The Operating System

4th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 10 :: Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey on Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

Mei-mei

Then experience is revelation, because plants and people have in their cells particles of light that can become coherent, that radiate out physically and also with the creativity of metaphor, as in a beam of light holographically, i.e. by intuition, in which I inhale the perfume of the Bourbon rose, then try to separate what is scent, sense, and what you call memory, what is emotion, where in a dialogue like touching is it so vibratory and so absorbent of my attention and longing, with impressions like fingerprints all over.” 

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Hello, the Roses (New Directions, 2013)

I first met Mei-mei Berssenbrugge at AWP Seattle. She was standing at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics’ exhibition table, and Bhanu Kapil introduced us:

Mei-mei said, “hi.”

And I said, “I’m socially awkward and I don’t know how to talk to people.”

Luckily, she was gracious, even though I felt like a complete moron. For the entire year prior I had been working on writing the roots of a Balete tree and, at the same time, was deeply engaged with her book, Hello, the Roses, where she articulates the intersections of growth and identity and plant medicine. And thus, this kind of engagement with her work requires a different kind of language. Perhaps this is why I didn’t know how to talk to her. How do you discuss a body of work that functions beyond language through telepathy? In an interview in BOMB Magazine, Michèle Gerber Kline writes that Mei-mei’s work “does not really exist in the realm of conversation and is itself the best, truest articulation of her intent.”

I love how her work collaborates and overlaps with visual art, nature and language. She observes them and integrates herself. She mixes domains, thinking through and about experience through vibrational energy, spirituality, and quantum physics. Mei-mei’s boundaries are fluid: “where I live, magic and the supernatural are part of the daily fabric.” Her notions of time are fluid. Karma, she says, is a resonance of a theme. Resonance, which is sound vibrating, deflected by an object.

She is interested in memory “because of its changeability. (…) If something is traumatic you can change your response to the situation in your mind. You just relate to it in a different way. Then your body can experience it differently.”

Through her writing, Mei-mei embodies the role of medium. As she says, she is “constructing portals between reality and personal experience” through presence and breath and touch. Further, that the form – whether it’s with plants or with writing – is not the same as the essence or spirit. Spirit is what animates the form. Form is what allows us to experience it. Though certainly not fragile, it is delicate. The intimacy of these, which is to say, the way she figures out how, as possibly interdimensional or immigrant beings, we can find a language we can live in. By touching it. Through the language of plants and light: “Intimacy can be a bridge”. And through this, because time is parallel and memory is present, we can touch ancestors and ancestral knowledge, as in Nest:

In this, daughter, you see more than I did at your age, because you see me.”

I absolutely love how Mei-mei’s work resonates; it changed the way I approach the world and writing.

2. Destruction – Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey
There are two kinds of secrets:

1) The insignificant things, gossip that spreads like wildfire. “Gossip is the glue of society,” says Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

2) Those we cling to like breath, to save ourselves from dying, that make us feel wretched and lonely. This is the genuine heart of sadness. These are the secrets we don’t dare utter.

There comes a point when the text becomes stagnant and needs to break open. How to let go of the secrets we cling to? How to write them out of your body? I took a document – the affidavit of waiver – the only thing I have with my birth mother’s thumbprint and handwriting on it – that signs me over to child welfare.

I want to burn the Deed of Voluntary Surrender. To obscure the signature: the thumbmark. Relegate it to ashes. Bury the ashes in the greenhouse. Next to the lemon tree. Lemons remove toxins from the blood. They purify the body.

I use a votive candle from the shrine. My heart contracts and my body clenches. It takes awhile to catch, but then the flames quickly burn through the paper. The imprint of my mother’s dirt and flesh peels away.

– from Three Experiments Towards Existence, with excerpts from Marilyn (forthcoming from The Operating System, 2015)

Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey was born in the Philippines and raised mostly in Wisconsin. Her work appears in TAYO, Construction Magazine, Galatea Resurrects and The Volta. In 2014, she graduated with an MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University, and currently works for Woodland Pattern. Ngoho is also a Reiki practitioner, a visual artist and an accomplished cellist interested in plant spirit communication and healing. You can find her at spaceinsideborderline.com.

We’re especially excited to have this tease of Amanda’s intuition, lyricism and intellect here in her piece on Berssenbrugge, with this small excerpt from her recently piece on The Volta, as a preview for a more in depth look at her upcoming debut volume with us later this year, Marilyn. It’s a beautiful volume, and above are beautiful words from two exceptional women thinkers and poets, and we’re just …feeling all the feels.

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