The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems

Arthur Sze

National Book Award winner Arthur Sze is a master poet, and The Glass Constellation is a triumph spanning five decades, including ten poetry collections and twenty-six new poems. Sze began his career writing compressed, lyrical poems influenced by classical Chinese poetry; he later made a leap into powerful polysemous sequences, honing a distinct stylistic signature that harnesses luminous particulars, and is sharply focused, emotionally resonant, and structurally complex. Fusing elements of Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and various Western experimental traditions―employing startling juxtapositions that are always on target, deeply informed by concern for our endangered planet and troubled species―Arthur Sze presents experience in all its multiplicities, in singular book after book. This collection is an invitation to immerse in a visionary body of work, mapping the evolution of one of our finest American poets.

ISBN: 9781556596216

Format: Hardcover

Listen to Arthur Sze read “Pitch Blue” from The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems:

About the Author

Arthur Sze has published eleven books of poetry, including Sight Lines (2019), which won the National Book Award, and The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems (2021). His other books include Compass Rose (2014), a Pulitzer Prize finalist; The Ginkgo Light (2009), selected for the PEN Southwest Book Award and the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Book Award; Quipu (2005); The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970–1998, selected for the Balcones Poetry Prize and the Asian American Literary Award; and Archipelago …

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As featured in:

NPR, “Glimmers of Hope: A 2021 Poetry Preview”

Library Journal, “Books and Authors to Know: Poetry Titles to Watch 2021”

Boston Globe, “Best Books of 2021”

National Book Foundation, 2024 Science + Literature Selection

“Yoking the earth-bound and the heavenly, full of cosmic wonder, his individual lyrics and ambitious sequences balance a love of beauty and formal equipoise with an acknowledgement of violence and chance. A meticulous craftsperson, Sze honors the poignance of each moment we share while on earth by finding forms that capture what he calls ‘the unrepeatable contour of this breath.’” —Judges’ Citation, National Book Foundation Science + Literature Award Committee

“Sze writes gracefully about both the cosmos and the natural world, mining vivid imagery that performs exactly what Ezra Pound wrote an image should embody, namely, ‘an emotional and intellectual complex in an instance of time.’ One poem segues into the next, moving from book to book with leaping, lyrical reportage that erases the speaker’s ego but not his presence. Each of his poems is a proverbial drop containing the whole of the ocean of his poetry. . . . Sze’s steady outpouring of new work since 1972 testifies to the infinite inspiration of this seminal muse. Indeed, he has made new the ancient wisdom of Taoism’s self-renewing binary: ‘the Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao.’ The cosmic cynosure that is implicit in Sze’s title, The Glass Constellation, connotes radiance, reflection, and exquisite craftsmanship. It’s an apt metaphor for his transcendent poetry.”—Harvard Review

“Sze is a distinguished translator of Chinese poetry, and Asian poetic and philosophical traditions. Image-based juxtaposition, openness to chance, ego-shattering and interrogative thought, remain central to this practice. The empirical and theoretical knowledge of the physical world, of which Sze has a remarkable range, enriches rather than competes with our emotional engagement. Theorems of geometry and physics (as in ‘The Angle of Reflection Equals the Angle of Incidence’) are pondered as much for their spiritual as for their epistemological potential. This is a fresh kind of environmental imagination, with none of the stagy Thoreauvian ‘contact’ with unmediated Nature, or Emersonian summation of the ‘All’. And yet, with full humility and wonder, the sense of the sublime does often arise, with its perplexing interplay of the minute and the vast, and its mixture of pleasure and terror, order and rupture.” —PN Review

“A new cornerstone of the Asian American poetic canon, Arthur Sze’s career-spanning book collects early adaptations of classical Chinese poetry, his signature terrain-traversing sequences, and new work written in lines like microscope slides, long and translucent, each one isolating a single clarified perception: “adjusting your breath to the seasonal rhythm of grasses— // gazing into a lake on a salt flat and drinking, in reflection, the Milky Way—.””—The Boston Globe

“Arthur Sze’s poetry … is a multilayered experience that opens out like a slow-motion blossoming where the end is only the beginning.”—  Sheri Sherman Cohen, Obdobja Symposium, University of Ljubljiana, Slovenia

“Irradiated, iridescent, Sze’s poems offer a way to see without seeing darkly … Sze testifies again and again to the pareidolic and pattern-seeking qualities of the mind, its aggregating tendencies, indiscriminate and magpie-like, confirming Ralph Waldo Emerson’s sense that “there is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet.” — West Branch

“Ten other collections of poetry live here titivated by 26 new poems, all of them marked by the manners that have always permeated Sze’s work: Zen-like wonder at the tiniest of moments that invariably take strong left-turns into new worlds” — New York Journal of Books

“Arthur Sze offers a stellar collection of lyrical poems that captivate the reader’s heart … This is a volume I feel very fortunate to have encountered. I am living with it. You will want to as well.” — World Literature Today

