Thrown in the Throat by Benjamin Garcia is a poetry collection bursting with humor, hunger, and raw honesty. This unique collection holds back nothing, with unexpected shifts and blunt truths riddled throughout. Garcia is precise in his language, syntax, and heart-wrenching emotion on topics of his experience as an immigrant, a gay man, and an overall witty thinker.
The poem, “Ode to the Peacock” by Garcia demonstrates his careful and polished play with syntax, rhyme, and sound. A perfect example of these techniques being utilized in this poem are in the lines:
blew as in the past tense of blow // blow as in coke even though you // suck it up
buttercup and butterscotch // a man named Scott wants his Scotch // filthy gorgeous
or maybe that’s a martini
Garcia brilliantly dances with sounds like “bl-,” “butter,” “sco-,” and “ck” to create rhythm in his poem that gives it a smooth musical quality. Garcia’s interesting manipulation of syntax is also used to offer a fresh and new way to read this poem. The double dashes in the poem serve as separators, but each line still bleeds into the next to offer a multitude of different readings of the very same piece. For instance, in the lines “you’re squelching the inferno/ sometimes fire sometimes feathers // elect a whip or bind me // blind in leather,” there are several places to place emphasis on a word so that there is a slight change in meaning each time. This poem also moves at a very rapid pace, almost as if you were reading a stream of Garcia’s inner thoughts, zooming this way and that. This poem impeccably displays Garcia’s particular style and his skillful execution of it through his mastery of words.
Another poem by Garcia in this collection that shows his unique style is “Huitlacoche.” In this poem, Garcia explores the prejudice he has faced, but more importantly takes it and uses it to empower himself. For example, the beginning lines, “Go ahead and call me what I am, / call me: faggot, homo, joto, pinche puto” is shocking and abrupt, listing hurtful and offensive names. Garcia pushes this surprise by including more crude vocabulary, such as in the line stating, “cock, suck, pussy, fuck, ass, lick.” Using these words not only solidifies Garcia’s intention of magnifying the importance of words and their connotations, but gracefully employs assonance and consonance with the “o” and “u” sounds, as well as “ck” and “s” sounds. Towards the end of the poem, he writes, “I am proud to be a faggot.” By saying that he is proud, Garcia transforms this derogatory term into a tool that he uses to place the power into his own hands by showing he is not ashamed and that these words are not capable of hurting him. Garcia takes this poem even further by describing his own troubles with language, but writes, “Tongues make mistakes/ and mistakes/ make languages.” These powerful lines work in a way to both unify and divide the subjects in the poem by showing that we are all at the root of the existence of these hateful words and, as an extension, of hatred in general.
Garcia’s, “The Great Glass Closet,” a poem that intertwines his difficult experiences with his positive ones, is perhaps the heart of Thrown in the Throat. Erupting with more wordplay, direct openness, and pop culture moments, this poem takes us on a journey through Garcia’s life. Garcia takes the meaning of “being in the closet” and applies it to himself in various different ways, both metaphorically and literally. In these lines, Garcia illustrates his struggles and thought process on what “closet” means to him:
My room was a closet for my family’s clothes, my clothes were a closet for my skin,
my skin is a closet for my skeleton. It won’t always be.
It won’t always be this way,
but that’s not the same as “it gets better.”
These lines provide several different lenses that create distance in terms of what Garcia thinks a “closet” represents, both in a larger and smaller picture. Garcia also makes several references to characters and films such as X-Men, Harry Potter, and The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle. These allusions work to connect the reader with Garcia (or the speaker) to amplify the impact that the poem makes. In the end of the poem, Garcia brings it back to his identity as an immigrant and his journey to “the next shore” by alluding to the Great Glass Sea Snail being the one to take him there.
As the title suggests, Thrown in the Throat by Benjamin Garcia does not tread lightly on its readers’ hearts, but instead shoves us into a world of uncomfortable clarity. Garcia’s unparalleled skill is reflected in each of these poems within this collection. His vibrant language and rich themes make Thrown in the Throat an extraordinary read.