Skin Like Mine

This collection of poems by Garry Gottfriedson attempts to peel away the skin of contemporary First Nations society to reveal an inside view of individual experience.

Garry Gottfriedson

(Ronsdale Press)

In Skin Like Mine Garry Gottfriedson offers a suite of poems that peel away the skin of contemporary First Nations society to reveal an inside view of individual experience. Gottfriedson speaks of "minds full of anticipation" yet with "tongues pointing arrowheads." Today's youth, he says, are "afraid of themselves." He finds that both individuals and bands end in "tangles," that they write "nonsense words in the sand" or exploit images painted on rocks, those "the postmodern Indian calls / visual poetic expression." As the collection continues, however, Gottfriedson's love for the land emerges. He draws attention to the rape of the natural environment, the skin of Mother Earth, through clear-cut logging. He speaks of the damage caused by the pine beetle, of "forests being / eaten from the inside out." And here it is that Gottfriedson introduces the mysterious Horsechild, who is to prepare the drying racks for the returning salmon "so that beneath your skin / the mountains will be forever abundant": a prayer for us to protect the migrating salmon on their multi-year cycles, to protect the bears and eagles that feast upon them, so as to assure that the transformations will continue, that there will be abundance for both humans and the earth itself. (From Rondale Press)

From the book

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

From Skin Like Mine by Garry Gottfriedson ©2010. Published by Rondale Press.