The Heat Bird

The Heat Bird

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Author: Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge 

Publisher: Burning Deck Books (1986)

"The Heat Bird is Berssenbrugge’s third book, a long poem divided into a series of single stanzas. Like Wallace Stevens’s 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,' The Heat Bird is an experiment in seriality and perspective. The poem opens with the speaker tracking a big bird: 'I walk into the meadow to find what I’ve already called / an eagle to myself'; following the disappearing bird, she stumbles unexpectedly on the decomposing carcass of a cow . . . 

Such opposing energies provide the series with alternating diminuendos and crescendos of emotion, building the tension that propels the long poem and begs for resolution. Berssenbrugge resists this resolution, ending suddenly with the ambiguous sentence, 'If a bright clearing will form suddenly, we will / already know of it.' Berssenbrugge’s heat bird is like Kandinsky’s series of horse-and-rider paintings before he fully embraced non-objectivity: a dubious figure gradually loses definition, something traceable by symbol eventually breaking free of reference."

–Susan Barba

Winner of the 1984 American Book Award