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

The groundbreaking poetic work by our “Mondrian in verse” (Susan Barba, Boston Review), now back in print in a newly revised edition

Available February 25, 2020

Empathy

Poetry by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

“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. Not only of beloved persons nearby, but of people we don’t know—globally—and also of animals, plants, clouds, rocks.” In these poems, empathy not only becomes the space of one person inside another, but of one element—water, fog—one place—tundra, desert mesa—one animal—the swan—as the locus of human illumination and desire. Jackson MacLow wrote that the poetry in this collection “moves from ‘inner’ phenomena to ones coming from the ‘external’ world and back again with breathtaking evenness” and that the poet herself “is neither ‘objectivist’ nor ‘subjectivist’ but a poet of the whole consciousness.”

Editions: PaperbackEbook

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Paperback (published February 25, 2020)

ISBN
9780811229401
Price US
16.95
Trim Size
8x8
Page Count
80

Ebook

ISBN
9780811229418

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

Chinese-born American poet

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