A National Book Award finalist, this collection extends Berssenbrugge's intensely phenomenological poetics to the fiery bodies beyond Earth. Long, lyrical lines map a geography of interconnected, interdimensional intelligence that exists in all places and sentient beings in poems of deep listening and patient waiting, open to the cosmic loom.
... to read a Berssenbrugge poem is to experience the juxtaposition between the certainty of a voice (not always certainly hers) and the spiraling, unfolding quality it takes on as it persists ... we feel the power of intention ... The sentences...hold one’s attention as much by clarity as by confusion. Which is not to say the reader should expect a scientifically conventional argument about stars—these poems are as difficult to summarize as Berssenbrugge’s previous work. In A Treatise on Stars, though, that difficulty comes from a delicacy of repetition and variation—we stay much longer with a single idea, and slowly the world expands around it: our experience of stars, and then gradually how their relationship to space, time, and feeling changes us ... there is surprise at work. An electricity builds between the sentences—how we move forward and back; what we expect will come next and what actually follows—adding to the extraordinary sense of anticipation that Berssenbrugge manipulates across the collection ... There is also a spirituality here ... The crackling charge of Berssenbrugge’s language holds us.
... there is something hopeful about the vast compassion of Berssenbrugge’s poetry and the living connections she gently illuminates between all things ... The burden of proof is never placed on the storyteller, and the rejection of 'evidence' and quantifiable 'primary data' mark a step away from Western theories of epistemology as accessible only through proof and reasoning, toward a broader sense of understanding ... The speaker’s voice flows seamlessly, inhabiting the consciousness of the fawn and griever without dissonance ... The subtleties of Berssenbrugge’s grammatical shifts heighten the attention that she accords to the complex relations between words, sentences, things ... With care and compassion, Berssenbrugge reimagines what a 'treatise'—as a formal, systematic display of knowledge—might look like. In this time of enforced distancing, A Treatise on Stars speaks to the vital interconnectedness of all things, and points to active links with the nonhuman. It offers a meditative mode of attention without reproach.
These intriguing, beautiful, yet sometimes frustrating poems take shape as explanations that fail, again and again, to explain anything ... Lovers of the constellations and abstraction, however, will find themselves at home in the lyrical language.