Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bulletproof - Wolfgang Carstens (Grey Borders Books) + Hell and High Water - Wolfgang Carstens (Six Ft. Swells Press)

Today's books of poetry:
Bulletproof.  Wolfgang Carstens.  Grey Borders Books.  USA.  2017
Hell and High Water.  Wolfgang Carstens.  Six Ft. Swells Press.  USA.  2017.

Image result for wolfgang carstens

These two Wolfgang Carstens beasts arrived at the door of the Today's book of poetry offices like they were Storm Troopers.  Usually our mail arrives via the post, Today's book of poetry can't wait to see the mail coming up the driveway, our mail carrier always smiling in her quiet diligence.  Carstens' stuff barked, snarled, booted and basically threatened all sorts of heinous result if we didn't let them in the door.

Bulletproof and Hell and High Water are the bastard children who climbed out of the bottle-strewn grave of Sir Charles the B.  Make no mistake.  Today's book of poetry is not suggesting that Wolfgang Carstens writes like Buk, he doesn't.  Carstens leaves less meat on the bone when he carves out these lean tales of woe and wonder.  Carstens doesn't take Bukowski's narrative or structure or style — but he does get to the heart of the matter surgeon and scalpel quick, always.

Slave Lake, 2014

we were on vacation,

my wife was mad at me.
she's always made at me
about one thing or another.

we were at the beach.
she wanted to leave
and i wanted to fish.

she made her stand on the shore
with the kids and the dog.
i dragged my lawn chair
twenty feet in the water
and sat down.

come hell or high water,
i wasn't leaving

i got both,

and high water.


Both of these splendid books read like the poems were bullets coming our of a machine gun on rapid fire.  Wolfgang Carstens could not possibly be clearer as his voice, constant and rumbling, riffs over the winning and losing moments that make up a life.

Carstens never backs down from his frank entreaties, never backs up a bit — and Today's book of poetry admires that.  Even when faced with the obvious or the immovable, the intractable and even when facing his fearsome better half.  Many of Carstens poems are built out of the on-going conversation between Carstens and his wife/muse.  She always comes out sharper, stronger, wiser.  Carstens never breaks character but his love poems do betray the true romantic that resides in the heart of the beast.

Tina Maria,

my first wife,
needed to be
the center
of attention.

i ran into her
a few years ago.

she mentioned
that she had been
following my career.

"i've read
your poems
about Alice,
Sandra Dawn,
and Tracy Lee,"
she said.

"have you
written any poems
about me,"
she asked.

i said.

the look
on her face
was priceless.

i guess it's true.

really is a dish
best served


Carstens is a hard-hearted at times, tempered you might say, but he won over a lot of hearts at the Today's book of poetry morning reading because these poems are so immediately accessible.  Carstens puts up no barriers, these poems are recognizable heart-barks even though they may be combustible.  Today's book of poetry thinks Carstens like to start the occasional blaze just to watch things burn.

Our morning read introduced our staff to Tomas, our new head of security.  Tomas replaces Odin on our crew and we will all miss Odin.  Tomas carries a whole different vibe.  With Odin it was hard to get more than two or three words out of him a month, with Tomas, he was in the office for five minutes and knew everything about everyone, shared a couple of jokes, and sniffed out every snack in the place.  Tomas spent his first morning checking out the place and then he enthusiastically joined in for the morning read and did his part.  

With these short salt 'n pepper poems we dominoed through both Bulletproof and Hell and High Water in no time at all.

Today's book of poetry can't help but be attracted to this poetry.  Carstens knows there is only one way out for him and he is hammering away to make it so.  His optimism is often buried in whatever lament he's crackling, but Carstens still has hope.

in the past five years

i've been diagnosed
with Arthritis,
and skin Cancer.

i can't raise
my left arm
above my head,
my lungs operate
at 37% capacity,

and i hobble around
with my cane
like an old woman

my doctors
have already given me
an expiration date.

but tonight,

with a bottle of Patron,
a full pack of cigarettes,
and a song in my heart,

i swear to fucking Christ
i ain't never gonna die.


Bulletproof and Hell and High Water are both barrels of the shotgun, a full on scatter-shot blast of heart-directed misery and love, anxiety and joy, hope and despair.  The whole laugh and cry gamut is available.  Carstens has acres of energy compressed into his sparse missives and once they gain entry in your poetry head, they blossom.  The reader is pulled in on the first page and left wanting more.

Wolfgang Carstens poems live at the heart of the matter and it shows in every poem.

Image result for wolfgang carstens photo

Wolfgang Carstens

Wolfgang Carstens lives in Canada with his wife, five kids, grandson, dog, mortgage and death. His poetry is printed on the backs of unpaid bills.  More information at

Wolfgang Carstens
Reading from Hell and High Water
Video: Jenny S. Poetry readings



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.
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