It has come to the attention of Dispatches that certain Players in the Authorized Poetry Zones have taken to calling us despicable following our unAuthorized (and sometimes scatological and, frankly, indecent) critiques of rampant corruption and crimes against poetry. It’s an interesting choice of words. Consider the myriad options: disgraceful, disreputable, shameful, vile, contemptable, detestable, no-good, lousy, even slimy. And that’s just for starters. All of them pass judgement, but from different moral perspectives, raising issues of grace, reputation, witness, honour and so on. Despicable vibrates with a specific relation between judge and judged based on a disparity of social standing, literally of height. To despise is to look down on and the state of despicableness is one of abjection. The despicable are those beneath the judge, those looked down on.

This invocation of a moral hierarchy seems to us fitting in the current world of commodified poetry and its attendant hierarchies of institutionally based Authority. We are happy to be among the despised because we work in a zone beyond the pale of “decency”. What is decency, anyway, except a set of restrictions or limits on expression dictated by “society”, which in this case is deterrmined by bourgeois propriety and self-protection. Protection of the elite from the crude ejaculations of the despicable rabble.

From its humble beginnings  Dispatches has announced itself as outside that arrangement. We are a Temporary Autonomous Zone operating beyond the control mechanisms of the Institutional Poetry Authorities. Being outside their Zone of Control, we embrace, as Emerson put it, the “low and the common,” and tho Waldo might disagree, that includes the indecent, crude vernacular of the despised.

We invoke Ivan Illich here who defines vernacular as a word “that denotes autonomous, non-market related actions through which people satisfy every day needs.” He also links it to home, as in home-spun and homegrown, the actions of people who are not motivated by thoughts of exchange and accumulation. That has always been a dimension of poetry’s possibility, its complex opening into ranges of unmapped existence through language arrangements. We would argue that this is in fact the very heart of poetry’s potential, its offering. The Anti-Commodity, it operates within a range of homegrown heavens, of homespun thinking. It ain’t for sale.

Till it is. Then it is degraded and corrupted into formulaic, predictable avant-garde witticisms and ironies, as much as predictable exclamations of identity Then it can be produced in quantity and published by Harvard, the finishing school of USAmerican Power. Then it can be installed in a University Chair endowed by and named after one of the State’s honoured mass killers of despised resistance fighters. Then it can make authoritative claims about the absence of Meaning that are rewarded by the State, up to and including being installed as the State’s Official Poet, rather like Virgil. From which elevated station, no doubt, he can view with contempt the despised, the despicable ones, who, spread out below his august seat of power, continue to point out that he has no pants on. Despicable us, indeed.