Old Age & Young Hearts
Editors: Judie Rae and Ellen Reynard
36 Poems ~ 57 pages
Price: $20.00
Publisher: Kelsay Books
ISBN: 9781639802944
To Order: Amazon Books at $23, or
Kelsay Books at $20

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

Well into my seventh decade it occurs to me that my perceptions about life increasingly revolve around the aging process. Though filled with determination and desire, the boundaries of age impose limitations. With that said, I was drawn to Old Age & Young Hearts, within a heartbeat. Editors Judie Rae and Ellen Reynard have put together an engaging anthology that will stand the test of time.

Back Story

The editor’s state in their Preface: “So much of their poetry revolved around the subject of aging: its delights–retirement, for example–as well as its problems–both physical and intellectual.” This idea gave birth to Old Age & Young Hearts. This seminal collection draws upon the writing talents of 15 accomplished women poets, all over the age of sixty. Each poet’s submissions (between 1 and 3 poems) are grouped under dedicated sections.

Setting the Tone

The second of Judie Rae’s three poems delivers both a vision and an aspiration:


          in northern California, and mature
          madrone leaves
          turn yellow
          and quit the trees.

          Some green remains,
          healthy still, while the old foliage
          drop silently, floating to earth
          to create a cushion
          on the forest floor.

          If only we could age
          as trees do,
          uncomplaining, releasing
          our anchors to the skies.

          When letting go our hold
          of earth’s abundance
          can we be as graceful,
          as silent, as leaves?

Anchored to Rae’s poem, I wish to touch upon the remarkable variety of perspectives exhibited in Old Age & Young Hearts.

In “Aging,” Maija Rhee Devine, likens the ripening of time to lovers running “toward each other,” like lovers “wearing a crown of spring raindrops.” They meet “after a long night bus ride over muck-filled potholes, … she in “high heels, through a dim path across a construction site.” I feel a certain defiance in these lines; yet an even deeper level of acceptance about reality.

Greta Broda’s “Farewell,” is about two women who have lived in profound friendship. They recall the way the auburn hair of the past, now, “looking sweet,” waved in white. How seven babies were born, academic accomplishments “Professor Grandma,” tending to “her dying husband with his lungs full of holes.” Now they must part. They do so with embraces and thanks; “driving home, the rear-view mirror full of the setting sun.”

“Sequoia,” by Debra Kiva, has the poet lying on the ground holding hands with her grandson, Julian. They look up as these “thousand-year-old giants / kiss the sunlit sky.” A wise grandmother opens the world of nature as well as the world of love. We need to do this; it is our privilege to share with youth, that sometimes, “there is nothing to do / but love.”

Don’t miss Thelma T. Reyna’s, “On Loan.” There, you will find a grandmother who realizes, “my son, you were never truly mine / and I not yours. At her core, Reyna knows that we have each other from the cradle onwards. But in the fullness of time, “the lease will end.” The destination of “On Loan,” will prove well worth the journey.

Among my concerns at age seventy-six, are nagging knees and an occasional wobble in my balance. “On the Garden Bench,” by Betty Naegele Gundred, feels the same tentativeness as she “rests on the redwood bench … her husband made.” While there

          A gnarled oak casts a shadow…
          I see my younger self,
          trowel in hand–
          dirt under my nails

In reverie she returns to images of the garden. The garden becomes her world, represents her world …

          My tulips about to bloom
          buds of yellow, purple, pink,
          perennial survivors of the garden.
          I notice there are fewer back this year
          like my life–
          more years gone than remain.

Could it be that the garden benches of our lives, the purpose they serve, is for moments captured in poems such as this?

I have long held that the natural world is analogous to human experience. “Evening,” by Perissa Busick, brings our collective journey to a gentle close:

          Geese on the pond
          swim over reflections
          of the tall pines on the clear, still water.

          The raven spreads its wings
          floating over the top of trees,
          so close to the pale, blue sky.

          The sound of rain this June night.
          The robin dances in the bird bath,
          and shakes its wings.

          So much to hold and fill my heart,
          knowing that soon this beauty
          will no longer be seen, nor felt, nor heard.

          And what will be
          when I no longer
          hear, nor feel, nor see

Old Age & Young Hearts, a world to cherish; a must-read collection.


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