[P] Sight Lines, Arthur Sze

[P] Sight Lines, Arthur Sze

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The National Book Award-winning collection Sight Lines is at once personal and global—even cosmic. The book draws on poet Arthur Sze’s lifelong concerns: the environment, contemporary physics and the world’s acausal connections, lyric beauty, sudden violence, intimate relationships, the pleasures of food, American and Chinese histories and cultures, healing communities, the New Mexico landscape. There are short lyrics and long sequences with numerous approaches to the stanza and line, prose poems, and poems that employ strike-throughs. In the hands of a lesser poet, such multi-facetedness might create mere chaos; in Sze’s hands, crystalline line-by-line clarity and a pitch-pure speaking voice create inexplicable continuity. At key points in the book, single lines are floated on a page, literary enactments of the world’s fragmenting intrusions into what might otherwise seem to be unity; these lines are revealed, late in the book, to have come from the title poem. In Sight Lines, many levels converge simultaneously, sometimes suggesting apparent order intruded upon by randomness, sometimes apparent randomness held together by synchronicity. Ambitious work of the highest order, it makes us reconsider what poetry can be—and what the world is.