1. The audience waiting for the reading to begin; Steve chatting ‘URL’ with his Spreecast viewers (the show was live-broadcasted and can be viewed here). 2. Archibald reading a recently-written ode to the deceased Dave Brubeck.
When I discovered a favorite writer/artist/inspiration by the name of Steve Roggenbuck would be stopping by my city during his tour, I decided I must attend. The event invite on Facebook promised plenty of hummus, grapes, and beer, as well as readings from several writers active within the “alternative literature” scene: Mike W. Archibald and Rebecca Limerick (residents of the house the reading took place in), Theron Jacobs, Hannah Fantana, Baby Babe author Ana Carrete, and, of course, Steve Roggenbuck.
I gathered a group of friends and we set out for the “APARTMENT ABOVE A BAR CALLED THE LOFT” on 5th Avenue. Flashing pictures and a room illuminated by the collective light of multiple Macbooks assured me I was at the right apartment-above-a-bar reading venue.
Most of the men and women were young, though I found out later that Hannah Fantana was only seventeen. Everyone was well-dressed and friendly. Steve was communicating with Hannah Fantana and Mike Archibald. Steve and I hugged, because hugging is an act you must commit when meeting IRL.
1. Theron Jacobs delighting the crowd with poems of horses, bees, snakes and good ol’ dads. 2. Limerick passionately pitching poetry and wowing the audience with her adorable outfit.
Ten minutes before the reading was set to begin, and many of the attendees were chatting with one another or playing with the house dog, Beatrix A.K.A. “Lil’ B. the Based Dog.” I overheard many different jumbled conversations involving internet extraordinaire and alt-lit archivist Beach Sloth. My friends and I took our seats.
As the emcee of the event, Mike W. Archibald introduced Theron Jacobs, a poet and writer I was previously unaware of. Jacobs held a Macbook up and read several of his poems, whimsical tales of various farm animals, insects, and reptiles. There were two poems about dads and the existential angst that goes along with being a dad. The crowd chuckled at these poems, but when Jacobs performed, “Human Feelings,” the crowd was transfixed by the beauty of his words. The poem was a more serious piece that I greatly enjoyed, despite the fact that Lil’ B’s barking and police sirens provided the soundtrack.
1. Fantana wooing the audience with her charm and wisdom, while reading a short story from Richard Chiem’s recently released ‘You Private Person.’ 2. The adorable Ana C. reading a poem about evil Disney witches and pie-poisonings to an awestruck audience.
Rebecca Limerick, a writer and fellow resident of the apartment, took the wooden-crate stage next. She appeared nervous at first, but as she read on, she grew confident, putting on a pristine performance. Rebecca’s reading was short, and the crowd was happy to be introduced to an unknown talent. I felt as if I was hearing something that will one day be heard by many people.
Archibald the emcee took the stage. He read several pieces of his work, one of which was dedicated to Dave Brubeck, who recently passed away. A few of Archibald’s poems reminded me of the beat poets and the City Lights poets of San Francisco.
1. Steve laughing while describing the different ‘of literature’ personas he has. (“I am the Skrillex of Literature, and Skrillex is the Nirvana of dubstep. Does this make me the Nirvana of literature? Not exactly. But maybe.”) 2. Steve delivering an emotional performance with his well-known piece, “Somewhere in the bottom of the rain.” Ladies (and gentlemen) everywhere swoon for Steve.
Hannah Fantana was up next. Hannah’s age made the emotional acuity in her writing and reading even more profound. She read several poems, short stories, and excerpts of her writing from her iPhone. Then she read a short story from Richard Chiem’s recent collection, titled “Old Tampons.” Chiem’s story is one of my favorite recent short pieces, and I was happy to hear Hannah Fantana read it aloud in a candlelit Southern California sanctuary.
Next was Ana Carrete, who happens to have written my favorite poetry collection of the year, Baby Babe, out now from Civil Coping Mechanisms. Ana began by reading a poem off her iPhone about mermaids. She read many of my favorite poems from Baby Babe, and giggled often throughout her reading. The crowd roared with applause.
1. Ana C. signed my book! She was super sweet despite me feeling like a creep for approaching her and saying, “I had something in my head I planned on writing to you before the reading, but now I forgot.”
The final performance was the one everyone was most excited about. The energy of the room up until Steve’s seize of the stage was quiet,but attentive. All of this was obliterated once Roggenbuck began, “boosting” the reading onto an entirely new level. Suddenly the room was alive and alert, oozing optimism. Steve wowed the crowd with a special holiday-themed poem “not on the internet,” telling Santa Claus he wants to shoot him Ol’ Yeller style because “Santa Claus is fucked up.”
Something about Steve is simultaneously inspiring and genuine. This is perhaps why he is able to induce laughter and lightheartedness with one piece, such as tweets adapted from Wikipedia-reported black bear brutalities,and then subsequently spark soul, beauty, sadness and yearning when performing his classic piece “Somewhere in the bottom of the rain” (13,236 views on YouTube). Steve left the stage after boosting and breaking hearts, only to return for an encore. Roggenbuck was the perfect closing act to an illuminating collection of perfect performances.
Steve invited everyone to stay and watch the Justin Bieber documentary Never Say Never. Ana C. shouted her disdain for Bieber. Ana and I made eye contact and I nodded my head in agreement. Though I do not listen to Bieber, I would love nothing more than to stay and party with my new IRL “alt-lit” friends, but I remembered my twelve-hour work shift in less than ten hours. I said my goodbyes to everyone. I received hugs from Archibald, Carrete, Fantana, and, last but not least, Roggenbuck. As promised, I hugged Steve and lifted him off of the ground. Steve hugged me longer and lifted me higher than I lifted him. The boosted bond is unbreakable. We are floating and we are all alive at the same time and it is beautiful.
—Hannah Lee (text) is a twenty-two-year-old girl who spends most of her time reading, working, and watching Godard movies. She “writes,” sometimes, in a group on Facebook called “People Who Are Poor And Write Poetry Sometimes.”
—Chelsea Hikikomori (photos) is a twenty-year-old art student. She is a fan of Japanese animation, Tao Lin, and the video game SingStar. She is also Hannah Lee’s little sister.