Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reader's Diary #240- Ken Babstock: Airstream Land Yacht (FINISHED)

Recently Drew Barrymore hosted Saturday Night Live for the 5th time. I'm slightly ambivalent about her acting abilities for the most part but there was one particular sketch that almost convinced me that she was actually great; the job interview. For those of you that haven't seen it, sorry I can't help. I looked for a video clip but SNL is notoriously keen on keeping them out of YouTube. Suffice it to say, the best part of the sketch (in my opinion) was how much fun she seemed to be having. It's great when artists seem to be in their glory, isn't it? I get the feeling Ken Babstock was in his during the writing of these poems. And if he wasn't, you'd never know it.

I haven't read a poet taking so many chances with the language since Christian Bok's Eunoia. In "Tarantella" for instance, Babstock riffs on a "ella" rhyme and delights in the silliness; rubella, Nutella, mortadella, tell a, the blah, and so forth. In "Expiry Date" I think Babstock employs the letter "o" in creating a rather risque poem (and if that wasn't his intention it doesn't matter because as Babstock writes in the last line, "It's what we think we saw that sticks, never what we see.") I loved the intense negativity in "The Brave" which is line after line of rejection, beginning with "That's not what we liked. It wasn't for us." and ending with "It wasn't for us and won't be. Ever. Trust me." Another favourite was "Epochal", in which the two sections of poem, the "video loop" and the "etched plate", have marked similarities. For instance, the line "long exploits in" becomes "something explodes" the second time around. These are just a few examples of Babstock's creativity.

But (you just knew there had to be a "but"), occasionally Babstock's creativity created too large of a distance between us. Whereas some poems were fun, other times I simply resented not knowing what the frig he was talking about. As exciting as extremists can be, sometimes I want to relax. (The 20 year old in me is shaking his head at my 30 year old call for moderation.) Fortunately the fun parts outnumbered the confusing ones, and so I'd reread this book in the future and maybe come to a better understanding.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Anybody who rhymes things with Nutella is okay in my books! I;m not even all that fond of Nutella but I like the word.

John Mutford said...

Not fond of Nutella?! It's my favourite hazelnut and chocolate spread! Yeah. It sucks.

You're right though, rhyming with Nutella is pretty cool. Glad to see people aren't afraid of using pop-culture references. Before you know it, people will be painting cans of pea soup.