Unedited Interview With Steve Roggenbuck

‘Steve Roggenbuck is a traveling poet/blogger at livemylief.com’

* * *

I first came across Steve when I interviewed Edward Mullany earlier this year. Edward Mullany mentioned Steve as a representative of a new type of ‘artist,’ one who utilizes the Internet & who dissolves the ‘distance between the “author” and the “author’s work.”‘ Steve’s energy is immediate & contagious. His videos use songs from ‘Post-Rock’ & ambient artists like Explosions in the Sky & Sigur Ros to serve as backdrops for his blend of sincerity & irony, seriousness & humor.

I shortly after saw Steve read in San Francisco. Then I interviewed him a few weeks later. He’s released a full-length book of poetry (CRUNK JUICE), two free e-books (DOWNLOAD HELVETICA FOR FREE.COM & i am like october when I am dead), and a collaborative e-book (I LOVE MUSIC). He also hosts a weekly show @ http://www.fricker.xxx. He is best known for his deliberate misspellings & his pervasive ‘memes.’

* * *

MATTHEW SHERLING: What initally brought you to poetry?

STEVE ROGGENBUCK: i read e.e. cummings in an anthology in 12th grade english class and i liked it a lot he’s awesome. for almost a year, i read cummings constantly but he was the only poet i liked. his focus on playfulness, love, and nonconformity realy resonated with me.

MS: I’ve read that your heroes are Walt Whiman, Buddha, & Lil B. Can you expound upon that?

STEVE ROGGENBUCK: i feel like those 3 fit a template of the kind of person i want to be. philosophicaly i think they share a lot, but the main thing is even more basic than that. they didn’t just create their ideas/art, they put a lot of effort into spreading it. walt whitman wrote an anonymous review of his own book, buddha traveled around teaching abotu meditation, lil b is constantly building his audience on social media.

i think the work of my poetry/art is not done until it is actualy affecting people. i care about the community im building and the impact im having in peoples lives soooo much more than the craft or technical aspects of my work. if im able to have a bigger impact in someones life by interacting with them individualy on social media or writing a note in their book, then that’s part of my work, it’s not some detached “self-promotion,” it is part of the main work.

MS: How has Walt Whitman affected the way you view “America” & what’s the most potent thing your traveling has revealed to you?

STEVE ROGGENBUCK: i feel like walt whitman mainly fits into other descriptions i’ve heared of america. people say america is loud and obnoxious and big compared to other countries, like we always crank everything up to full volume.. nothing can be subtle or elegant, we just do things bluntly and completely.. of course, this has its bad sides, maybe a lot of our culture is brutish and sensational. but i also think it means we are truely unafraid to be ourselves, we are unafraid to completely distinguish ourselves and be free.. anyway i think walt whitman fits into this. his cataloging poems are maximalist in a way: he wants to list and embrace everything in the world, every type of person, every “opposite” concept, he completely embraces everything. it’s grandiose rather than subtle. he broke from using meter and he let his lines get really long. he was a force for democratizing what poetry could be. walt seems like the ultimate american poet.

my traveling has revealed a lot to me. i think the best has been learning what kind of conditions most allow me to be productive and happy.. for example, i’ve learned that ideally i would live in a place like san francisco with sweatshirt weather all year around, and ideally i would live in a house with 5+ other positive energetic people who are involved in creative projects. and i’ve learned that the best way for me to get “in the zone” with my work is to just start going hard and allow my own behavior to excite me and motivate me. being put into so many different situations has allowed me to quickly gather data about what boosts me and what doesn’t.. it’s been a great experence.

MS: Can you say a bit about your present traveling? From my understanding, you’re all over the United States – is this primarily a book tour?

STEVE ROGGENBUCK: when i dropped out of school in the fall, i did so with intentions of blogging full-time instead.. but at the time i wasn’t making any monye from it, so i needed to live somewhere for free or very cheap. i considered staying with my dad in rural michigan, but i worryed that i would be too isolated and lonely there, so i decided to stay with various friends aroudn the country instead. i have a lot of internet friends and many of them are enthusiastic to have me stay with them. i pay for my food and travel, but it’s still cheaper than paying rent in most cities, so i can cover the costs with book/shirt sales. it’s not primarily a book tour, it’s mainly a way for me to blog full time. but doing readings is a awesome bonus, i love doing readings so much. and it’s been great for me to experence so many people and cities, i feel like my life has been very stable and maybe shelterd but now i’m getting a broader sense of what there is in the world (or at least the u.s.) and what i want in my lief. 666

MS: Can you say anymore about this “boost” notion, the “boostism” movement?

STEVE ROGGENBUCK: for me the main purpose of life other than just enjoying it is to boost people, to make other people happier and help them and inspire them. every day u interact with people and u put things out into the world and you have a certain amount of energy and time. you can use that energy and those interactions to make peoples lives better, you can do things to intentionaly boost other people. it feels good and it is a beautiful way to spend youre day, and it actualy helps you in return a lot because you usualy get more positive energy back when thats what you put out. your nice to people and they are more likely to be nice back, you express your excitment to people and they are more likely to share their excitment too. social media especially makes it possible to send out tons of positive messages and nice and funny things to people at a higher frequency, because you can just sit on your couch and have tons of interactions with people across the world so fast. lief can be hard and sad, that is just the human condition- the first noble truth of buddhism is that suffering exists.. but we can use our lives to help each other feel ok and make it through life and actualy laugh and have fun. that is the way of the boost.

MS: How does Buddhism affect your poetry?

STEVE ROGGENBUCK: i think budhism affects everything i do in realy integrated and hard-to-identify ways. ive read “zen mind beginners mind” by shunryu suzuki so many times, it’s fundamentally changed how i think and interact with the world. in the past i’ve written an essay about specific stylistic moves i like that feel connected to a buddhist worldview:http://www.steveroggenbuck.com/2011/01/writing-style-in-relation-to-buddhism.html

MS: Can you say more about where you think the Internet is taking us?

STEVE ROGGENBUCK: i think the internet is changing everything, so thats a realy broad question! one thing i’ll mention is that i think genre distinctions are going to continue to break down and matter less, and i think the role of the artist/writer as a Person will become bigger and bigger. twitter has popularized the idea of “following” people such as writers you like, and similar features like “subscribing” on facebook have shown up: we dont just follow a writer for their official Writing now, we follow them for their personal thoughts and updates too. we are interested in what they eat, what they do in their spare time, their political beliefs, the music they share.. we follow People. in the future it won’t be as important whether you are categorized as a “writer” or “musician” or something else, you will mainly be a Person, and people will follow you for being an awesome Person. you might be known most for your main medium of expression, but people will subscribe to all your updates, and you will have freedom to share countless things with them. they will be interested in whatever you post, because they are just interested in You. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

blog comments powered by Disqus