23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Ken Babstock
© Hartwig Klappert

Ken Babstock

Ken Babstock was born into a pastor’s family in Newfoundland in 1970 and grew up in the Ottawa Valley. In his youth, he occupied himself with poetry in order to distance himself from the church’s language, which he found fraudulent. His interest in philosophy led him to enrol at the Concordia University of Montreal, but then he stopped studying and, for twelve years, took physical labour jobs in Ireland and Canada, working in forests, factories, and on building sites. From these experiences he gleaned the invaluable inspiration for writing many poems that would later appear in literary magazines and anthologies, soon to secure his first literary awards.
In 1999, his first collection of poems appeared with the ambiguous title »Mean«. In this collection, Babstock explores the primordially wild landscape of his youth to the same degree as he does chasms of human nature. Two years later, Babstock presented his second collection of poems, »Days into Flatspin«. Characterized by their masterly style, surprisingly metaphorical qualities and accomplished verbal art, these poems captivate through a wealth of forms and topics. A game of Frisbee evolves to a sonnet, the sight of a cow triggers reflections on becoming and ceasing to be, and a flat tire brings to mind the Surrealist watch by Dalí. One poem refers to »The Raft of the Medusa« by Géricault: Babstock – the breadth of his raw embracing of nature considered – is at home in a variety of cultures and he repeatedly builds a bridge connecting the New World to the Old. »Airstream Land Yacht«, the designation for a camper trailer, is the title of the third collection of poems, which appeared in 2006 and made Ken Babstock well known beyond the borders of the English-speaking world. In 2007, he was nominated for both the Governor General’s Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s most highly remunerated literary prizes. Among his many qualities, the jury justified its choice by citing Ken Babstock’s vast artistic range: »… here we find a poet who can do almost anything, both formally and in his exploration of such subject matter as romantic love, landscape, the body, the city, physical pain, and a joyful awareness of the sensory details of a world full of marvels and riddles … Babstock can be terse, darkly funny, tender, elegiac, wise, mysterious, but he is always fresh and always honest …«. New poems were selected for »Best Canadian Poetry 2008«, »2009«, and »2010«, and his work was included in »The Oxford Anthology of Canadian Literature in English«. Babstock’s fourth collection, »Methodist Hatchet« (2011), was published to critical acclaim.
Ken Babstock has received many different literary awards, among these the Milton Acorn Award, the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the Trillium Book Award. The author lives in Toronto, but is currently a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


House of Anansi Press
Toronto, 1999

Days into Flatspin
House of Anansi Press
Toronto, 2001

Airstream Land Yacht
House of Anansi Press
Toronto, 2006

Methodist Hatchet
House of Anansi Press
Toronto, 2011