A Globe & Mail best book of 2014
The new collection from Griffin-winning Ken Babstock, On Malice is a bad mist, a digitized weather front trying to watch the surveillance from inside it, and to sit vigil at our convalescence as an alien witness.
The fairground screamed. The mountains
and valley were gone. The fire was gone
too. The hanging ‘because’
was gone too. The men were away
and my heart already dead
and the fairground monkey dead in my mouth.
A spectre haunts a derelict NSA surveillance station on a hill in Berlin. Our posthumous selves cry to us from the Cloud. We’ve internalized the panopticon, but it still feels good to buy. On Malice assembles evacuated forms, polysemy, undirected prayer and meta-chatter into a quartet of delirious song, a diorama of our new, totalized and ubiquitous armour. Channelling Spicer and Berryman, data-mining and inverting Hazlitt, Donne and Walter Benjamin’s son, these extended ghost-essays are lyric in their sonic and affective register but coldly methodological in their invented structures and repurposed illusions.
'This is a poetry that is so uncompromising in how it deals with traditions – of poetic forms, of dictions, of militaristic histories – that it becomes something magnificent: brittle and hard. It will change how you think.'
'Ken Babstock is a wonderful and spirited poet, his work is full of musicality, syncopation, wit, and formal acuity, it's all good.'
'The flavor of this poetry is complex—it will have to be consumed in small amounts like a sipping tequila. It inebriates quickly. It imparts a convivial brilliance to life. And it is not without its sinister edge.'
'The most accomplished book by Canada’s most accomplished younger poet, On Malice is a collection for the age of surveillance and confusion, at times chilling, at times unknowable, but ultimately profound in its brittle beauty.'
—The Globe & Mail