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Quipuby Arthur Sze
Synopses & Reviews
“Sze brings together disparate realms of experience—-astronomy, botany, anthropology, Taoism—and observes their correspondences with an exuberant attentiveness.”—The New Yorker
“Sze’s poems seem dazzled and haunted by patterns.”—The Washington Post
Quipu was a tactile recording device for the pre-literate Inca, an assemblage of colored knots on cords. In his eighth collection of poetry, Arthur Sze utilizes quipu as a unifying metaphor, knotting and stringing luminous poems that move across cultures and time, from elegy to ode, to create a precarious splendor.
Revelation never comes as a fern uncoiling
a frond in mist; it comes when I trip on a root,
slap a mosquito on my arm. We go on, but stop
when gnats lift into a cloud as we stumble into
a bunch of rose apples rotting on the ground.
Long admired for his poetic fusions of science, history, and anthropology, in Quipu, Sze’s lines and language are taut and mesmerizing, nouns can become verbs—“where is passion that orchids the body?”—and what appears solid and -stable may actually be fluid and volatile.
A point of exhaustion can become a point of renewal:
it might happen as you observe a magpie on a branch,
or when you tug at a knot and discover that a grief
disentangles, dissolves into air. Renewal is not
possible to a calligrapher who simultaneously
draws characters with a brush in each hand;
it occurs when the tip of a brush slips yet swerves
into flame . . .
Arthur Sze is the author of eight books of poetry and a volume of translations. He is the recipient of an Asian American Literary Award, a Lannan Literary Award, and fellowships from the Witter Bynner Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts and lives in New Mexico.
"Quipu are knotted cords used for record-keeping in Inca civilization, and, Sze reminds us, by the ancient Chinese. As in earlier work, Sze (The Redshifting Web) weaves together details from nature (especially from New Mexico, where he lives), questions from philosophy, and discoveries from modern physics, collecting facts with a Thoreau-like patience. To the hints of Taoism some readers have found in his previous work, Sze adds a focus on domestic life and erotic love. Liminal encounters between people and animals, lovers and strangers, even rocks, fish and sky, create a poetry of simultaneity, and a contemplative mindset: 'A moment in the body,' he writes, 'is beauty's memento mori: when I rake gravel in/ a courtyard, or sweep apricot leaves off a deck,/ I know an inexorable inflorescence.' Sometimes Sze has trouble putting his details together, letting the poems and sequences go on too long, or degenerate into mere lists. As in the verse of Charles Wright, however, powers of observation give the best poems and sequences undeniable energies, whether considering a bowl, a candle or a tile in Sze's own living room, or else watching as 'a broad-tailed hummingbird whirs in the air — / and in a dewdrop on a mimosa leaf/ is the day's angular momentum.' (Sept.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Sze's poetry is bold and versatile and brings together "disparate realms of experience." -The New Yorker
Poetry. Quipu was a tactile recording device for the pre-literate Inca, an assemblage of colored knots on cords. In his eighth collection of poetry, Arthur Sze utilizes quipu as a unifying metaphor, knotting and stringing luminous poems that move across cultures and time, from elegy to ode, to create a precarious splendor. Long admired fro his poetic fusion of science, history and anthropology, in QUIPU, Sze's lines and language are taut and mesmerizing, nouns can become verbs--"where is passion that orchids the body"--and what appears solid and stable may actually be fluid and volatile.
About the Author
Arthur Sze is the author of nine books of poetry and translation. He is emeritus professor of Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts, former poet laureate of Santa Fe, and a corresponding editor for Manoa. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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