Millions of people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year to walk along the rims and peer over the edges. Less than one percent, however, head down one of the many trails to experience the vast wilderness that the park contains.
“Beneath the Rim: Stories and Pictures from Inside the Grand Canyon,” a slide show and reading by Western writer and inveterate canyon hiker Rick Kempa, will take the audience on that journey 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 19 at the Grand County Public Library.
It is free and open to the public. This program is a benefit for the Friends of the Grand County Public Library and 25 percent of all book sales will be donated to the Friends. Kempa has been hiking in the Canyon since 1974.
The reading, he said, will include stories spanning that length of time, from his first hike “when, as immortal teenagers, my brother and I had the bright idea of swimming across the river just above Hermit Rapids,” to his most recent hike this spring, “when I began to consider that there may come a day when I am too old and tired to climb out.”
His words and photos also depict “encounters with grizzled fellow-hikers, with rangers who appear in the weirdest of places, with river-runners who feast like kings, with exotic wildlife, and—best of all—with the silence that exists between the river and the Rim.”
Kempa is an essayist and poet whose work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies nationwide.
A book of his poems, “Keeping the Quiet,” was published by Bellowing Ark Press in 2008 and a second book, “Ten Thousand Voices,” is due out later this year. In 2011, Littoral Press in Oakland published a broadside, “What the Canyon Teaches,” which displays a poem by Kempa and Canyon-inspired artwork by Sharon Dolan of Higginsville, Missouri.
This limited-edition broadside was created from handset metal type and dampened handmade St. Armand paper, on a 19th-century letterpress. Copies of the book and broadside will be available for sale at the event.
In August 2010, Kempa served as the Artist-in-Residence at the South Rim, giving public presentations and working on his Canyon-country writings. He is currently serving as editor of two Grand Canyon anthologies, one of poems and the other of essays by backpackers. He teaches writing and philosophy and directs the Honors Program at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, Wyo.