A Quiet Evening At Poets Out Loud


Published: October 25, 2007

On Oct. 9, the Fordham English department’s Poets Out Loud series continued with an evening reading in the 12th floor lounge. Co-sponsored by the Asian-American Literature Series, the event featured readings by poets Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Tan Lin and John Yau. Fordham English Professors Elisabeth Frost and James Kim hosted the event.

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge started off the evening with her poem “Nest” from her 2003 poetry collection of the same name.

The poem began with a meditation on the poet’s Chinese heritage while also incorporating personal themes of family and motherhood, ending with the powerful line “You see more than I did at your age because you see me.”

Born in Beijing but raised in Massachusetts, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge is the author of several volumes of poetry, including “Empathy” (Station Hill 1989), “Four Year Old Girl” (Kelsey Street 1998), and her most recent collection, “Concordance” (Kelsey Street 2006).  Berssenbrugge’s poetry is often stark, nearly dreamlike in its oscillation between abstract wordplay and concrete imagery.  She has collaborated with several visual artists over the course of her career, producing works that fuse images and text in creative ways.

Tan Lin read excerpts from his forthcoming “sample novel”—a collection of short prose pieces inspired by newspaper articles and random anecdotes.  His work tends to be more experimental, with a tendency to stray into the idiosyncratic and seemingly banal; co-host James Kim described him in his introduction as “brilliantly superficial.”  Tan Lin’s work meanders through the convoluted fabric of modern life, employing a comic voice that sympathizes as much as it mocks.

John Yau read an assortment of his poetry, with his piece “Ing Rish” stealing the spotlight.  The poem functioned as a sort of list, describing the poet’s encounters with racism and ignorance about his heritage with a scathing, bitter tone matched by the poet’s gravelly delivery.  “Ing Rish” uses humor to attack the stupidity of stereotyping, while also offering a glimpse at the poet’s own background through succinct images of his family’s journey to America.

Next month’s edition of Poets Out Loud will feature Bruce Andrews and Tracie Morris on Nov. 29 in the 12th floor lounge.