For almost twenty years, Rick Barot has been writing some of the most stunningly crafted lyric poems in America, paying careful, Rilkean attention to the layered world that surrounds us. In The Galleons, he widens his scope, contextualizing the immigrant journey of his Filipino-American family in the larger history and aftermath of colonialism.
These poems are engaged in the work of recovery, making visible what is often intentionally erased: the movement of domestic workers on a weekday morning in Brooklyn; a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, fondly sharing photos of his dog; the departure and destination points of dozens of galleons between 1564 and 1815, these ships evoking both the vast movements of history and the individual journeys of those borne along by their tides. “Her story is a part of something larger, it is a part / of history,” Barot writes of his grandmother. “No, her story is an illumination // of history, a matchstick lit in the black seam of time.”
With nods toward Barot’s poetic predecessors—from Frank O’Hara to John Donne—The Galleons represents an exciting extension and expansion of this virtuosic poet’s work, marrying “reckless” ambition and crafted “composure,” in which we repeatedly find the speaker standing and breathing before the world, “incredible and true.”
Like this book? Sign up for occasional updates
Praise and Prizes
“The Galleons reckons with origins and histories, both personal and public, on a global scale . . . [it] sweeps the reader along in an unfolding narrative tide.”
“In Rick Barot’s masterful book, The Galleons, the past is weighted down—heavily inlaid with riches and masterpieces, all of which are inscribed with someone’s grief. Throughout the collection, the speaker conducts research which is likened to a ritualized mourning, finding the source of someone’s pain turned into someone else’s wealth. The poems achingly coalesce into understandings of art and domination. Ultimately, Barot’s unflinching ability to serve as a conduit for these revelations results in poems that are astoundingly beautiful. The Galleons is significant, the work of a poet at the height of his powers.”
“The Galleons is a book of realizations. It’s a very American book, and an important one for our time. The freight of New World goods—its trinkets, totems, bodies—washes up on the shore of the speaker’s mind as he contemplates circumstance, privilege, and sacrifice left in the wake of imperialism. Moreover, these poems actively relinquish the desire to romanticize history, and in this manner the very notion of epiphany is called into question. Poem after poem undertakes the difficult lesson of arriving at the limitations of seeking transcendence through art. The Galleons represents a turning point in Rick Barot’s work, and it’s a frankly amazing experience to chart these waters with him.”
“Both stately and restless, Rick Barot’s The Galleons wrestles European mercantilism with an intimate grip, tracing a personal and historical journey from the Philippines to the Americas. With his ‘grudging faith / in the particular,’ Barot deftly oscillates between the sensuous beauty of a life keenly observed and the larger forces that inform and threaten it. ‘Longer than I can remember,’ he writes, ‘I have prayed to the patron saint / of eyesight for a new way, a new accuracy.’ Reader, his prayers have been answered!”
“In The Galleons, Rick Barot brings his understated virtuosity and perceptual sensitivity to bear on issues of postcolonialism, representation, memory, and grief. Other poets have engaged with these topics, but what is remarkable here is that Barot dares to enter these arenas with a kind of radical defenselessness—having laid aside the armor of authority, attitude, or agenda. The panoptic scope of these poems shows us beauty and cruelty, love and doubt with a clarity that is both thunderous and crystalline. Barot has a well-deserved reputation as a poet’s poet, and this is his most marvelous work to date.”
"At one point in The Galleons, Rick Barot self-deprecatingly writes, 'Aiming for a muscular / logic that could be followed by a reader's mind / like an old stone wall running along a landscape, I got / nothing so solid or continuous.' Solid or not, though, the logic these poems follow so often leads to surprise and delight. Whether using docupoetics to contextualize history, or intimate narrative to make the ordinary resonate, Barot's poems coalesce to form a memorable investigation of colonialism and immigrations. The Galleons is a remarkable book."
"Rick Barot's newest book is a beautiful, understated collection of poems inhabiting the liminal spaces between history, memory, and the present. Structured around a series of a poems titled 'The Galleons,' Barot explores the history of his own Filipino-American family and the role that trade and colonialism played in their journey. He interweaves these larger themes with profoundly beautiful detail of the everyday: flowers, a photo of someone's dog, the way the stone in an old church smells. Deeply layered and full measured insight, The Galleons is a wonderful collection of poetry."