Poetry News

Documentary on Poet Considered "The Godfather of Grunge" Due

By Harriet Staff

The Pacific Northwest Inlander reports on a forthcoming documentary, I Am Secretly An Important Man, based on the life of the man voted Seattle's best poet in 1989, Steven “Jesse” Bernstein. As the article states,

In the documentary I Am Secretly An Important Man, filmmaker Peter Sillen chronicles the life of Steven “Jesse” Bernstein, a poet, father, artist, musician and addict who hit the Seattle scene like a bomb in the 1980s before committing suicide in 1991. Called the “godfather of grunge,” Bernstein is credited with influencing minds like Kurt Cobain’s with his fearless exploration of dark places.

The film opens with a grainy, black-and-white shot of Bernstein’s profile. He begins to read about his appearance, in his calculated canter. His face contorts and he spits and snarls the word “ugly.” His poems spoke frankly about things like this — his mother telling him to look at his face in the mirror, a girl laughing at him on the playground after he proposed to her.

With his unique approach to poetry and performance, Bernstein began to build an empire for himself. The film covers his rise, from his first small book (published by a stripper) to the highlight of his career — opening for his hero, William S. Burroughs. He was also signed to Sub Pop records, which set his readings to music — a monumental step in poetry.

The article, with videos of the trailer and Bernstein playing a song, is available here.

Originally Published: May 27th, 2011