An open ended review/essay of Steve Roggenbuck's 'i am like october when i am dead' that is selections from my diary in disguise.
by Jake Teitelbaum
Walking into the courtyard of my apartment complex, I spot a calico cat. It scrambles underneath my apartment through an open air duct that had at one point had been blocked off by chicken wire. It leads into one of those crawlspaces that animals are often forgotten in and decompose. Pets are banned here at The Avalon Apartments. I wonder whose it is and look into peoples apartment windows.
I dropped my Japanese 101 class today and was only refunded $100. I still owe my school $403.27 because I wasn't approved enough federal loans or grants or scholarships or whatever. I don't have a job.
At one point this week, or maybe last week, while walking across campus in my usual stoic daze, I thought about my shipment from Steve. Why hadn't my shipment come yet? Is Steve a liar built of lazy bones? He seemed pretty resolved via the twitter DMs we exchanged a few weeks back. I wanted to read someone's poetry that I knew. Well, someone that I kinda knew.
I don't know anyone else around my po-dunk college town who understands or likes or writes poetry; except the slackers who chose Creative Writing as their major because they don't have the motivation or confidence to graduate with a real degree.
Upon entering my ground level apartment through the back door because the lock on my front door is broken, I see a package on the table addressed to me and instantly think it is from my girlfriend. I see it's from Steve and think mildly excited thoughts anyways.
I start to tear open the package made from used printer paper. On the back, it says 'mail' in lower case, size 72, helvetica font. Steve wrote his return address in handwritten ballpoint pen and my address in Sharpie so it's easier for the postal service to read.
I rip open the package, and a bunch of little booklets fall to the floor. They look a lot smaller than I imagined and are individually numbered. I receive booklets numbered 25 through 44. I made him send me extra booklets so I could distribute them. I was planning to do this at the house shows I was playing at along the West coast. That didn't happen because I didn't receive Steve's booklets until two weeks after my tour. Instead, I will just put them in random little nooks and crannies I spot this fall. People that look in the places I put them will be the type of people that will appreciate Steve's little poem booklet.
After reading the first two poems, I put down copy number 35 of 'i am like october when i am dead' and think, is this a joke? My tweets are longer than these poems.
Are these poems or inside jokes or ironic/witty/ironic-witty things that Steve and some of his friends have exchanged over time?
I'm also kind of confused that it's all lower case and that the poems don't have titles. Are the poems possibly the titles of poems to be written in the future? Did Tao Lin have something to do with this?
I have a test in Finances tomorrow that I haven't really studied for, but I'm going to read the rest of the poems and I'm going to keep one copy of his booklet.
I finished reading the booklet and want to play chess now.
Use of the word 'way' and mentioning of multiple months convey feelings and emotions that most people can probably relate with. One reason each sub culture uses regionally appropriated slang, is to intensify the meaning of what's being said to the people around them. 'Way' replaces West Coast 'hella' which replaces normal peoples use of 'a lot' or 'really'. Steve uses slang to deconstructively accompany abstract imagery like the corn harvest and the car lights in his car. The regionally of it is lost, unless the corn harvest and ripping head lights of cars is popular in Chicago.
The months Steve mentions articulate a nostalgia accompanying specific seasons and holidays and weather and significant events. Maybe similar events happened to the reader during these same months, but I doubt it. What I like about 'i am like october when i am dead' is that the months that Steve mentions are cold months, as is the timber of his voice. Except the dead/October Halloween sign/signifier, months chosen are arbitrary, as long as they are cold.
My top stone-cold-Steve poems are "oh, you have a smock on" and "to my nephew on his birthday." Neither of them reference months or regional slang. Most importantly, they made me and my friends laugh when we read them outlaid, hungover on a Sunday morning at Bon's in Vancouver BC. They each wanted a booklet for themselves. Now I only have 7 copies of Steve's booklet left.
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