Canola field, Saskatchewan photo Diane Ransom
Allison Rennie is a poet who uses short form poems to examine the lived reality of the sacred. She incorporates material from a wide variety of sources including local and global news, lived experience, encounters with nature in her own rural back yard. Rennie's varied educational background in cooking school, theatre, physical education, Christian and feminist theologies, and women's studies strongly influences her art.
In Rennie's professional work within The United Church of Canada as a minister with youth, and program director, she used her arts expertise as a tool for learning and social change. Beginning in the 1980's and continuing into the mid 90's she founded two improvisational theatre groups: Brainstorm and Quattro. In these groups, she developed and performed original material to raise awareness about justice issues within The United Church of Canada using theatre to connect social, political, and personal experience with story from sacred text.
As part of this work, Rennie created and directed an event to represent The United Church at Expo '86 in Vancouver, BC. Expo '86 was highly politicized due to the displacement of poor and marginalized people in the urban core during the event. While other faith groups simply held worship services on site, Rennie and her ensemble created a public witness event using dance, theatre, spoken word, music and image to challenge the politics of Expo from the perspective of progressive Christian spirituality. Controversial and critically acclaimed, the event represented the United Church's interests with integrity.
Now living in rural BC, Rennie directed a community play to celebrate her village centennial in 2007. This full length multimedia production featured a cast of 25, including children and elders, a live band, and original score. “On To Naramata” played to sold out audiences from all over the region.
Whether in her work for the United Church, or in other secular settings, Rennie has always relied on writing as a way to express her creativity. In her work in theatre, designing worship ritual, community development, or program leadership, creative writing supported her ideas, and defined her professional leadership. Now self employed, Rennie is developing her writing practice, shifting writing from a support role, to becoming the central focus of her work.
Allison Rennie describes herself as an artisan, someone who carefully crafts by hand. Her love of sewing and tailoring, growing organic food, and wild yeast bread baking is connected with this attention to detail and this aesthetic is present in her poetry. Her work results from deep relationship with place, people, and spirit.
Rennie identifies the poetry of Mary Oliver as profoundly influential, particularly in her ability to describe the natural world she encounters. The contemplative activist Thomas Merton has provided Rennie with a model for bridging the world of political action and justice with the spiritual world of prayer and community ritual.
Born in Vancouver, BC in 1961, Allison Rennie now lives in Naramata, BC. She is currently completing an MFA at the California Institute of Integral Studies.