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Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

Poetry reading of Hello, the Roses

September 5 2015–June 25, 2019

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge was the recipient of the 3rd annual ‘T’ Space Poetry Award.

Listen here to a reading of her poem, Hello, the Roses, at the opening of her and Richard Tuttle’s collaboration, an exhibition of sculpture and poetry.

Hello, the Roses

Hello, The Roses, Part 1 Transcription Only

Glitter

1

A wood violet has bloomed, when I come back from my walk in early spring.

I stop and welcome it, cooing, walking around it, not as if I were floating, but the surface of the world circled unfurling petals.

Person and violet with so little in common are revealed by my voice as a resonance of identity.

The violet looking back, loses objectivity and enters the expansion of recognized things.

You could say our identities reach out to encompass the forest environment, like telepathy; a moment opens space by rendering it transparent in intensified consciousness.

Others embrace weather and wild land as their means to the supra-sensible; in violets, it’s emotional desire for spring light: glitter, the mirror.

Connection, often the form emotion takes, appears to me as a visual image.

2

Thoughts are sent out by one rock informing other rocks as to the nature of its changing environment, the angle of sun and temperatures cooling as night falls, and even its (loosely called) emotional tone changes, the appearance of a person walking, who’s not appropriately empathetic.

Thoughts meet and merge with other thoughts sent out, say, from foliage and other entities.

I tell you, your own thoughts and words can appear to inhabitants of other systems like stars and planets to us.

Intensities of thought, light and shadow between us, contain memories coiled, one within the other, through which I travel to you, and yet are beautifully undetermined.

For, what you say to me is not finished within  my thought or memory, but you grow within my memory and change, the way a shadow extends as light passes over it in Akashic emptiness.

You grow through what I have to say to you, as a tree grows up through space, then what I have to say changes.

That’s why we need the identity of our physical forms.

Here, we don’t know what’s behind physical stars and planets.

3

The tree encompasses its changing form, while ego, myself of physical experience, looks in the past for something to recognize.

Flexibility would be the key word to another, since the experience is plastic, carrying a larger identity.

When he looks into my eyes, she said, I see adoration that makes me feel wonderful.

Then, I can do things.

Here we mean sun, alteration, myself are actions, the culture of Tibet disappearing, one thousand hopes of David Foster Wallace.

Imbalance between identity’s wish to maintain and intrinsic drives result in an exquisite by-product, consciousness of self, so richly creating reality, which seems plastic, but continues like a light beam, an endless series of beams.

Creativity breaks through identity, and my awareness flows through transparency as spontaneous synchronous phenomena experienced with others as a day.

Its changing light and weather spectacles are fantastically aesthetic.

4

The moment it sees me, the violet grows more deeply purple and luminous to me.

Its looking collapses violet frequency into a violet in the world, cohering attention and feeling.

What I perceive as a flower in the woods may be the shadow of a flower-being’s action in fairyland, a transcendent domain of potentia.

Transparency I imagine moving through is being through, not actually seen or touched, not the buzzing of a million invisible bees.

What you call feeling, like connective tissue or vibrating lines between us represents this vitality.

I prefer the term vitality to time.

In fairyland, all violets are simultaneous.

Slow Down, Now

1

I’ve been sitting looking at a plant, without feeling time at all, and my breathing is calm.

There are tiny white rosettes, and the whole bush is a glory of feathery pink seed heads, here in the arroyo.

Even with closed eyes I see roses in the center of my sight, new ones opening, with pink petals illuminating by sun behind me, and gray green leaves.

There’s no stopping this effusion.

Looking at the plant releases my boundaries, so time is not needed for experience.

Late afternoon is like a stage, a section of vaster landscape, and my mood is of a summer idyll.

The dry arroyo sparkles all around.

Meaning I come upon on wild land strikes me at first as a general impression, then joy suffuses me.

I accept that I’ve aged and some friends have died.

At first, meaning is part of the rose, not unified with my experience as a whole, the way my sight opens out to peripheries.

There’s an impasse between my will, desire and the resistance of a phenomenon to reveal itself.

