Bill Richardson takes on the graces and disgraces of aging in new poetry book
His book is titled The First Little Bastard to Call Me Gramps: Poems of the Late Middle Ages
Although writer and former CBC host Bill Richardson's new book of poems is about aging — it was a form of social media, used more by teens and young adults, that helped bring the book into fruition.
After posting some of his poems on Facebook, friend and illustrator Roxanna Bikadoroff contacted him, offering to illustrate his poetry.
Richardson then turned to social media again to contact friend Sarah McLaughlin, who is president of House of Anansi Press.
"It's social media at work," Richardson said, chuckling.
Richardson will be discussing his book, The First Little Bastard to Call Me Gramps: Poems of the Late Middle Ages, at the Vancouver Writers Fest starting Oct. 20.
The 'indignity' of aging
Richardson said his book, a pocket-sized guide to the wisdom, whining and wonder of growing older, is an homage to the poems he loved as a kid — particularly poetry by A.A. Milne.
He said he didn't want the poems to be too negative — "the poems are meant to be funny," he said — but at the same time they draw from what he calls the "indignities" of aging.
"I do think of them as indignities that come along with [aging], such as the body giving way, such as looking at yourself in a store window as you pass and seeing somebody that you scarcely recognize. It's mostly that physical stuff, and the stuff about forgetfulness and the stuff about watching your parents age and die."
"There's very little that is deeply original to say about the business of getting old. It indicates nothing, really, except that you've been successful so far in waking up every morning and finding you're not dead."
Inspiration from his father
Richardson dedicated his book to his father, whom he had been looking after in a care home in Manitoba before beginning to write the poems.
He said his poetry was inspired not by his father's aging process and battle with dementia, but how his father still remembered the poetry he used to love to recite.
"The last conversation I had with him that made any sense at all...he was trying to remember The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. He would get to a certain point: 'Distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, and each separate dying ember cast...aaaahh" and then he'd say his favourite expletive," Richardson said.
"It's striking to me that those are the things that stayed, the way music stayed...we remember that stuff for a reason, it catches its' hooks on the resting places, on the perches of our brains, with a certain kind of tenacity."
To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Bill Richardson takes on the graces and disgraces of aging in new poetry book