CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 41. . . .June 25, 2010.
Skin Like Mine.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2010.
120 pp., pbk., $15.95.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Shelbey Krahn.
Garry Gottfriedson has written a beautiful and complex collection of poems on a wide range of topics from the classics of language and love to specialized topics like horses and Secwepemc first nation culture (the good, the bad, and the ugly). The poems have been categorized into sections: Skin Like Mine, Scalps and Derma, Tender Terminology, and Wolf Eyes.
An excerpt from the title poem:
you wear your skin like mine
kerosene sweat dripping
flooding angry refutation
brown and proud
complexion forever drenched in self-pity
Gottfriedson gives a lot of food for thought and analysis in the poems. Adolescents will be very interested in topics of personal identity, group identity, Canadian identity, of justice and racism, of how to live one’s life, of lives damaged by drugs, sex, violence, and self-pity. Mourning the damage to the environment is another major theme in the book.
Most of the collection is appropriate for a high school classroom, depending on the censorship-prone culture of the school. Problematic language includes rare uses of “damn” and “asshole.” The third section includes sexual imagery such as “I thought his heart was/lodged in his cock” (p. 75), “licking the future from her troubled thighs” (p. 77), and “the magic hardens down under/at the crotch of his Levis” (p. 90). A poem in the fourth section includes these cautionary lines: “Casanova’s mouth is a thesaurus exploding the right words unlocking sensuous crossed legs
one hears a whispered NO wetting the lips.” (p. 101)
The cover art expands the poetic beauty of the words. It is an impressionist oil painting of a beautiful brown man. His eyes are closed, his face basked in sunlight. Or is he in the process of turning away from the light? Is he dancing, moving to the beat of drums? Is he weeping? The complex and changing art work poignantly accompanies the reader through the poetic journey of Skin Like Mine, a book for Canadian universities, high schools and Canadian poetry lovers.
Shelbey Krahn is the Curriculum Resource Centre librarian at Laurentian University in Sudbury, ON.
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