Thrown in the Throat by Benjamin Garcia is an unabashed celebration of complexity in queerness and gender, an arresting snapshot of survival and a triumphant reclamation of language.
With a musicality that encourages reading aloud, Garcia's poetry tackles difficult topics--being undocumented in the U.S., familial and institutional violence, addiction, suicide and society's discomfort with queer desire. "If you want to keep America America, better bolt it/ down or lock it," says one immigrant speaker, using images of cages and swallowed rainbows and tongues to convey his sense of difference. Such difference is relished in "Queso de Patas," wherein a mother is likened to Mexican cheese, "ungrated as she tread upon this foreign soil."
The collection unpacks the harmful layers hidden in language. "Wouldn't you like to have a dress as wonderful as a rose petal? Well, not you," a mother tells her child, denying her "handsome boy" the beauty reserved for girls. Garcia rails against this "claustrophobic" dichotomy of "boy or girl, left or right, right or wrong," slamming verbiage that tries to fit LGBTQ lives into "heteronormative birds & bees" narratives, that assumes a "flower" to be likable or that suggests "orientation doesn't matter." At the same time, he disparages speech that tiptoes around anything offensive, which thereby others those who wield such words positively. Elevating this message, Garcia's brilliant wordplay shatters the taboo of supposed vulgarities, particularly sexual ones: he ponders the Spanish "come" in its varying English meanings and has the reader say "masturbation" aloud. By thwarting expectation, Thrown in the Throat fervidly asserts the possibilities for self-acceptance and belonging in the face of intolerance. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer