In “Revolt at the Internet Cafe,” the poem that lends its title to Jack Phillips Lowe’s most recent poetry chapbook takes a series of humorous potshots at the tech-addled clientele of internet cafes throughout the world. The “revolt” begins with an unassuming patron settling into a comfortable seat and opening a book, much to the chagrin of the tech-heads that surround him.What follows is a brief battle between the combined forces of commerce and technology — which would, in the poet’s estimation, transform us all into “Star Trek monster[s]” if they could have their way — and the relative simplicity of the printed word.
As with “Revolt,” Lowe’s sympathies throughout this brief collection fall squarely on the side of the printed word, the unencumbered, the unplugged. His poetry touches on topics ranging from meditation to geology and is rife with yearning for a return to that which makes us human. Technology and commerce have divorced us from our humanity, Lowe’s poems seem to say, and have thus robbed us of the ability to experience unadulterated joy and passion. Take, for instance, the work of Jack Kerouac. Long ignored by the academy (as Lowe reports in “What You Wanted?”), the King of the Beats has found new life as a repackaged commodity on the shelves of massive chain bookstores. Yet this new life is no life at all, Lowe protests — or at least not one that Kerouac would have wanted. Thus, it is left to today’s as-yet unstudied poets — poets like Lowe himself — to throw down the gauntlet and pick up where Kerouac left off by sitting themselves down in internet cafes across the country and reminding us of the simple pleasures of the printed page.