Al Rempel puts events together like he puts words together. There are layers of meaning, there is structural engineering to the concepts, there are creative connections that take everyday ideas and shine bioluminescence through them.
Rempel's new book of poetry is another collection of amped up background thoughts we all have curled up in the shadows of our mind, but he has the skills to coax out into the open. He holds hands with the fears of mortality, parenthood, our connections to nature and how we can disconnect from it.
The book is called Undiscovered Country published by Mother Tongue Publishing. He unveiled it at the close of September with four readings in four days at four different venues in the Vancouver area. It culminated at the Word Vancouver Festival at the Vancouver Public Library, an event lit-ered with writing stars from Vikram Vij to Evelyn Lau to K.C. Dyer to another Prince George lumineer Gillian Wigmore.
Rempel got introduced at his showcase by George McWhirter, the first poet laureate Vancouver ever had.
Now Rempel is bringing his unveiling ways to Prince George where he is a teacher at PGSS and presents words and language and lateral thinking in waves of media. Sometimes he makes vid-poems (rock videos for poetry), sometimes he works with musician collaborators, sometimes he reads his work out loud for an audience, and some of it is just for the reader's eye.
When he pushes Undiscovered Country out into the local public, he will do it with that blend of stimulation. There will be, in addition to his own readings, songs and drumming performed by Clayton Gauthier, a spoken word performance by groundbreaking writer K.Darcy Taylor (her Masters thesis was successfully defended this past spring as presented in spoken word form), a theatrical presentation directed by Melissa Glover will be dramatized, and local musician and leading arts advocate Sean Farrell will be master of the ceremonies.
"I always like to try something new, I like collaborating with other artists, I want it to be rich and layered for the audience," Rempel said.
Somewhere in the artistic fabric of his creative mind, he projects performance into his work. It is not a struggle, he said, to select poems for the purpose of live presentation.
"I think my writing style lends itself to hearing poems out loud. I tend to write fairly lyrically, there is a musical feel to it. It can straddle the auditory and the literary worlds, where it sounds good to the ear and looks good on the page."
The feature poem of the new book is a work of visual art as well as a literary composition called Into The Cloud of Unknowing. The words are arranged to draw the eye from line to line, and tiptoe visually from one stanza to the next, serving a literary purpose but also engaging the visual sense across 12 pages.
Rempel said the longer poem was a challenge in the publishing process. "It's a bit like walking around indoors with a big beam over your shoulder. You have to turn carefully, maneuver, and you have to plan your next move."
He wrote a suite of poems for his late mother and late father. They were separate, but went together, so that served as another anchor poem for the book.
With that emerged a theme he was able to work other poems into like mortar between the foundation rocks. The theme was his examination of aging, mortality, reaching longer milestones on the journey of life.
He also noted that he started writing the new material in spring and the book unfolded around the calendar to the next spring.
"I wrote fairly chronologically, so it actually formed an arch from spring to spring."
Now he is writing a lot about the home he and his family now live in full-time in the Buckhorn area on the outskirts of Prince George. He's not trying to paint portraits of their rural lifestyle, but it is naturally emerging in the work.
That's a collection for another day. Right now you can discover Undiscovered Country tonight at 7:30 p.m., at the free book launch event at Theatre Northwest.
This is Rempel's fifth book of poetry following Four Neat Holes, The Picket Fence Diaries, Understories and This Isn't The Apocalypse We Hoped For.