Academic Campaign

The following letter, written by Dr. David Bentley of the University of Western Ontario and co-signed by 40 of his colleagues from universities coast-to-coast, was distributed late February to all post-secondary institutions, Canadian literature and Canadian studies organizations.

“Al Purdy has been described at various times and by various writers as the “first,” the “last,” and the “most” Canadian poet, but for many of us he is simply the Canadian poet – the poet who captured and came to personify the distinctive genius of Canada. In a creative career that began when he was serving with the R.C.A.F in Vancouver during the Second World War to his death in 2000, he wrote with passion, commitment, and brilliant insight about almost every part of Canada and every aspect of Canadian life, past and present. No anthology of Canadian literature would be complete without such Purdy masterpieces as “The Cariboo Horses,” “The Country North of Belleville,” “Trees at the Arctic Circle,” “Wilderness Gothic,” “Lament for the Dorsets,” “Roblin’s Mills,” and “Elegy for a Grandfather.” Among Purdy’s many honours were two Governor General’s Awards, the Order of Ontario, and the Order of Canada.

“During much of his writing life, Al Purdy lived and drew inspiration from the A-frame house that he and his wife Eurithe built in 1957 on the shores of Roblin Lake, near Ameliasburgh, Ontario. It was there that he wrote many of his masterpieces. It was there that he communed imaginatively with the Loyalists who settled in Prince Edward County. It was there that he discussed the past and future of Canadian literature well into the night with Milton Acorn, Margaret Laurence, Michael Ondaatje, and many other friends, including, it is rumoured, John Labatt and Johnnie Walker. In a quite literal way Eurithe’s and Al’s A-frame is part of the fabric of Canadian literature and Canadian culture: among the “ingredients” of its chimney, he wrote in “Place of Fire,” are “limestone from an 1840 Regency house,” “historic stone from the Roblin gristmill site,” “anonymous stone from Norris Whitney’s barnyard,” and “some pickup loads from the Point Anne quarry” near Kingston. There is surely no more striking and concrete metaphor than the Purdys’ A-frame house for the integration of past and present, everyday and historied, Canadian literature and the Canadian landscape that lies at the very heart of Al’s poetry.

“But now the A-frame is threatened with sale and demolition. If this were allowed to happen, not only would a unique piece of Canada’s literary and cultural heritage disappear, but so, too, would a unique opportunity to preserve the A-frame as an inspiration for present and future Canadians and Canadian writers. So we are asking all our colleagues in English departments and Canadian Studies programs across Canada and abroad to support the Al Purdy A-frame Association, under which writers will be offered the opportunity to live and work in a space and place of inspirational literary and historic significance and resonance. Please help in any ways that you can – by writing a cheque, holding an auction, having a bake sale ... and please encourage colleagues and friends to do so as well. Canada has not done an admirable job of preserving its literary sites. Together we can change that in the case of the Purdys’ A-frame, and, by doing so, honour the memory and the work of one of Canada’s most important and beloved poets: Al Purdy."

Cheques can be made to “The Al Purdy A-frame Association” and mailed to
4403 West 11th Ave.,
Vancouver BC
V6R 2M2
For more information contact Jean Baird at or 604-224-4898


David Bentley, FRSC
Carl E. Klinck Professor in Canadian Literature
University of Western Ontario

Douglas Barbour
Professor Emeritus
Department of English
University of Alberta

Gregory Betts
Assistant Professor
English Language & Literature
Brock University

Christian Bök
English Department
University of Calgary

Stephanie Bolster
Associate Professor
Concordia University

George Bowering, OC, OBC
Professor Emeritus
Simon Fraser University

George Clark
Professor Emeritus and Adjunct
Queen's University
Department of English

Terrance Cox
Adjunct Professor, Department of Communications, Popular Culture and Film;
Brock University

Mary di Michele
Concordia University

Adam Dickinson
Assistant Professor
Department of English Language and Literature
Brock University

Stan Dragland
Professor Emeritus
University of Western ON

Dr. Gary Geddes,
Adjunct Professor, Creative Writing, UBC
Professor Emeritus, Concordia University

Laurence Hutchman
Professeur titulaire
Université de Moncton, Campus d'Edmundston

Dean Irvine
Associate Professor
Director, Editing Modernism in Canada (EMiC)
Collection Director, Canadian Literature Collection/Collection de littérature canadienne (University of Ottawa Press)
Department of English
Dalhousie University

Rosemary J. Jolly
Department of English; Institute of Population and Public Health
Queen's University

Kiley Kapuscinski
Queen's University
Sessional Adjunct

Afra Kavanagh
Asst Professor
Dept of Languages
Cape Breton University

Dr. Cheryl Lousley
Postdoctoral Fellow
School of English and Centre for Canadian Studies, University of Leeds

Jeanette Lynes
Associate Professor of English
St. Francis Xavier University

Robert G. May
Assistant Professor (Adjunct)
Department of English
Queen's University

Seymour Mayne
Professor, Department of English
University of Ottawa/Université d'Ottawa

Stephen McCaffery
Professor, David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters
University of Buffalo

Gabrielle McIntire
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Queen's University

Sam McKegney
Assistant Professor of Indigenous and Canadian Literatures
Department of English, Queen’s University

Ken McLean
Bishop's University

Leslie Monkman
Professor Emeritus
Department of English
Queen's University

Laura Moss,
Associate Professor, Department of English, UBC
Acting Editor, Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review
Director, UBC Canadian Studies Centre and Program

John Oughton
Learning and Teaching Consultant
Centre for Organizational Learning and Teaching
Office of Organizational Learning
Centennial College

Dan Pinsent
Queen's University
Graduate Student (PhD)

Leslie Ritchie
Associate Professor of English,
Queen's University

Wendy Roy
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Saskatchewan

Carolyn Smart
Director of Creative Writing
Queen's University

David Staines
Department of English
University of Ottawa

Margaret Steffler
Associate Professor
Department of English Literature
Trent University

Robert Thacker
Professor of Canadian Studies and English
Associate Dean for Academic Advising Programs
St. Lawrence University, NY

Tracy Ware
Professor of English
Queen's University

Tom Wayman,
Associate Professor, English Dept.
University of Calgary