poetry as non-knowledge


Nowadays there seems to be two utterly opposite but parallel dispositions at work in the art of writing.

1. Communicability has become, or maybe always was, a moral imperative. To explain, to make sure everyone understands and provide accounts that everyone understands (who is everyone?). Dare not write something that does not communicate. What you communicate matters much less than the sense that there is a “will to be understood.” Communicability also means that what can be communicated has to be already known, or if it is not already known and digested, that it can be effortlessly understood, processed, swallowed without a gulp. Everything that challenges or questions what is already known is unacceptable, because “it does not communicate”. I am referring to writing, but visual arts are also affected by this will to communicability. One can easily see how the urge of communicability is related to exchange value. Only what can be communicated has (exchange) value. Proposal writing is the epitome of this disposition, but there are many other genres that operate under this guise and millions of zealous policemen ready to ensure that the law of communicability is enforced.

2. As a reaction to disposition 1, the opposite also circulates. Enigmatic statements that are tautological in their self-referential character. The more impossible the better, as they stand as icons. They signify by presence would be another way of putting it. What is being said does not matter, or even how it is said, as long as an undecipherable enigma is its hallmark. It is quite easy to realize that these writings are in some way as opposed to non-knowledge as those of disposition 1, even if they pursue the opposite strategy. By obfuscating any semiotic relationship, they equate knowledge and non-knowledge usually as a celebration of the miseries and glories of a self. In this regard, it is interesting to notice how certain writers are subsumed by way of their form into this disposition (Deleuze for example): by mimicking their prose (or poetry) and voiding it of any argumentation, they neutralize the power of these narratives by turning them into a collection of meaningless words that are supposed to reproduce affective states. It is puzzling how such a disposition is at times as successful as its opposite, whereby the moral police of communication allows writings in disposition 2 to circulate and actually to receive praise in those quarters where they would be usually despised. And I am not just arguing about writings in disposition 1 in which one or two sentences nod to disposition 2 and are therefore below the threshold of suspicion. I am actually arguing of entire bodies of writing (scholarship) in disposition 2 mode. One can attribute this to the fantastic power of capitalism to morph everything, I suppose. But an ethnographic inquiry would be needed to understand better what is at stake.

The task is to develop (nothing new in this regard) a 3rd disposition to knowledge, a disposition that takes seriously the question of non-knowledge. I would call this disposition “poetic wisdom.”

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