What is a glosa and why should you care?
Glosas are a form of poetry that’s seeing something of a revival at the moment, particularly in Canada, and in no small part due to poet P.K. Page. James Harbeck recently described glosas as “jazz, improvisations on someone else’s theme” and I think he nails the essence of the glosa with that phrase. It’s a very fluid and flexible form, and that gives you the freedom to create something mind-blowing… but equally it gives you the freedom to crash and burn.
We’ll be bringing you a double treat soon. Dead to Rights: A Circularity of Glosas is a collection by Alain C. Dexter, and Dead Edit Redo is a thriller/ horror / time travel/ mystical prose novella by Elaine Stirling that tells Dexter’s story and the tale behind the 18 glosas in his collection.
Over to Alain for his explanation of glosas…
“The glosa, of which you will find eighteen in this book, originated in 12th century Spain. The verb, glosar, means both to gloss and to sum up. The glosero or glosera—female troubadours did exist—would pay tribute to master poets by “borrowing” four lines of their poetry. These served as the opening or crown stanza. The following four ten-line stanzas were crafted by the glosero; nine lines were his own, the tenth came from the opening quatrain. To blend the originating work with the new, the poet rhymed the end words of lines six and nine with the master poet’s tenth.
If my explanation scrambled your brain cells, don’t worry. My first experience with glosas seventeen years ago overthrew everything I believed about time, space, life, love, reality, potential, possibility and truth. And I’d only written one!
Fortunately, reading glosas is not nearly so traumatic. They deliver like a compact short story, in stereo; they’re a poetic high energy drink, double shot espresso of verse. You can read one glosa and read it again several times to experience a kaleidoscope effect of something new with each reread. Or you can take in a whole wallop of them and begin to sense the underlying structure that gives the glosa its . . . well, glisten.”
—Extract from Dead to Rights: A Circularity of Glosas, a forthcoming collection from Greyhart Press by Alain C. Dexter, Ph.D. Heteronymic Professor of Poetry, Brougham College.
Of course, Alain is not the only person to write glosas. Other leading exponents include Elaine Stirling and Gavriel Navarro (who is himself a part of story!) And check the post on James Harbeck’s blog I mentioned earlier for some of his examples.