Disclaimer: Not only is this a review of an event that we here at The Triangle organized, but it is a poetry event that I (Jacob) read at during the open reading. While you can pretend that I am not at all biased by either of these little factoids, let’s be honest: I am totally biased.
The Seed is a name that has been gaining traction in the Lancaster scene. If you’d asked me before this event what The Seed is, I’d have said something like, “A place that hosts events?” Simple, yes, but ultimately quite accurate.
And it also falls too short of what The Seed is.
Nestled in one of those large, nondescript downtown Lancaster buildings, The Seed is one of those places you only find when someone tells you how. Once you get inside, however, you find a quaint little coffee shop with a delightfully vegan menu (I’m not vegan; I’m being very presumptive with my utilization of the term “delightful”) and some of the best bold coffee I’ve had the joy of consuming. Seriously, coffee heaven.
The Steve Roggenbuck event was crafted to be more than just poetry; an appropriate goal since Roggenbuck is someone who really stretches the boundaries of what constitutes literature. As such, performers in the open reading did poetry, short stories, stand-up comedy, and music, creating an interesting atmosphere you’d associate more with a variety show than a poetry reading—but without the novelty.
Which brings us to Roggenbuck himself.
I’ll admit to finding Roggenbuck’s poetry confusing. It’s more like getting a glimpse at short, random fragments than a poem. But in a lot of ways that’s the whole point; what is poetry in the Internet age? Can it be more than a Word document (to loosely reference his YouTube video “breaking free from the shackles of word documents with other formats of poetry“) and if so, what form does that take? In Roggenbuck’s world that means social media e.g., Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets, and Tumblr image macros.
So while I was on the fence about Roggenbuck’s poetry, I was curious as to how his mishmash of Internet communications, which look pretty in his books, would come across in person, spoken from a stage.
There are many words and phrase you can use to describe his performance, however, “traditional poetry reading” is not one that applies. Sometimes he’d be reading directly from a PDF on his phone, hunched, scrolling on his touchscreen. He was loud, and then not so loud. Standing, then jumping, then moving back and forth across the stage, and then off the stage, and back on. Just watching him felt exhausting; I was out of breath even in my chair.
And throughout all of this movement Roggenbuck spoke. It’s hard to separate his poems from linking thoughts; the short, shorthand-rife poems staccato from the stage along with other comments and words and—
it’s a barrage.
After a while I had to simply stop thinking “Is this poem or not?” and just enjoy the absurdity of the whole thing. Or not enjoy the absurdity. I don’t even know. I was confused going in, and equally confused going out. I kind of hated it until I realized how laced with irony his performance was. And then I kind of hated it for the irony. I don’t even know.
I don’t know. Maybe I don’t get what he’s doing. Or maybe what he’s doing simply doesn’t strike a chord with me.
But that’s ok, because The Seed was packed with a crowd that did get what he was doing. They ate up his performance from beginning to end.
The Triangle would like to extend thanks to:
- The Seed Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant for letting us use your space and for the delicious tea
- Steve Roggenbuck for being alive at the same time as us
- Nick Anthony for creating the “Everything is Illuminati” flyer
- Fisticuffs Busansky, Kiki Leinbach, Brendan Krick, Erin Dorney, Johnny Gainer, Seth Beiler, Jacob Gehman, Daniella Laudadio, Tyler Barton, Christian Stock, and Michael Stewart for performing
- EVERYONE who came out and supported literature in Lancaster, PA