A talk for “Towards a Visionary Poetics: A Female Gaze,” AWP, March 2019
—The visionary comes in pieces—
It starts before seeing, before speaking, before imagining, before documenting. It starts with the basic trust that one could see, that the mirror of this world before your eyes contains the real experience and truth of those eyes. That these eyes themselves are not demoted, unrelegated from truths, prismatic truths, contradictory-sometimes truths, paradoxical truths, complicated or controversial truths. I have at times experienced the world as very solid or unprismatic, which is to say that my truths then bottomed out, were easily undermined, easily erased. That I could think they were never really there. But they were there.
How does it feel?—“Feels Blind,” Bikini Kill
It feels blind
How does it feel?
Well, it feels fucking blind
What have you taught me? Nothing
Look at what you have taught me
Your world has taught me nothing
I have not had the peace in my life to write a proper paper for this presentation today. Not peace, nor psychic space. Life has been very turbulent, and I have been prevented by the dizziness of my body and all of life’s circumstances from writing this until this week. Getting this down continues to be a struggle—it’s turbulent to be in the nebulae. Nebulae are the collections of dust and gas that incubate new stars, the parts of the cosmos where new light is born. Uncomfortable space, unbreathable space in its way. I come to you with what I have at hand. I am indignant that there has been no peace and that all the prophetic and visionary energy I might call into this talk has transmogrified into sanitized survival. As I struggle to write, I sing:
I resist with every inch and every breath—“Resist Psychic Death,” Bikini Kill
I resist this psychic death
I learned this young, as a teenager. I learned to say, I resist this psychic death. Actually, I didn’t learn to say it. I learned to sing it. To scream it practically, loud and with both rhythm and dissonance.
The matter at hand is visionary matter, prophetic of––in the making of––what’s coming. It is in the nebulae. What matter floods into the future void? Is it stopped up?
If you were blind and there was no braille—“Feels Blind,” Bikini Kill
And there are no boundaries on what I can feel
If you could see but were always taught
What you saw wasn’t fucking real, yeah
What if you could see but the seeing was all stopped up? With your hair, the soap for your body, the way the mind races—the way your mind races so much you don’t even remember having taken a shower? Detritus that proclaims so strongly, no, you didn’t see it, you didn’t see anything. Feels Blind. That proclaims, I didn’t say that, didn’t do that, you are projecting. Projecting! Projecting is light through an image shot big. Is light through an image there or not there? Nebulae. Complicated truth. What if you could see but were always taught what you saw wasn’t fucking real.
The visionary poetic is just this thing where one sees the raw, prismatic truths of the matter
engages the vision, with nuance
insists it is necessary to do so
sculpts & re-members new
worlds / new spaces in its presence
Rebellious, it says:
Look at what you taught me—“Feels Blind,” Bikini Kill
Your world has taught me nothing
Then conjures up new worlds (plural) by the power of the eye, the song. The resonant voices of the innumerable named and unnamed mavericks who came before.
- “Feels Blind,” Bikini Kill. The C.D. Version of the First Two Records, Kill Rock Stars, 1994.
- “Resist Psychic Death,” Bikini Kill. The C.D. Version of the First Two Records, Kill Rock Stars, 1994.
Sara Larsen is an American poet living in Berlin. Her newest book is a polyvocal exploration of punk and poetics, The Riot Grrrl Thing (Roof, 2019). Recent chapbooks include Starved Crew (Eyelet Press, 2021) and Detonated Mirror (Blazing Stadium, 2020). More can be found on her website at www.saralarsenpoet.com.