Edna G. Purviance (born Edna Julia Gidlof, October 2, 1922, Orienta, Wisconsin, U.S.A.; died May 8, 2009, Bellingham, Washington), haiku poet, teacher, and editor. In 1976 she founded the Haiku Appreciation Club in Bellingham to help beginning writers and other interested poets learn to compose haiku. She compiled Portals, a magazine for club members, and later published haiku books as well. Purviance resided in Bellingham, Washington.
Edna Julia Gidlof was born in 1922 in Orienta, Wisconsin, on the southwestern shore of Lake Superior, to Swedish immigrants Erick and Anna Gidlof (originally Gidlöf). After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she was trained to operate a turret lathe, and went off to work at the machine shop at the Bremerton, Washington, Navy Yard. There, she met Marine Corps Technical Sergeant Lyman Purviance, whom she married on November 7, 1942, in the Bremerton Navy Yard Chapel.
After the war Lyman continued his service in the U.S. Marine Corps with the rank of master sergeant. Edna worked in several jobs, including running a business called “The Swede’s Shoppe,” serving as cook in a school on Lopez Island, and conducting surveys for The Harris Poll. She was proud of her Scandinavian heritage, kept in touch with her relatives in Sweden, and joined the Vasa Order of America, a fraternal society for Swedish immigrants. In 1995 she published a history of her Swedish family, The Gidlof-Gidlund Family Saga. Purviance was also a member of the Daughters of America, a secret patriotic and Christian women’s society. Her obituary listed her other interests as reading, collecting records, playing Scrabble, and Seattle Mariners baseball.
In 1976, Purviance founded the Haiku Appreciation Club in Bellingham, Washington. She began publishing a newsletter for club members, which after two years became a haiku magazine, Portals. As she wrote, “I never dreamed of becoming a haiku magazine editor and felt very inadequate at the job. It grew so fast I was quite overwhelmed. My children used to call it ‘hell week’ when I’d be putting the magazines together after printing, as their meals and other comforts were somewhat neglected.”1
Portals came out regularly for three years. By 1979, Purviance’s activities had expanded into book publishing as well through her Portal Publications. Her own book, The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife, came first (1979), followed by Aware by prominent Canadian haikuist Betty Drevniok in 1981. In 1983, owing to the poor health of her husband, Purviance gave up publishing, not only Portals, but her own haiku also.
Purviance was not widely published in the haiku periodicals, but she contributed original haiku to the journals Bonsai (from the first issue, 1976), Janus & SCTH (from 1977), Leanfrog (from 1980), and Modern Haiku (1993) and of course Portals as well as mainstream poetry publications. The following two haiku, which first appeared in the American Poetry League Bulletin in 1974 and were reprinted in Bonsai in 1976, are representative of her style:
High above racing clouds a wavering line of dots — those faintly heard honks … Deep in the rain-dank woods bright holly berries signal a sudden halt …2
From its title, Purviance’s book The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife might appear to be a monograph collection, but it also included haiku by other poets in the “August” chapter while “September” and “December” featured multi-author linked and collaborative works. Robert Spiess, in his brief review of the book in Modern Haiku, quoted Purviance from the Forward and offered three haiku of hers: “This volume is the chronicle of an ordinary housewife’s involvement with haiku.… Like anyone else, I find that life is composed of bright and dull days, happy and sad time, love and hate. Contrasting events and emotions are what make of life an adventure. Those moments when I feel most alive are those that result in an attempt at haiku.”3
all at once a thunderstorm drenches and deafens us. how we laugh! almost stepped-on, half-buried in leaf litter— the first morel over the ravine’s lip a rotting stump still holds a climber’s rope …
Purviance was very much a poet of place, and, having lived most of her life near Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, she often referred to these places in her haiku. This sequence, for example, was published in Janus & SCTH:4
The Driftwood Log: A Sequence from the San Juans Ferry trip in the rain: sea and sky same color people different Mystic landscape … layers of cloud drift slowly, islands emerging. Blue mist floats over peaceful wooded hills … isolated islands. That old gray gull, perching on a rock, waiting— but my empty hands … Coming ashore, rattling the deck boards our briskly churning wheels. The rain’s benisons mushrooms unfolding their pleated, pink lined hoods The road curves around a rocky point—and there! a sunbeam on our cottage Swirling in the swamp … a bobbling log … that shiny, sly shape … Three shadows at twilight slipping past our gate, white tails twitching. Silence … thick fog coils … overnight the spider’s web curtains my window
Edna Purviance was a pioneering American haiku poet and publisher, and she founded one of the first haiku study groups in the United States. Still, she possessed a wryly self-effacing view of her influence:
Success eludes me but on my car’s license plate the one word HAIKU5
AUTHOR: Charles Trumbull
SOURCES / FURTHER READING
- R. Boldman. My Lord’s Necklace. Bellingham, Wash.: Portals Press, ©1980.
- Betty Drevniok. Aware: A Haiku Primer. Introduction by Anna Vakar. Bellingham, Wash.: Portal Publications, 1981?.
- “Haiku Appreciation Club: Bellingham Branch.” Janus & SCTH 8:4 (April 1977), 36.
- Edna G. Purviance, Founder. “Haiku Appreciation Club Newsletter.” Bonsai 1:3 (July 19, 1976), 3.
- Edna G. Purviance. “Issa’s Romance” Part I, HSA Frogpond 1:3 (11/1/1978), 41–44; Part II, HSA Frogpond 2:1 (3/1/1979), 45–48; Part III, HSA Frogpond 2:2, 45–48; Part IV, HSA Frogpond 2:3,4 (11/1/1979), 45–47.
- Edna G. Purviance. The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife. Illustrated by Kay Langdon. Bellingham, Wash.: Portal Publications, 1979.
- Edna Gidlof Purviance. The Gidlof-Gidlund Family Saga. Fiasco Publishing, 1995.
- “Obituary for Edna G. Purviance.” Website of Jerns Funeral Chapel, Bellingham, Washington: https://jernsfh.com/tribute/details/679/Edna-Purviance/obituary.html#tribute-start.
- Jane Reichhold. “Haiku Magazines in USA,” Chapter 3 from Those Women Writing Haiku. Gualala, Calif.: AHA Books, 2000. Available online at The Haiku Foundation website: https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/omeka/files/original/133bdb4477b11474afdfb142afbe7427.pdf.
- Robert Spiess, “Six Book Reviews,” Modern Haiku 10:3 (Autumn 1979), 50–51. Brief review of The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife.
- Jane Reichhold, Those Women Writing Haiku.
- American Poetry League Bulletin (Fall 1974); Bonsai 1:4 (19 October 1976), 24.
- Purviance, The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife (1979), and Robert Spiess, “Six Book Reviews,” Modern Haiku 10:3 (Autumn 1979), 51.
- Janus & SCTH 8:2 (October 1977), 22.
- Cited in “Random Notes from an Anonymous Haiku-Watcher,” Modern Haiku 6:2 (1975), 20.