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Sight Lines

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  114 ratings  ·  20 reviews
In his National Book Award-winning tenth collection Sight Lines, Arthur Sze lends the reader his prismatic lens, rendering contemporary reality in stunning complexity. Moments of grace, eros, and beauty are braided with shudders of terror and threats of ecological destruction, as Sze moves nimbly through intersections of the disparate and divergent. Using formal ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Copper Canyon Press
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I found the poems in this collection difficult to connect with. While it seems that Sze was writing about transformation and impermanence, I often felt that the lines of the poems were somewhat random and didn’t give a clear impression of the the author’s meaning. Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for poetry.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20x25-iii, dine
"What line of sight leads to revelation?" From this deceptively innocent question, Arthur Sze's Sight Lines poems begin in the presentational, and find in the woman meditatively listening to sycamore leaves an equivalence for the wind in the leaves.

In an extraordinary poem that seems to canvas the resemblances to being on site in among the Diné's most sacred places, the Canyon de Chelly: "a man who flies by helicopter and lands | on an iceberg will always bear the crunching | sounds under his
Aug 14, 2019 added it
Shelves: poetry
"So many transfigurations I will never fathom.
The arc of our lives is a brightening then dimming,
brightening then dimming—a woman catches
fireflies in an orchard with the swish of a net."
Liz Mc2
Jan 15, 2020 added it
Shelves: poetry
I really loved these poems. The "prismatic lens" of the blurb is an apt description, as they are mostly composed of a series of kaleidoscopic images, leaping from one to the next in stream-of-consciousness associations that leave the reader to ponder their connections. The opening poem describes Chinese water calligraphy, done with a giant swab on pavement, something beautiful, meaningful, and transient, and that is a theme of these poems.

You can read the title poem here:
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
I guess I just didn’t get these poems. They won the National Book Award, so I assume it’s me that’s missing something but I felt like the lines didn’t connect for me in a way that delivered a message. Each line might be interesting or beautiful but I couldn’t see how they came together. At one point there was a poem that was partially made of the last lines of other proms. The focus seemed to be on nature, nuclear power and a woman.
Mike Good
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Makes a compelling case to have cemented himself as our best image-forward poet. Each poem is filled with delightful and surprising graphic cuts and matches.
Sheila Bracken
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Poetry always puts me in a pensive mood, and this collection required me to do more thinking than is typical—what is he talking about? Sze’s style is significantly different from most of the other poets I read. What I gathered is that we exist within overlapping worlds that are connected through time and space. We can be standing in the kitchen making dinner while hearing about a tragedy in the news that causes us to react, to feel, and all of nature continues its cycle right outside the door ...more
Patti K
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A 2019 poetry collection by Chinese-American poet Sze is
another gem-like work. He keenly observes various events
and situations so he can coalesce them into a interconnectedness.
The poems are peaceful and gratifying as we watch him bring
into a whole the disparate objects of our landscapes.The ending to
"Unpacking a Globe": ...a coyote..didn't break stride; that's how
I want to live my life on this planet:
alive to a rabbit at a glass door--
and flower where there is no flower."

Many poems in this collection focus on New Mexico, where Sze currently lives. He does a magnificent job with the desert, the seasons, fire, water. Other poems reflect his Chinese heritage, and others have to do with travel. Relationships, the passage of time, cooking, cars, and daily life exist within the same poems.

Peonies, mushrooms, and spotted towhees show up in multiple poems.

This is the last of the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry finalists for me, and this is the winner. It wasn't my
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ecological Grief

My reading of this collection was shaped by a podcast I heard earlier in the day on ecological grief. These poems brim withba. Sense of urgency at the volatile juxtaposition of natural beauty and man made threats that define our now unstable planet. I was struck by the sense that the poems created a uniform whole, with lichen, plutonium and Cultural Revolution sharing the same mournful precatory voice
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An award winning collection of poems that make it easy to understand why it is acclaimed. Two things stand out to me. First, the visual images that Mr. Sze paints make what most people think as commonplace be seen with great significance and beauty. Secondly, many single sentences are very thought provoking and beautiful This makes multiple readings of the book rewarding and you learn new things each time. Great collection.
Claudia Skelton
Dec 23, 2019 rated it liked it
The poetry book winner of the 2019 National Book Award. The book moves through space and time, in our interconnected world. Unfortunately it was difficult for me to understand all his text and the author's meaning, I believe the quality is high, so I hope to read the book again with a better understanding. My current rating is 3.
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Probably a 3.5. Sze's work has sentence-long flourishes of meaning that coalesce into other disparate ideas, often broken up with dashes or semi-colons. Once I got on the wavelength, Sze's incredible control of language became potent.
Shawn  Aebi
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Masterful contemporary poetry. I can see the brilliance in the primary observations but struggle connecting the dots and finding the meaning of a piece. Enjoyable to read, somewhat of a puzzle to crack. It's clear Sze sees more than most and has the ability to explain the now, the before, the next.
Keith Taylor
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Between the time I wrote this little review for my local book column and the time it appeared, Sze's book won the National Book Award! A worthy winner!
Chris Leidig
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and thought-provoking imagery, but I did lose patience with the constant use of bird imagery.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Disorienting. Parts made my heart sing but most parts left me feeling 'huh'.
Mills College Library
811.54 S9971s 2019
Luke Gorham
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, poetry
3 1/2. Probably maximizing my potential enjoyment for this particular style of poetry, but largely feels far too opaque in its thematic connective tissue.
2020 PS Reading challenge a book that won an award in 2019 - National Book Award Poetry
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Arthur Sze (b. 1950 New York City) is a second-generation Chinese American poet.

Sze was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of eight books of poetry. His own poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, Manoa, The Paris Review, Field, The New Yorker, and Virginia Quarterly Review, and have been translated into
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