“Fiction has a truth exceeding that of history”
Oren Rickles was an odd egg but fairly personable for someone with borderline autism. His workshop/squat took up the rear of an industrial building in the flats off of Third and one of the State streets. Apart from being a computer nerd, he fancied himself a poet and a literary theoretician. But because he was a tech, no one would take him seriously when he spoke his ideas about poetry. It was, yeah, thanks for fixing my computer but I’m not interested in hearing what you have to say about literature. So typical of English majors. And because Rickles was letting him buy the reconditioned laptop on time, and that he needed to be talked through the open source operating system, its quirks and whistles, and the kind of product review that only a guy totally obsessed in discerning the x-y coordinates of every aspect of the techno-sphere could give, he had lent a superficially sympathetic ear.
What transpired during these tutorials along with helpful hints and various shortcuts was a recitation of Rickles’ opinions on the failings and future of poetry in the cyber age. Such as the internet had exposed a vast wasteland of writers of poetry whose only definition of the art came from the dictionary and children’s nursery rhymes, and that they far outnumbered the really intelligent working artists, threatening to redefine poetry by their sheer number and shameless ignorance, and comparing the situation to the cult movie Idiocracy. Also, that a tsunami of shit poetry would wipe out any accumulated innovation and reset the bar to ground zero. In his opinion, authentic poetry would rise from the obliterating sameness in an adjacent possible where it would flourish in ways unknowable as a creative adaptation to new technology. Language changes, he’d insisted, because new words are needed for new concepts which are then parsed as common denominators. And, in turn, that affects the direction of cultural drift. Rickles had a lot of other crazy ideas. He’d even quoted Italo Calvino to him. “The author, that spoiled child of ignorance and romantic myth, vanishes and gives way to a more thoughtful person, a person who knows the author is a machine and knows how the machine works.”
He’d come to similar conclusions. Now with his own personal access to the internet and the millions upon millions who wrote poetry, he understood that good or bad was no longer a valid standard, that whether a poem was good or bad really didn’t matter. Obeying the laws of entropy, poetry was becoming static, flat, dissipated, an infinity of poetry particles whose repulsive polarity, no longer negative or positive, was, as a consequence, losing its energy. It didn’t matter if he had written a good poem or a bad poem. What mattered was who his friends were, who he knew in advantageous positions, and who could exercise their power by awarding him boons or influence others to do so. Yet poet was such a solitary occupation. And success required social skills, the one seemingly a betrayal of the other. That left only the luck of the draw.