Within the first page of tweets right now, I see
1) animal rights
2) deliberate misspellings
3) exhortations to positivity
4) non sequitur, but reasonable-seeming advice
and Steve has lifted every Lil B self-promotional technique as well (calling every new release "ultra rare!!!" for instance)... Again, I'm happy Steve is who he is, but what about him is innovative? What about his brand isn't directly lifted from Lil B?
Have you read Steve's poetry collections? I don't mean that in a dismissive way but just genuinely curious. Because I think Steve's public persona and his poetry are two different things that get conflated (granted, he has encouraged readers to view them as part of a single project).
I think if you read his poetry collections you would see that the poems are not directly lifted from Lil B. I agree that aspects of their public personas are very similar.
I think Steve's poetry is amazing and innovative-- and by that I mean the poems he has published in his poetry collections.
I don't mean to sound like I'm hating on Steve--I see him as a force for good in the world and a force for good in poetry, and mentioned him as such in an essay I wrote some months back ( http://htmlgiant.com/random/bu... ). I think he's great at making videos, and I have read a number of his poems and really enjoyed some of them (tho I haven't read an entire collection). I also absolutely love that so many people find him inspiring, and an essay he wrote a year or two ago about his poetic project being to erase the distance between audience and poet made me think for a long while. But I haven't found real innovation in any of this--like, never-before-has-this-been-done.
His anaphora is, to my ear, very much in the vein of slam poems. The flat-affect voice is in the Tao Lin lineage. The misspellings are mid-aughts Something Awful memes and rage comics via Lil B. Extreme parataxis has been all the rage for 15 years now. Incorporating internet text was fleshed out by Flarf a decade ago.
I would never tell someone to not like poetry they like, but I'm not convinced "innovative" is the right way to compliment Steve. Nice, yes. Brave, yes. Exciting, obviously yes, to a lot of people. And I do think he's addressing a lot of people who are unaddressed by most other poets, which in my book is a really great thing.
That all said, Jereme's critique of the pyramidal, psuedo-corporate structure around Steve does, I think, hold water. I've never seen Steve seriously work to promote someone else or their writing, and I do think the financial incentives he's found in his work ultimately hamstring it. He must maintain a geniality to preserve his persona lest he lose his meal ticket. When one's art is made to please a market, it's not art, but design.
I think Steve is innovative in the way Nirvana was innovative-- they weren't the first grunge/punk/rock/whatever band but they put everything together and presented it in a really unique and influential way. Certainly, Steve had a lot of forebearers but I do not think anyone ever added up the ingredients quite like him. I also just personally very much enjoy his poetry.
I don't have a whole lot of comment on his activism or internet shenanigans. They seem fine to me, and I like him a lot as a person. It's tough out there for a full-time poet and anything Steve has accomplished to support himself and continue his efforts seems very inspiring and exciting to me.
I would guess that a lot more promotion and marketing went into the artists you (or anyone) enjoy unless you only like completely obscure artists. The main difference is that a megabucks corporation called The David Geffen Company marketed Nirvana (for example) whereas Steve markets himself directly.
Maybe if a corporate publisher marketed Steve and he kept his hands clean you wouldn't have a problem with it?
Well, but Nirvana (who were less innovators than masters) never claimed that their persona was their art. Their music was. Steve has claimed that his approach to persona is an artistic project, and I think the reason I've never seen him do anything at all transgressive with it is because it is crafted to be monetized.
As for his poems-on-the-page, I'd love to read something that illuminates one, and walks me through the innovation you find in it. Not so I can dump on it or anything, but because I'm curious what's to be found that I haven't yet, and because I haven't yet seen somebody do that. If Steve's art truly is his poems, maybe it can be explained to all these people hating on him via a close read or something?
I think it's worth noting also that Steve ain't getting rich here. We're talking about subsistence level funding to keep his project going. And I do think he is transgressive. Hell, his anti-drug stance is basically unique among alt lit writers and, in fact, a source of ridicule (D.A.R.E.) that hurts him with a particular audience. For a poet, especially a widely read poet, he's done way more stuff that's risky and out there than most.
As for explaining why I like his poetry, that's a tough one. It sounds like you are much more knowledgeable about MFA poetry stuff than me (I had to google parataxis and anaphora) so I doubt I could tell you anything very illuminating. I did write a goofy little essay that sort of explores my appreciation for his work: http://banangolit.com/post/381...
Parataxis and anaphora as "MFA poetry stuff." Hahaha. What else is considered "MFA poetry stuff"--all the "stuff" covered by Aristotle? Why does Steve use alliteration and assonance? Perhaps he's an undercover MFA admirer because that stuff is only discussed and used in MFA programs.
Good for him. I don't have anything against poets without MFAs. Means nothing to me. Can you write? Can you move me? Steve doesn't move me. To be fair, if someone stapled a stack of Hallmark cards together and said "this is my poetry collection--read it" I probably wouldn't be moved either. Back to you: you seem particularly obsessed with MFA programs and their supposed status. Most MFA holders don't spend nearly the time you do thinking about MFA programs and their supposed status. Just a thought, man. Okay, one more comment--you don't do yourself any favors by suggesting that one needs an MFA degree to know very basic literary terms and concepts that predate MFA programs by thousands of years. Walt Whitman, everyone's favorite working class, anti-institutional poet, could define parataxis, since he used it in his work all the time and wasn't a lazy anti-intellectual.
PS--when the bat signal goes out and the alt-lit crowd down-votes you, you know you're doing something right. You're much better off being disliked or dv'ed by people who like 99.9% of everything in the world.
I agree with most of what you're saying, and I totally enjoyed reading your essay--you do a great job of contextualizing that piece of Steve's work, and you do so without dressing up your thoughts in $20 words. Nor do you cloak your enthusiasm in irony, surface or otherwise, that would leave room for backtracking in case someone attacked it. I wish more critics would write in that space.
I'm not sold on the anti-drug part of his persona as art, though if his stance was "lock up all drug users and let them starve to death" that might approach something transgressive; he might really be risking something. I think Marie Calloway gets closer to the persona project Steve is talking about, or Joe Brainard back in the day, or Frank O'Hara for that matter. Some ideas of risks Steve could take with his persona:
* Publish BOOST-ing poem responses to deeply hurtful things that have been written or said to him in his life.
* Spraypaint his poems across the CAFO meat in the meat aisle.
* Publish a series of unsanitized sexual fantasies.
* Write an anti-CAFO book while on a three-week hunger strike.
* "Write" a poem while dictating it to a tattoo artist (using vegan ink!) who has the gun on Steve's back.
Now--and let me be clear!--I think Steve is a brave person, and I really do mean all those ways I admire him; I don't think his poems are "innovative" (though some are excellent--I really dug the one you were looking at!), and I don't think he has made actual art with his persona yet. He may, and I'd love that, but he hasn't yet.
I also, for the record, think Guest is being a fucking prick to you. I'm glad you looked that shit up! I don't know why someone would fault you for pursuing knowledge.