December 6th, 2013 / 7:39 pm
Behind the Scenes & Massive People


jeremy oracle

Jereme Dean “Backwards”


Rauan Klassnik “Backwards”: I’ve seen you say many positive things about ‘Alt Lit’ and, specifically, i think, Steve Roggenbuck. But do you really support these yung, dum YOLO youngsters? (& plz elaborate)

Jereme Dean “Backwards”: (Before I begin, I’d just like to congratulate the Houston Texans on another incredible winning season. The Texans are truly the best team in the NFL today.)

Yeah I love Alt Lit and Steve Roggenbuck so much, thanks for asking! Alt Lit is the latest iteration of writers who are using the internet as a tool to create and promote writing—their own, and others. They’re just building on what other internet writers have created before them. Blake Butler, Sam Pink, Tao Lin, Daniel Bailey, Mike Young, Jimmy Chen, Brandon Scott Gorrell, etc: these are the types of trailblazing writers that helped to create Alt Lit in the first place. If you have a broad definition of Alt Lit as writer + internet, as I do, I would say that all those writers I mentioned are as much a part of Alt Lit as Roggenbuck or anybody else.

Alt Lit is to writing what a cafeteria is to school education, and I don’t just mean a place where you can find the nutritious and delicious. :D Alt Lit is a place where you can sit with your friends and take a break from the constant academic manifestos, lifeless conceptualism, and intellectual dick measuring contests of the academic literary world. Too much of that kind of stuff can easily burn you out.

Now, let’s just move onto the subject of Steve’s positivity.

I luv it!!  In particular I love how Steve’s message to embrace life, boost others, and ‘make something beautiful before you are dead’ are responses to a very dark truth that we all must face: that one day you will die, you never know when—and once you are gone, you will be gone forever. Roggenbuck reminds his audience of this constantly. There have been many times that I’ve clicked on something of Steve’s and felt as if I were being shaken awake from a deep sleep, simply by being reminded of the bitter truth that my time on earth is constantly disappearing, second by second. It is a reminder to me that my life is going on RIGHT NOW and I better pay attention to it. For me and for many others, this idea isn’t superficial or vapid.

One of my favorite examples of this type of positive message is ‘STOP PRETENDING IT’S BORING TO BE ALIVE’

I think a video like that is incredible and genuinely inspires me, but some people might have a different reaction. That’s fine with me. I certainly wouldn’t dismiss how other people feel simply because I don’t share the same perspective. And I wouldn’t make patronizing insinuations that anyone who does or doesn’t like so-and-so is just a naïve, un-read, and easily manipulated consumer who doesn’t understand what ‘real’ literature is. Hi, I’m backwards Jereme Dean.

So hell ya I love alt lit! I love the Bizarro writers too!  Hey hey! Who wants to take a walk outside and not-scorn things together? AW FUCK IT, LETS GO DANCING INSTEAD!! All the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies, all the single ladies…





I think one of the best places to start with Steve Roggenbuck is his literary essays. Two essays that fundamentally changed how I view literature are ‘toward a more flowing culture: lit 2.0 + the online “total work”’ and ‘raising poetry to the level of internet culture.’

Even if you are constantly filled with the hateful desire to projectile vomit into Steve’s open mouth, I think it’s hard to deny after reading those essays that Roggenbuck is an extremely intelligent and thoughtful person with a clear vision of the road ahead. Many of the core ideas laid out in those essays are now being put into practice several years later—through things like Roggenbuck’s tumblr, his travels around the country giving poetry readings and building literary communities, and now Boost House. If Roggenbuck confounds you, I think his literary essays can provide a lot of clarity about how he views poetry and his role as an artist.

I would also argue that the corporate concept of branding can be applied to literature in very interesting and productive ways. Corporations have been stealing from artists for decades, I don’t feel bad about stealing an idea from them and twisting it to suit my own artistic goals. If you want to become an artist who supports herself by only producing art—and you want to do it as DIY as possible, building something from the ground up as Roggenbuck has done—you need to have some type of business sense, and you need to have some idea about how your art exists in the world as a product. This doesn’t have to only be a monetary product, it could be a cultural product instead—like a poem. I would predict that in five or ten or fifteen years, you’ll start seeing an abundance of academic literary papers in which the idea of branding plays a large role. From my own experience, thinking about branding has given me an added objectivity about my writing, and helps to kill some of my own artistic preciousness in ways that have made my writing better.

