Monday, January 07, 2008

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge - Permanent Home

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s work can be elusive in ways similar to Michael Palmer’s, and that’s a very good thing, as Michael Palmer has always been one of my elusive favorites. (There are divergences, of course. But that's for another time.) Berssenbrugge’s poems, for me, are beautifully frustrating in their sense/nonsense making, as they move through the flatness of percepts. And the open question is always there for the reader, of how to “take” these thesis-like statements. What to make of them. When I know I will have some time, I like to pick up NEST, and go along in the possibility of going.

If you don’t know much about her work, here is a good place to start:

I’ve still to get I Love Artists, which came out in 2006, but in the meanwhile, here are the final sections of “Permanent Home” from NEST, to take us into the week.


The water tank sits on a frame of used wood, like a packing crate.

I look through it to an extinct volcano.

The panorama is true figuratively, as space, and literally in a glass wall where clouds appear like flowers, and the back-lit silhouette of a horse passes by.

A file of evergreens secures the cliff amid debris from a crew building, as at the edge of a sea.

Oranges, dumplings, boiled eggs take on the opaque energy of a stranger.

Knowledge as lintel, bond-beam (model signs) holds the world at a distance.

A master-image, like bone, condenses from an indistinct point-to-point feeling of self with which construction began.

My house returns from outside, as if my spirit had been blocking my path, when I wasn't going anywhere in particular.


Materials and freedom combine, so materials aren’t subjective.

The material of space is like having a skeleton to gain a vantage point on seamless distance, as in a composition.

It’s a style of accumulating materials that does not become a solid thing, anymore.

Accommodating a view by being able to be seen through is perceptual, not abstract, like space painted white.

Give a house the form of an event.

Relate it to something there, a form of compassion.

Your point of view is: it’s solid already, so there’s warmth.

In this primitive situation, pure form translates that former empire of space as wilderness.

Chinese space breaks free from the view in front of me, while my house continues rotating on earth.


At 1/07/2008 12:58 PM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

My first introduction to Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s poetry was when I purchased the Before Columbus Foundation Poetry Anthology (1980-1990). I was severely lacking any critical eye then, which was at least an ice-age farther back from my meager vantage point today. What you talk about here, with her work, is certainly a consistent thing. One passage from "The Heat Bird" featured in the anthology, which was structured like prose, reads thus:

"She did a pretty good job at elucidating something/ she didn't understand and had no interest in/ out of duty. She had evoked a yen for dance. any/ beat with wind through it."

The above starts the third and final stanza included, comes after a plethora of visally stunning images. What she opens the third stanza with takes it all to another plane, makes the reader (at least me) ask more questions, and stop, puzzled, and trying to make sense of what began so differently.

How amazing that the passage, while on the surface tells rather than shows, sets out to show something new and vastly different.

At 1/07/2008 2:09 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

You just said that so much better than I did. It's the shift away that returns, partially and with somethign to show for having been gone, that continually draws me back to her work.

It's a version of parataxis, which seems a consistent method in many of my favorite poets.

At 1/07/2008 9:03 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

"Parataxic poetry" would be a good companion poetry type to "elliptical poetry," wouldn't it? A sibling or a close cousin, perhaps.

At 1/08/2008 5:10 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


And it sounds much more cool, and a bit intimidating.

A: What are you into?
B: Parataxis.
A: Whoa.


Post a Comment

<< Home