Archive for March, 2017

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When Severed Ears Sing You Songs by Justin Karcher

March 14, 2017

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“Trying to create miracles for all us dumb fucks

Who just want to see one curse reversed

Before our muscles betray our bones”

-from ‘I Want Michael Fassbender to Hold My Hand and Tell Me Everything Will Be Okay…’

Chapbooks have traditionally been a signal flare or a forerunner for a larger body of work. Sometimes the flare peters out on the way down, and there are other instances where they are strung together before being combined into a bigger collection of poems. When Severed Ears Sing You Songs (2016, Ghost City Press) by Justin Karcher is more of an about-face or a stylistic sidestep after his longer Tailgating At The Gates Of Hell (2015, Ghost City Press).  Fast, funny and philosophical while simultaneously walking the tight rope between timely and timeless.

The city of Buffalo is Justin’s muse. He creates mirth and magic and wonder out of the sub-mundane, the poverty class and the lost souls in a lost city. The phenomenon to Karcher’s poems is that I wrestle cognitively with whether or not they are clever non-sequiturs strung together to suit or if all of the poems are one patchwork diatribe touching down on distinctive benders, evenings we’ve all regretted or dark corners of the city and our scarred psyches at the same time. I’m not sure I want the answer anymore, but I enjoy struggling with the riddle. And there’s a wry gallow’s humor to his work that connects with the reader in a way I haven’t seen in poetry for some time. Too often we’re weighed down with a sort of 18th-century morose self-importance in 21st century poems that shouldn’t exist.

This chapbook strikes me as a writer becoming comfortable with his style, easing into his poems like you’d slide your heel effortlessly into a pair of formal shoes. He has his voice and now he’s checking off every octave. The age-old polarities of sex and death have gotten wonderfully muddy within the pages of ‘Severed Ears’. Now we’re venturing into the ache, the loss, the regret and the existentialism of half-remembered love and the sorrow and sometimes-dread of being alive. Somehow in all of this Karcher gives me hope for the city because if it can cause so much pain, then it means more than Post-Industrialism, decline and decay.

-Tom Waters

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Big Words I Know By Heart Episode 35: “Virtuoso”

March 3, 2017

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John Valby really is a living legend.  More specifically, he’s a Clarence legend.  Growing up in Clarence, everyone either knew him, knew of him, or knew about him.  With over 40 albums and 40 years of wildly offensive songs, limericks and ditties, he’s not only talented and funny, but he perserveres.  I was a little worried about him last year when he came on the show, but this year, he had a spring in his step.  It sounds like his career and his life have hit a new crescendo.  As the only guest on the show who gets a return ticket every season, it was good to see him again, and the same goes for my old editor from Night Life magazine Ed Honeck.  There’s a lot of history with those two.  That sort of comfortable dynamic between the three of us made for another (I hope) entertaining episode.  See for yourself:

Thanks as always to producer Richard Wicka for being the glue that holds the show together, Ed for popping in with less than a week before he’s being pulled in 100 different directions for the Night Life Music & Club Awards, and last but not least Mr. Valby.  May your career reach dizzier heights in the next year, and may your health continue to stymy a host who’s no stranger to the dangers of excess.

#BigWordsVideo will return in a month with young adult author and molecular biologist (you read that right) Gaia Amman.  Do yourself a favor and SUBSCRIBE for bonus clips, alerts for new episodes and other additional content.

Tom

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Big Words Video 35.1: John Valby-‘Topical’

March 2, 2017

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Yikes.

As an ardent defender of free speech for my own selfish purposes for many, many years, I found myself in a position yesterday where I had to take a dose of my own medicine.

John Valby’s unique brand of comedy is not for everybody.  For the uninitiated, he can be a bit…prickly.  This is in the grand tradition of Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, Andrew Dice Clay and a lot of other comedians whose delivery and comedic timing far outweigh the bombastic nature of their content.  With all that said, there was a moment or two during the taping of the Big Words Video bonus clip where I thought, “This is gonna be trouble.”

Regardless, the entire point of the Bonus clips is for the guest to showcase their talent in any way they deem acceptable.  So there was a brief moment where I hesitated while we rendered and prepared the clip, and then that moment passed and I hit the Upload button.  Check it out for yourself:

I’m not about to start censoring anyone else’s right to free speech and free artistic expression, and when I start looking for inoffensive, politically correct or safe comedy for my entertainment purposes, that’ll be around the same time that I can the show and stop writing books.  YouTube is just like a television set.  You can always turn it off if you don’t like what you see.  If you do enjoy the show, though, SUBSCRIBE for FREE for additional episodes, bonus clips and other exclusive content.

Onward and upward,

Tom

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