a review of Kemeny Babineau's ‘AFTER PROGRESS’ (above/ground press, 2012) by writer and dg associate Cassie Leigh:
AFTER PROGRESS implies that there is a halt in development, and this is the exact impression that Kemeny Babineau, editor of literary rag magazine The New Chief Tongue, gives in his aptly titled chapbook. In fourteen short poems, Babineau playfully uses language to provide a commentary on society and the difference between the past and the present. Although all of the poems are completely gripping and unique in their own ways, each one points towards a specific question: where are we actually heading in our world?
Specifically, we have the poem, Neighbour Cutting Gross Grass. Babineau contrasts imagery and description of a “Doomed god” and the “Manichean line” with men trimming their lawns and killing the weeds that grow there. The initial line states, “What some men are reduced to”, which immediately begs the comparison between the days of war and military, and the current days of battling with the hedges and the lawnmower. The fire is still in the hearts of men, but Babineau seems to imply that the need for this fire is gone, causing it to misdirect. The main impressions of this poem are that of vanity and obsession over things that barely matter. It forces us to realize what we have become in the current age.
Every piece within this chapbook seems to dictate the same message as Neighbour Cutting Gross Grass. Babineau implies that there is a sense of false progress, in which image and speed are a greater concern than actual movement towards a greater good. We are moving at a pace on par with the old days, but we have lost the purpose behind the constant rush. Although the heavier message is ever-present in the text, it is through Babineau’s graceful flow of words like music on paper that an element of hope is delicately introduced. Through a seemingly planned collection, Babineau recognizes the issues of society, but offers them more as a call for a change than a simple discussion on the negative.
This is a strong chapbook that carries Babineau’s voice through the carefully chosen words. We are able to recognize the underlying issues that slyly present themselves through clever language games, as well as relating the reader to the very honest discoveries that they seek to uncover. The world is forever changing, and I think that it is through Babineau’s words that we are forced to examine this state of constant movement that we seem to be stuck in, and whether or not we can ever find a way to move forward instead of just running on the spot.
Kemeny Babineau reading for Grey Borders Reading Series
Cassie Leigh has a mysteriously absent last name. She spends her days dealing with money, and her nights dealing with art. A current resident of St. Catharines, Cassie is co-editor of Irregular Artifact Press and has had work published in the anthologies 'looking for trees' and 'lapse'. Cassie has also won the Eleanor Abram Prize for fiction two years in a row - 2009 and 2010. In film, Cassie took part in the script creation of Apollo Boy, the recipient of the People's Choice award in the 2011 Brock University's Render This! film festival. Currently, Cassie has book reviews forthcoming from Broken Pencil and Bookshelf 2.0.
Kemeny Babineau lives near Brantford Ontario. He runs Laurel Reed Books and edits literary rag magazine The New Chief Tongue. Babineau’s latest work, After the 6ix O’Clock News, is published by BookThug.
another killer review thanks to Cassie Leigh!
you can find out more about Kemeny's chapbook from the above/ground press site!
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