Ken Babstock’s “Methodist Hatchet”

When I first moved to Canada, I went on a crusade to introduce myself to as much contemporary Canadian poetry as possible. Considering that I have spent the vast majority of my life less than an hour from the US/Canada border, I was a bit chagrined to realize how few Canadian writers I had ever read, and I went about remedying the problem with the kind of dedication that I think only an immigrant would be capable of. Isn’t the convert always more dogmatic than those born into the faith?

Ken Babstock’s Airstream Land Yacht was among the books that made an early impression. The poems had a strange ability to make a kind of meaning that you could only really see out of the corner of your eye; sort of like Ashbery, but less stream-of-consciousness and decidedly more Canadian. In his new (fourth) collection, Methodist Hatchet, Babstock goes deeper. The poems have less humour than I remember and greater obscurity. Are these the signs of a poet maturing into a master, or of poetry retreating further from the average reader? I dunno. My full review is up on Rover now.

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