Reading Comprehension -- Select Poems of Al Purdy
Love at Robin Lake
1. What form does this poem take?
2. Find and explain an example of onomatopoeia.
3. Find and explain a simile.
4. What does the poet long for in "the star-filled places of earth" at the end of the poem? Explain what you think he is speaking about when he writes of having left these places "long ago/on our journey into the dark."
1. Describe the setting for Purdy's poem.
2. Analyze how Purdy uses the workman as a symbol for faith. How do you think the poet links "contending" or heroic struggle (13) to faith and the workman's business?
3. Research the allusion to Jacob wrestling with an angel. How does Purdy use this image?
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob as left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." Then the man said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle. (Genesis 32.22-32)
4. What is the significance of the scene painted in lines 16-20? What is the poet trying to convey?
5. Purdy's poem alters its narrative at line 21. Why?
6. What images flash before us in lines 23 ff? To what effect?
7. What is the relation of what comes prior to line 21 and what comes after in Purdy's poem?
Trees at the Arctic Circle
1. How does Purdy portray the ground willows in lines 1-16? Why?
2. With what are the ground willows contrasted in lines 17-25?
3. Beginning at line 26, Purdy reconsiders the salix cordifolia. Why? What does he begin to see about these particular trees so far north?
4. What does Purdy consider to be stupidity? How does he deal with stupidity? Why?