e.e. commerce: Poet Laureate of the Internet
NEW HAVEN, CONN. (SatireWire.com) — At eToys, it is said, chief executive Toby Lenk keeps a copy of the searching, evocative i:opt:in stapled to his chest. At Amazon.com, CEO Jeff Bezos has wept openly while reading the heart-rending fulfillmentness to new company employees. And at AOL, Steve Case reportedly hired Barry White to record the inspirational i e therefore i am so he could listen to the poem on his way to work each day.
Clearly, no other poet — and perhaps no other individual — has so moved the legions online as has e.e. commerce, whose poems, with their seemingly scatological syntax, are infused with the fast-paced, often steamy, yet eternally hopeful commercial potential that is the Internet.
The best-known of the so-called "Internet Poets" — whose swelling ranks include DSLiot, William Keywords Worth, and Elizabeth Barrett Browsing — commerce is considered a master of the genre. As Davis Galt, culture editor of Computer World, wrote of commerce: "He guts the Internet as a fisherman does a perch, yet the perch is better for the gutting, for his knife is love."
For Galt, and millions of others, there is no greater example of this than commerce's e-ishness unflowering. Not unlike the sweet courtship and inevitable consummation of youth, the poem depicts an online buyer's first moments of innocent hesitation, which in Internet time quickly becomes commitment and, at last, the naked, breathless sale.
the feeling at first
and encrypted kisses are a far better fate
than driving to the store; unwise
shopper i swear by all that is online. don't cry
type in cc,expiration and
leaning back.wait; for fulfillment for
life's not always that which can betouched.
(and breasts soflat
Yet at times, commerce's same word-knives of love can form a lethal stiletto aimed at those unwilling to recognize their place in an e-world. The most cited instance of this comes not from a reviewer, but from a watershed moment in the history of online retailing.
One night in early 1998, Egghead CEO George Orban was reading commerce's mort d'bricks, which had been emailed to him by a friend. It was no coincidence that, three days later, Egghead announced it would close all its retail stores and sell only online.
"I won't say mort d'bricks alone led to our decision to go Web-only," recalls Orban, now chairman of Egghead.com. "But you can't read the line — tectonic shifter i. mother;of new channels weep:weeping:weepishness for those, so old. so off. line. real-doors-real-windows-real-losses. where is their domain:death.com' — without feeling that you should do something, and do it now."
But the poet doesn't focus solely on the negatives surrounding those left behind by e-commerce, and that tendency — to celebrate the "fulfillmentness" surrounding online sales — is what has won over the e-doring multitudes.
"We in e-commerce have always looked at our work as the proverbial first date," notes Eric Beltrand, vice president of e-tailing for WebBuysNow.com. "Online, we want to do what it takes to make the sale. On a date, we want to do what it takes to get laid. But e.e. commerce teaches us that there really is something in between that's worth exploring. There is a beauty and a dance and a joy to what we do.
"And this is exhilarating," Beltrand adds, "because in the end we still get laid."
There are those, however, who feel commerce has gotten more than his due. Poetic colleague Elizabeth Barrett Browsing, for instance, insists not all the Internet Poets consider him the star pupil of their class. While "wonderfully talented," commerce is too narrowly focused, she maintains.
"He misses the full experience of the Web. It's not just commerce, it's also content" — a reference to one of commerce's more contentious poems, where commerceis i am, con.tent, in which the poet argues that content alone cannot satisfy online. It must, he insists, be accompanied by a call to buy.
And there are harsher critics. "e.e. commerce is a talentless huckster," says David O. Cotterdam, professor of linguistics at Harvard University. "That he is even called a poet shows the depths to which we as a post-literary society have sunk in pursuit of this crass Internet mania."
Cotterdam's latest collection of poems, Webs Are for Spiders, was panned by a reviewer at Amazon.com.
commerce himself — a legendary recluse who would only agree to answer questions for this story via email — claims not to notice critics like Cotterdam, or others who, he says, have called him "lame," "incompetent," "pathetic," "moronic," and "pure trash." Instead, he prefers to let his works speak for him. In particular, his favorite is one of his first — and lesser-known — poems, i thank You Tim. It is an ode to Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founders of the World Wide Web, which begins:
i thank You Tim for most this amazing
"When I wrote that poem, it just leapt from my heart my tongue — entwined with his — but no iamnotgay," commerce explains. "Instead i see him as the father of this, of i-of e-of e.e. Fatheringness unfolderable only by he. Who am i to that?"
To Susan Housingham, senior product developer at software maker CyberCash, commerce is more of a mother figure, giving birth to the realization that the Internet, and e-commerce in particular, is not simply a way to make money, but a valid way of life. In particular, she points to commerce's all in navigator gold — about a group of co-workers browsing the Web — which she says beautifully encapsulates a typical Internet experience, and how, "in the end, we are all caught up in this wonderful Web."
all in navigator gold went my browser exploring
four lean colleagues crouched low and smiling
i am locked in; (like a kiss everlasting
Click HERE to read the complete poem, i thank You Tim.
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