Just wanted to boost this kid Michael Lottner who followed me really early into my tumbling career and has been a consistent supporter of my stuff via frequent “likes”. I might put something up and like no one seems to care but then M.L. likes it and I’m like, dope, I must have written an actual poem.
But I don’t just like Michael because he likes my stuff. He’s also a fine and remarkably prolific poet himself, who seems somehow to have gotten twice as good just over this past summer. And he’s only 18, which means by the time he’s my age, 28, if he keeps this up, he’ll most likely be scary good. He is a true romantic in the old sense (“death is not a problem, it’s a promise,” he writes on his website’s masthead) which is kind of rare in the Internet poetry scene where sometimes it feels like it’s cooler to talk in a flat tone about how depressed you are or how bored you are fucking strangers than to actually make something pleasant to read, something—God forbid—melodious, or—double God forbid—actually in some kind of genuine dialogue with the poetic tradition, however problematic it is—and I’d be willing to concede it’s very problematic, but for fuck sake don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
His stuff is actually pretty. If his poems were paintings, the colors would be rich. He is actuallythinking about life, about what it means to be a feeling human, and not just within his own limited experience. He doesn’t just write to mark his peculiar psychological territory in the world, like a dog peeing on every tree in a 30 yard radius. He’s not afraid to use images and lines that might seem cliche or sentimental, and I don’t know what his rationale is behind this, but it comes off as infinitely more honest than the people who seem to be straining so hard for non-cliche language that they end up talking in a way no one does and no one can understand. And people are responding to this—most of the poems he posts get over 100 notes. If Kenneth Goldsmith is right and a work’s effectiveness is a matter of how wide its audience is, then Michael Lottner is doing way better than a lot of far “cooler” Internet poets, even a lot of people who are technically better writers.
What he may lack in terms of very unique “voice” at this early stage in his career he makes up for in heart—that ineffable quality which, in any kind of art, is either there or not. It is both the most important quality in a writer and the easiest to develop—all you have to do is have the courage to show it—but for some writers, who shrink at their own vulnerability (even as they may appear to be writing nothing but poems about how vulnerable they are), this is unbearably difficult.
After years of the post-modern favoring of intellectual/political provocation over heart in art, it seems that heart is making a comeback. This is very good for art and also for humanity generally. Art should not settle for just being “interesting” or “thought-provoking”. Science is interesting, essays are thought provoking. Art needs to be beautiful, it needs to remind us that we feel, and not in a way that makes us shrink from horror at feeling—even from our horrible feelings. Okay rant over.