Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Arthur Sze's The Ginko Light

Arthur Sze was born in New York City and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from University of California at Berkeley. He has published nine books of poetry, he has conducted residencies at Bard College, Naropa University, and others. His poems have been translated into several languages including Albanian, Spanish, and Turkish. He was also the first poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he resides now with his family.

The Ginko Light is a collection inspired by a ginko tree that survived the bombing of Hiroshima, the poems within expose tragedy, fate, and survival. Arthur Sze links the beautiful moments of life to the everyday trials and tribulations that provide the richness, depth, and meaning to experiences. Below I will share with you one of the many poems I enjoyed:


A train passes through the Sonoran Desert
when a sudden sandstorm at night sweeps
through the windows: everyone gags
and curses—sand, eddying under the dim
ceiling lights, lodges on eyelashes, clothes,
hair. Memory is encounter: each incident,

a bee thrumming in a hive. You catch
the aroma of incense in a courtyard
but fret you have sleepwalked for hours.
Observing grasshopper legs in a nook,
you brood then exult that a bat roosts
under the eave, yet fail to notice

quince fattening on branches, ache
that your insights may be white smoke
to flame. Though you note toothpicks
at a cash register, an elk head with antlers
mounted to the back of a passing trailer,
you are given a penlight but, within

minutes, misplace it. Without premonition,
striding up a cobblestone street,
through a Patzcuaro doorway, you spot
a raised coffin with dissolving tapers
by each corner, and harbor a string
then tang, wax then honey on the tongue.

The first stanza captured my attention because I remembered the dust storms in El Paso when I lived there. The line “Memory is encounter” struck another chord as each memory that returns is a fresh encounter to the event. Arthur Sze’s descriptive language is rich and flavorful in this poem, especially at the end when he connects the reader to the simultaneous experiences of seeing the coffin and then tasting the tang and sweetness of death through the candles burning at each corner. It’s a beautiful, rich poem full of layers in which the reader can connect to through their own experiences or imagine the experience of the poet. Well done.

If you enjoyed this feature you may look for The Ginko Light by Arthur Sze in your local library, read other sample poems on-line and/or purchase a copy for yourself for $15.00 (not including shipping and handling) at:

Thanks always for reading, please stop in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…

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