Sight Lines

Copper Canyon. Apr. 2019. 80p. ISBN 9781556595592. pap. POETRY
The wonders and realities of the world as seen through travel, nature walks, and daily routine bring life to the poems in Pulitzer Prize finalist Sze's tenth collection (after Compass Rose), even if he also communicates facts about our polluted, damaged world. Sze creates tensile energy by balancing the cerebral with the physical ("you write tingle / and tingle as sleet turns to rain"), and almost every poem incorporates unique details not united by theme or likeness. In the seventh section of "Water Calligraphy," for instance, the poet jumps from the letter A as "an inverted cow's head," to the Perseid meteor shower to a neighbor bringing gifts of cucumbers and basil. But as Sze records elsewhere, "an invisible globe—thud, shattering glass, moan,/ horn blast—so many// worlds to this world." The poems often require rereading, as speaker and location can change abruptly, and it's challenging when Sze seizes upon the negative, what is not happening now: "No sharp-shinned hawk perches/ on the roof rack of his car and scans/ for songbirds." In addition, the sheer number and variety of images can almost overwhelm. But in the end, there is "starlight behind daylight wherever you gaze," and each poem provides a sensual, intellectual take on the world.
VERDICT Provocative work; a solid addition to academic and popular collections.
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