West Range by Ken Babstock April 12 2016
by Ken Babstock
Skyline cranes toward its source in cranes —
each demarcates a height
we urge the girders grow to; the girders might
just as well ignore us, though. Emily Haines
ignores the limits of her skin,
and molded plywood’s not lumber,
but was. “Capitalism in December”
stands as subject of the poem and the ink
it’s written in. Gondola, ferris wheel,
ex-urban angled dishes. Shiny, shiny Liebeskind.
This locust branch, up close, looks sequined
and particular. What wouldn’t I prefer to feel
then feel at ease for having felt? Denver’s
mostly cut glass in shops, ski slopes, Joe Sakic,
and a dull ache . . . You’re reading this, or the inverse
is happening, while a collection of Schick
disposables grows mountainous in po-faced defiance
of its jingle. The best we can get. In finance’s
we’ll one day bow
to men of higher station,
notice below us, in dark pools, our reflection,
like figures salvaged from a Caspar David Friedrich
but (was it Denver, or Jasper?) updated, in denim, freakin’ rich.
Winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award
Marooned in the shiftless, unnamed space between a map of the world and a world of false maps, the poems in Methodist Hatchet cling to what’s necessary from each, while attempting to sing their own bewilderment. Carolinian forest echoes back as construction cranes in an urban skyline. Second Life returns as wildlife, as childhood. Even the poem itself — the idea of a poem — as a unit of understanding is shadowed by a great unknowing.
Fearless in its language, its trajectories and frames of reference, Methodist Hatchet gazes upon the objects of its attention until they rattle and exude their auras of strangeness. It is this strangeness, this mysterious stillness, that is the big heart of Ken Babstock’s playful, fierce, intelligent book.