Family of Al Pittman appreciates community recognition

Cory Hurley cory.hurley@tc.tc
Published on June 25, 2012
Emily and her mother Marilee Pittman are photographed in front of a stone monument on the White House lawn adjacent West Street. The monument will to be unveiled with a plaque dedicated to Al Pittman on Thursday, June 28, 2012.
Geraldine Brophy

CORNER BROOK — A Time for Al Pittman is a time for family.

There is a tremendous amount of pride and honour for his daughters Kyran and Emily, and their mother Marilee, to partake in another celebration of their father's life, but also a sense of community.

Both women, living much different lives in far different worlds, recognize the lasting social unit which remembers the late poet's work and contribution to the community. For that, they are very greatful and even feel privileged.

"We get to celebrate his life with the broader community, which is a nice thing," Emily said. "That isn't to say that it is easy. At the same, it is happy and sad, in the sense it is lovely to celebrate and remember, but it also makes me miss him a lot."

It has been more than two years since Kyran has been back to her hometown of Corner Brook. Now a writer herself, and mother of three boys in Little Rock, Ark., she was last here in April 2010. That time, the literary community held Al's Words for Seventy — a two-day event in the former university professor's honour.

Kyran will be travelling to Corner Brook just prior to the event with her three boys — aged 13, 11 and eight — and she is looking forward to immersing them into the literary community in western Newfoundland.

Of course, Emily, who teaches drama at Corner Brook Regional High, continues to see the literary community flourish in her hometown. She jokes about being the outcast of the scholarly family, but she laughs in saying her profession had to involve some form of art.

A Time for Al Pittman is an evening of entertainment at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre, a partnership of Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador and The March Hare.

The tribute will feature theatre productions and a celebration of words and music, including both Kyran and Emily.

Emily, who will be reading from her grandmother Mary Pittman's literary collection (under the pen name Len Margaret), said the family believes it is important their father's work continues to live on.

"Without sounding bias, he was a significant contributor to Newfoundland art and culture," she said. "What is gratifying about these events, it is validation for us that there is still appreciation for that, and that his contribution was significant, meaningful and still relevant."

Kyran has established her own literary portfolio. She writes a successful blog, which expanded to a national print audience, and had her memoir "Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life," published last year.

She will be sharing something from her father's collection, as well as her own when she takes the stage.

"I think it is always interesting to see, beneath the legend, there is a human person with a human family and all that entails," she said. "I think it makes him more relatable, and it adds more depth and dimension. As he is certainly passing into the cultural landscape, it is nice to keep him grounded and remember who he was — not just as a writer, but as a man, a dad and a friend."

Thursday's event will also include the unveiling of a stone monument and plaque dedicated to Al Pittman on the White House lawn adjacent to The Western Star on West Street. For the family, this is a special privilege because their late father was cremated and his ashes spread along the Humber River. They do not have that special, physical place to go to remember or think about him.

"There is something special about public remembrance, the same way that people gather on Remembrance Day to acknowledge loss," Emily said. "I am in really a fortunate position that a lot of people share my loss, yet on a different level, in that many people share the loss of the great poet.

"There is something special about getting together with a group of people, whether small or large, and say, 'I remember him.' or 'I remember this about him.'"

Tickets for Time for Al Pittman are available at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre.