Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

Days into Flatspin

by Ken Babstock

With his second collection of poetry, Days into Flatspin, Toronto poet Ken Babstock proves himself to be one of the “lords of the little gestures” that he cites in the book’s epigraph. His poems are finely crafted reflections on the often overlooked moments and objects of daily life – the boot mat, an anorak, or sunlight shining through a bedroom window in the morning.
With an almost painterly eye for detail and perspective, Babstock represents the ordinary and familiar as anything but. In “The 7-Eleven Formerly Known as Rx” he writes about the transformation of a family-owned convenience store into a franchised 7-Eleven from the point of view of the store itself. In another poem, he renders in words and letters many of the possible perceptions of clothespins: “Two back to back, a W/collapsing or an M/with a hat./Thrown in the fire, just/wire – red hot.”
Like his subjects, Babstock’s technique resonates with little details. He writes with a bold, contemporary language that balances his use of strict metres and form. In many of the poems, the most striking effects arise from his brilliant line breaks. In others, it is the details of language, namely letters themselves, that form the meaning of the poems: “… and one old adage –/like that, adij – barely space enough between her/d and g to remember you forgot to mail that letter.”
But Babstock’s poems are more than mere descriptions. Each layer of image peels the surface back to reveal another layer, deeper and more intense than the one before. Like peeling an onion, Babstock searches through his writing to get to the centre of things, to the core of philosophical possibility – a delving that sometimes takes the poems off course into obscurity, but also uncovers some of the most rapturous moments in the collection: “… and the owl; memory;/its pulled-out, full-throated o’s/that loop these nights, then tighten.”