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‘Shotgun Start’-Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell Review

October 19, 2015

Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell by Justin Karcher with illustrations by Michael Biondo (2015, Ghost City Press)

Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell by Justin Karcher with illustrations by Michael Biondo (2015, Ghost City Press)

‘The rust born in my blood anchors me like a shipwreck
And it’s only through self-destruction
That I’m able to float freely.’-Virginia Isn’t For Lovers Like Me (pg.50)

Here’s the thing about being a mad bastard: you can always recognize another one. On some instinctual, primordial, reptilian, old-brain level, you can spot someone else who’s mad as a March Hare. Justin Karcher is out of his mind. In a good way. The best kind of way. In the poetic sense of someone who’s veins are on fire with passion and prose. The words are exploding out of this man and we’re all lucky enough to be on the other end of it. Trust me, I’ve been in his shoes and it’s a scary, exciting, unpredictable place to be. Real poetry…real poets? They’ve got the world pouring out of their fingertips and there’s no way to stop the flood. Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell is not your grandmother’s Condensed Best Of Safe and Inoffensive American Poetry Primer. Nothing inside of it will ever make it’s way onto a knitted sampler or the bumper sticker of a lily-white compact SUV. Thank God for that.

This is just the beginning. This is a Poet announcing his entrance into the ring. There’ll be more. A lot more. There’s no doubt of that. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that we’ll have a whole bookshelf reserved for Mr. Justin Karcher in no time flat. While the housewife poets and armchair poets and tourists are working on economy of line and flash poetry and happy insipid nonsense, Justin is firing off submissions and hat-tricking acceptances while the rest of the sane world sleeps. Not because he wants to, but because he has to. This is how he makes sense of a milquetoast planet lost in its own slumber. He’s writing his way either out of or into a rubber room depending on his point of view that very second. Or both. Depends on the poem, the girl, the state line in question and a lot of other variables.

Karcher’s poems obey their own laws of reality, space-time and sexuality. He creates his own vernacular as he goes, hammering out his own alliteration-laced glossary off-the-cuff, and it makes for damned good reading. The adjectives and expletives click into place like the best kind of bedfellows. A chapbook was too small for his first shot across the bow, and Michael Biondo’s illustrations serve the subject matter well, almost like cocktail-napkin sketches about two drinks past last call at the bar on the wrong side of town after the first eight dives, juke joints, crashed parties and speakeasies. There’s an interlocking narrative as you make your way through the book, a man grasping at the identity of country, self, sex and the illusion of sanity. Salvation through self-destruction. It’s a tune that’s not too distant for me, so I recognize the melody, and Karcher’s rendition is a real barn-burner.
 

Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell is just the shotgun start. Mark my words. This is the good stuff. Distilled, refined and fired right at you with staccato sincerity. From one mad bastard to another, Justin, well done.

Chewing through my restraints again,
Tom Waters

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