PRINT December 2013

Books: Best of 2013

Etel Adnan

In 1981, while I was staying briefly in Paris, I received an invitation to read my poetry in Amsterdam. This was my first reading ever. Joining me on stage was a young, good-looking poet, maybe as intimidated as I was: Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. We met many more times over the years, and I developed an affinity for her that defies space and time.

Every collection of poems by Berssenbrugge is a literary step forward. Hello, the Roses (New Directions), however, performs a quantum leap. The book is exhilarating. Berssenbrugge’s attentiveness to the flow of reality has heightened, and she retains her instinctive ability to create a parallel order of language. 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. “I project my being her mother onto a man,” she writes, “and the image slides off as graphite complementarity of a molecular bond.”

Berssenbrugge inhabits poetry like a whale resides in the ocean. Or, rather, like a woman resides in a garden, a garden where she speaks to physicists and passersby and particularly, particularly to the roses that feel so comfortable in her eyes, and in her hands.

Etel Adnan is a poet based in Paris.