TAILGATING AT THE GATES OF HELL
AND OTHER POEMS
By Justin Karcher
Published by Ghost City Press
The only work I’d read of Justin Karcher previously were the pieces published at Melancholy Hyberbole, which were wildly different than what I’m used to seeing in contemporary poetry. His book, Tailgating at the Gates of Hell, is more of the same – which is to say: you don’t really know what you’re about to read from page to page.
The common themes—sex, drugs, and America—overlap but also never really touch each other all that much, likely because the topics morph into new angles just as Karcher is rounding back to his purpose – as a reader, you’re jerked around a bit but you get used to it; you settle into his groove and learn to trust his rambling. He’ll get to the point eventually; in the meantime, you’re picking up on little things that you’ve likely never thought about before.
To be blunt, at first I thought the book was ridiculous and just too weird for my taste, even a bit spastic at times, but then I’d find myself nodding along to his projections and thinking I’d like to have a drink with this guy and talk about space or black rhinos. Karcher understands that poetry doesn’t have to be about the same tired subjects and you can say ridiculous things on occasion. Poetry is the day to day, and shouldn’t be sanitized or over-edited to appease a certain type of reader. Although, the collection could benefit from some paring down, mostly because it’s easy to get lost in his odd descriptions and it’s fair to say the reoccurring themes do lose impact after a while – which is a mistake many writers make.
Overall, I enjoyed the bulk of this book and it’s my opinion that more poets should be as bold in their work. This collection isn’t for everyone, and that’s generally the best thing I can say about a book. If you like poetry that isn’t stuffy, that touches on thoughts we all have or hollers out the things most of us won’t say, put this on your reading list.
The titles alone are enough to draw anyone’s attention; for example: How to Clean Your Body in a Meteor Shower, Every so Often a Hipster Dream Catcher Must Be Emptied, and Some Advice for Victims of Necrophiliacs.
For information on purchasing Tailgating at the Gates of Hell, please click the cover image above. To see the work Justin has published with Melancholy Hyperbole, click here.
– Rachel Nix
Rachel Nix is a native of Northwest Alabama, where pine trees outnumber people and she likes it. She stays busy as the Poetry Editor at cahoodaloodaling and Associate Editor at Pankhearst, where she edits anthologies and occupies literary space with the rule-breaking sort. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in concīs, Rust + Moth, and Bop Dead City. She can be followed at @rachelnix_poet on Twitter.
Justin Karcher’s a playwright and poet living in Buffalo, NY. He’s the Co-Artistic Director of Theater Jugend as well as its Playwright-in-Residence. He’s been nominated for Artvoice Best of Buffalo Best Writer (2011-2014) and Best Poet (2013, 2014). Click Chamber, a play he co-wrote, took home Best Drama at NYC’s Festival of the Offensive in 2014. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.