Bill Arnott’s Artist Showcase: Ian Cognito

Welcome back Showcasers! Today we sail to Vancouver Island to visit with multitalented poet Ian Cognitō. Ian and I first met through 15 Minutes of Infamy, his performance series of storytellers and songwriters. Welcome, Ian! Let’s introduce you, please, you with your bio:

My name is Ian Cognitō. I am a late-emerging author in terms of sharing my work publicly and in print. I am the founder and producer of 15 Minutes of Infamy, a word-craft cabaret in Nanaimo BC. I am also the author of three collections of poetry: flora, fauna & h. sapiens (co-authored with Pat Smekal), Animusings (solo), and Much Adieu about Nothing (again, co-authored with Pat Smekal). I am the sole proprietor of Repartee Press, a revenue-neutral cottage press. Repartee Press recently published an anthology of poems, entitled Old Bones and Battered Bookends, on the theme of ageing, with contributions from writers from across BC and beyond. My previous incarnations have included child and youth care worker, contact dancer, education assistant, and language instructor.

Q. (That’s a diverse resume!) What do you feel you’re best known for?

A. Probably for 15 Minutes of Infamy. Also, sharing a name with a famous UK comedian who died on stage.

Q. (I know plenty of comedians who’ve died on stage, but I see what you mean. That Ian Cognitō.) And what brought you here?

A. If you mean: “What brought me to creating, publishing, and sponsoring written and spoken word craft,” the answer would be serendipity. It’s a bit long to get into in detail but would be a great conversation starter for anyone who meets me in person.

Q. (A great teaser for folks who meet you in person!) Who do you consider a role model or mentor to you?

A. There are many: Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, J.S Bach, Nelson Mandela (a brilliant writer and orator), Gary Shandling, Miriam Toews, Jane Campion, NATURE in all its manifestations… My friend, Carolyn. And, how could I forget … Dr. Seuss?

Q. (A brilliantly diverse array.) And what’s your advice to others?

A. Go with it. F**k the fear. Find your own voice. Eschew rules and conventions (as needed). Audacity is the fuel of fools and wizards. Take the gamble.

Q. (Oh, I like that!) What are you currently working on?

A. In addition to what’s mentioned in my bio, I am working on a project with a writer of prose in Ontario, Anne Marie Carson. I have been sending her poems for two years, and she has been sending me back these amazing prose-riff responses that are just delightful. I love her work. We have never met in person. I will also be starting another solo project entitled, Serial Text Offender. I had intended to start facilitating creative writing workshops this spring (emphasis on unleashing, not craft) but this was sidelined by the pandemic.

Q. (Collaborative work with someone you’ve yet to meet sounds amazing.) Tell us, please, what is your favourite: book, album, movie, and food dish?

A. Book: A Complicated Kindness
Albums: Love on the Rocks by Julie London and Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
Movies: Raise the Red Lantern and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Dish: Sour cherry pie

Q. (Nice call on the sour cherry pie.) And for our Quirky Question, make a choice: Dawson’s Creek or Melrose Place?

A. I haven’t seen either, but I will choose Dawson’s Creek because I like that name better. But if you’ll accept a Quirky Answer, I choose The Larry Sanders Show, or Detectorists.

(Bill) Well those choices are up there with the sour cherry pie; ALL personal favourites as well!) Thanks, Ian, very much, for being part of the Showcase.

And thanks again, Showcasers, as always. See you next time!


Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, the Gone Viking travelogues, and A Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. 

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