However, I will readily admit that many people in Alt Lit talk about brands too much. I think a lot of that type of talk is meant to be very tongue-in-cheek and shouldn’t be taken at face value, but I agree that if you take the branding concept too seriously, there is a high likelihood that others will begin to see you and your work as contrived and wooden. But borrowing ideas or terms from other professions is nothing new, artists do that all the time. I think that Roggenbuck is subverting those ideas, not whole-heartedly endorsing them.

I like Steve Roggenbuck, and I like Jereme Dean too. Ultimately, we’re all on the same side. To quote Guillaume Morissette: ‘We write poetry, everyone hates us, do we really have to hate each other also.’

It’s ludicrous to say that Steve Roggenbuck isn’t a literary person, or isn’t interested in writing. I also think it’s fair to say—given the size of his fan base—that Roggenbuck has promoted poetry as much or more than many other professional poets, many of whom are writing for a small circle of already passionate readers, aka preaching to the choir. The list of people who’ve told me that they started reading poetry specifically because of Steve Roggenbuck is long, long, long. He’s reaching out to an audience that many literary people ignore. A large portion of Roggenbuck’s audience are new readers—those who have grown up in a culture where poetry is the lamest thing ever. Roggenbuck is helping to make it cool again, and that’s a good thing for everyone.

Those are my own personal opinions, and I’m interested in hearing what other people think. I respect Jereme Dean and I like his writing, but… (calmly picks up nearby butcher knife) I respectfully disagree with him (starts chopping up a fresh fruit salad for everyone to enjoy).


fruit salad I

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  1. Josh Goodchild


  2. gena

      seems like something an alt lit writer would write.

  3. Wallace Barker

      I agree!

  4. Wallace Barker

      “imagine all the people” -Chris Dankland

  5. Jeremy Hopkins

      Sometimes, when I’ve almost convinced myself I’m bored, I engage with videos.

  6. Richard Grayson
  7. postitbreakup

      clap clap clap

  8. MichaelF01

      From the “Am I Even A Poet” video. “Everything is literature…talking to your friend is literature…a tweet is literature”…taking a dump is literature…picking your nose is literature..feeding your kitty cat is literature…etc.

      I remember saying stuff like that in my early 20s. Those were the days.

  9. MichaelF01

      Garth is that dude and I can’t get over that advance he received. His dad taught me in undergrad and wrote a pretty good golf novel–“Rub of The Green”–that I recommend. Walker Percy blurbed it.

  10. Chris_Dankland

      lol (picture of a man holding his hands in the air during a bank robbery)

      L*L (picture of a single atom hanging in the air between two cowboy boots)

      X (picture of an uppercase x)

  11. Chris_Dankland

      thank you for reading, I appreciate it

  12. Chris_Dankland

      now you’ve got me playing that song in the other tab, such a beautiful song

      “I’m not the only one”

  13. Chris_Dankland

      I sometimes engage with videos when they look interesting
      to me, and other times when they look boring I will refuse to engage with them at all. Thank you for commenting

  14. Chris_Dankland

      in a backwards world, ‘lit’ would be called ‘til’ –instead of opening a book to read it, you would have to close it first – there would be bloody civil wars fought over whether something should call something ‘lit’ or ‘literature’ – and Harold Bloom would be a god king, like Xerxes in the film 300

      I liked that article you linked, thank you – I’m interested in checking out Hallberg’s book when it comes out

      these are a couple pieces of writing that I’ve really enjoyed by all these people, if you’re interested:

      this is a short story by Noah Cicero that I really enjoyed:

      this is a poem by Sarah Jean Alexander that I love intensely:

      thank you for commenting

  15. Chris_Dankland

      thank you J – you’re awesome, hope everything is going good

  16. Chris_Dankland

      I know, it’s crazy

      there should be nobel prizes and mccarthur grants for nose picking and feeding your kitty cat – I’m imagining a person who might be the greatest cat feeder the world has yet seen who is going completely unrecognized by the literary world…doesn’t seem right

      I love that video you mentioned, I’m going to post it below for anyone who’s interested — the core message of that video to me is a call to innovate and experiment with all the different ways you can present text online — to not get hung up on labels, or the idea that something is only literary if it appears in a physical book

      I’m jamming out to Bruce right now, I love that song

  17. Citric

      chris Dankland your HEAD appears to be made completely out of SMOKE

  18. alexvance

      seems like a glib thought applicable to literally anything.

