A Review: Punching the Teeth From the Sky by Brenton Booth

Brenton BoothPunching The Teeth From The Sky, published by Epic Rites Press, is a 52 page collection of narrative poetry by Australian author, Brenton Booth. Most of the poems don’t exceed one page and the first poem in particular exhibits the poet’s ability to say more with less.

The saddest thing
about death
is
most of us
don’t lose
much

untitiled (p.11)

The above poem establishes a couple of themes that run throughout the book; life and death. More specifically, how life and death relate to each other. Death in Booth’s poetry, however, is not limited to literal human expiration, more often than not it is death in life; the slow death of time wasted by the trickery and distraction that rob a person of unexpected beauty and joy.

…happy to not
be a part of things
not to be trapped in
the false wheel of
success that never
goes anywhere

Pale Blue Eyes (p.12)

Regret is another domineering theme that links these poems together. In fact, our narrator uses regret as a cognitive tool, it’s held onto as a reminder of what’s at stake. Losses and victories are weighed up, memories of pain and pleasure are savoured, constructive friendships and familial toxicity are revisited as a means of self-preservation.

it’s the way of
things:
good
bad
certain
uncertain,
days without problem
nights you pray will
never end
or
minutes harder than
death

The Up and Down (p.22)

There is an overriding feeling of the need to escape; escaping the pressures of a socially acceptable middle-class lifestyle and avoiding the trappings within the statuesque. For Booth, the malignant aspects of life are often disguised as benign. The mundane, the job, the grind are a horror that can only be avoided by trusting the moment to take care of itself. Allowing the moment to breathe freely is this books raison d’état.

The days join
as one into
one long
struggle
music helps
but doesn’t
last,
the animals
got it
right;
they never
tried to
be more –
and never
failed
like us

Reason (p.28)

The collection is peppered with tributes to literary figures, artists and musicians who all play their part in providing snippets of escape and strands of relief. But the theme of escape is executed with an unequalled level of depth in the poem, Space; where two young boys face adversity way beyond their years, armed only with Lego blocks, friendship and their imaginations.

Suddenly all the dogs
living in our
street started
barking;
that could only mean
one of two things:
either the mailman
was in the street
or
John’s Father was
stumbling home
drunk from
the pub:
we both knew the answer.
‘Don’t worry about them.
we can build a great ship…’
We began sorting
through the blocks
and carefully
joining them.
We were going
to space
and we could
already feel
it.

Space (p.16)

Some of the poems are best taken at face value. That is to say that to analyse is to diminish their initial impact. For example, in the poem, What’s Left Behind, the poet describes a husband and father who quits milk, meat, cigarettes and alcohol, and exchanges his short temper for meditation and patience, only to fall victim to cancer at age thirty-three; leaving behind a wife, a child and two wasted years. It could be argued that those two years of sobriety and good intention were probably the best of the thirty-three. After all, any family unit who has suffered at the hands of a short-fused drunk would most likely swap forty bad years, for two good. Poems like this, however, are not meant for speculation. The point here is that life is short, cruel, unpredictable and does not give a damn about our efforts or plans. This sentiment is echoed throughout; in the poem, Cemetery, “There was nothing/unknown there – just death./Everything was simple there,/in a time of great confusion for/us all.” And in the poem, Lost, “the whole table with nothing/and no chance for a better/future…” In, Sunday Afternoon Magic, the narrator reaches toward art as a saviour from the nothingness of it all, “my neighbours/who sit outside with their/young children and their/endless talk talk talk/not listening to music/not understanding music/seeing only themselves/and their completely/banal existence as music/and truly important…” Again and again these poems describe the bleak emptiness of contemporary life, but there is always a moment of consolation to be found.

naked and silent
the world at war outside
but we are protected
unconscious to it now
our pulses together

Together (p.42)

The final and title poem of the collection is a full circle affair which covers five days and four nights with neither purpose nor direction, where meaningless encounters are exposed through meaningful experience. And that is the overall message. In Punching The Teeth From The Sky, Booth accepts defeat willingly, yet remains wilfully defiant against pity. He is aware of both the world’s failure and his own; he lays them bare, in all their ugliness, right next to moments of beauty and hope. It is a work of empathy and selfishness, pleasure and pain, shame and pride; a book that examines its own heart and challenges the reader to do the same.

 

 

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Title: Punching the Teeth from the Sky
Author: Brenton Booth
Publisher: Epic Rites Press
Publication Date: May 2016
Price: $7.80
Page Count: 56
ISBN: 978-1-926860-54-1

Matthew J. Hall
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Matthew J. Hall

An avid reader, writer and reviewer of poetry and short fiction. Author of Blood Pudding Press 2015 chapbook contest winner, Pigeons and Peace Doves and The Human Condition is a Terminal Illness will soon be available through Bareback Press (2017).
Matthew J. Hall
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