Introduction

We’re all getting older. What’s to celebrate in that? Maybe our local transit system gives us free passes after 70, but life doesn’t. The possibility or actuality of disability, dementia, death sit in the corners of awareness, or rage in its centre. Families, lovers, friends leave us; loneliness looms. Memory serves up big helpings of old grief, as well as former innocence and joy.

Old age, we say, isn’t for sissies.

But look at it another way (and as poets we are good at turning things over and looking at them in other ways) and we would have to say: Life isn’t for sissies. We’ve been learning about loss and grief all our years, but also about finding the strength to go on – through the love of family and friends, through faith or sheer stubbornness, or because ‘they’ (so many ‘they’s) depend on us, and letting them down simply isn’t an option.

And celebrate? Even that: there’s plenty, it turns out, to celebrate. We’ve made it, we’re still here, we are still writing poetry, or perhaps learning yet another skill, even now learning to write it. We are survivors; have survived beyond expectation. We have lost and won and lost again. In spite of all we have not been silenced. We have turned memory and hard-bought wisdom and love and dreams into poetry. We have turned pain into poetry. We are still writing, still sharing our verse, still hoping, still laughing.

Our contributors indeed wrote and shared on a scale beyond our expectations. We received many more submissions than we could print, even when we chose to print the shorter poems. We decided we needed a website. It will contain the printed poems, plus one poem from each of the other poets who submitted, and short biographies of all the poets.

A few words about the arrangement of this volume:

The poems are grouped into twelve themes, so that the reader can easily savour a number of takes on a topic, on Childhood, on Nature, on Words and writing, even on Death. (Who would have expected so many funny poems about death?) We don’t mean to suggest that any poem is “only” about one theme. A poem found in the “Nature” section often describes an Encounter, includes the poet’s Reflections on the scene, may also be about Aging or Memory or . . . Poems are like people; they don’t classify easily.

Many poems could be placed in any one of several sections, even perhaps in the Introduction, thus:

Old poet writes

“I need a photograph,” I told my niece
“Old poet writing
grandchild looking on.”

I sat at the picnic table
with pen and notebook
Mia across from me.

I wrote “Mia’s poem,” then . . . ?
how to engage five-year-old attention
while her mother takes pictures?

“What shall I write?” I asked.
“Once upon a time?”
Without a pause
she took up the tale:

“In a land nearby
lived a girl called Mia.”

She dictated and I wrote
adventures fantastical
beginning in a forest
and ending with lunch
at the CN tower.

Old poet writes
grandchild looks on?

Mia does not look on.

Young muse dictates
Old poet records.

Marianne Vespry