Arts & Culture

Brussenbrugge reads excerpts from book, ‘Hello, the Roses’

Multi-dimensional poetry toys with boundaries, multimedia in poet’s artistic process

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, September 25, 2017

The McCormack Family Theater was silent Thursday morning with the exception of one voice. Last week, poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge read some of her poems from her new book, “Hello, the Roses,” a novel published by New Directions Publishing, a top press for experimental poetry and literature.

Born in Beijing, China, Berssenbrugge now lives in New Mexico and New York. Since completing her education at Barnard College, Reed College and Columbia, she has released 12 books of poetry and collaborated with artists utilizing various media, including music, visual arts and theatre performance.

Most students present at the reading are currently enrolled in the first-year seminar Writers on Writing, in which “Hello, the Roses” is currently being taught and discussed by Leigh Cole Swensen, professor of literary arts. Berssenbrugge “is one of the best artists writing in an experimental mode in contemporary poetry,” Swensen said.

Swensen, who is in charge of  picking speakers such as Berssenbrugge for the “Writers on Writing” events, says she chooses “poets that experiment with the boundaries of normal poetry.”

Characteristic of Berssenbrugge’s poetry are long lines and paragraph-style sentences that “most poets today” would not experiment with, Swensen said. Berssenbrugge explores the dynamics of space and format and pushes the boundaries between poetry and prose, she added.

At the reading, Berssenbrugge read the poems “DJ Frogs,” “The New Boys” and the title piece “Hello, the Roses.” When asked by a student about her artistic process, Berssenbrugge said that when teaching children how to make poetry, she often tells them to “combine words and emotion to make music happen.”

A common theme throughout Berssenbrugge’s poetry is delving into different dimensions. She pushes “language into saying more than what language usually can,” Swensen said. One of the most remarkable things about Berssenbrugge’s poetry was how  “the beauty and patience of her language encourages readers into believing more than the extent of what we can normally perceive, while still saying something very important about being human,” Swensen added.

Berssenbrugge said that during the process of her writing, her “mind takes on a sort of intellectual style.” Though she usually does not  know what she wants to write, she said she has a question she wants to explore and that poetry writing is an “unconscious process at times.”

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