Onward State and Penn State alumnus Steven James Boyle, who you may know as Max the Moraler, posted an unassuming video of him reading his poem about coping with a crush in August. He never expected what would come next — “I Hit Send, or Modern Meltdown” has been hosted at the Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and Entertainment Online, reaching almost 60,000 views.
“I wrote it for a middle school and high school version of myself,” says Boyle, who didn’t come out as being gay until the age of 20.
The video started out at the beginning of August, working its way to a respectable 150 views, which Boyle attributed to his constant Facebook bombardment. “I was happy with the views it started out with, and when it broke 1,000 I was stoked.” But Boyle admitted he never expected or desired his poem, which discusses his struggles of dealing with his first crush, to be in the spotlight.
“So number one, people just found the video, I didn’t even want views,” said Boyle. “What I did first was post a video about my Grinder, because it was acting funny, and that got like 5,000 views. But then something crazy happened, and people started going through my videos and telling me to post my poem.”
And he did, landing him in viral status. Shortly afterwards, the CEO of the gailygrind.com contacted him, asking to post his story. “And then I started looking, and I started finding it everywhere. Small personal blogs, the Huffington Post, all over the place,” says Boyle, “and now I have like 500 friend requests on Facebook, and I gained another 300 followers on Twitter and Instagram.”
“I honestly don’t know why this went viral. I don’t know how much of it is people thinking I’m attractive and how much is, ‘wow your poem spoke to me,’ you know? I’ve gotten a lot of comments with people saying that I wouldn’t have the attention if I wasn’t attractive,” Boyle said. “Which isn’t a very nice thing to say, but it has some truth in it.”
Boyle’s poem flows in and out of humor and seriousness throughout its narrative. “I’ll be honest, that was just my voice coming through. I’m the kind of person who takes bad news in stride, and tries to keep a good humor about it. So when it came to writing this poem, it just wouldn’t be me if it didn’t have some laughs in it or if it didn’t take you on a roller coaster ride.”
Steven’s writing technique is, well, unique. Steven left parts of the poem open for the crowd to fill in, to let people assume, based on the rhyme scheme, what his next word was. “That really was make or break for me,” he said, recalling his nerves as he approached the first audience participation point. “I thought, ‘if this falls through there is no way I can finish this.’”
In the video, you can see that the audience participation was strong, which was surprising because Boyle had yet to tell the poetry class that he was gay. “I wanted to write this for the class, which was an awesome group of people. I wanted to say what I had been hiding in a non-awkward way, and stop robbing myself and my class of the truth. I wanted it to be organic.”
Boyle contributes this unique structure to prolific poet Juan Felipe Herrera, and his namesake poem 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border, in which Herrera makes the crowd as him “Why?” while he answers in poem form. “And that’s not the only inspiration I got from him,” Boyle said. “He speaks for his people, which I think is really important.” That’s the theme of Boyle’s next poem, which he will release on his site ihitsend.com. “I’m working on the topic of effeminate gays, and how they are actually hated on in the gay community. But I’m writing how they are actually the most badass. The reason is that people like me, who sort of blend and pass aren’t even on the same level. The feminine ones, the ones that not only have the lisp, and love for musical theatre, but are bullied, beaten up, thrown in the dumpster, and choose to stay who they are, those are the real badasses.”
“Everyone thinks I’m going to be famous and forget the little guy and I keep saying to people, ‘I got a little bit of attention, not a concussion,’” concludes Boyle.