this poem departs (introduction to poems that don’t exist #3)

       This poem departs from the idea which is not my own that all that we think of as objective knowledge is subjective knowledge.

       I suppose I can call it a poem, I am introducing poems that don’t exist. It doesn’t exist, this poem.

       When we think of the object of knowledge we think of it as outside ourselves. Someone told us. Or we saw for ourselves. Most often it’s someone, teachers, friends, parents, parents rarely. They are hardly believable. It’s even difficult to think of their existence, of them being objectively real.

       Why would I not call it a poem should it not exist and not if it should? I think in my first introduction, if you go back there, this was the case.

       Most often, more often than not it’s a body, giving out what then becomes public knowledge. That is, publishing, but as such bodies are in the business, they sell it, are selling it. That is, publicity. So they are private bodies, businesses; and even if public institutions, like schools and libraries, and institutions of government, they think of themselves as businesses. They have adopted the business model; even organs of government, those organs telling us what’s going on in our own society, what new laws have been made, these are not, as is sometimes thought, political mouthpieces, organs of propaganda: they are private companies or separate departments engaged in public relations, that is, PR.

       I wouldn’t call my writing all through these years poetry, because it has never been published as poetry for a start. But it has been read as poetry... but not like, and this is where these introductions to poems that don’t exist come in, it has not been read like those people I hesitate to call poets because I all too readily recognise their voices. Yes, I all too readily hear in the voices of those who read their poetry who know it to be poetry, poems, they are reading, who are for the most part published poets, and those who aspire to be published, to have their poetry published, I all too readily hear in their voices other voices. Other voices which all come down to one voice. One voice that we know to be the voice of poetry, which, in other words, serves, pays exactly lip service, to our knowledge of what poetry already is.

       The change from public to private organs of knowledge we recognise as participating in the change from knowledge to information. But this part is exaggerated when we, as some do, maintain the change from knowledge to information to be to the former’s detriment. Or go as far as to say it marks the demise of knowledge. Or complete symbolic breakdown.

       When I read poetry I read it in my own voice. So I’ve never been concerned about what my voice is on the page. It shifts, drifts. I can’t go as far as to say I have multiple voices. I am not Fernando Pessoa.

       There are those informing us of what we take to be the case. With some practice we can separate out commentary from exact description. We can separate the facts from opinion, or from the taint of subjectivity. We suppose we can. I don’t intend in the poem that follows to be gainsaying this supposition. This is not the reason for my poem.

       Without too great an uncertainty, and despite the inroads made into the world of poetry, of poetry publishing, a large part of which relies on its own PR, its own good publicity, in allowing those inroads to be made, by black people, by coloured people, by people belonging to ethnic minorities and by women, queer, trans people, those who are in the middle of transitioning and those whose identities are fluid, among whom I do not count myself, we may call the voice of poetry despite this progress, despite the progress made by all these factors, we may call it his master’s voice.

       This poem then is not so concerned with the passage to privatisation of knowledge where knowledge equals power and the globalisation of that power. It’s not so concerned with the politics of knowledge. It’s not that idea, the idea of science and civilization going hand in hand and then knowledge being taken out of the hands of the civilizing process, siphoned off into privately owned silos, it’s not this idea that it departs from; and neither is it the idea of there being some good attached to the history of knowledge in its relation to power, nor is it the idea of some bad, of the process of civilization being one of conquest, of colonisation, of empire, of slavery or of emancipation.

       His master’s voice takes up poetry in a way that ruins it for me. And it does so for the slam-poetry poet-performer as well as for the academic poet-teacher: the little chat introducing the poem over, he, she, they, launch in, with a change in voice, a change in speech to what is in quotation marks. His master’s voice.

       The following poem, that, remember, does not exist... is not about freeing knowledge or of planting and harvesting it, of stockpiling or of weaponising it in some kind of economic arms race... It’s not about its advantage or disadvantage. It’s not above it. It departs from this... at that point when... all that we think of as being objectively known becomes subjective. That is, the point at which we, any one of us, either stupid or smart, poor or rich, powerful or powerless, grasp it, understand and know. What do we know?

       I’m not saying hear me, I am an authority on this, you can bet the academic poet-teacher of poetry does her best not to write, in fact and defensively tries to avoid writing, poetry suited to the seminar. And you can bet the slam-poetry performer does not try to avoid writing and presenting the stuff suited to the society of slam poets: he, she, they, want to belong. The poet-teacher disowns. She, he is, they are uncomfortable in their professional skins. That’s why we laud the laureate’s appointment who manifests to us the inroads poets have made into the poetry business who have different skins: we appreciate their struggle with having to wear them that can only mean progress for poetry, and be filtered back into the process of teaching it, the civilizing process.

       What I am saying, and it’s not an original thought, it’s not an original thought and it’s not because it’s not that this poem departs from it, is, what I am saying is that because all we think of as being objectively known is only ever subjective, is that the poem has to depart. Knowledge is always this departure. And a poem is too.

       I am not saying I have altogether avoided his master’s voice by calling it out. My failure to publish poetry is my failure. It’s not turn-around-able into a successful strategy to avoid his master’s voice that I don’t call my work, my pieces of work, writing, poems... except those, like the following, that doesn’t exist.

       What I am talking about in the poem that doesn’t exist is not freedom from slavery. What I am talking about in the poem is a new I. The new I that follows the departure that to know is and that a poem is.

       I am he who—

       I am she who—

       I am they who—

       Language is a found object.

       I hear its murmuring. A background to the world. And forming it into words...

       It’s said. Is not enough. As if the fault lay with language.

       The impossible to express.

       It does not. And changing it or knowing how to is simply irresponsible.

       The proper response is to let him go let her go let them go

       It’s called this poem departs