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Recorded at the Chancellors Reading, Poets Forum, New York City, 2014

About this poet

Born in New York City in 1950, Arthur Sze is a second-generation Chinese American. Educated at the University of California, Berkeley, Sze is the author of nine books of poetry, including Compass Rose (Copper Canyon Press, 2014);The Ginkgo Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2009); Quipu (Copper Canyon Press, 2005); The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1998); and Archipelago (Copper Canyon Press, 1995). His other collections include River River (Lost Roads Publishers, 1987); Dazzled (Floating Island Publications, 1982); Two Ravens (Tooth of Time Books, 1976; revised, 1984); and The Willow Wind (Tooth of Time Books, 1972; revised, 1981).

He is also a celebrated translator from the Chinese, and released The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (Copper Canyon Press) in 2001.

About his work, Jackson Mac Low has said, "The word 'compassion' is much overused—'clarity' less so—but Arthur Sze is truly a poet of clarity and compassion."

Speaking about Sze's contributions to the art of poetry Naomi Shihab Nye has said, "Arthur Sze's work has long been a nourishing tonic for the mind—presences of the natural world, wide consciousness, and time, combine in exquisitely shaped and weighted lines and stanzas to create a poetry of deep attunement and lyrical precision. Sze's ongoing generous exchange with Asian poets and devotion to translation in collections such as The Silk Dragon, enriches the canon of world poetry immeasurably."

His honors include an American Book Award, a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award, a Western States Book Award for Translation, three grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and fellowships from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2013, he was awarded the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers magazine.

He has served as Visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University, a Doenges Visiting Artist at Mary Baldwin College and has conducted residencies at Brown University, Bard College, and Naropa University. Sze was elected to the American Academy of Arts And Sciences in 2017 and served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017. He 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.


Selected Bibliography

Compass Rose (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
The Ginkgo Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2009)
Quipu (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)
The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1998)
Archipelago (Copper Canyon Press, 1995)
River River (Lost Roads Publishers, 1987)
Dazzled (Floating Island Publications, 1982)
Two Ravens (Tooth of Time Books, 1976; revised, 1984)
The Willow Wind (Tooth of Time Books, 1972; revised, 1981)

Strike-Slip

Faucets drip, and the night plunges to minus
     fifteen degrees. Today you stared at a map
of Africa on a school wall and shook your head
     at “Yugoslavia” written along the Adriatic
coast near the top—how many times
     are lines drawn and redrawn, and to what end?

This ebony bead yours, that amber one
     another's. A coelacanth swims in the depths
off Mozambique and eludes a net; a crystal
     layer forms behind your retinas. Today
you saw the long plastic sheet in the furrow
     blown, like a shroud, around elm branches.

A V-shaped aquatic grass cutter leans
     against the porch, and you ponder how things
get to where they are. A young writer
     from Milwaukee who yearned to travel calls—
he’s hiked the Himalayas and frets
     at what to do: in Nepal, during civil strife,

he and an Israeli backpacker smoked
     and yakked all night in the emptied hotel;
now that the snow is dissolving off Everest,
     bodies of climbers and trash are exposed.
A glowing eel in the darkness—anguish.
     He clacks the beads, how to live, where to go.

Copyright © by Arthur Sze. Used with the permission of the author.

Copyright © by Arthur Sze. Used with the permission of the author.

Arthur Sze

Arthur Sze

Born in New York City in 1950, Arthur Sze is the author of nine books of poetry, including Compass Rose (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.

by this poet

poem
The path was purple in the dusk.
I saw an owl, perched,
on a branch.
 
And when the owl stirred, a fine dust
fell from its wings. I was
silent then. And felt
 
the owl quaver. And at dawn, waking,
the path was green in the
poem
The tide ebbs and reveals orange and purple sea stars. 
I have no theory of radiance, 

                but after rain evaporates 
off pine needles, the needles glisten. 

In the courtyard, we spot the rising shell of a moon,
and, at the equinox, bathe in its gleam. 

Using all the tides of starlight
poem
A spring snow coincides with plum blossoms.
In a month, you will forget, then remember
when nine ravens perched in the elm sway in wind.

I will remember when I brake to a stop,
and a hubcap rolls through the intersection.
An angry man grinds pepper onto his salad;

it is how you nail a tin amulet ear
into the