Hunting for Shark’s Teeth–Poems
by Renee Butner
36 Poems ~ 45 pages
Price: $12.25
Publisher: Lulu Press
ISBN #: 978-1-312-48589-1
To Order: or Amazon

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

Seamus Heaney, (1939-2013), a leading light in the world of poetry, had this to say about poets and the craft of poetry:

“A poet is someone who feels, and who expresses her feelings through words. This may sound easy, but it isn’t.”

This quote came to mind during my journey through Hunting for Shark’s Teeth–Poems, by Renee Butner. I asked myself, “Why hasn’t this poet been on my radar screen before now?” Already an accomplished writer, Renee Butner’s work has appeared in a variety of fine journals. Sharks Teeth displays these poems plus new poems that highlight her talent.

The book is organized into four untitled sections: I. 11 poems; II. 8 poems; III. 8 poems; and IV. 9 poems. Butner opens each section with a modern haiku, a haiku bookends the work.

Butner’s title speaks to me on different levels: the first is “sea-level.” The opening 11 poems take me specifically to the beach. My nostrils breathe salty air; aromas, sights, and sea-textures abound. On another level, I read Butner’s poems at the level of “hunting.” The title is catchy. But there is more. As poets we are constantly searching for life; we want to unearth life, we invest ourselves in life in and through our words. This is the work of poets.

At Sea-level

The poet “had me from hello,” with “Ocean Pier”:

          She meanders down a
          twilight street;
          digests the sweet, thick air.

          Cicadas and crickets sing their
          summer evening lullabies.

          The heady thrill of salt melds
          with balmy trade wind currents.

          As they play a final game of tag
          children’s voices hover

          alongside he eternal background
          reverberation of the sea.

          She comes upon a
          weathered pier projecting
          over the bruising water …
          a welcome provider of respite in the dusk.

The air around Butner’s twilight pier is “thick and sweet.” Crickets and cicadas sing, I hear the sea’s “reverberations” rattling the pier. She puts me in the action. She does more than experience the air; she “digests” the air. The poet is fully ensconced in her surroundings, satisfied, whole and complete. Butner’s work shows skill with poetic devices: alliteration, consonance, internal rhyme, simile and metaphor abound. Her poems are predominantly free verse.

“Five Senses” imbibes “grains of sand” that stings, / a thousand needle prickles.” “Waves roar as they fold over / and crash against the shore / then fizzle back out to sea.” Other titillating titles in this section include: “Dirty Sneakers,” “Glorious Moon,” “Lavender Skies,” and “Sea Glass,” none of which disappoint.

Let’s Go Hunting

Butner is never far from the sea, which I sense is her first love. However, her interests go beyond the sea as primary metaphor. For example, “bits of blue eggshell” capture her attention and result in the poet contemplating morbidity. Is the baby bird tragically dead or might the shell fragments indicate some “natural progression / hatching, downy feathers” of a young bird learning to fly? Shark’s tooth #1.

“Butter” is about` the poet’s self-perception. What lies beyond the “Buttery golden path” … “Does the aura surround me / Or has it fled / Into the bare branches / of the trees.” Shark’s tooth #2.

In “Daybreak Thunderstorm” Butner awakens to “rain gushing down the drainpipe / near my head / pounding on the roof / in sheets.” The eerie light flashings and thunderclaps frighten her puppy, but “her senses relish this abrupt awakening.” Shark’s tooth #3.

Finally, “Jazz Notes” circles me back to Seamus Heaney’s dictum:

“A poet is someone who feels, and who expresses her feelings through words. This may sound easy, but it isn’t.”

After a hard day, art, in the form of jazz captures a “mood,” brings the poet to herself within herself … where:

          A lone horn sings out
          Edgy and soulful
          Leading the session several
          Golden shimmering moments
          before backing off
          To allow a bebop
          walking bass line solo

          Notes wrap around one another
          Entwined in a dance
          for the auditory sense

          Jazz beat lines up with heartbeat
          I relinquish myself to
          the new pulse

This poem, akin to unearthing that coveted shark’s tooth in the sand, the quest for something deeper, sparkles as she revolves its sharp edges in her fingers.


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