Wildlife and death are the two themes Nanaimo poet Ian Cognito explores in a pair of new books coming out this week.
On July 15 Cognito releases Animusings, his first book as a solo poet, and Much Adieu About Nothing, his second collaboration with local poet Pat Smekal. While Cognito has been working on the former book for two and a half years, the latter only took a month to complete.
“It’s quite a contrast that the two are coming out at the same time,” Cognito said.
The natural world has long been a source of fascination and inspiration for Cognito. As a child he collected nature magazines, explored the outdoors and was “a bit of an amateur scientist.” That interest has since carried over to his writing. He said one reason Animusings took so long to complete was the volume of nature poems he had to sift through.
“In this book I’m mostly trying to explore ideas of animal sentience, curiosities within the animal world and our own animal origins and natures,” Cognito said. “And to achieve this I alternate between whimsy satire and seriousness in the way I explore these various topics and themes.”
In Much Adieu About Nothing, Cognito and Smekal’s first collaboration since 2017’s flora, fauna, & h. sapiens, the duo explores death and dying “with elements of humour, introspection and compassion,” Cognito said.
“We have a very similar sense of humour and despite a 20-year age difference we tend to look at things through the same slightly askew perspective,” he said of their partnership. “And we both feel quite strongly that poetry should be accessible and, dare I say, even fun, although we’re not always exploring things through a humorous perspective.”
Cognito and Smekal are currently at work on their next project, an anthology on aging set to come out this fall called Old Bones and Battered Bookends. Cognito said they’ve received more than 280 submissions from 90 poets from B.C. and beyond and were “bowled over” by the response. Now they’re faced with the task of whittling that sum down.
“We’ve had a really good process and it’s just amazing how spot on we are with our evaluations of the poetry we’ve received,” Cognito said. “Not that any of it is good or bad. It’s just the ones that really resonate for each of us, it’s quite similar and that’s what it’s going to do: It’s going to reflect our personalities as much as the people that end up in the collection.”
Animusings and Much Adieu About Nothing are available at Windowseat Books, Well Read Books and from Cognito at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/yancognito. Cognito will be performing an online reading as part of Port Alberni’s Words on Fire series on July 29. He will also be doing in-person readings, contact him for more information.