A Bit More About Arthur Sze

Posted by on March 23rd, 2012
          When Arthur Sze was named a Chancellor of the Academy of AmericanPoets last month, Academy Chancellor Naomi Shihab Nye called his poetry “a nourishing tonic for the Arthur Szemind.”  The word tonic, with its connotations of both musical tonality and promotion of muscular health, is a particularly apt one for Arthur Sze’s work.  His sense of form is as strong and flexible as a muscle, producing what Nye called “a poetry of deep attunement and lyrical precision.”  As he writes in his poem   “The Redshifting Web,” 
I sit and am an absorbing form:
I absorb the outline of a snowy owl on a branch,
the rigor mortis in a hand.  I absorb the crunching sounds
when you walk across a glacial lake with aquamarine
ice heaved up here and there twenty feet high.
          Nye is not the only one to notice Sze’s well-tuned and well-toned precision.  Booklist notes that “Whether incorporating nature, philosophy, history, or science, Sze’s poems are expansive. They unfold like the time-slowed cinematic recording of a flower’s blooming.” This intense  observation, this close focus pulls us in and in, and, in an instant, out the other side, stepping through a gap  into visualization and comprehension – as in this line from his poem,”Spectral Line   3″: “The stillness of heart-shaped leaves breaks/ when a grasshopper leaps. ”  It is when the grasshopper leaps, that we see the stillness that had once been there. And there, the moment is captured, as surely as any fast-shuttered photograph.
        Arthur Sze is the first poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he is a 
professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts. His many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, an American Book Award, a Lannan Literary Award and the Western States Book Award for Translation. He is the author of eight books of poetry, including “Archipelago,” ” River River, ” “Quipu,” and “The Ginkgo Light.” A popular instructor, this is the fourth time he has taught at the Napa Conference. 
His workshop students speak of his critical acumen, his gentleness and
 his generosity.

Links:

A biography: Poetry Foundation 

Interview “Poets Near and Far”

Poems and Audio Readings at Narrative 

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