cover image The Galleons

The Galleons

Rick Barot. Milkweed, $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-57131-727-8

In his impressive fourth collection, Lambda Literary Award–winning poet Barot (Chord) critiques imperialism and capitalist excess through the recurring symbol of the galleons that sailed the Spanish conquistadors to the New World. “Galleons” poems feature lists of plundered objects, names of ships, and even the poet’s Filipina mother’s life story. Each is a journey through Barot’s labyrinthine thought process; rarely does he go where you’d expect. In “Galleons 1,” for example, the subject of the poem’s story is “an illumination of history, a matchstick lit in the black seam of time.” This, he amends: “Or, no, her story is separate from the whole.” In “Still Life with Helicopters,” the poet traces the invention of the aircraft from ancient Chinese propeller toy to the Oakland police department’s deployment to quell a protest after the grand jury’s failure to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. While Barot excels at intellectual examination, he also offers beautiful images, as when he captures the countryside viewed from a train window: “Dense walls of trees. Punky little woods... The creeks, the algae broth of ponds. Then the broad silver of rivers, shiny as turnstiles.” Barot skillfully synthesizes historical themes with a personal vision that establishes a meaningful relationship to the reader. (Feb.)