Results of the Griffin Poetry Prize in the year 2007.
In this extraordinary collection from one of our most celebrated poets, Don McKay walks the strike-slip fault between poetry and landscape, sticks its strange nose into the cold silence of geologic time, meditates on marble, quartz and gneiss, and attends to the songs of ravens and thrushes and to the clamour of the industrialized bush. Behind these poems lies the urge to engage the tectonics of planetary dwelling with the rickety contraption of language, and to register the stress, sheer and strain — but also the astonishment — engendered by that necessary failure.
In his brilliant and long-awaited third collection, award-winning, critically acclaimed poet Ken Babstock finds momentary stays against our gathering darknesses in the irrepressible, acrobatic, free play of the mind. The intellect poses as part junk heap, part life preserver as the speaker of Airstream Land Yacht generates music from paradox and deep-rooted doubt. Poems of conscience collide with the problems of consciousness, the concrete and the conceptual find equal footing, and formal beauty mixes with imagistic brinksmanship as the speaker attempts to leave our “homes half-sheathed in Tyvek” and “drift into the pain of our neighbours.” Like Babstock’s earlier work, Airstream Land Yacht testifies to the harrowing beauty of everyday experience ("a leather recliner star / gazing on the free / side of a yard fence,” “shopping / carts growing a fur of frost,” a grounded kite “nose down in the crowberries and fir”) while introducing an expansiveness of inquiry with linguistic bravado and a quiet grace. The clutch of love poems contained here are key to unlocking the larger collection—itself a love song to the wordless world.
Written with the verve of the uninhibited artist but with a clarity of thought and expression more akin to the scientist or scholar, these poems investigate the emotional and philosophical struggles of contemporary life. Often sparked by the horrors depicted in today’s news, the poems combine surrealist images with spare and lyrical language to grapple with an increasingly absurd world. The most ambitious piece in the collection is a radical, post-9/11 translation of the Anglo-Saxon elegy The Wanderer, and other poems include “Don Quixote, You Sure Can Take One Helluva Beating,” “Film Version of My Hatred,” “Never Held a Gun,” and “The Romantic Impulse Hits the Schoolyard.”