS AND ESSAYS ON AL PURDY.
L-r: Dr. John Burke and Chris Faiers at PurdyFest #4 at ZenRiver Gardens. Photo by RD Roy.
A sampling of readers, presenters and musicians at PurdyFests includes a WHO’S WHO of Canadian poets and writers: Allan Briesmaster, Kent Bowman, Katherine Beeman, Jeff Seffinga, Carol Malyon, Julie McNeill, Anna Plesums, RD Roy, Tai Grove, Jim and Alastair Larwill, Omaha RisinG, singer/guitarist Morley Ellis, Martin Durkin, James Deahl, Terry Barker, Chris Faiers, Marie Wilkins, Deborah Panko, Peter Rowe, Pearl Pirie, Theodore of Snowlion Meditation Shop, John Hamley, Gail Taylor, Mick Burrs, Simon D’Abreu, Terry Ann Carter, Claudia Couture Radmore… the impressive list continues to expand each year.
The main events day for PurdyFest #5 will be on Saturday, July 30, 2011. The Canada-Cuba Literary Alliance (CCLA) will feature a group reading at ZenRiver Gardens on Sunday, July 31. The Potluck Supper will be on Friday, July 29.
For further information on all aspects of PurdyFests, please contact Chris Faiers
P.O. Box 69, Marmora, Ontario K0K 2M0