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Vancouver Island poets share work at Ladysmith art gallery

Saturday was the first in-person poetry event in Ladysmith since the start of the pandemic.

The Ladysmith Waterfront art gallery marked the opening of its Family and Friends exhibit with an afternoon of readings from two Vancouver Island poets.

Ian Cognitõ and Pat Smekal, who have published two books together, took turns sharing poems about love, family, ageing and relationships on Saturday (Sept. 4). It was the first live reading event they had done since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I did ZOOM once and I hated it,” Smekal said. “I don’t see the real faces and I don’t see the people that are dropping off to sleep. — it’s so much better [in person].”

The friends met through writing groups and after discovering they shared similar styles in performance and writing, decided to publish their work together.

“I like to say that we write user-friendly poetry and that it’s not terribly head-scratching — it is pretty accessible,” Cognitõ said.

They share a sense of humour in their writing, which can help to express things that are otherwise hard to hear, Cognitõ said. “It’s a quick in with people, it’s a quick way to win them over and to draw them in.”

He said he wrote his first poem when he was in middle school and for a long time he did not share his writing.

“Poetry you do write for yourself, but if you write with others in mind and communicating what you want to say to others, it sort of completes the circle for you,” he said. “To me, there is much more value in that than just simply writing poems for yourself.”

Cognitõ said he learned how to make books during the pandemic and has now started a press company called Repartee Press, where he plans to publish other poets’ work.

“That’s one gift of the pandemic. I have a new skill and I can lend that skill to other people,” he said.



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