“One of the things I’ve learned from classical Chinese poetry is juxtaposition. Almost like magnetism, you can place certain lines or images against each other and create a kind of tension or heat or light.”
In architecture, a “sight line” refers to a direct path extending from an observer’s eye to a viewed object – and careful configuration of these lines ensures clear perspective and optimal engagement. What Arthur Sze has drawn up in his lauded 10th book of poetry is a kaleidoscopic network of sight lines that illuminate the beauty, terror, grace and complexity of modern life and edify the experience through our growing awareness of the intersections. Winner of The National Book Award in Poetry, “Sight Lines” jumps with energy and urgency – and makes a wonderful introduction to one of our most distinctive and important writers.
With exquisite craft, he takes us where wildfires rage and propane tanks explode while serving cold beer in the middle. A deer eats grass in an orchard, a soldier defuses a land mine, and ice breaks up in Alaska. We experience these lines not just intellectually, but viscerally, or as Arthur calls it, “reading with one’s nerves.” Moments of disruption - like little shockwaves – wake us into closer observation and connection. His poems invite repeated reading and stay with you.
Raised in Manhattan to Chinese immigrants, Arthur began his writer’s journey after ditching a science track at MIT to attend UC Berkeley. There he studied poetry and started translating classical Chinese poetry, which ignited his passion for structure and imagistic detail. Over a 50-year career, he has published 11 books of poetry garnering him the National Book Award, Asian-American Literary Award, Balcones Poetry Prize, American Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA Fellowships and recognition as a Pulitzer Prize finalist – among many other honors. His poems have been translated into 14 languages and have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Conjunctions, The Paris Review, The New Yorker. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Arthur is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and was the first poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives.
Listen to Arthur Sze's "First Snow"
Listen to Arthur Sze's "Winter Stars"