Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review of "Crunk Juice" by Steve Roggenbuck

(This book can be read in its entirety on Roggenbuck's website linked below)      

           Either you get Roggenbuck or you don't. It's that simple. There is no rationalizing either position, one could go on for hours debating his pastiche style, whether what he writes is or isn't poetry, but really all talk approaches irrelevance. Some have tried to tear him apart but in perfect style these rips are appropriated by Roggenbuck and  are the blurbs on the back of the book. While heavily influenced by a slew of writers most notably Whitman (in content) and Burroughs (in method)  Roggenbuck's work is completely, umcompromisingly and naively unique. The work evolves over a handful of chapters which are given seemingly arbitrary titles.
       The first four sections are (or at least written as if) taken  from facebook posts, tweets or other brief e-missives. Individual lines are almost always misspelled and four or five lines are combined to form  "poems" which as a whole become ambiguous, funny, bizarre meditations and the lines in juxtaposition develop new meaning: surreal, touching, and sometimes sublime. "Justin Beiber" and "Dads" are frequent subjects and after a great amount of repetition seems to transcend their common signifiiers and take on a certain (almost religious) symbolic meaning. The final chapter is more uniformly (or obviously) Roggenbuck's writing and I'm glad he saved these poems for last as they are leagues beyond the others. Part Andrew W.K.-self-help-posi-core-mantras part daydream love poems these are the genius heart of Roggenbuck's writing and what I think all the haters should get to see first. Roggenbucks final poems are so heartfelt, and touch so deep that it's impossible to say that he isn't at least doing "something". I'm a big fan of his videos and I can't help but hear his measured voice reading these poems in my head as I read them. He really wants to reach out to people with his work which is evidenced by his individually hand addressing the packages which he sends his merch out in, and while his fan base (almost a cult of personality...almost) may be offputting to some, for those of us for which his work reverberates there is no one visible doing what he is doing today.
       Roggenbuck relies heavily on social media to spread and support his work, his current main project is I'm still deciding how I fell about the Lin, Roggenbuck et al. twitter lit scene. In theory it is pretty lame: hipster minimalism can only take you so far in the literary world I'm sure. But it's always around the 14th time Lins tell me about how he went to whole foods or Roggenbuck mention Justin Beiber that these guys open up and drop a bomb out of nowhere that makes 99% of all other literature past and present fade into the background.
        Will anyone be reading Roggenbuck 10 years, 5 year, even 6 months from now? Part of me hopes so: he has captured the Zeitgeist perfectly and have innovated to a certain extent. I can't help but be skeptical though: most of Roggenbuck's poems are on off affairs, they have little reread value and while they do explore some interesting themes and are able to elicit strong feeling they come off as gimmicky and that may put off future readers. Here's hoping Roggenbuck is on the rise.

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