I avoided the work of poet/internet personality Steve Roggenbuck for a little while (or in internet time, a near-eternity), for a few reasons. Young writers who represent themselves the way Roggenbuck does – with a confessional, DIY aesthetic and an active internet presence, often taking as a topic of interest the exact amount of money in their bank account – tend to fall prey to a particular brand of h8r. H8rs, if you haven't heard, gonna h8, and when you're late to an internet party like I often am, you can arrive to a room packed with negativity, and, having too little patience to find out what they were being negative about in the first place, turn right around to leave. And when people start tossing around Tao Lin Comparisons, I start to tune out.
Roggenbuck's work is surprisingly accessible, via his website steveroggenbuck.com, and his current travel/poetry blog livemylief.com, where he posts frenetic, outrageous videos. The first of these that I saw was 'this is how we live in this world,' which features about five minutes of Roggenbuck spitting non-sequiters, sometimes as himself and sometimes as a character, followed by a few more minutes of Steve hanging out with his friends in what looks like rural Washington State, backed by serene Zen affirmations. A lot of his other videos have a similar energy, and after watching a few of them, reading some of his work, and seeing the series of meme images he's created, I was surprised that people would compare him to Tao Lin.
Steve Roggenbuck is, unlike Lin, essentially positive. There is darkness in his strangeness, and a disillusionment with pop culture that ages him beyond his 24 years, but any sadness that he addresses is a collective one, and a solution for improvement is offered. His work is, in this sense, buddhist. In an interview with Noah Cicero for HTML Giant, he said “the only way i wil [sic] actual [sic] achieve what i want is by sincerly [sic] believing that i can, and putting in the work every day… i will build something gigantic while tons of people sit around thinking it is not possible. 666.” In his video advertisement for his latest collection of poems, he flaunts his darkness in the self-parodic guise of an absurdist motivational speaker.
Also unlike many of those to whom he's compared, Roggenbuck is more of an internet artist than a writer. His primary medium is language, but on livemylief.com, it is clear that he has turned his life into his project. Lots of people quit their day jobs and write full time in hopes of making it their career, but not a lot of people then sell everything they own, go on an endless road trip, self publish all of their work, ask for donations, and make strangely profound postcard images and videos of themselves screaming into the camera “When my grandpa got lost, we put out ads on Muscle Milk cartons,” and “Drake the bounty hunter!”
There's nothing new about Roggenbuck's prolific output. A lot of artists are experiencing internet cult success after posting all of their efforts online. What makes him special, however, is how much fun he seems to be having with it. His work is gleeful, and so childlike that I was genuinely surprised to see someone in his recent video 'I LOVE TO BE A HUMAN BEING' shotgunning a beer. Then I paused it and saw that it was a Mtn Dew and I was like, oh, OK, cool.