Stream of Karcher Consciousness on Slender Man (And a Poem About Seinfeld)
Justin Karcher is editor of Ghost City Review and my co-editor on the Slender Man Anthology Mansion coming to you in 2019 from Dancing Girl Press. We’ve also done some writing together, which is why I am familiar with his streams. They are a part of his writing process that I find fascinating and sometimes are just perfect works of art in themselves. I fell in love with this and abandoned my whole attempt to interview or converse as was my first intention.
Mansion was originally two books, but the power of what would have been the second consumed both of us as editors. Mansion has an eerie childlike cover designed by poet/artist Amy Alexander, and—as a mansion has many rooms—ours sought to hold all the contents of our Slender imaginations. As its caretakers, we have surrendered to its power and we are now attempting to feed our one very hungry monster all the spooky submissions we receive.
The thrust of my questions for Justin had aimed to explain our mutual fascination with the macabre world of the Slender Man, Creepypasta, and the true crime case inspired by a fascination with this world. Justin accomplished all of this in this not so Slender stream. Read it for yourself and welcome to the mental landscape of Justin Karcher:
A Slender Stream
So right now it’s like 1:12 AM, where I live at least, and I’m listening to an episode of Coast to Coast on YouTube – it’s an episode from 2017, about the missing persons in the National Parks. Fascinating stuff, whether or not it’s actually true. I don’t know, maybe I’m weird, maybe I never grew out of my love of Halloween and the things that go bump in the night, maybe my mom took me on too many ghost walks when I was little, maybe I played too much Castlevania, maybe I never stopped wanting to be a vampire, maybe I’ll always have a soft spot for somebody all gothed out and writing poetry about dead flowers and blood-soaked monsters.
I like my imagination; it keeps me going. I’ve always believed that the arts open doorways to other places, in both a social justice and paranormal way. For me, reality’s grind can be a bit heavy-handed at times and I always find myself stuck with that dumb cliché question: “There’s more to life, right?” – and sometimes you have to go to weird places to attempt to answer that – the poetry that has always interested me the most is the poetry that takes you to the capital of discomfort, it thrusts you headfirst into a world that blinds your eyes over and over again, that it’s all not Instagram posts and pouring drinks down your friend’s mouth, it’s not about a job you don’t like or taxes that the forefathers still make you pay – it’s not about popping pills until you pass out, because that’s the only way you’ll actually sleep – it’s about cracking open the head of the world around you and digging into the brain fluids and seeing all those thoughts that go unheard.
Poetry can’t escape its fascination with death; it also can’t escape its fascination with jubilant life – but there’s that large limbo in between that we need to drift in. The loneliness that is so universal, but also so unique, that plagues each and every one of us – how the soul’s insomnia forces us into books, movies, music, fucking, whatever – trying to get a good night’s sleep…but on the inside – like how we chase after monsters to explain how we feel, but we might not call them monsters – has loneliness gotten so pervasive, has it evolved so much, that we dive into morbid Reddit threads, spend hours watching tortuous Netflix documentaries, strangle our demons with strands of Creepypasta, and hope they go away, go out onto the town for a pint or two and just leave us alone?
Throughout history, people have fled into the imagination, into folklore, into gods, into goddesses, into hefty churches made from virgin skulls…I don’t know…do monsters not live under beds or in closets anymore? Do they instead high five each other on pixelated screens, do they chomp on hashtags looking for lonely people heading towards them?
Anyway, I’ve always been interested in monsters, ghosts, the morbid underbelly of the postmodern volcano – so I was already familiar with Slender Man, with the other Internet-inspired creations, but when I first really heard about the tragic stabbing that happened in Wisconsin, I was pretty drunk, knee deep into whiskey alcoholism and loneliness or whatever it is that an addict might struggle with, but I was having a simple night: staying indoors, worried about blacking out in public and going on some kind of journey into the Rust Belt’s heart of darkness, looking for blue collar vampires or some shit, so I wanted to avoid that…yeah…so I was indoors listening to Coast to Coast and they had a whole special about the stabbing and the story of Slender Man and when I heard about those poor teenage girls, my heart ached into a thousand tiny little orchestras that spread symphonies throughout my living room.
