Edna Purviance: 1922–2009

Bellingham, Washington

October 2, 1922 – May 8, 2009

The history of English-language haiku activity in Washington State, before Haiku Northwest, essentially begins with Edna Purviance. She led Bellingham’s Haiku Appreciation Club from 1976 to about 1979. She also edited Portals, the first haiku-related journal in Washington State, published in Bellingham for three years in the late 1970s. Edna also published several books, mostly notably Aware (1981) by Betty Drevniok, who was a cofounder in 1977 of Haiku Canada, and a book of her own, The Diary of a Haiku-Happy Housewife (1979). Read a fuller biographical sketch of Edna Purviance, written by Charles Trumbull, on Haikupedia.

The following is Edna’s obituary:

Edna Purviance passed away on May 8, 2009. Edna was born in Orienta, Wisconsin on October 2, 1922 to Swedish immigrants Erick and Anna Gidlof. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she became one of the first group of women hired to learn to operate a turret lathe at the machine shop at Bremerton Navy Yard. It was during this time that she met then Tech. Sgt. Lyman Purviance of the Marine Corp. They were married on November 7, 1942. Edna held a variety of jobs. She owned The Swede’s Shoppe, was a school cook on Lopez Island, and was a political and survey taker for the Harris poll company. She was a member of the Vasa Lodge and the Daughters of America. Her interests included reading, collecting records, playing Scrabble, and Mariner baseball. She enjoyed writing haiku poetry and was the editor of her own little haiku magazine, Portals. Her husband, Lyman, preceded her in death in 1984. She is survived by her children, Jake, David, Sara, and John and his wife, Susan. She also leaves behind her brothers, Ralph, Lee, and her family in Sweden, plus cousins, nieces, and nephews.

The following haiku sequence by Edna Purviance appeared in Janus & SCTH 8:2, October 1977, page 22.

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