Friday, April 20, 2018

April 20: Say the Names of the Places You Love

In Canada, we boast a legendary free-verse poet who was always larger than life. Al Purdy, (1918 – 2000), had a literary career spanning 56 years. He produced 39 books of poetry, a novel, two volumes of memoirs, and four volumes of correspondence. He has been called Canada’s unofficial poet laureate.

He was born and lived in Ontario, but spent winters in his later years, in Sydney, B.C. He was able to support himself with his writing, and as an editor. He wrote in an A-frame, which has been preserved, after his death, as a memorial to him.

He was a friend of Charles Bukowski, who once said, “I don’t know of any good living poets. But there’s this tough son-of-a-bitch up in Canada that walks the line.”

Al Purdy died as he lived – on his own terms. At 81, dying of lung cancer, he chose assisted suicide, and exited the world, leaving behind his wife, his substantial body of work, and his beloved A-frame. I’d like to think he still visits that cabin.

Perhaps his most well-known poem is “Say the Names”, which he wrote shortly before his death, an elegy to some of the beloved place-names of his life, in this case locations in British Columbia. Let’s take a look:

by Al Purdy

say the names say the names
and listen to yourself
an echo in the mountains
Tulameen Tulameen
say them like your soul
was listening and overhearing
and you dreamed you dreamed
you were a river
Tulameen Tulameen
--not the flat borrowed imitations
of foreign names
not Briton Windsor Trenton
but names that ride the wind
Spillimacheen and Nahanni
Kleena Kleene and Horsefly
Illecillewaet and Whachamacallit
Lillooet and Kluane
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
and the whole sky falling
when the buffalo went down
say them say them remember
if you ever wander elsewhere
"the North as a deed and forever"
Kleena Kleene Nahanni
Osoyoos and Similkameen
say the names
as if they were your soul
lost among the mountains
a soul you mislaid
and found again rejoicing
Tulameen Tulameen

till the heart stops beating
           say the names

The Village of Tulameen, B.C.

Our challenge is to write a poem in the spirit of “Say the Names”. What are the names of the places that live in your heart: their mountains, their rivers, their lakes or ocean shore, the small towns, the deserts, the city streets?

Sing us a song of those places, those names. Let’s sing out the places we love. I can’t wait to read your love poems to the places in your heart.


Anonymous said...

I was very moved by this marvel of a poem - thank you Sherry for the introduction to yet another poet I had missed - am busy today but will give this a go later though the names of Briton do not ride the wind so easily!

tonispencer said...

Sherry, thank you for this prompt and for introducing us to Al Purdy. This poem was so moving and so awe inspiring. Say the names...indeed. how can we come close?

Kerry O'Connor said...

I am also grateful for the intro to Purdy's poetry. I can't wait to read the poems that arise from this prompt.

Margaret said...

He's a wonderful poet! Thank you for this prompt and another chance for me to write about "my" island :)

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Loved the prompt, Sherry!💜 I was out all day today, need to catch up on reading and commenting! Day 20! Phew!☕

Anonymous said...

Great prompt Sherry...loaded one up and will read this evening.

brudberg said...

I love the poem and will try to write something... so many beautiful places on this earth...

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Hi kids, i am looking forward to reading the poems of the places you love. Yay!

Vivian Zems said...

Hi Sherry! I've decided to be facetious and put some humour into please forgive me for not adhering to the prompt.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sherry! Thanks for hosting and offering us such a wonderful prompt. Totally awesome.

I'm behind in things, and hope to get to it, eventually. Definitely an inspired poem and yeah, our poet Laureate, as such as we have.

Happy Penning everyone.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Friday is always an exceptionally busy day for me online and off. By the time I wrote and posted my poem last night it was 2.30am so I fell into bed without leaving a comment, let alone reading any other poems. I'm off out today too but look forward to catching up this evening (my time). A wonderful prompt, thank you. I'm grateful for the opportunity it gave me. (Had read the Purcy poem before but it is well worth re-reading. Couldn't hope to emulate that, so I took a different approach.)

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I am loving the responses, friends, each of which takes me to new beloved places on the planet, and new names that roll on the tongue. Thank you so much for writing to the prompt in such inspired fashion. It is wonderful to remember the places that live in our hearts, and our souls.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I'm a bit late, Sherry, as I was too tired to concentrate on Friday evening. I hope you enjoy my assortment of African names.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Kerry, i did indeed. I just found it and it filled my heart! Thank you!

Gillena Cox said...

Catching up, thanks for a nice prompt Sherry

much love...

Kim M. Russell said...

I apologise for the late link-up but I've been off-line for a few days, with intermittent Internet and a temperamental Kindle on a trip to Wales for a conference in Cardiff. I'll try my best to catch up with prompts as well as read and comment.