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james hörner

one of the quotes that Ken Babstock opens this book of poems with is Andrew Motion's statement that "Don't say you don't know what I mean. You've seen me there." promise of truth, of honesty, is fitting, given the way that Babstock unlocks his vault of personal history and lets loose. it also implicates the reader as a participant in that gritty, not always pretty and pleasing, thing called life.

Mean book cover throughout Mean are constant reminders of the violence of the reality, and by questioning issues like suicide and other life problems Babstock prompts his readers to ask themselves some troubling questions, to face certain unsettling facts of day to day life.

...Hush...eyes off the clock
and do what I do; in a salty,
peculiar, guttural

hum, repeat with conviction, this anti-
prayer haiku:

Night. November. I
am alone in New Brunswick
and there is no God.

notes on life, remembrances of situation, social commentary:

This was my grandparents' home, stitched curtains
waving each dawn in time to the tide pushing
out under dories. The men in oilskins,
hardtack between their boots, hack at the bay,
taking nips of good screech to taunt
the bad weather, bolster the guts.

besides the many clips of east coast culture that many of us are getting a unique taste of here, there are a lot of moments in Mean we can all relate to; Babstock taps into the fears, concerns, and worries that plague us all. he doesn't leave us stranded here, though, taking us through his hell in order to give us, and him, some sort of catharsis.

rather than quote my favourite poem from Mean, "What We Didn't Tell the Medic", i encourage you to pick this book up and get another picture of what the world looks like.

published by anansi
ISBN 0-88784-634-3

james hörner edits canadian content.

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