Poet Arthur Sze comes to Centre as a Humana Visiting Scholar
March 22, 2012 By Elizabeth Trollinger
volumes of poetry, will speak as this year's Humana Visiting
Scholar at 7 p.m. on March 26 in the Vahlkamp Theatre.
Poet Arthur Sze will visit Centre College as a Humana Visiting Scholar from March 26-28. Sze will deliver a convocation address about his most recent work and his collaborations with Chinese poets at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 26 in the Vahlkamp Theatre.
Sze will also give a craft talk at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27 in the Grissom Reading Room of the Grace Doherty Library, discussing the relationship between technique and inspiration in poetry. On Wednesday, March 28, Sze will host a world poetry reading and discussion in which participants will recite and discuss a number of English and foreign-language poems. Sze will also visit a Chinese class to help students in their translations of classical Chinese poets.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Arthur speak and to enrich the creative and caring spirit of Centre,” says Kyle Anderson, Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow. “Arthur’s words create their own silvery effect, causing listeners to long for more direct contact with the worlds he invokes.”
Sze is poet laureate for Santa Fe, N.M., and also serves as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, as well as an English instructor and director of creating writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Sze has been awarded many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Book Award and two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowships. He is the author of many poetry collections, including “The Redshifting Web,” “The Archipelago” and “The Gingko Light,” his most recent work.
Anderson heard Sze read at an event several years ago and recalls being moved by his reading.
“When I first met Arthur Sze, I remember more than anything else—more than his diction, syntax or imagery—the slow passion of his delivery. He was extremely polite and had a gentle personality, and when he got up and began speaking, that unassuming, gentle personality went to a whole new level,” Anderson says. “If you had to imagine what compassion embodied in a voice might sound like, it’s him—gentle but powerful words. He is the embodiment of the compassionate poetry he writes.”
By contrasting the extraordinary and the ordinary side-by-side in his work, Sze has created a niche for himself in poetry.
“Sze’s tranquil verses have been described as a kind of time-slowed cinematic unfolding of a flower’s blooming, or the slow plucking, one by one, of the world’s manifold scenes. He’ll go the whole breadth of the material universe, then talk about the palm of your hand or the texture of a bass being cut up for sushi,” Anderson says. “It’s imagistic but also very tangible, corporeal and visceral. This sensitized rhythm comes in part from Sze’s familiarity with Chinese, Japanese, Native American and Western poetic traditions. The result is the production of vivid and gentle, but poignant and contradicted verses.”
An excerpt from ‘Pig’s Heaven Inn,’ one of his more recent pieces, exemplifies his work:
“someone spits in the streets. As a second
musician plucks strings on a zither, pomelos
blacken on branches; a woman peels chestnuts
two men in a flat-bottomed boat gather
duckweed out of a river. The notes splash,
silvery, onto cobblestone, and my fingers
Anderson is glad students will get to hear Sze read, because his delivery is almost as important as the words themselves.
“The first time I heard him read, I was almost entranced or trapped in between his words, not just by them,” Anderson says. “While it may not be the best compliment one could pay to a poet—they are in the business of enchanting readers textually, after all—I believe it will be Arthur’s calming company, his voice and his honesty that will escort us through the beautiful landscape of his poetic worlds.”
Sze’s poetic style is affecting and impacting, and Anderson hopes many students will come to the series events for the Humana Visiting Scholar.
“It’s hard to find a high-powered individual that makes you say say ‘Wow, that person’s personality or character changed me, and not because I want to take over the world—I want to be a better person,’” Anderson says. “When you’re done talking with or hearing Arthur, there’s a part of you that’s been spiritually awoken. He emanates goodness.”
The Humana Visiting Scholar program was funded through a gift to the College from the Humana Foundation, a philanthropic branch of Humana Inc., the healthcare corporation based in Louisville.
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