Rachel Charlene Lewis on “I WANTED TO BE THE KNIFE” by Sara Sutterlin

i-wanted-to-be-the-knife-829x739Sara Sutterlin’s I WANTED TO BE THE KNIFE is an escape from pretentious, bullshit dude poems. If anything, it is the answer to these poems. It gives us a look at cum from the other perspective. What does it mean to be spewed upon instead of doing the spewing?

This sounds legit disgusting, and I know that, but we’re talking about cum right now because we’re talking about power dynamics, and the fact that lit mags (even feminist ones, even ones like this one) keep getting submissions from gross douchebags who want to talk about assaulting women without calling it that. Or who just want to talk about being horrible to their girlfriends and get famous for it.

Sutterlin isn’t down with that shit. Sutterlin fucks with that idea. Sutterlin, founder of LESTE MAG, a bi-monthly erotic magazine, knows the necessity of escaping from that limiting poison, of carving freedom from spaces that once hurt.

He looks like Tchaikovsky
autographed the lower
part of my back
with cum
watching True Romance
I know the violence
he was born with (16)

I WANTED TO BE THE KNIFE is a tumblr-fied response to misogynist MFA snobbery in the lit world and what it means to be a woman and to be hated for it. It’s the sort of book that would both freak you out and amaze you if your best friend made it. Sutterlin is the knife. It is not just an empty desire. It is a need to be something else, or to embody the same things differently.

We were sitting on a bench
in Delores Park
I was eating a burrito
She said “Ask men for the truth when
they’re about to come.”

I picked some lettuce off of my chest
and told her you can’t ask for the truth
It just comes out (12)

The diction is simplistic, with the beauty coming from unexpected structural moves; the sentences themselves don’t always seem to come together until the very end of a stanza, a poem, or the book itself. The everyday becomes the sort of thing that twists deep in your gut, because isn’t it the everyday that makes us not want to exist, sometimes? If it was only the extreme bad, we could conceptualize it better. Better explain it.

It’s seeing an image that reminds us of someone, or something, or saying the wrong word, or thinking of the wrong thing when your fuck buddy comes that screws us up. That on top of the stuff everyone else thinks is hard.

and he throws all of my cigarettes
on the table
I pick them up like they don’t
really belong to me, just a mess Someone made.
(Scenes from a dinner party.)

Often, being marginalized means feeling like nothing that is yours belongs to you. It means always feeling like a mess. It means feeling grief and guilt when treated well.

When I apologize
to my waiter
for the lipstick stains
on my wine glass
He seems to thinkmy Guilt is Sexy (18)

The beauty of this collection is that it is brutal in its presentation of the things that hurt. It doesn’t say, “This hurts.” It simply sets the stage. We get the room, the people within the room, the words and bodily fluids and feelings exchanged. We are given the opportunity to decide for ourselves how to interpret the wronging that has occurred – and this mastery of language, pacing, and timing is what separates this from similar illustrations of love and everyday betrayals.

(Metatron, Poetry, Paperback, 2015)

You can keep up with Sara Sutterlin’s work on Tumblr, Twitter, and on her website.

RACHEL CHARLENE LEWIS is the Editor-in-Chief of Vagabond City. She is a 23 y/o biracial bisexual essayist who has been published in BOAAT, The Offing, and a couple other places. She is regularly found watching Pretty Little Liars with her girlfriend and cat, or writing poems on her legs in sharpie. Rachel tweets and is on Instagram as @RachelCharleneL.

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Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.

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