Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge: Kelly Writers House staff

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge was born in Beijing and grew up in Massachusetts. She is the author of twelve books of poetry, most recently I Love Artists: New and Selected Poems and A Lit Cloud, a collaboration with artist Kiki Smith. She lives in New York City and northern New Mexico.


“And now, illuminate the space and describe each one you saw in the mist.”—Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, “Fog” Empathy, first published by Station Hill Press in 1989, marked a turning point in Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s poetry, her lines lengthening across the page like so many horizons, tuned intimately to the natural world, at once philosophical, lush, and rhythmic. As she writes in the new preface for this edition, “I believe we’re born with the capacity for sensing emotional nuance around us.…
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A Treatise on Stars

“My book describes how communicating with star beings can teach us to continue our world through love and grace, communal grace.” —Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, “Chaco and Olivia” Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s A Treatise on Stars extends the intensely phenomenological poetics of “The Star Field” in Empathy, which appeared over thirty years ago. The book is structured as a continuous enfolding of poems, each made up of numbered serial parts, their presiding poetic consciousness moving from the desert arroyo of New Mexico to the white-tailed deer of Maine and between conversations with daughter, husband, friends, pets (corn snake and poodle), and a woman, or star-visitor, beneath a tree who calls “any spirit in matter … star-walking.…
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Hello, the Roses

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s Hello, the Roses opens up poetic form into long, shimmering lines shaped by the beauty and phenomenal fullness of the natural environment. She begins by exploring an array of unities perceived between myth and landscape, fashion and culture, experience and forgetting, boys and ravens. The poems of the middle section shift into an invisible world where plants, animals, and the self communicate and coexist through a process of mutual healing and imagination.…
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Every collection of poems by Berssenbrugge is a literary step forward. Hello, the Roses performs a quantum leap. The book is exhilarating. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions churn. With her powerful command of words redoubled by a meditative patience, she captures a secret rhythm, into which she weaves lines that surprise us with their accuracy, their submission to experience.
—Etel Adnan, Artforum
Berssenbrugge’s lines—saturated with the hallucinatory speed of thought— have the urgency of a manifesto; she consistently calls attention to the inter-relatedness of all things. Few living poets are as able to enter headlong into the spiritual state of our environment and its endangerment: one of the best minds in modern poetry.
—Major Jackson, The New York Times
In Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s Empathy, ‘the human hovers like a mood’ that refuses definition. In the flickering mirrors of distant landscapes, perception melts, like ice ‘glowing with light,’ into an intimate familiarity. These poems, with their startlingly detailed equivocations, and the scenes and sights they evoke, have become ‘spiritual exercises in physical form.’
—Charles Bernstein
A dialogue of an extremely fine-tuned intelligence with the ‘world.’ We start out dazzled by the sheer beauty of the perceptions, the subtle music, the surprising shifts into complex inference and meditation. We end up ‘flattened against our seats’ gasping for breath as the poem takes off into unsuspected altitudes—or depths. Empathy is not just a fine book. It is an event. An important event.
—Rosmarie Waldrop
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