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Sunday, December 29, 2019
SUNDAY REVIEW / POETRY EXCERPT 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER
The winners of the
National Book awards for 2019 were announced on November 20 at a ceremony in New
York City at Cipriani Wall Street restaurant.Today’s post offers an excerpt from winning poetry Sight Lines by Arthur Sze.
the current phenomenon of drawing calligraphy with water in public parks in
China to Thomas Jefferson laying out dinosaur bones on the White House floor,
the last sighting of the axolotl to a man who stops building plutonium
triggers, Sight Lines moves through space and time and brings the disparate and
divergent into stunning and meaningful focus. In this new work, Arthur Sze
employs a wide range of voices―from lichen on a ceiling to a man behind on his rent―and his mythic
imagination continually evokes how humans are endangering the planet; yet,
balancing rigor with passion, he seizes the significant and luminous and
transforms these moments into riveting and enduring poetry.
Sight Lines is Sze's 10th collection are just that―imagistic lines strung
together by jump-cuts, creating a filmic collage that itself seems to be a
portrait of simultaneity..." ―The New
new poems are stronger yet and by confronting time head-on, may best stand its
tests." ―Lit Hub
is poetry of assemblage, where violence and beauty combine and hang on Sze's
particular gift for the leaping non sequitur. ‘Green tips of tulips are rising
out of the earth— / you don't flense a whale or fire at beer cans / in an
arroyo but catch the budding / tips of pear branches and wonder,’ Sze
writes. Inside these poems of billowing consciousness, we too are alive to a
spectrum of wonders.--The New York Times Book Review - Tess Taylor
wonders and realities of the world as seen through travel, nature walks, and
daily routine bring life to the poems in Sight Lines." ―Library Journal
Sze writes with a quiet mastery which generates beautiful, sensuous, inventive,
and emotionally rich poems. Sight Lines unfurls like ink in water, circulating
through meditations on the natural world; the pleasure and associational depth
of eating food; and the profound constitutions of self through memory, human
relationships, and experience of the actual world. A keen awareness arises of
structural, environmental, and social threats in the midst of this expansive
Tigris River, left.
browse at sunrise in an apple orchard,
honey locust leaves litter the walk.
neighbor hears gunshots in the bosque
wonders who's firing at close range;
spot bear prints near the Pojoaque River
see no sign of the reported mountain lion.
chlorophyll slips into the roots of a cottonwood
the leaves burst into yellow gold, I wonder,
our mortal flare? You can travel
where the Tigris and Euphrates flow together
admire the inventions of people living
floating islands of reeds; you can travel
an archipelago and hike among volcanic
steaming with water and sulfuric acid;
you can't change the eventual, adamant body.
death might not come like a curare-
dart blown out of a tube or slam
you like surf breaking over black lava rock,
will come—it will come—and it unites us—
sister, boxer, spinner—in this pact,
you inscribe a letter with trembling hand.
light illuminating white steps, light
a garage door, darkness inside windows—
the darkness exposes the tenuous.
glass blower shapes a rearing horse
shifts, on a stand, from glowing orange
glistening crystal; suddenly the horse
into legs, head, body, mane.
midnight, “Fucking idiot!” a woman yells,
the house; along a hedge,
man sleeps, coat over head, legs sticking out;
at 8 am, morning glories open
a fence; a backhoe heads up the street.
this window, he views banana leaves,
orange tree with five oranges, house
shingled roofs, and steps leading
an upstairs apartment; farther off, palm trees,
beyond, a sloping street, ocean, sky;
what line of sight leads to revelation?
tips of tulips are rising out of the earth—
don’t flense a whale or fire at beer cans
an arroyo but catch the budding
of pear branches and wonder what
like to live along a purling edge of spring.
once tried to assemble a mastodon
on the White House floor but,
pieces missing, failed to sequence the bones;
the last speaker of a language dies,
hue vanishes from the spectrum of visible light.