Tailgating at the Gates of Hell with Buff State alum Justin Karcher


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“Tailgating at the Gates of Hell” (cover shown above) is on sale now at Talking Leaves on Elmwood.

Benjamin Joe, Reporter


A book of poetry can be a very powerful thing. In the shadow of such greats as Byron, Ginsburg, and Shelley, the idea that one can write something that will stand the winds of time can be quite provocative, and more than a little scary.

Justin Karcher, an alumni of SUNY Buffalo State, does not flinch from the challenge. In a 33-poem book published by Ghost City Press in Syracuse, NY, the 31-year-old Buffalonian writes in a vague deadpan about the weirdness of his journey through this once great industrial icon and brings us on a ride that seems vaguely comforting, like one who has found a long-lost friend and still has something to talk about.

Starting with “How to Help Your Sun Feel More Comfortable About Its Sexuality” and ending with “Clutching That Postmortem Mic,” Karcher makes every word count. From an imaginary friend named “Sam,” to a vision of the horror-flick Slenderman, baristas off the strip, ravers downtown, lovers in the park, and dead friends chasing the stars —the author is the authority on life in Buffalo. He whimsically lyricizes his flirtation with bloody mirrors and a variety of pills and drinking escapades that fueled his youth, even as he looks inward towards his own soul, tortured by loss, boredom and that infallible problem of a youth in a city that’s turned its back.

Its factories have become dance-halls for more or less interesting orgies of the mind that Karcher leaps into with reckless abandon. Outside of this grim former-metropolitan, the writer is lost without context, but in that sprawling flood of broken dreams, he is home once again and revels in the used condoms, empty pill jars, scarred lovers, and dreams of a final frontier, a chance that passed him and his generation by as dreams of outer space became dreams of escaping debt.

To really understand the landscape that has become home, or explain it to someone who’s never been, the average inhabitant of Western New York can find answers in this tome not quite in, but definitely “Tailgating at the Gates of Hell.” It is sold at Talking Leaves Bookstore on Elmwood.

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