Steven Jesse Bernstein, arguably the best poet to come out of Seattle
, died by stabbing himself three times in the neck in 1991.
He led a very troubled life, struggling with and advanced form of Manic Depression known as Rapid Cycling Disorder (RCD). This disorder causes a person to have intense highs and lows in a matter of hours or days, rather than the months long cycles that Manic Depressives suffer. He wrote often about his condition in his poetry, trying to convey what he felt to the reader. He self-medicated this disorder with alcohol and heroin. He moved to Seattle from California and began to be well known in the area for his controversial poems. Always visceral and potent, his words guaranteed to spark a reaction. However, that reaction varied from absolute praise to total hate.
As his fame grew he attracted the attention of one of his favorite authors, William S Burroughs, and had the opportunity to meet him. Several pictures and details of their meeting can be found on the internet. Accounts from his friends tell of a man who was well loved, however in his poetry and in the way he died, we find a deeper sense of loneliness in him.
His most popular poem, Me and Her Outside/No No Man, was also one of his most controversial. It describes watching a prostitute walking outside an adult movie theatre and the filth that surrounds her. This and many other poems can be found in his book, More Noise Please published by Left Bank Books in Seattle near Pike Place Market. More Noise Please is a collection of his poems, some found after he died. Illustrations done by Steven Jesse Bernstein also grace the book. Some of the most interesting portions of the book are found in the essays and letters written by Bernstein's friends. In them we see a passionate and extremely tormented genius. The book is well worth the cover price, however finding it at a location other than Left Bank Books could be bothersome.
Additional works by Steven Jesse Bernstein can be found on the Subpop 2000 CD as well as in the following books:
I am Secretly an Important Man.
Both books retail (paperback) for about 60 dollars.