  19. alexvance

      i like this article bc it’s a playful response to someone saying ‘i don’t like a playful community.’ i especially like bizarro world exercise, the joke with the butcher knife, and the picture of fruit salad. i think chris dankland did a very good job at writing this.

  20. MichaelF01

      I have never been more inspired in my life. Thank u.

  21. Chris_Dankland

      ur very welcome!! I think it’s great that something of Roggenbuck’s has inspired you so much.

      I think actually if you look through literary history, you’ll find a lot of these same sentiments being echoed by different writers, but I agree that Steve’s delivery is pretty rare and unique

  22. Chris_Dankland

      yeah, you got it — #1 headless writer in world right now — all other writers before me have had heads

      thanks so much for reading, take care

  23. Chris_Dankland

      thanks Alex, I’m so happy you enjoyed it — that’s what I was going for

      I think one reason why it’s difficult to discourage or troll or ‘shame’ Roggenbuck into acting differently is because it’s clear he’s having a lot of fun and really loves his work. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s become so popular

  24. MichaelF001

      I know my literary history and find nothing new or innovative in any of the Roggenbuck stuff you cite in your post. Is it “innovative” at this point to “embrace the Internet”? I’ll stick to my boring and dogeared copy of Emerson’s “Self-Reliance and Other Essays,” which argues for many of the same ideas of inspiration and originality minus the love for cliques, group think, and branding. Individuals–often cranky geniuses–create artistic history, not clubby, glad-handing cliques. Plus, Emerson could “actually” write. I also saw “Dead Poets and Society” twenty years ago and don’t need to re-watch the viral version. Robin Williams is a much better actor than Steve.

  25. Jeremy Hopkins

      Thank you for thanking me.

  26. Chris_Dankland

      I love Emerson too

      I’m more of a Jumanji type of guy

      starting to get bored with comment section

      do you have any good recommendations for other contemporary writers I should check out? I’m always looking for new books to read

      take care, thank you for commenting

  27. Guest

      Kill me with kindness, why don’t you…just kidding. It’s almost too easy to recommend contemporary writers these days, so I’ll go with Dickens’s “Bleak House.” Innovative and a lot to learn from.

  28. Chris_Dankland

      I’ve already read that, but thank you for the recommendation. Dickens is always worth rereading.

      I started laughing because a good name for an alt lit type publisher would be ‘Bleak House’ — or maybe like ‘Bleak House 2’ or something

  29. reynard seifert

      emerson totally had a clique

  30. Guest

      Sure…if you’re one of the few people who use “clique” non-pejoratively.

  31. Citric

      he is passionate and has an obvious gift for inspiring people but i think the criticisms of his aesthetic and methodology are valid…… think he is sort of like a gateway drug into the poetry world or creativity in general since his best medium is Youtube videos which is like a particular 2000s-era thing…. I hope he moves outward from the #Brand space he’s established so painstakingly thus far & explores more of the torment and painful dark side of life as I think he owes that to himself & fans as well because you can’t live only on the light side & embracing the light side means discovering the dark side soon afterward…

  32. deadgod

      bleak boost

  33. Josh Goodchild

      My opinion changes every other day. Friiiiicccck. I have a mental illness called being dumb.

  34. jereme_dean

      I finally got around to reading this. Your logic of a backwards world where the only thing different is my opinion seems really flawed.

      I’m sure you know that though.

      Domo arigato to you too.

  35. mimi

      negative amortization

  36. deadgod

      The backwards part of the piece–up to “SUDDEN TRANSITION”–was the interview. “Rauan Klassnik”‘s question was backwards, and so was “Jereme Dean”‘s reply. Seems consistent.

      I’m sure you can see that now.

  37. jereme_dean

      What you’re describing wouldn’t be a “backwards” universe, which is explicitly named in the title, but an “alternate” universe.

      What happened to the old deadgod, the original one? He/she had a lot more finesse/wit than any of the revisions.

      You’re pretty heavy handed/inconsistent, I think.

  38. deadgod

      backwards adj 2 a : in a reverse or contrary direction or way

      Webster’s New Collegiate

      Sure: or ‘alternate’, in the sense of “in a reverse way”. Saying the opposite of what’s reasonably expected.

