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A Tribute to Closet Writers Hidden in our Community

Have you ever missed someone you never really met?

Ten days ago I attended the funeral of one of my neighbours. We were acquainted and I liked him. But at the funeral I learned that I knew very little about him. He was famous for his humour and his philanthropy. He was a hunter, a soldier in the second World War, a corrections officer, an active member of his Church and a great father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, husband, brother and son.

He was also a prolific poet. He loved writing poetry. And true to his nature many of his poems were humorous and witty.

The following is one of two poems I know he penned. It was included in his memorial pamphlet. (The other poem, an example of his humour and wit, was read by his nephew during his funeral. His was a beautiful funeral; he was fondly honoured by his family, friends, neighbours and two guards — military and corrections.)

This poem touches me as a friend, writer and ecologist. It describes what I have often experienced.

The Artistry of Nature

Sometimes you may see them against a blue Alberta sky
The green leaves of the popular, standing straight and high
They will stand majestically when you and I die
But if you have really seen them through nature’s loving eye;
If your heart has held them, you’ll never say good bye
You’ll be among the lucky ones who look as you passed by
For you’ll have seen the beauty that others may forsake
The beauty of a popular grove on the shores of Islet Lake.
For some have hurried by in search of wealth,
Or they may have searched for fame
They have never seen the beauty of the land from which they came.
As I sit this evening and see green leaves of poplar against the azure sky
I hope that you have paused and seen, then you’ll be as rich as I.

Written by Alban Thomas Race
(1922-2016)
June 1998

I was surprised to learn that Al was a poet. As the current leader of the local writer’s club and his acquaintance, I would have liked to have known Alban the Poet.

This missed opportunity to celebrate Al’s writing and invite him to join our town’s writing group has me thinking. Over the last four and a half decades, the Write Group membership has fluctuated dramatically. We gain members and lose members. People move. They retire. They join. Some writers in our community we stumble upon by word of mouth or by finding their correspondence or websites. Some we recruit at club fairs. Others find us.

We are currently 26. I know that several students in the composite school I teach in are poets — outside of school. But my realization at the end of his life that Al was a poet leads me to wonder how many other closet writers are hidden in our community.

Obviously, a writing club is not for all writers. But it seems to me all writers are for a writing club. Al may not have been a member of the Write Group when he was alive, but he was part of our community — the community of writers, those addicted to telling stories on paper — even if we did not know it.

To this end, the Write Group is proud to posthumously include Alban Thomas Race, Alban the Poet, as one of our own, a writer, a poet, who shared his words, wit, humour and life with the world.

Rest in peace, Al. May your poetry ever enrich the lives of those you touched.

If you happen to live in the Tofield area and feel that urge, that call, that addiction, to write and tell tales, consider joining your local writing club. The Write Group is always looking to welcome new members.

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