Scratching the Ghost

Title:
Scratching the Ghost
Poems
Dexter L. Booth
Price$15.00
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A Library Journal Best Poetry Book of 2013
[Scratching the Ghost] draws equally on prayer and past injury, sacred attention, and unholy substance. . . . [It] anoints even its most violent considerations of the past with a measured lyric imagination. . . . A thoughtful first book."Publishers Weekly

About the Book

Winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, selected by Major Jackson

The stub of your left leg dangles
as I hold you up, my hands inserted under your arms
like a child. You are complaining about the itch,
the burn; scratch the ghost of your calf and heel.
                        —from “Scratching the Ghost”
Dexter Booth’s ruminations on loss in this award-winning debut are rooted in a time past but one still palpable and persistent. Here are memories of love lost, family mourned, a father absent, ghosts of hometowns and childhood. Here too is a “Short Letter to the Twentieth Century” and, finally, a “Long Letter to the Twentieth Century,” as if across this collection the poet is mustering up the force to speak back to history.
 
“In Dexter Booth’s Scratching the Ghost, a cracked egg means the universe is splitting, the slap of a double-dutch rope is a broken-throated hymn, and splitting a squealing hog is akin to love-making. These are poems loyal to their own intrepid logic and reckless plausibility. Yet, lest the reader get too giddy in a fun house of mirrors, here, too, are the melodic laments and remarkable lyric passages of a poet who acknowledges the infinite current of melancholy that underlines his journey.”—Major Jackson

Additional Reviews

“Booth’s first collection exhibits stylistic versatility and thematic range seldom found in his first books. . . . Booth illuminates the odd lives of objects. This promising young poet joins. . .a new class of writers who interrogate history through intense imagery while questioning the conventions of identity.”Booklist
"After finishing these 69 pages I found myself cut off from some of the best writing I've read in a long time, without a library of work to feed my incessant need for more Dexter Booth. Here's to hoping he comes out with more entrancing work in the near future."NewPages 
"In Dexter Booth’s collection of poems, Scratching the Ghost, we experience a vivid, elemental storytelling across childhood through a translation of adult life into a strangely other and beautiful childhood—this is a crazy journey as if through the work of Georg Trakl to early Robert Lowell. These poems are in the tradition of a very few brilliant first books that are utterly memorable."—Norman Dubie
"It is all here—passion, violence, whisper-tenderness, loss and redemption, in poems remarkable for their vividness and raw power.  Booth’s Scratching the Ghost meditates on the ways experience and memory shape us and the ways our imagination transforms both. In doing so, he gives new insights into human fragility and courage, into childhood’s resilience and the bonds of family.  Booth’s poems are evocative, often searing, and impossible to read without being changed."—Beckian Fritz Goldberg
“If a haunt is a hangout, a place one frequents, it is also an immaterial visitant, as much a disease or memory as a ghost. And if to scratch is to ease an itch, it is also to cancel. Dexter Booth’s Scratching the Ghost is, then, a complex vector of materialization and nothingness, an exploration of home, and of memory and of the equally weird succubi of self and culture, of material beginnings and spiritual implosions. Full of tenderness and uncanny dislocations, this book is a powerful debut, a masterful prelude. Of a writer’s work, we say a body. And, as Booth writes in ‘Poem for my Body,’ every poem is ‘stolen by whatever can make use of what I become.’”—T. R. Hummer
"You have to understand how 'our words nudge / into the tiny spaces' and how 'one moment moves / inside the next,' writes Dexter Booth, and indeed this becomes crucial as we move in this terrific book from family history out into a world sometimes marked by violence. Whether recounting an event from the past in a prose poem or celebrating the present in verse, Booth’s poems become kinds of prayers that aim to 'mend' the past by recapturing it in a more visionary, forward-looking  way. It is a profound faith in language and vision that 'unrolls my tongue / like a bandage upon healing,' he says, and his gift is that we participate in that healing. One way he carries us through these complex emotional spaces is with a deft use of simile: some of these poems could be instruction manuals in how to let similitude be a way to escape, to transcend one’s predicament. This is one book I have read and re-read not simply for the joy of reading an extraordinary writer, but for learning again how to reach beyond the self, the past with a language of embrace and care. If you want to be 'possessed / by some ghost,' and taken to a wondrous transcendent place inside your own place, this is your poet."—Richard Jackson
“In Dexter Booth’s Scratching the Ghost, a cracked egg means the universe is splitting, the slap of a double-dutch rope is a broken-throated hymn, and splitting a squealing hog is akin to love-making. These are poems loyal to their own intrepid logic and reckless plausibility. Yet, lest the reader get too giddy in a fun house of mirrors, here, too, are the melodic laments and remarkable lyric passages of a poet who acknowledges the infinite current of melancholy that underlines his journey.”—Major Jackson