Alfred Wellington Purdy, OC OOnt (December 30, 1918 – April 21, 2000) was a 20th-century Canadian free verse poet. Purdy’s writing career spanned fifty-six years. His works include thirty-nine books of poetry; a novel; two volumes of memoirs and four books of correspondence, in addition to his posthumous works. He has been called the nation’s “unofficial poet laureate” and “a national poet in a way that you only find occasionally in the life of a culture.”
Born in Wooler, Ontario, Purdy went to Albert College in Belleville, Ontario, and Trenton Collegiate Institute in Trenton, Ontario. He dropped out of school at 17 and rode the rails west to Vancouver. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Following the war, he worked in various jobs until the 1960s, when he was finally able to support himself as a writer, editor and poet.
In 1957, Purdy and his wife Eurithe moved to Roblin Lake in Ameliasburgh, Ontario (south of Trenton in Prince Edward County), where they built an a-frame cottage, and this became his preferred location for writing. In his later years, he divided his time between North Saanich, British Columbia, and his cottage at Roblin Lake.
In addition to his poems and novel, Purdy’s work includes two volumes of memoirs, the most recent of which was Reaching for the Beaufort Sea. He also wrote four books of correspondence, including Margaret Laurence – Al Purdy: A Friendship in Letters and radio and television plays for the CBC. He was writer-in-residence at several Canadian universities; contributed to Acta Victoriana, literary journal of Victoria College; and edited a number of anthologies of poetry.
His final collection of poetry, Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, was released posthumously in the fall of 2000.