How bad did that loneliness get? How bad did their America snuff out their happiness so that they found solace in a thin-armed monster that photo bombs old photos, some bogeyman desperate for Instagram attention, what kind of loneliness is that? And then I became obsessed with how we have abandoned the old gods and goddesses – the Greek labyrinth that housed the minotaur has been gentrified by late stage capitalism, by modern day living, and is now something else entirely – and now that minotaur is something else entirely – and now the king that imprisoned that minotaur is something else entirely – and their sole purpose now is to trap young eyes, desperate eyes, lonely eyes – and to put their…our…loneliness into some kind of hashtag zoo. What are the words we are tattooing on our bodies all the goddamn time, the words we can’t really see? What do they mean? I wanted to rip off all the words I knew were tattooed on my body and freshen up, reach out to other hearts, and try to figure this whole fucking thing out – help us all get out of this whatever labyrinth we’re wandering around these days.
I felt my loneliness going into my laptop and finding other kinds of loneliness and it somehow made sense: we need to investigate all of it, maybe with art, but it’s deeper than pen to paper, deeper than twitch to tweet; it’s something else entirely, a new kind of gospel maybe, but a secularized one, a more empathetic one…something more human, less oppressive, something that can rescue all the lonely people in the world, each and every teenager…maybe not now, but maybe someday…after we dig through the pixelated shadows a little bit, maybe that’s how we break out of all these socio-economic prisons...maybe…who knows? Suddenly it felt like my alcoholism was taking a backseat and my imagination was mine again. It can be yours again too.
Mansion, a Slender Man and Creepypasta-inspired anthology of poetry, will be released February 1, 2019 by Dancing Girl Press. Submissions are open now for works on the Creepypasta universe of characters and poetic think pieces on the Slender Man stabbing. Submit poetry in a doc file or pasted into the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Justin Karcher
I’m scared of
the same thing you are:
Like all these hipster doofuses
uncomfortable at parties
knocking over bookshelves
when they’ve had too much to drink
at the top of their lungs
“These pretzels are making me
Like wandering through the desert for
and then the aliens come
so you invite them to coffee
and talk about
humanity’s biggest flaws—
breaking apart endangered lobsters
the bisque is to die for
Dingoes eating babies
jumping off buildings
Driverless garbage trucks
roaming the streets
looking for meaningless sex
The panting, the screaming
fake, fake, fake, fake
everyone wants you to fuck up
It’s okay though
I got a great idea for a cologne
sometimes it’s the only thing
getting me out of bed
in the morning
Justin Karcher is a poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015), the chapbook When Severed Ears Sing You Songs (CWP Collective Press, 2017), the micro-chapbook Just Because You've Been Hospitalized for Depression Doesn't Mean You're Kanye West (Ghost City Press, 2017), Those Who Favor Fire, Those Who Pray to Fire (EMP, 2018) with Ben Brindise, and Bernie Sanders Broke My Heart and I Turned into an Iceberg (Ghost City Press, 2018). He is also the editor of Ghost City Review and co-editor of the anthology My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry (BlazeVOX [books], 2017). He tweets @Justin_Karcher
Thanks for joining me for Week Two of The Sonnetarium. I know you enjoyed the dive into Justin’s stream and poetry. Next week, we will be featuring the art of F.E. Clark in our first Ekphrastic Challenge! You can look forward to a painting of hers and an original poem by me, and I hope to receive many from you so that I can choose one of you to feature as my first Ekphrastic challenge in a couple of weeks.
I had a great week in publishing as my full-length Candy Cigarette (the title poem of this collection was nominated for a Best of the Net award by Bone & Ink Press) has been accepted for publication by The Hedgehog Poetry Press and its publisher Mark Davidson. This book is, as I describe on its cover, a womanchild noir, a film noir-themed poetic retelling of some of my experiences I had between the ages of 25 and 30 when I was a schoolgirl stripper who did my job in catholic schoolgirl skirts, braids and cheerleading uniforms. The book is an aesthetic mashup of two films I love, Brick and Exotica. It is filled with film noir language and tropes, references and I can’t wait to share a Candy Cigarette with you in April. There will be some unique promotions to accompany the publication of this book so check back here and at https://ww.hedgehogpress.co.uk to find out more about my book.