“There is an immense silence, or the clearest crystal-toned ringing, that emanates from the nearly three hundred poems that comprise Arthur Sze’s The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems. This incandescent collection by one of our time’s most masterful poets is an invitation for us all to see ourselves, our lives, this earth, and one another in clear, attuned radiance” — The Georgia Review

“a record of radically close observation performed with flourishing imagination” — McSweeney’s

“Poetry, for Sze, is a way of coming to terms with the world, for which the strange feeling of being in this world always outruns our understanding of what it means to be in this world. His poems, in their lush enigma, replicate our lived encounter with the shimmering contours of this life.” — The Adroit Journal 

“The nets of awareness Arthur Sze casts across the world are large and light and buoyant. Their mesh is fine, but they also have tremendous flexibility and tensile strength and can stretch and stretch and stretch and stretch. They gather in assemblages of reality astonishingly various in kind and size. In Sze’s poems, multitudes of oppositions—between a spare and a baroque sensibility, between minute particulars and large general truths, between the experimental and the perennial, between concretion and abstraction, between image and sound, between the quotidian and the eternal—are composed and reconciled through a subtle, ever-present, ever-active interweaving of perception, apperception, and piercing insight.” — Shelley Memorial Award: Judges Citation, Poetry Society of America

“The recognition was long overdue when Sze won the 2019 National Book Award for his previous book, Sight Lines. This 500-page, career spanning retrospective is a fitting follow up, allowing readers to take in the full breadth of what Sze has achieved over ten collections published since the early 1970s. There are so many kinds of poems here, and so many truly extraordinary ones… This book is an overwhelming feast, a treasure, and more than enough proof that Sze is a major poet.” —Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR

“A monumental collection from a poet whose lasting importance should now be recognized; essential for dedicated readers of contemporary American poetry.” —Library Journal, starred review

“In the case of poet Arthur Sze, ‘master’ is no misnomer… Sze as poet has been continually searching for new ways of making poetry alive, to make way for the breathing infrastructure of the poem in all its fragility and rigor. As a result of his dynamic poetic efforts, the map of human consciousness will have grown more detailed.” —Kyoto Journal Review

“National Book Award–winning Arthur Sze writes spare, visionary work that, with The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems, adds up to over 500 pages.”—Library Journal

“Sze’s is a poetry that attends to and constellates the world’s wildly disparate and endless instances of ‘once.’ The Glass Constellation is a beautiful and important testament to the significance of that endeavor, an important illumination in poetry’s cosmic vault.”—On the Seawall

“Packing the whole world beautifully into expansive lyric poems by shaping the experimental trajectories of thought, feeling and experience in moment-to-moment transcriptions, all in the service of love and generosity of awareness—is quite a life’s work! Arthur Sze achieves this over and over again in ever-changing, revelatory poetry which we need more than ever.”—John Evans, Diesel Books

“…Arthur Sze’s exquisite complexities—his work is often at the nexus of modernism and spiritual contemplation—are intellectual and compassionate, and altogether unforgettable. He is a verbal architect, employing sharp and memorable connections to craft wildly exciting yet fully grounded experimental works through the frictions and contradictions of language, ideas and imagery.”—Chicago Review of Books

“… the pages bear meaning of the poetry so moving that they take on a life of their own, flowing through or rather “collapsing” into other images, obliging the writing process even. In turn, this urges the reader to connect, to feel along with this very process, to finally “expand” the threads of meaning through discovery.” —Tinderbox Poetry Journal

“Sze is simultaneously the microscope and telescope of the poetry world. And more. To truly attend to these poems is to begin to feel like you have been opened to a kaleidoscopic experience of the cosmos, a multisensual one whose kinetic foci gather moments across time and space, word and world. . . . The Glass Constellation is a sublime and masterful embodiment of a kind of cosmic consciousness.” —Terrain

“Sze’s achievement is considerable . . . [his] images are sharply in focus, like computational photography, his sensibility presents us with a vision that is surreally hyper-aware. The Glass Constellation is edifying in its freshness, confident in its approach, and winningly modest in its adjustment of the sublime.” —The Cortland Review

“In The Glass Constellation, Arthur Sze’s poetry collection spanning five decades, we see the world and the universe, humans and other beings, as if through the eyes of an old Taoist or Zen master from deep time and space as well as through the keen perspective of a contemporary observer of the reality of each calculable moment, and always, with the heart of compassion. In each poem, nature is ever-present in juxtaposition to everything else, simultaneously unfolding microscopically and telescopically. From fireflies in the darkening air to the stars of Orion in the dawning sky, from a blooming flower to a mushrooming atomic bomb, from marching ants to the Big Bang, each observation and its expression is a thread of unique textures and colors spun from words, woven next to each other to form the illuminating tapestry of Arthur Sze’s masterful poetry, inclusive and connecting all things, which will remain alive far into the future.”—Chun Yu, Orion Magazine