poem index

Two Lines

Written by

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
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Year

2014
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A line of poetry on a page exists in space, but I think of it as a kind of timing, a measured flow of poetic energy, a dynamic. My sense of a line is given, as my way of walking or my voice is given and bodily. I walk a path from here to the edge of the woods, I read or speak a line, taking time. My line that required the page to go into landscape orientation was written in the wide landscape of New Mexico (subtle colorations of open, parallel ridges receding into distances, sun moving across during a day). As a person looking at the horizon, my sight line is perpendicular to the horizontal line of mountains. This compares to a person looking at a line of writing on a page, and the line length, the horizontal, is generated by your body's sense of extension, or periphery. To register many small colorations or distinctions, I needed a long pliant thread. I was also transforming some philosophical ideas into the lyric, and I needed room. I maintained the line's tension with internal rhymes and internal caesurae.

During a collaboration with artist Kiki Smith, while cutting up a poem to lay out on the page, I came upon a new lineation. Today, I use a line that varies in length, because each sentence is a line. Line length is determined by the length of the sentence, and I allow the line to break at the page margin and wrap around until the sentence comes to an end. Then I double space before the next "line." There is a dynamic tension between the extending sentence and the mini-breaks at the page margins, which adds geology to my landscape, and can also be architectural. Most recently, this lineation has given me enough structure to allow the poem to become very soft and still be contained.Reprinted from A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line, edited by Emily Rosko and Anton Vander Zee, by permission of the University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2011 by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge.

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The poetic line is one of the most emphasized elements of form, the st...