Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

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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 25: ‘Dramaturgy’

June 23, 2016

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I’ve been a bad talk show host.

Here we are a week away from the next episode and I’m just posting the previous episode now.  Chalk it up to procrastination, call it the aftermath to my comeuppance, call it whatever you want, but here’s last month’s episode.  I felt ill-prepared and intimidated by my guest Donna Hoke, a playwright, staffer for Buffalo Spree magazine, children’s book author and a lot more.  Maybe I read too far into her personality, maybe not, but it threw me off guard and it was noticeable.  That’s okay, though.  The two questions I ask myself after every show are 1. Was it entertaining? and 2. Was it funny?  I can respond affirmative to both for this show whether it was at my own expense or not.  Justin Karcher was terrific in the Co Host Hot Seat.  See the whole big hot mess for yourself:

 

Thanks are in order to Hoke, Karcher and the always-lovely Richard Wicka.  I’ll see you all back here in approximately one week.  Approximately.

Tom

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Big Words Video 25.1: Donna Hoke & Justin Karcher-‘Hamilton’

June 2, 2016

I got the sense that either Donna and Justin hadn’t seen each other in a long time, or that you could lock them both in a room for three days and they’d still be pontificating and arguing when you opened the door.  Quips and gossip and barbs were flying and they downshifted to a delightful debate about Buffalo theater once the camera started rolling after the episode.  See for yourself:

#BigWordsVideo will return later this month with a long-awaited guest spot from award-winning comedienne Heather Stack!

Don’t you touch that dial.

Tom

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Poetry Month: Pleasures Of The Damned

April 25, 2016

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I still had a few lingering thoughts about Poetry Month, so I thought I’d run my 2008 review of Charles Bukowski’s Pleasures Of The Damned.  It was the poet’s final and mammoth posthumous publication.  Bukowski’s impact on free verse cannot be overstated, and without his influence, there would be no Breathing Room(s).  This review originally ran in Buffalo Rising. -Tom

As far as Charles Bukowski’s work is concerned, you either enjoy his work or you don’t. As far as I’m concerned, any artist who can pen 54 books is worth looking into. Almost two years ago, a friend of mine read a poem of his aloud, with a roaring campfire in the background, during a summertime couple’s cocktail get-together–and I was hooked for life.

I’d rather read books, listen to music or watch films from an artist who’s consistently above-par than fixate on the tiny visionaries who knock one or two dingers out of the park and then disappear. It’s a testament to the poet’s already extensive and prolific career that he passed away in 1993, and Ecco books has been publishing uncollected volumes of his work practically every year since. Even death couldn’t shut Bukowski (aka: ‘Henry Chinanski’) up. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and The Pleasures Of The Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 (Ecco, 2007) marks the final note in a swan song the dead, drunken lout has been singing for fifteen years beyond the grave.
The final note plays like a familiar variation on an old jazz standard because a lot of work previously published in other collections makes a return visit in the pages of this fanatic-magnet of a hardcover. Bukowski’s heirs must have scoured the final drawers in his writing nook for one last run at the residual checks, as a smattering of new, previously uncollected verse can be found peppered throughout.

It doesn’t help that I just recently tore through The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems 1946-1966 (Ecco, 2002) along with The People Look Like Flowers At Last: New Poems (2007). Make no mistake, I don’t regret the purchase, and jump at the chance to buy any hardcover from a writer I’m enthusiastic about. It’s just a bit of a letdown to find out that I’ve already read more than seventy percent of the work within.

If you’ve read Bukowski’s work and you don’t own much of it, or if you want something literary and high-minded to show off on the coffee-table nook for your pretentious cocktail guests or in the bathroom for quick laughs and heartwarming forays into the fragility of the human soul, buy it at once. If (like me), you are systematically collecting everything the author has written and you’re starting with the larger volumes first and working your way down to the slimmer collections, you might want to hold off. There are better posthumous selections out there and they’re all marked up at boutique prices in whichever eccentric local book retailer or soulless conglomerate you can find them.

And for the uninitiated, Buk’s work is certainly worth reading. He was a champion of the underdog and an anti-elitist in the best possible sense of the term. A drunkard, a womanizer, a socially challenged citizen and a compulsive (and mostly successful) gambler at the race track, but a genius just the same. His work truly appeals to poetry lovers who think that they hate poetry. That’s how I got sucked in, and two years later, I’m still voraciously devouring every last verse in whichever books I haven’t bought yet.

Many critics bemoan the fact that his work was more structured, honest and true in the poetic sense before he become an underground sensation among skid row types, loose women and those who aren’t afraid of five to ten stiff drinks. While this may be true, the testament and the sheer weight of his own Akashic library will live on forever. His style of free verse has left a generation-spanning cacophony of enthusiasts, acolytes and derivative hacks. Present party included.

