Six months of no work gave a Black Diamond cowboy poet plenty of time to tackle a project he’s kept on the backburner for years.
Al “Doc” Mehl self-published his first poetry collection Good Medicine: Read Two Poems and Call Me in the Morning. The compilation of poetry he’s penned the past 20 years features his rhymed-and-metered cowboy poetry on topics ranging from pacifism and family roots to health care and the holidays.
With performances cancelled since March, Mehl turned his creative energy into a project he’d been considering for years.
“In the last five to seven years I thought I’ve written enough poetry I need to put it into a book,” he said. “It was the viral pandemic that made me say, ‘What better project than to put a book together this year.’”
The 211-page collection features 95 of Mehl’s poems accompanied by 33 images created by acclaimed western artists and photographers that were used to inspire poets at numerous cowboy poetry events over the years.
“The artwork really adds an exciting element to the poetry book,” he said. “The readers get to look at the art and see what inspired me to write the poems. It’s a nice collection of different artist and their different talents.”
Mehl is a singer, MC and entertainer who’s become well known on cowboy poetry stages throughout North America for his whimsical and eclectic western songs. He gained the nickname Doc from working 30 years as a pediatrician in Colorado.
His musical collection includes albums Asphalt Cowboy, I’d Rather Be and Doc & Tub Live! in partnership with 1999 Instrumentalist of the Year Washtub Jerry, in addition to Mehl’s CD of original poetry titled Cowboy Pottery and the spoken-word poetry CD The Great Divide, which was named 2013 Cowboy Poetry CD of the Year by both the Western Music Association and the Academy of Western Artists.
Mehl’s poems and musical lyrics have been featured on cowboypoetry.com and his poetry in the poetry journal Rattle. He is also the 2009 silver buckle winner at the National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo in Montrose, Colorado.
Mehl delved into cowboy poetry 20 years ago after watching a live poetry event while living near Denver.
“I was very intrigued about it, even though I haven’t spent my life as a cowboy,” he said. “My father grew up on a farm and had a background that I paid attention to over the years. I started writing down the words that came to me and had a lot of good cowboy friends who helped me take off the rough edges my lack of experience might have left on a poem.”
The poetry that resulted was not typical of the western cowboy genre.
“Most of it is rhymed and metered but I’m always looking for different viewpoints or eclectic twists on a theme,” he said. “I’ve got several poems that are just plain humorous and good for a chuckle. I’ve really grown into a family of cowboy poets and entertainers and people in the western lifestyle and it’s been a real privilege for me.”
The Black Diamond resident of three years is married to award-winning cowboy poet Doris Daley, who spent the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic putting thought-providing, humourous and get-to-know-you questions to 50 of her friends before compiling their answers in the light-hearted, self-published coffee table-style book That’s a Good Answer.
“Under our one roof we had two pandemic projects together,” Mehl said. “It happened organically in the sense that we both got time on our hands as many performing artists have this year with so many of our western poetry gigs having been cancelled. We did a lot of rereading and editing of each other’s books.”
While the two poets are usually busy entertaining, Mehl said they’ve attended just one outdoor physically-distanced event over the last eight months – a far cry from the dozens of shows they would have entertained at by now.
“There is not much light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “Pretty much every year we have a trip to the U.S. with several western entertainment shows and a wintertime tour, and all of that has been cancelled.”
Good Medicine: Read Two Poems and Call Me in the Morning is available for $20 at the Sheep River Library and https://docmehl.com/
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