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Nanaimo area poets release anthology on aging

Ian Cognito and Pat Smekal present ‘Old Bones and Battered Bookends’
Local poets Ian Cognito and Pat Smekal are releasing their latest collection, ‘Old Bones and Battered Bookends.’ (Photo courtesy Literacy Central Vancouver Island/Image by Jacques Gamelin)

Three months after releasing a book about death, two local poets have assembled an anthology on a related topic: aging.

On Oct. 15 Ian Cognito and Pat Smekal present Old Bones and Battered Bookends, a collection of 35 poems by 26 writers from B.C. and beyond concerning the topic of growing older. Cognito said aging is “something we need to talk about.”

“We all do face mortality and we all do face aging at some point in our lives,” he said. “Even if not directly, in the immediate, we have loved ones or we know of other people who are facing those kinds of struggles. So it is universal.”

Not long after putting the call out, the pair received more than 300 submissions from 90 poets from B.C. to Ontario and the Yukon to Washington State. Smekal said they were very surprised by the response.

“We just couldn’t believe it because they just kept coming,” she said. “It’s good to know that there’s that much interest in the subject.”

Cognito said whittling down those submissions to the final 35 was an “intuitive process” and that he and Smekal were in near constant agreement while making their cuts. He said the poets interpreted the theme of aging differently.

“Some of them observed their own aging and sometimes there were notes of nostalgia in some of the poems,” Cognito said. “A lot of times they were poems about dealing with an aging loved one, a parent or friend and I would say a lot of people brought a sense of humour to the task and their observations as well.”

Smekal said among the criteria, she was looking for well-written poems that spoke universally, made use of interesting words and literary devices, related to the topic and were personal or humorous.

“I think we got a pretty rounded group in there in the book,” Smekal said. “It was very difficult to come down to the shortlist because we didn’t want to leave people out.”

Old Bones and Battered Bookends is available at Well Read Books, 19 Commercial St., Window Seat Books, 309C Wesley St., and online via Facebook.

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