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Poetry Month: (homesick) ryan inlet

April 21, 2016

breathing room vol.I cover

I’m going to close out this little exercise with a final poem about a place that’s very dear to my heart: Rushford Lake.  Fun fact: The cover image for Breathing Room Volume I: Free Verse was a picture of my boat dock from our cabin in Rushford.  This poem found its way into Poke The Scorpion With A Sharp Stick (2011, Doubt It Publishing), my third and, in all likelihood, my final book of poetry.  I had a few lingering thoughts about the month that I might entertain next week. 

Thanks for reading!

-Tom

 

(homesick) ryan inlet

cold feet padding past

freezing linoleum

morning fog rolling down

the channel

red embers from the previous

evening’s bonfire cooling

crows caw cacophonously

carp flop out of the water lazily

coffee drips deliberately

quietly counting out the

remaining days of a vacation

my Love shifting

snoozing

tossing/turning

beautifully

first cigarette stings

delicious pang of an

a.m. buzz

1950’s space heater

kicking into first gear

near my toes

lean back into a plush

leather chair that’s been through

three or four generations

three or four different families

ashtray precariously balanced

upon the arm

smoke curling up from a green

mug with coin insignias etched

into the clay

(grandpa’s)

duck’s diving in for a landing

on the middle of a placid

liquid landing strip

curtain’s down at the folk’s cabin

crack another comic book

drop another on the stack of the

finished pile

the start of another perfect day

four left.

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Poetry Month: ampersand

April 21, 2016

Here’s another poem from breathing room vol.II: rhymes & relics (2008, Doubt It Publishing).  I’ve always been pretty fond of this one because I love the ampersand icon, the word itself and the repetition throughout.  I hope you like it too.

 

ampersand

with a twinkle in your eyes

& a spring in your step

& the way you smile (lips pursed at the corners)

& your laugh when you can’t hold it in

& the tiny hairs on the small of your back

& the little noise you make when i rub you just right

& how you fit just right in the crook of my arm

& the way you smoke your last cigarette before bed

& your scent next to me when i’m waking up

& watching you naked coming out of the shower

& into the bedroom to get your cotton pajamas

& the quick breath you take coming out of a nap

& the um-hmm you tell me when we’re sharing ice cream

& your body in my arms when you jump up and hug me

& your hair through my fingers when we’re driving home

& holding your tiny hand when we walk through the park

& how you shuffle around in the kitchen when we cook dinner together

& our cat who melts around you and can’t stand me

& the perfect fit we make on the love seat

& the other noises you make with me

& how you can eat a whole bowl of popcorn

& the quick kiss you give me when you just get home from work

& your language with your horses

& when you hog the bed

& spending hours playing computer solitaire

& shuffling bills around

& when you pop in and wrap your arms around me when i write

& how you get goofy after one mixed drink

& your jokes with your immediate family

& the way you look in a formal dress

& when you put up with my friends

& how you make omelet’s better than me

& the two cds you own

& somehow you knew it would all work out

& how you get fired up over the same things i do

& the face you make when i surprise you with a candy bar

& when you cry something breaks inside of me

& you can tease me when no one else is allowed to

& how my friends call you mrs.waters

& your big fluffy bath robe that feels like astroturf

& how bright & professional you look in ten minutes before you leave for work

& how you got me hooked on drinking coffee every day

& here you are & here i am

& you’re part of everything i do & see and i wouldn’t have it otherwise.

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Poetry Month: regardless

April 20, 2016

I’m not a fan of overly long introductions for brief poems, so I’ll make this short and to the point: I’ve always enjoyed the idea of starting out with a rigid structure thematically and then breaking it down on the page.  This poem, ‘Regardless’ from breathing room vol. II: rhymes & relics (2008, Doubt It Publishing) does exactly that.  I hope you like it.

regardless of who I am

regardless of what you say

regardless of what This is

regardless of how we feel

regardless of what happens

regardless of the war, the economy, gun control, abortion rights, the stock market,

the flight navigation of endangered birds, the way the wind blows, the trajectory of rockets, the preponderance of lint in pockets, what goes on in the mind of the timid schoolteacher and the fourteen year old boy, the death of the automobile, the death of human thought, the death of good manners, the death of organized religion, the death of a decent conversation, the death of the nuclear family as a concept, the ‘life of the mind‘, the life in the tiniest of all living organisms, the life of random interconnected & almost unseemingly impossible events & the living breathing embodiment of

 

(hope)

 

above all else

regardless of that

& the other thing

 

yet

 

&

 

still

 

here we are.

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