What is visionary poetry? To start with, take a look at Webster's 4th definition of the word visionary:
However, to understand the importance of any and all visionary works, it is advantageous to look at Webster's FIRST definition:
Ironically, the defining feature of what sets apart the visionary from the mundane or simply the manipulative is the exact attitude displayed between Webster's first definition and the last. The visionary does not see things in terms of the unreal, and would never equate the word "only" with "imagination". The mundane are often afraid that what can exist in imagination can never be linked in any way to the iron-clad reality they demand to perceive.
In fact, a visionary of any type sees the world in terms of potential.
If we steer clear of academia for a moment, and consider the words of Alice Bailey in 1935, a clearer understanding of visionary presents itself:
"The visionary mystic senses the ideal but (using not his mind) makes no compromise between the wonderful ideas which may materialize in a far distant future and the present period of hard necessity."
Perhaps then, attainment of the ideal is not the primary and fundamental point of anything visionary. Equally, however, the stigma of something visionary being unattainable should not be assigned off-hand. Rather, perhaps it is what is attained during the process of exploring a vision that has a true -- and quite tangible -- value.
Consider a mystical, or even religious, experience. Capturing a such a moment on paper, or in sound, or on canvass, will not take the writer or reader into that moment. The ideal of any experience is forever lost as its time is spent. However, what expressing that experience can do, is deliver both the scribe and the observer into another dimension of mind that is charged with the mental and emotional energy of experience; one filled with ispiration, inspiration, and even aspiration.
This interaction can produce a very real change in the creative and cognizant ability of the artist and the viewer... Even to the point where entire lives and thus "histories" are forever changed.
Any visionary must be considered in the context of the vision revealed. A vision is nothing more than an insight presented in a manner which is viewable by some sense. A vision, much like an idea, exists solely for itself, and not for any outside agenda. It exists as a singular and whole expression in and of itself.
The power of vision is so great that the idea of a visionary attracts countless imposters. However, the determining factor is easy to view, once armed with the knowledge: There is never any need associated with a vision. A vision does not require followers, needs no dogma, and does no recruiting. It simply is. It is the power of attraction that works with anything truly visionary, and not the complexity of marketing, politics or any associated sales pitch.
Therefore, while visionary art may move people based on the ideas expressed, it does not aim to sway; any influence is based on the power of the vision alone.
Visionary art does not aim to capture a moment in time, it aims to reveal it and share it.
All poets, and indeed all artists, who perform simply for the sake of expressing and sharing the vision are at least to some degree visionary. Motive has everything in the world to do with the classification of visionary art.
Nobody ever said that the work of the visionary had to be based on visions of grandeur...
If there was one word to sum up the idea of visionary art, it would be: Insight.