      Your real talk has become Freshman-dorm Politics 101. It’s bullshit, I think.

  39. mimi

      maybe jereme dean is like merlin, living in the-opposite-direction-in-time to a ‘young wart’ steve roggenbuck (and the rest of us, i suppose) and he knows something about ‘the once and future poet’ that we don’t

      i like jereme dean AND steve roggenbuck in an i-read-stuff-on-the-internet sort of way

  40. JosephYoung
  41. Shannon

      I have little of value to say except that I watched Steve’s video a couple of times and it brought back some really pleasant memories of old friends. So thanks for that it was nice to think about on a bad day.

  42. Guest

      Well said and your point dovetails the “nice/positive vs. mean/negative” debate that’s currently hot. The problem is, people are focusing on the wrong thing there–it’s not about “nice vs. mean,” or, when people say they’re against niceness, it’s very clear to me that they are against a particular kind of niceness: bullshit niceness. No one opposes genuine niceness. People oppose bullshit. No one opposes genuine positivity–people oppose bullshit positivity. Steve Roggenbuck is a bullshitter. Anyone who isn’t a bullshitter is naturally going to live a life of light and darkness and embrace both relentlessly. If I could go back in time and reframe this entire discussion (re: positivity vs,. negativity), and if I had the power, I’d name it, “Against Bullshit and Bullshitters.”

  43. Citric

      I hear you. I’ve long been irritated by the idea that positivity is always good, personally i wish there were more people devoted to causing chaos & making people question what they think / believe / do but admittedly that is in part due to my perennial status as an outsider in life… however I think there is something to be said for niceness as far as fostering a sense of community goes because i think that’s something a lot of people need that they can’t get anywhere else

      Real community doesn’t really exist anymore in the world and if you come from a shitty background, bad parents / broken home, violent neighborhood or just the boring suburbs where you were fat or ugly and lonely and miserable and got picked on, maybe some manic exuberance and positivity is exactly what you need in life…. I think there are a lot of people who see no reason to be alive or get nothing out of life and Roggenbuck at least for some people is able to break that way of thinking which i think is a gift… but deciding you want to be alive is only the first step in actually living well and I think with a community focused on positivity above all else there is the danger of becoming stagnant / indulgent and addicted to the cheap thrill of mania while not actually DOING anything w/ your abundance of good energy (i.e living in a bubble while the world falls apart)

      I think a lot of it is an age / maturity thing… seems like mental / emotional maturity is generally postponed in people today by about 3-5 years so a lot of SR’s fanbase is for all intents and purposes people who have not really begun life yet… a lot of what he says is stuff that’s rousing and stirring to a 20 year old but rings somewhat hollow (at least) with a 30 year old

      Critiquing him on a poetic level is fine but holding him as an example of “WHAT’S WRONG WITH POETZ TODAY” is kinda dumb because like I said he’s not really a poet… he’s a spoken word artist and could be a great one if he pursued it but his fundamental gift is for inspiring people & he seems to be aware of that at least. how he uses that gift is of course up to him, and I suppose he’s on track to be something of a community organizer soon (Dave eggers-ish??) but in short yeah I agree that the exaltation of positivity is annoying

      Sorry for long rambling post… this seems to get into what art can do in the broader world / what its role is in the real world which is something i generally enjoy thinking about, anyone who wants to talk further plz feel free to drop a line at

  44. MichaelFi

      Sorry for not getting back to you. I like a lot of what you say here. I’m especially interested in this notion of community, especially online. I’m not sure if I’m responding to your above comment, but I’ll say that I’m troubled by the rampant use of “community” to describe online lit circles.

      It’s not that there can’t be “communities” online–I guess the term is fairly malleable–but when I think “community,” I think physical place. Something tangible, like a neighborhood where people live. Everything they do has a direct impact on “place” as a particular ecosystem.

      How do people perceive a website as a “community”? No one depends on a website or online circle in the same way as they do, say, an rural or urban community where physical environment is inescapable.. People are always free to leave, disappear, from an online “community.”

      This is one of the problems I have with online lit cliques–the way they easily co-opt or coin the notion of community when the online communities are placeless. Maybe my perspective is colored by the fact that I grew up in circumstances where the very notion of community was rooted in a ore physical, tangible sense, where everything I did within the community not only affected others within the community, but the place itself. And vice versa.