cover image The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998

The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998

Arthur Sze, Author Copper Canyon Press $17 (267p) ISBN 978-1-55659-088-7

Spare and declarative, Sze's poems make an indirect case for the connectedness of ideas and objects, of cultural past and personal present. In ""Viewing Photographs of China"" the poet accurately characterizes his modus operandi: ""And instead of insisting that/ the world have an essence, we/ juxtapose, as in a collage,/ facts, ideas, images."" Sze is at his strongest in this new and selected collection when working imagistically, offering brief, lucid descriptions of striking tableaus that display their intellectual roots almost coyly: ""As a stone drops into a pool and red koi// swim toward the point of impact, we set/ a yarrow stalk aside and throw `Duration,'// glimpse a spiral of bats ascend out of a cave;/ one by one they flare off into indigo air."" His deeply considered visions of the nature-culture bind draw on the complexities of Chinese-American affiliation, and seemingly on Sze's experiences teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He handles culturally talismanic material with careful, absorbing disinterest: ""here skid marks on I-25 mark a head-on collision;/ a man writes in grass style: huan wo he shan;/ a dog drags a horse's leg back from the arroyo."" As in his wonderful translations of classical Chinese poetry, the sureness of Sze's language and the clarity of his eye present a compelling picture of a world whose wholeness must be taken on faith. (May) FYI: Sze was recently awarded $105,000 by the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Foundation to promote and teach poetry in the Southwest.