Saturday, June 15, 2013

Skin Like Mine - Garry Gottfriedson

Today's book of poetry:  Skin Like Mine.  Garry Gottfriedson.  Ronsdale Press.  Vancouver, British Columbia.  2010.

Red Elk's Protege

I was schooled in Colorado
brought here in the name of Gerald Red Elk

Pearl Street poets promising
Naropa representation
of Ginsberg and Waldman, Faithful and Bye
standing in my mind
like circling Horse Dancers
channelling Beat movements
to this very day

it seems long ago now
that my words were young and naive
rhythmless and stupid
among those who knew
the hearts of paradise seekers
riding the tsunami sheets in Ginsberg's bed
or ducking Waldman's voice in poetic performances

Alan was at his best then
and Waldman relentless
Faithful stood firm crumbling beneath her fears
but Reed Bye was my favourite

I have never forgotten
that he taught me
poetry runs in my veins
it is imagery, meteors and metaphors
but more importantly,
a poet never compromises his voice

I miss those days
when I was Red Elk's protege


Odds are that if you are aboriginal and living in Canada or the United States of America - you have suffered the callous indignity of the average non-aboriginals indifference.  Garry Gottfriedson has quite a bit to say about all of that in this emotionally charged book of poems - Skin Like Mine.

Ghost Crawler

inspiration is a shy creature
hiding in corners
wedged in ceramic tiles or
lying atop the bed
waiting for the right moment to

it's a ghost crawler on
the fine hairs of the body
shimmering all the time
low rumbling a poem
springing alive the natural senses

it's a silent and secretive
power pushing people to become
chanting poets or storytellers
crossing boundaries
reaching new cultures
pressing intuition

it's another Picasso re-incarnated
churning images, mixing colours or
sketching out Cubisms
fascinating flamboyant sightseers
tugging at the imagination
like a puppet master

it's also Morrisseau and Odjig and Baca
all prolific and versatile
igniting the imagination
sculpting words slyly
working their way on canvas or paper
opening the hearts of observers
showing the world creativity lives

inspiration is puppy love
for those who read or seek
but who are too terrified
finally, it is the love of those who aren't


Gottfriedson is a modern narrative poet whose poems are full of his heritage, Mother Earth is a Deity, and there is no space between the natural world and man.  But this is no Dances With Wolves fairy tale, instead these poems deal intelligently with the task of being aboriginal in a difficult world.

Ten Steps Ahead of the Obvious

ice presses my lips
sweet Pepsi rots my teeth
on the way down
south from Kamloops

out of the corner of my eye
I spot George Clooney
sitting beside me
on the cover
of The Rolling Stone

the ride is dark
to the Red Dragon Centre
where Domenico Capilongo waits
with Elvis in hand

but it is the blonde lady
with a fake British accent
that awakens our ears
through the nose
Domenico and I share
a chief's nose she tells us
picking out our loving qualities

I crow laugh

am ten steps ahead of the obvious


Gottfriedson has been well published and anthologized, for good reason.  The best of these poems are funny, wise, angry and sorrowful, but they are always poems full of emotional action.  Gottfriedson is a good poet.


at the threat of losing out
I feed wet promises

I know remorse is more
than saying sorry

so I pack a little black book
just in case nothing else works


Garry Gottfriedson's entertaining book Skin Like Mine won't be his last offering.  This strong voice obviously has much to say.

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