After hearing Arthur Sze
read it is aparent he's obssessed with language. He admits to that fact. He read at length from his newest book of poems Quipo
which took him six years to write. On the cover is a picture of woven Chords which are thought to be Incan writing. Each chord was an interwoven message, one of which was said to have lead to the Incan revolt against the Spanish. The poems in Quipo were reminiscent of the word chords, interwoven language of various lenghts, knotted, tied, and interweaving stories, images, and language from one idea to another, sometimes leading out to a frayed strand. Very chaotic, but tightly held together. This is a diversion from his shorter more meditative works in the style of the ancient Chinese Poetry
he translates as a labor of love. This is probably the only time in a poetry reading where I have heard people gasp. His chords were that powerful. After the first poem I realized just how far I have to go as a poet. Afterwards I asked him whether it was better to write the longer chord poems or the shorter meditative ones. He said that the longer poems gave him more freedom to explore language and use many different divices in a single poem. Fair enough. In an art form that tends to be filled with shorter confessional works that is an unsuprising statement from a person whose life is just as idiosyncratic as his art. Though not surreal they go against the grain to be open, but not self-indulgent. Against the grain, much like Arthur's life.