Monday, October 20, 2008

Ken Babstock's "Airstream Land Yacht"

Ken Babstock's third collection of poetry, Airstream Land Yacht, (2006), opens the scope of his concerns while also plumbing those obsessions for more depth. Whereas Mean was a wonderful, visceral first volume, Days Into Flatspin heralded a stark change at the halfway mark towards a self-aware, objective commentary on what would have remained experiential, rapid present-moment takes. I don't think that second half works (for reasons I've tersely touched on in an earlier blog post), but it promises to be the start of what may continue to be an important development in Babstock's procedure, the intermarrying of stark, powerful observation with a considered intellectual grappling with "what it means" (to use --sometimes unavoidable, as here-- a precious and facile phrase).

Airstream Land Yacht succeeds wildly on both counts, sacrificing little of the immediacy of his observations and emotional states when unsentimentally circling their flowering mental irresolutions, and sacrificing little of philosophical depth when outlining: "Paint cans with gummed lids,/ buckled, and shut like bad clams" from the poem "The Largest Island Off the Largest Island".

I love this book on so many levels. Babstock's musical joy, always apt to his subjects, hasn't diminished, and in fact is more impressive since he's upped the ante with the taking on of layered meaning and stylistic breadth. It's obvious that his is an active and curious mind, poetically searching, experimental in the best sense of that word, and I'm excited to see what he does next.