A Gloss on Our Painted Gods
A Gloss on Our Painted Gods, Eric Barstad, Poetry, ISBN 978-0-973238-01-3, 80 pages, Paperback, 5.5″ x 8.5″, $14.95
From Orpheus to Arachne’s Suitor, these poems evoke universal themes of life and death; love and hate, wins and losses…. These lines are not soon forgotten, but linger. ~Dee Horne, Canadian Literature
Barstad obviously loves language, collecting and setting rare words like jewels into his poems… Like his three contemporaries, Barstad’s got fire. ~Sonnet L’Abbe, The Globe and Mail
The poems of A Gloss on Our Painted Gods are extremely well-written, intelligent, and intellectual… This is a young, urbane, sophisticated poet’s first book: there is nothing naive about it. ~Richard Stevenson, The Lethbridge Insider
Barstad is eloquent in the manner of Ondaatje, conveying emotions that relate to love present and past. ~Diane Dechief, FFWD
Barstad’s poetry revels in language, intelligence and wild imagery… Cruelty, treachery and pain are often explored in these rich and cadenced poems. ~Barbara Curry Mulcahy, Alberta Views
Barstad’s poetry often strives with ambitious historical subjects: the resonance of moments in classical history with our own time, for instance, or the long shadows cast by great poets of the past. ~Ian Samuels, The Calgary Herald
From heroes of Greek myth to birds in an aviary, from Caligula to Hearne at the Coppermine. The world Barstad gives us is deft yet exacting: each poem is caught, held, run through with a claw. This is a fine, lean collection of work. ~Anne Simpson
To read Barstad’s poetry is to delight in the strange aviary of the imagination. His writing is a marvellous blend of the absolutely ordinary and everyday with the fanciful, the remarkable, the bizarre and the magnificent. ~Ross Leckie
I wanted to write a poem with epithets
and ancient Greek and Roman names.
I wanted to say pious, goddess-born Aeneas, or
Hector, tamer of horses.
I wanted to allude
to obscure passages from long poems that nobody
reads anymore, unless to explain parts of other,
shorter, slightly less obscure poems.
Maybe I could have said something about dolphins –
I like dolphins – playing among the trees
of a flooded land. Or I could have written about
two senior citizens – too old for sex – throwing
their mother’s bones behind them
in hopes of repopulating the world.
I would have mentioned Triton
– Great God! I’d rather be a pagan –, wet beard
and all that, blowing his conch, summoning
who knows who from wherever.
I would have put
Jupiter in my poem. Not the Jupiter – the swan,
the shower of gold, the mortal man – whose offspring
are legion and dalliances renowned, but the Jupiter
whose flowing locks shake the very foundations
of heaven and earth; the Jupiter who can give birth
from his head and thigh.
And I definitely would’ve talked about that blind prophet
who was a man then a woman then a man just because
he stepped on a snake, or killed a snake, or did something
to a snake.
But what I really wanted to do
was write a poem with Greek and Roman names,
and epithets, like pious, goddess-born Aeneas, and Hector,
tamer of horses.
The Misanthropy of Horizon
(In search of Coppermine River, Canada, 1770)
Hunger’s hurt has taken us far beyond tolerance
for Hearne’s bravado. The Indians
have started to eat at the skin of their garments,
buck long-since dead and ragged with wear.
It’s been six days since I’ve been able to shit,
chewing on leather. There is no shelter here
in the flats, and we’ve torn up the tent for shoes;
the only fire comes from moss we gather in palmfuls,
sifting through the scalloped snow, the sun
turning its back on us, the drunken wind
blowing in circles. This is the misanthropy of horizon:
to never see the line between grey and white broken
by animal or bird or the welcome philosophy of trees.
And yet, it is some greater malignance that desires us now,
and we hear it in the lake’s low growl beneath the ice.