The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems

Copper Canyon. Apr. 2021. 560p. ISBN 9781556596216. $35. POETRY
It is not easy to come to terms with a collection on this scale—it encompasses ten collections, plus new uncollected poems, and clocks in at over 500 pages—but if any living American poet merits the attention proper to a career retrospective, it is National Book Award–winning Sze (Institute of American Indian Arts, emeritus). A second-generation Chinese American, Sze has devoted particular attention to the aesthetics of Asian poetry, which he has fruitfully translated, and while his diction is comfortably contemporary, he has learned much from the dispassionate culture of the East: he sees in the now, and emotionalism does not interfere with his surprising conjunctions of vision and insight. Sze’s approach has moved somewhat from lyric toward narrative, but the voice, and the quality, are consistent. There is much to treasure here, from the epigrammatic works of the 1970s (“Two ravens, lovers, discussed my death / as I watched”) to the more discursive works of the past ten years.
VERDICT A monumental collection from a poet whose lasting importance should now be recognized; essential for dedicated readers of contemporary American poetry.
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