Arthur Sze

Portrait Arthur Sze
© Mariana Cook

U.S. poet and translator Arthur Sze was born in New York City in 1950 into a second-generation family of Chinese immigrants. His parents had immigrated to the U.S. after the Japanese occupation of China and remained there after the Chinese Civil War. Arthur Sze grew up in Queens and Garden City on Long Island and graduated from Lawrenceville School in 1968. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1968 and 1970, then moved to the University of California at Berkeley to devote himself to poetry.
His poems have appeared in »The American Poetry Review«, »Boston Review«, »Conjunctions«, »The New Yorker«, »Virginia Quarterly Review« as well as in various anthologies. Since 1972, he has published eleven independent collections of poetry. The title of his volume, »Gingko Light« (2009), refers to a tree that survived and flourished near a temple at the epicentre of the Hiroshima atomic blast, thus becoming a metaphor for survival. »Compass Rose« (2014), Sze’s ninth collection of poems on all things ephemeral in nature, was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and the subsequent volume, »Sight Lines« (2019), received the National Book Award for Poetry. Thematically, the volume’s verses roam through time and space, drawing the reader’s attention to images and phenomena, whose meaning and beauty often go unnoticed, and uniting far-flung things – whether it’s a sighting of an axolotl, or calligraphy carried out with water in public parks in China. According to »The New York Times«, »The sight lines in Sze’s 10th collection are just that – imagistic lines strung together by jump-cuts, creating a filmic collage that itself seems to be a portrait of simultaneity«. Sze’s most recent volume of new and collected poetry is titled »The Glass Constellation« (2021).
His poetry has been translated into a dozen languages, including Chinese, Dutch, German, Turkish, Korean, and Spanish. He has received many awards, including the 2021 Shelley Memorial Award, the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers, the Lannan Literary Award, the Lila Wallace-Readerʼs Digest Writers Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a Visiting Professor at Washington University, Brown University, Bard College, Naropa University, and the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he is professor emeritus. Sze is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He is the first Poet Laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives.