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The “Winter Whites” section of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s “Hello, the Roses” contains some of the volume’s most explicit references to an overarching cosmology that, in many respects, resembles Karen Barad’s model of “posthumanist performativity.” Phenomena seem to be the “relational atoms” that allow Berssenbrugge’s speaker to understand the boundaries of her materiality: “More and more an experience becomes a contingent particle” (28). However, these are highly mutable and vulnerable boundaries for the speaker, given that they are “contingent” upon the specific phenomena they come into contact with, both within and outside of her mind: “An event can weave through these manifestations, dissipating itself along with my own borders” (30).

What I think Berssenbrugge’s poems might offer us is a better understanding of how Barad’s model interprets the phenomena that constitute human consciousness. Barad leaves open the question of reconciling the materiality of “matter” with the immaterial qualia of perception; Berssenbrugge’s focus on the “experience” rather than the “phenomenon” suggests to me a figuration that accounts for the unobservable status of our own perceptions. Space, Berssenbrugge posits, is “a psychological property.” In thinking through the “experiences” that shape discursive practices, perhaps we can approach a posthumanist performative understanding of not only matter but “immaterial” consciousness itself.

In taking up “experience,” I also wonder what we can do with Berssenbrugge’s portrayal of memory and the effects of time on our perceptions. When the speaker affirms, “An experience is not one experience,” she underscores that her awareness of herself as a subject is contingent not simply upon external phenomena but the experiences which have accumulated to form her perceptions in the present moment. Can “intra-agential cuts” then occur within one’s own consciousness via memory? Moreover, does Berssenbrugge frame memory as a capacity inherent in all matter, a capacity most visible at the microscopic level of “an electron’s path” (30)? Perhaps then we should consider the passage of time to be among the phenomena that underlie discursive practices. ~Graham

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