Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 27, March 2013)

Sueyeun Juliette Lee
On Speculative Poetry: a future ((tense)) // yet // else

In the fall of 2006 I started writing a poem about a shark. I felt like a shark, then. During that time, I was and had been thinking deeply about racial logics in the United States. Thinking about and considering such things and feeling them so deeply in my body and the way I am read, how my history is read, how these logics penetrated my family’s history, whole generations’ of being, not just ours—these thoughts animalized my consciousness, made me develop a preternatural sensibility that enfolded my body like a difference. Partly sexual but bigger, somewhat traumatic, carnivorous. This sensibility detected, sniffed out the faintest whiff of these logics, wanted to be careless of them though it was at its center. A negative navel. It was hungry.

And while I was thinking about racial logics—about their illogic, about how ravenous they are—I was also thinking about futures. About how Asian-ness is and has been a screen, a projection for anxieties of what could be. From Ming the Merciless to the sexy Korean Cylon that was running about on the Sci-Fi channel back then, these fantasies have a long history and have endured. Philip K. Dick’s “heroes” frequently consult the Tao Te Ching. The crew members of the Firefly spoke a pidgin Mandarin. Not to mention the melange of Asiana populating Ridley Scott's Bladerunner and William Gibson's imagination...I could go on and on. The visual rhetoric for the architectural design of “the future” quotes heavily from Asian cultural forms. These Asian-ized futures are simultaneously utopian and apocalyptic. They represent the cooptation by western whiteness of a different, “Far Eastern” whiteness. They demonstrate the monstrosity or perfection of this Great White Hegemony, cast to its very most imagined end. EurAsia actualized, technologized, pluralized. Hybrid, hysterical, and abundant.

Thinking about these things invited me into sharkness. My eyes grew black. I was made of jet. Of the environment, hungry in it. But this difference projected me simultaneously outside of this being. I observed, I rolled over it. Sharkness rejected me, was bigger than me. Was careless of me.

I saw how this sharkness was seamless with the perfection of alien civilizational histories and the raw abundance of all that could be. I am right now. But I saw how sharkness could help me imagine otherwise.

And thus I found myself writing Speculative Poetry.