Current Reading: Purdy and Banks

I’ve been working my way through The Count of Monte Cristo, as a previous post here will show, but in between that, work, and house renovations resulting from flooding in my basement, I’ve only managed time to read from two books of poetry.

Though I love Canadian poetry classics from the 20th century, I’ve yet to read much of Al Purdy’s work. Of course, I’ve read the odd poem in anthologies and other publications, but have never dedicated time to reading a collection of his. What I do have, courtesy of a guy who lives just up the street (which reminds me I owe him a couple issues of Riddle Fence I borrowed), is Being Alive:The Selected Poems of Al Purdy. It’s the 1980 second edition, making it as old as I am, but inevitably more interesting. I’ve only just scratched the surface yet, but have already been inspired to attempt a poem or two of my own after reading some of his early work (in particular “Transient” and “At the Quinte Hotel”). What comes through immediately in Purdy’s writing is an honesty that is gripping and real, partly present in the subjects he chooses to write about, but also the language, rich and removed from the elevated sort one encounters too often, at times.

Another book I’ve taken to is Chris Banks’ Winter Cranes. Besides being a beautifully designed book, it is filled with an approach to poetry and the world which immediately connects with me. Banks is concerned with the moments in life that have a lasting imprint on memory or the soul, which can range from a scene in Rome considering the life of John Keats, to experiencing an autistic 23-year-old flapping his arms as if to fly. What I enjoy so much about Banks’ writing is the meditative quality to it, how he doesn’t rush a single image or sacrifice the integrity of the moment he’s allowing the reader to experience. I’m only halfway through yet, but I’d already recommend this as a title you must read.

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