Your cart is empty.

The More Easily Kept Illusions

The Poetry of Al Purdy

By Al Purdy
Edited by Robert Budde
Afterword by Russell Morton Brown
Subjects Poetry, Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
Series Laurier Poetry Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889204904, 96 pages, April 2006


Alive or Not by Al Purdy

It's like a story

because it takes so long to happen:

a block away on an Ottawa street

I see this woman about to fall

and she collapses slowly

in sections the way you read about

and there just might be time

for me to reach her

running as fast as I can

before her head hits the sidewalk

running as fast as I can

Of course its my wife

I am running toward her now

and there is a certain amount of horror

a time lag in which other things happen

I can almost see flowers break into blossom

while I am running toward the woman

my wife it seems

orchids in the Brazilian jungle

before her head hits the sidewalk

Of course its my wife

I am running toward her now

and there is a certain amount of horror

a time lag in which other things happen

I can almost see flowers break into blossom

while I am running toward the woman

my wife it seems

orchids in the Brazilian jungle

exist like unprovable ideas

until a man in a pith helmet

steps on one and yells Eureka or something

- and while I am thinking about this

her body splashes on the street

her glasses fall broken beside her

with a musical sound under the traffic

and she is probably dead too

Of course I cradle her in my arms

a doll perhaps without life

while someone I do not know

signals a taxi

as the bystanders stare

What this means years later

as I grow older and older

is that I am still running toward her:

the woman falls very slowly

she is giving me more and more time

to reach her and make the grab

and each time each fall she may die

or not die and this will go on forever

this will go on forever and ever

As I grow older and older

my speed afoot increases

each time I am running and reach

the place before she falls every time

I am running too fast to stop

I run past her farther and farther

it's almost like a story

as an orchid dies in the Brazilian jungle

and there is a certain amount of horror

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The More Easily Kept Illusions: The Poetry of Al Purdy, selected with an introduction by Robert Budde

Foreword | Neil Besner

Biographical Note

Introduction | Robert Budde

Mind Process re a Faucet

Remains of an Indian Village

Winter Walking

Hockey Players

Home-Made Beer

Eskimo Graveyard

Trees at the Arctic Circle

Tent Rings

When I Sat Down to Play the Piano

At the Quinte Hotel

Love at Roblin Lake


Wilderness Gothic

Lament for the Dorsets

Joint Account

Depression in Namu, BC

Eastbound from Vancouver

The Horseman of Agawa

Flat Tire in the Desert

Inside the Mill


Alive or Not


On Realizing He Has Written Some Bad Poems

After Rain

The Nurselog

A Typical Day in Winnipeg

In the Early Cretaceous

Purely Internal Music


Red Leaves


Earle Birney in Hospital


For Her in Sunlight

Afterword: As the dream holds the real | Russell Morton Brown



Much-loved, cantankerous, and brilliant, Al Purdy galloped across the Canadian literary landscape for decades, grandly embodying the self-taught and hard-living image of the 1960s and ’70s poet. The More Easily Kept Illusions: The Poetry of Al Purdy is a selection of thirty-five poems that includes some of his best-loved and unearths lost and ignored treasures.

Robert Budde introduces the collection with an overview of Purdy’s tumultuous life of letters, his legendary personality, his outrageous antics, his peers, his influences, and the history of his publishing career. Reorganizing Purdy’s body of work, this collection also re-interprets the chronological and thematic development of his writing. Choosing poems for a book like this is necessarily an act of literary criticism and Budde takes care to balance the various critical attentions that have structured the historical responses to Purdy’s work. The selected poems will mix lesser-known gems with Purdy’s greatest hits. Teachers, poetry-lovers, students, and writers will rediscover Purdy’s unique voice. Those who are new to his work will get a full and rich sense of the man some have called the last Canadian poet.

Also includes an Afterword by Russell Morton Brown.


``The books are fairly slim (ranging from fifty-six to eighty pages), but each provides a decent outline of the respective poet's career, style, and dominant concerns. The introductory essays are straightforward and informative--they provide a useful interpretive framework for anyone coming to this poetry for the first time. These volumes seem designed for students and educators; each offers a more complete picture of the poet than one would get from an anthology. ''

- University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2006, Volume 77, Number 1, Winter 2008

``The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming. ''

- Paul Milton, Canadian Literature, 193, Summer 2007

``The poems selected for inclusion. ..give an honest taste of Purdy, both accessible and convoluted, often at the same time (a rare feat, in my mind)''

- Rob Taylor,

``An excellent overview of Purdy's poetry, with an informative introduction to his career and poetics written by Robert Budde and an afterword by Russell Morton Brown, editor of Purdy's first Collected Poems, published in 1985, which provides us with an insight into Purdy the man. ''

- John Cunningham, Prairie Fire, October 2007