Poet Terry Barker of Sechelt is taking another long slow wink at the universe in the latest of his many books, Two Old Broads and Other Poems. The 64-page collection offers both irreverent humour and thoughtful observations in equal doses.
Those who have read a more serious work of Barker's, Last Chance this Life, a book of letters addressed to his drug-addicted son, may recognize the poet's fascination with the Hindu deities that inform his philosophy, particularly Shiva, the goddess of destruction. As he writes in the poem Barbarians, "Is too much goodness bad for the universe? Some say it is / ...perhaps we need Shiva / to let the fallen apple rot, / and, some say, our lives must end / so better ones may be built."
He echoes this theme in the poem Yard Sale - that disabled chair, that dead bed, "will return their matter and energy / back to the universe / whence they came / so you and I will have something / to be built from when we come back."
It's interesting stuff, although a far cry from the work he is best known for on the Coast - the writings and drawings of local landmarks he has published over the years in three volumes of Sunshine Sketches and sold locally, most often at the Sechelt Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings.
Fans of the author may have read some of the poems already; not all of them are new. At age 80-plus, Barker is firmly into recycling his previous work and his illustrations. Several of the favourites in this new collection could be read in a prior illustrated work, A Walk in Snickett Park - including a personal favourite, one of the best ever poems about growing old, The Way Things Are Now.
The format for this slim book of verse is a chapbook, a pocket-sized small book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads or stories. Its origin dates back centuries when the population was not always literate and these small books gave romantic tales of chivalry, religious and moral instruction or even bawdy stories. Barker is finding that the idea of such a book seems to tickle people's fancy.
"I tell them that I'm the latest in a long line of street corner poets hawking their chapbooks, going back to the 16th century," Barker said. "I am a living lesson in creative continuity, right there at the Farmers' Market. Some things never die."
The title poem, Two Old Broads, is also a reflection on aging and is one of the better poems in the book. Two elderly women are reminiscing in a coffee shop about their experiences during World War II, giving the eavesdropping poet a perspective he does not hear too often.
"Yes, the war was bad, but for them it was / the war of a lifetime," Barker writes.
Other poems muse about the after-life: what Hitler must have found when he reached the pearly gates, for example or the irreverent question you never thought to ask: what do angels eat? Communion wafers and Johnny Walker, the poet suggests.
Catch Barker at the Sechelt Farmers' Market, order the book for $15 at www.lastchancethislife.com, or phone him at 604-885-0278. Tonight (Friday) he will be reading his work along with several other local authors at the Artesia Coffeehouse held at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt. Doors open at 7 and show starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $8 to $10.