A Treatise on Stars

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge. New Directions, $16 trade paper (209p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2938-8
The 13 books from Berssenbrugge (Hello, the Roses) appear in this volume alongside Empathy, originally published in 1989. While the lines of her newest collection extend across the page, the poems in Empathy are broken into shorter lines, more traditional stanzas. For this poet, “love is a measurement,” meaning the crossing of distance or time. But, as the poet writes in a note that opens the volume, while writing those poems, she was already in the process of developing a new voice influenced by John Ashbery and the West Coast “language poets.” Some of those poems trace memories of China, where the poet lived as a child, while others evoke stunning New Mexico landscapes (she recalls time spent in a rustic adobe house without plumbing). These intriguing, beautiful, yet sometimes frustrating poems take shape as explanations that fail, again and again, to explain anything: “Her persistent observation, even after the frost, is of each leaf coinciding with its luminousness, because of its structure as a lighted space and which shows brightness in idea and form.” Lovers of the constellations and abstraction, however, will find themselves at home in the lyrical language. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/12/2019
Release date: 02/25/2020
Genre: Poetry
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