Whistle Stop readers respond to questions from The Varsity

The Varsity, The University of Toronto’s student newspaper, published an excellent article on the Whistle Stop Tour today. The writer posed some questions, and our performers’s responses were so beautiful (and unpublishably generous) that I wanted to present them all, uncut and unvarnished, here. Kassandra asked: What do you do, and why? What motivated you to participate in political commentary? How important is it for events like this where artists can speak about current politics? How do you respond to criticism surrounding what you are doing? Read our answers below:

Justin Karcher

On “Me”: Always an interesting question – what I do for “money money” is a lot different than what I like telling people I do – I’m an adjunct professor of writing every now and again, poet, playwright, published author, etc. – an artist, basically. However, art and a passion for writing doesn’t necessarily pay the bills. What does these days? For my day job, I work in insurance where I navigate the tricky waters of catastrophe, like trying to operate a rowboat with a q-tip. Every day you hear about an accident or something tragic and it could be something very minor, but for that person you’re talking to, it is the biggest catastrophe imaginable, especially at that exact moment in time. Kind of like a poem you hear at an event – at that exact moment in time, it is the greatest demonstration of the power of language, a syllabic submarine popping up out of the mouth and if the poem is honest, if it’s true and passionate, it will take aim at all the things that are bringing us down. Working in insurance has allowed me to appreciate catastrophes and that might sound weird, but by appreciation, I mean having a greater understanding for the tragedies that befall all of us on a daily basis – and socially/politically speaking, it’s important for us to know every level of catastrophe and break it down and learn how it affects ALL of us on a daily basis – and really, isn’t that what poetry or art is all about? Continue reading

Whistle Stop Tour featured in The Daily Orange ahead of Syracuse appearance

“The Whistle Stop Tour has a mad howling, a mating call, a ringing in the ears; it is the attempt of an undisciplined chorus to harmonize with the echoes of the dead. It’s a protest, it’s a serious joke, and it’s an excuse to get together on the nights of the televised election debates for some reason other than the televised election debates,” Ryan said. “Whistle Stop is a hell of a good time.”

Deniz Sahinturk of Syracuse University’s Daily Orange penned an excellent feature on the Whistle Stop Tour, featuring comments from me, poet Ben Brindise, and the Syracue-based Ghost City Press editor Kevin Bertolero, who published Gerry Crinnin’s Haiku to the Chief this summer, and has been a big Whistle Stop supporter since the start.

After appearing at Nox Cocktail Bar in Rochester, stopping at Canisius College for a special Banned Books Week event, and giving an intimate performance at Gerry Crinnin’s house in Fredonia, the tour has picked up steam, fans, and maybe even a sense of holy purpose. From the Daily Orange article:

Brindise said the project hopes to show that the debates this cycle are “much more than a circus.”

“They are a defining moment in our history and if we’re able to affect the people watching them in a way that makes it less surreal and helps to ground them in this moment, then maybe we did something worthwhile,” Brindise said.

The tour rolls through Syracuse this Sunday, 9 Oct, with a reading at The Vault at 5pm. That reading will feature poets Rohan Chhetri and Timothy Carter from the Syracuse University MFA program. Our last stop will be in Toronto at The Steady Cafe and Bar, 19 Oct. staring at 5:30 pm and featuring Ontario poets and spoken word performers Valentino Assenza, Dane Swan, and Robert Priest.

Whistle Stop Tour Starts Strong in Rochester

Six Buffalo writers rolled into Rochester Monday evening, driving several times past the entrance to Nox Comfort Foods and Cocktail Lounge before discovering their mistake and heading inside.

Nox proved an excellent host, with cocktails named for books and writers (we tried The Bell Jar, Farewell to Arms, and many Bukowskis) and great food, including orders of tabletop roast-your-own marshmallows. Not to be upstaged by sugar and gelatin confections, the readers gave performances passionate, semi-improvised, and frequently hilarious. As MC, I couldn’t have been more pleased to hear Ben Brindise slam, Megan Kemple grapple with the teats of the USS Sullivan, and Pat Kewley read intimate and illuminating passages from U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s diaries. We also watched Justin Karcher wake up spooning the skeleton of a shark, and heard Gerry Crinnin read through the entirety of his latest chapbook, Haiku to the Chief, before our featured reader, Rochester’s own Lytton Smith, took the stage. The Anglo-American poet, author most recently of The All-Purpose Magical Tent, and professor at SUNY Geneseo, prepared new material just for us, stealing lines from Donald Trump and Beyoncé and delighting us all.


Megan Kemple reads works from her upcoming chapbook.

Though our next official reading will be Tuesday, Oct. 4th in Fredonia, 6pm at 95 Newton Street, a few of the readers packed in additional stops in Buffalo.

Yesterday Ben, Justin, Megan, and Pat stopped by the Canisius College Library Learning Center to read in honor of Banned Books Week. The Whistle Stop readers read from Ginsberg, Bradbury, Hosseini, and Pushkin, and delivered extemporaneous lectures on Russian sculpture, America’s 21st century wars, and dangerous emotion in literature.





Pat Kewley reads from Pushkin’s “The bronze Horseman” before relating the true story of Sam Patch, Buffalo’s first daredevil, whose motto still holds some resonance for our proud city: “Some Things Can Be Done As Well As Others.”


In his trademark peripatetic style, Justin Karcher reads from Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Allen Ginsburg’s HOWL and lectures on the reasons for censorship and the real (but desirable) dangers of emotion in art.

Today, Justin returned for a second time to his undergraduate home to take part in a panel of local poets who spoke with my ENG 101 class. Justin joined Canisius Creative Writing Professor Janet McNally, Peach Mag editor Rachelle Toarmino, and my friend and Foundlings co-editor Max Crinnin. My students had spent much of the previous week studying this diverse quartet, and the discussion was wide-ranging.


Catch us later on the tour:

Friends and Foundlings – Interviews with our Favorite Poets

In this series, the Foundlings lads have casual chats with some of our favorite Buffalo poets.

Ep. 1: Justin Karcher

Interviewed: Justin Karcher, author of Tailgating at the Gates of Hell and editor of Ghost City Review.

Topics: Tailgating at the Gates of Hell, the fragmentation of the Buffalo literary scene, hip-hop and Modernism, stakes and timelessness, and editing Ghost City Review

Friends and Foundlings Ep. 1: Justin Karcher — TEASER from Foundlings Magazine on Vimeo.