cover image Archipelago


Arthur Sze, Author Copper Canyon Press $12 (86p) ISBN 978-1-55659-100-6

Like the water between islands, Sze's poems inhabit the space between declaration and question (one of his strategies is to end a declarative sentence with a question mark), as if claiming the territory in between the observer's consciousness and another reality. In this remarkable, demanding collection, Sze's fifth, the poet's acts of awareness connect the seeming randomness of thoughts. Sze explicates those links, as on the back of a mirror ``three dragons swirl in mist and April air./ After sixteen years that first kiss/ still has a flaring tail.'' The laws and forms of reality are imbued with feeling: ``We think, had I this then that would/ but subjunctive form is surge and ache./ Yellow tips of chamis are flaring open./ I drop a jar of mustard, and it shatters in a wave.'' Like Emily Dickinson, Sze precisely seizes the natural world: ``The mycelium of a honey mushroom/ glows in the dark. What does a yellow/ Man On Horseback know of winter and spring?'' Exploring his Chinese American background, Sze transmutes the familiar to reveal the unexpected, and mines the unfamiliar to explicate the known. (July)