MadHat Press

Strange Terrain by Matthew James Babcock

Winner of the 2016 AML Award for Poetry.

What I love most—and there are many things—about Babcock’s Strange Terrain is the precision and specificity of place, person, and object, and how it is so elegantly juxtaposed in these poems by the internal terrain of all these speakers and characters and the poet himself.
     Black and Blue Rocket wraps; pigeons the color of newspaper; the Mandarin Garden Chinese Buffet; mini-golf Astroturf ramps and clown mouths; a three-year-old daughter running naked through the house. All of this balanced against amazing language fragments like “glossolalia from waxwings” and “cannons at the ceremony fire acrobatic crows into the twilight.”
    All of Strange Terrain added up for me to a beautifully uncomfortable knowing of myself, the West, the everyday, the grandiose, the banal, the ineffable, and left me feeling like this, perhaps my favorite kick-ass hunk of Babcock’s wonderful writing:

The race is always to leave everything
behind. The gravel caterwaul
of campaign slogans from bullhorn
and pub, reedy bluff where
river invokes ocean, white flux
of gold-leaf glare on morning surf
from whose scrolls of sluggish thunder
cormorants scatter with elegant force
in spirals of black flight designed
not to find speed but a divine place.

—Christian Winn
Idaho Writer-in-Residence, author of Naked Me

Prepare yourself for sonnets and études, sestinas and sapphics. Prepare too for a rollicking good time. I love the daring range of these poems and Babcock’s nervy delivery—everyday experience shot through with awe and irony.
      Under each one should be written “I somehow survived.”

—Lance Larsen
Utah Poet Laureate, author of Genius Loci


Matthew James Babcock is Professor of English at BYU–Idaho in Rexburg. His debut chapbook, Points of Reference, is available from Folded Word. Winner of the 2016 Juxtaprose Poetry Prize, he also received a 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award, and has been thrice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His creative nonfiction has been listed as “notable” in Best American Essays, and Press 53 selected his novella, He Wanted to Be a Cartoonist for The New Yorker, as a first-prize winner in its Open Awards Anthology. His academic work can be found in The Journal of Ecocriticism and Private Fire: The Ecopoetry and Prose of Robert Francis. His debut fiction collection, Future Perfect, is forthcoming from Ferry Street Books, and his debut essay collection, Heterodoxologies, will be released soon from Educe Press.


Strange Terrain
by Matthew James Babcock
$19.95, paperback, 132 pp.
ISBN-13:  978-1-941196-36-6


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