I am sending this letter today.
Dear M. Erskine-Smith, Wynne and Trudeau,
I am one of the people you represent. Admittedly, I am one of 107,084, 13.6 million and 35.16 million, respectively, but I am one. I am writing to you to remind you that in Prince Edward County there is a building that needs tending. It once belonged to one of Canada’s dearest poets, Al Purdy.
I wouldn’t write you just to tell you a poet’s home needs care. I understand there are seemingly bigger issues you are faced with every day. I am writing to tell you that Canada’s artists need care and taking care of Al Purdy’s home is taking care of us.
I grew up without much money and, if I am honest, without much poetry. I lived in neighbourhoods where we were more likely to have police visit our schools to warn us of the dangers of gangs, than authors to surprise us with the versatile beauty of words. I think we’d have done better with the latter.
Despite that, I am a poet. I am a poet with another job because most blue-collar poets don’t expect that we’ll ever exist solely off our writing. We think that because we live in Canada and our artists are split in to three categories: Those who struggle, those who struggle and find some modicum of success and those who leave us for the US.
People leave because, if you’re some combination of lucky, engaging, salacious and talented, you can become famous there. They have money and fame, but we have community. To keep artists here, that is what we need to nurture. While I would love to have artist’s retreats like Al Purdy’s A-frame all over Canada, I understand that’s not going to happen. But if we keep a few, we’re telling artists they matter. Not with a star on a sidewalk, but with a real place they can go to and create.
I’m writing this in my own tiny home in East York, a one bedroom bungalow that I am lovingly fixing up. My plan is to take my money I have been saving to add a bathtub (we have a shower, but being rained upon is not the same as soaking, I’m sure you agree) and donate it to the A-frame project. Please consider finding ways to help this project. Please give artists something to work toward. We need it and we appreciate it.
Minimum-wage museum employee, childcare worker and Poet
(go to alpurdy.ca for more information)