TODAY, WORDS MATTER MORE THAN EVER
The Al and Eurithe Purdy A-frame needs your help!
As you may know, several brave souls stepped forward 12 years ago to save the legendary home of Canada’s great poet Al Purdy. This house served as an inspiration for Purdy’s own work, but also as a nexus during Canada’s literary coming-of-age. Regular guests included Margaret Laurence, Earle Birney, John Newlove, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, George Bowering, Patrick Lane, Stephen Heighton and many more. After refurbishing the home, the Al Purdy A-frame Association has operated it as a retreat for contemporary writers, who are awarded paid residencies.
During the six years before COVID hit, the residency project was a great success. Hailed in the media, the more than 30 talented Canadian writers who stayed at the A-frame reported the experience was career-changing, even life-changing.
The A-frame played a vital role in launching my writing career. The Purdy residency gave me the time, space and financial support to be able to focus on my writing, which led to the completion of the manuscript for my first book, All the Gold Hurts My Mouth.
For me that time in Ameliasburgh was one of intense immersion in my own writing: I finished a second book of poems more quickly, more boldly, and more joyfully than I expected. I also embraced the uncanny experience of living in close proximity to another writer’s life and legacy, since you can’t spend two months in the A-frame, surrounded by Purdy’s things, without feeling that you’re living inside his life as well as your own.
With COVID’s arrival this spring, we made the only responsible decision for the times: we would NOT re-open the house to writers while the pandemic raged. As we waited, we completed the online A-frame Alumni Anthology faster than planned—you can read it HERE. It was the only way we could continue putting money into writers’ pockets through the spring and early summer. Residencies were deferred from April to July. Then in August—when the Canada Council’s ban on funded travel was lifted—we stuck a toe in the water and opened the A-frame door to the first 2020 writer.
I found a perfect table beside the lakeview window in the A-frame section, and was writing within my first day. I think the house is invested with the writing spirit. It’s as if Al was haunting it in a humane way (which is a little unlike him), and Eurithe had been the ideal enabler.
During my five-week residency, I kept thinking whether Al Purdy could have imagined that one day an emerging writer from Iran would stay in the house he and his wife, Eurithe, built with their own hands? Perhaps.
Tiptoeing within his walls, writing in his shed, reading his books and magazines, and watching the spectacular view from his window, I felt such a privilege to be so close to someone so amazing, to experience Canadian hospitality at its best, and to learn about a remarkable part of Canadian culture and history.
—Maria Sabaye Moghaddam
We are open again for the time being, and we are spending—supporting writers, as well as funding the cost of house maintenance, property insurance, and so on. But like so many charities, the A-frame project has struggled to keep its head above water during the pandemic. The donations we depend on have dwindled and our main operating grant was cut significantly. Because of COVID, we can’t hold our usual and necessary fundraising events
At the moment writer #32 is at the A-frame. Two more writers are scheduled for spring 2021. Seven writers with deferred residencies need to be rescheduled. We are projecting a small deficit for the end of this fiscal year. Unless we get significant funds in place and pledges for the future, these opportunities won’t happen.
COVID has made these residencies more important than ever. Writers need to be able to put aside the demands of pandemic life. They need to be able to take up paid residency in a quiet place for essential projects to be completed, for words to be shaped and shared.
Here’s how you can help:
To continue operating this house and the writers-in-residence program that honours Canada’s literary past by stimulating its future, we need to raise $25,000 immediately. Whether it’s $10, $25, $50 or more, please send us your contribution without delay. Go to the CONTACT page on this site to make a one-time donation of whatever you can afford. All donations of $50 or more will receive tax receipts.
Make a donation now and pledge to make a donation of the same amount for 2021 and 2022. Our struggle in this pandemic-driven world isn’t going to change much before then.
All donations of $1,000 or more will receive an invitation to a Eurithe Purdy Spaghetti Dinner to be held at the A-frame, post-pandemic.
Please be generous, and please share this appeal with your networks.