My seeing is so slow, it seems to disengage; it becomes very cloudy, then suddenly, meaning as a whole interweaves with my perception.

A delicate empiricism makes itself identical with my plant.

2

I repeat the words freshness, tenderness, softness, the happiness of birds, as if speaking directly to a plant.

Sun lights the profusion of pink plumes, thousands of feathery seeds already reaching into empty space where I’ve taken a branch.

That space was left open by the vision I’m having now!

I hold my first sight of the Apache plume and this moment next to each other; I go back and forth, comparing them.

I see her multiple aspects as living representations; one is medicine administered by an oracle.

These aspects are not referred to, not associative, but intrinsic to my sight, as slowly gaps diminish and missing images appear or experience fills in; one transforms to another along an extending multidimensional axis of seeing a plant.

It’s not a metaphor for the flow of our surroundings.

3

One day you need a plant you don’t know, in order to connect pieces in yourself, or in a person you’re trying to be with.

It may be a rosebush at the end of the road, a summer rose, whitish on the outside of each petal and pink inside, expressing its gestalt visually.

When a plant receives this kind of communication, it begins altering chemicals its wavelengths reflect, in order to offer itself to your imaginal sight, for you to gather it.

The plant or another person awakes from embedding in the livingness of the world and takes notice of your request.

The internal chemistry of plants is one primary language of response that they possess.

Through this method of your perception of its color, its fragrance, an infusion of its petals, you not only receive molecules of plant compound itself, but also meaning in yourself the plant is responding to you, so there’s meaning in a chemical compound.

4

Even though the rose I want is in the garden of my friend I miss, another reveals itself in late light in the arroyo when I’m alone, a wild rose, Delphic.

Illness is not healed simply by supplying something rose-colored and lovely as a medical opiate.

The beauty provides form for meaning, and though it does help my body, form to form, I’m not only what my senses perceive, and my disease not just a physical absence virus fills.

When my fluctuating electromagnetic field touches that of another person, plant or entity, emotion is my perception of data encoded in that field.

So, when a plant is projecting coherent energy, organisms respond and become more animated, open, connected.

They use this amplified field to shift biological function.

DNA Alters; there’s communication across distance.

Organisms can intentionally insert information to strengthen cooperative interactions among, for example, an Apache plume, ants and an agave in the riverbed, like human families, whose interweaving, loving bonds represent the long term incorporation of supportive, co-evolutionary fields continually embedding complex new data.

You and I nest within many such fields form a rose

Biography

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge (b. 1947, Beijing) is the 2015 recipient of the 3rd Annual ‘T’ Space Poetry Award. Berssenbrugge was born in Beijing, the daughter of a Chinese mother and an American father who was the son of Dutch immigrants. Her mother was a mathematician, and her maternal grandmother received a college education in prerevolutionary China. Her father was employed at the American Embassy in Chungking, and later pursued Far Eastern studies at Harvard University. Her family moved to the United States when she was a year old. She earned a BA from Reed College and an MFA from Columbia University.

Berssenbrugge is the author of The Heat Bird (1983), winner of the American Book Award; Empathy (1989), winner of the PEN West Award; Sphericity (1993); Endocrinology (1997), a collaboration with the artist Kiki Smith; Four Year Old Girl (1998), winner of the Western States Book Award; Nest (2003); and I Love Artists: New and Selected Poems (2006).

Berssenbrugge’s characteristically long-lined poems combine abstract statements and specific observation; they reveal her knowledge of philosophy, architecture, and science as well as her affinity for the New Mexico landscape. Poet Ben Lerner, reviewing I Love Artists for Rain Taxi, commented: “[F]or four decades, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge has been writing poems that seek to make the process of perception perceptible.”

Berssenbrugge lives in New Mexico, where she has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and in New York City. In both locations she has been influenced by and collaborated with local visual artists, including Kiki Smith and Richard Tuttle, her husband. She has also been associated with the New York School of poets and the Language poets.

Berssenbrugge has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, two American Book Awards, and honors from the Western States Art Foundation and the Asian American Writers Workshop.

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