Arthur Sze was born in New York in 1950. He studied at the University of California in Berkeley. His first six collections of poetry have been published as one volume: The Redshifting Web, poems 1970-1998. He has also published a collection of translations of classical Chinese poems under the title The silk dragon (2001). His most recent collection is Quipu, which appeared in 2005. Arthur Sze lives in Pojoaque, New Mexico. He teaches creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. His work has appeared in numerous periodicals and has been translated into Italian, Turkish and Chinese.
Earlier translations into Dutch appeared in the periodical Raster nr.111/112 (2006).
Sze’s work is characterised by its unusual combination of images and ideas, and by the surprising way in which he makes connections between diverse aspects of the world. In his poetry he combines images from urban life and nature, ideas from modern astronomy and Chinese philosophy as well as anecdotes from rural and industrial America. In this way, he creates texts that capture and reflect the complexity of reality.
In his early poems from the 1970s and 1980s, there was sometimes an anecdotal aspect; in clear images a central idea was often elaborated on. In his later work, the emphasis is more on the interweaving of various series of images and narrative lines, the bringing together of ‘the brittle moments of our lives’ to form a kind of mosaic. Since the early 1990s, culminating in the collection Archipelago (1995), a picture of our world has been constructed in a complex way out of long series of poems. Arthur Sze is not afraid of combining images from nature with lines that refer to modern physics or astronomy. And in a fluid way he assembles elements from completely different culture to make a while – elements, for example, from the ancient Maya culture and classical Chinese culture are combined with such modern inventions as the telescope or the beryllium gyroscope.
In doing so, it would seem that Arthur Sze is mostly fascinated by the simultaneity with which various events can take place: someone who falls down dead & someone who laughs; a walk through a nature park occurs at the same time as a suicide somewhere else. Sze seems to find that curious and bewildering.
The redshifting web: poems 1970-1998 (1998)
The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (2001)
[ Arthur Sze will take part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2007.
This text was written on that occasion.]