Babble Presents: Ben Brindise and Rotten Kid

Last week I got to review Ben Brindise’s new chapbook, Rotten Kid, in The Public. The book, out from Syracuse-based Ghost City Press, contains a fresh mix of fiction and poetry, focusing mostly on memory, the process of finding a voice, and an exploration of a voice’s limitations.

Ben asked me to serve at MC for the night – a great honor, as I got to introduce the poets Eve Williams Wilson, Ten Thousand, Tom Dreitlein, Sam Ferrante, Megan Kemple, and Justin Karcher. I had the most fun introducing Ben, though. In honor of his serious slam chops, I decided to do some “spoken word” of my own.

Earlier in the evening I read two of my poems. The first was an old one, “On Tuesday nights I watch the news on her set,” from Foundlings Vol. One. I read this because of my friend Brian Castner’s important piece in yesterday’s New York Times, “Still Fighting, and Dying, in the Forever War.” Then I read “At the funeral of an atheist I didn’t know,” the poem that Janet McNally selected to win this year’s Just Buffalo Member’s Writing Competition. You can watch them below:

 

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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