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 ... fascinated by how the accumulation and juxtaposition of disparate, keenly observed things can get us from here to there, allowing us to hold multitudes, too ... This is a poetry of assemblage, where violence and beauty combine and hang on Sze’s particular gift for the leaping non sequitur ... Inside these poems of billowing consciousness, we too are alive to a spectrum of wonders.
...the book is deeply preoccupied with connections—be it between the human and natural world, or between the historical and the everyday ... But the precise relation between any given pair is far from simplistic ... Though writing about the Earth’s future is not beyond his reach, Sze acknowledges that his true home, as a poet, lies among particulars: say, the distinctiveness of a specific spider plant leaning towards a specific door. The impulse to write responsibly and to remain in touch with the wider world can lead to rigidity and self-importance. Sze counters this risk...by admitting to his own smallness, and the smallness of all individuals, in the face of history ... This philosophy is reflected in the use of strikethroughs throughout Sight Lines. To Sze’s mind, all statements are ripe for revision, and no observation he offers up can stand with complete authority. Strikethroughs make such second looks visible ... The most important thing about these edits is that the old words are not simply erased or supplanted by new words. The marks keep the original terms in view, even as they significantly qualify them. It is this degree of self-questioning, this wariness of authority in himself and others, that makes Sze such a valuable poet for this moment.
The collection, winner of the 2019 National Book Award, carries Sze’s deep attention to the natural world and its beauties and degradations, alongside personal memory, historical reflection, scientific inquiry, and a philosopher’s wisdom ... Sight lines are invisible threads from an observer’s eye to what is being viewed, and Sze’s sight lines can serve as one axis to center this faltering world ... In an act similar to echolocation, Sze sends out images that return—sometimes reverberating within one poem itself...and sometimes from one poem to another ... Through this imagistic echolocation, Sze offers readers an unflinching look at mortality, and through its gaze, the act of living fully.
...an absolute marvel that is set to dazzle your notion of attention ... the images [Sze] draws of events and incidents, of turn in fate and faith, tell us of sight lines that suffer our discrimination of focus, of attention that only our motives are entitled to. Where else but in Sight Lines will you find yourself braving an abandon of the self to embrace the unfetchable realities that scaffold our living on earth! ... Sight Lines has no split ends; it is a membrane-bound organelle that’s constantly tuning the art of focus to speak of light and loss.
With characteristic restraint, tensility, and subtlety, Sze takes a bead on America—its endangered lands; its manifold, multicultural populations; its distances and proximities, real and imagined. He does so with a quiet but perspicacious 'seeing' that half reflects and half creates its constellar vision ... his poems enact the prodigious multiplicity and simultaneity of any one moment ... And as if taking this remarkable measure of America...weren’t enough, Sze uses lines from this poem as section markers throughout the book, a signal that this poem is a touchstone, offering a way for reading the book as a whole ... Sze’s gift for the simple yet lushly delicate image...is almost unparalleled in contemporary poetry, and in Sight Lines the rich mix of this physical detail and metaphysical musing embodies Sze’s notions of life in our moment.
...a glory of images, layerings, and repetitions. Sight Lines thrives on repetitions of various natures, though not by way of the familiar anaphora or epistrophe. Sze isn’t interested in chant or building to crescendo, but in something more aligned with, say, the cosmic microwave background in an expanding universe ... The effect is a feeling of randomness slowly revealing intention, as when, in life, we notice synchronicities and begin to ask ourselves if our minds are creating or are they recognizing existing connectivities. ... A formal intimacy between words, among images, is created by repetitions and auditory relations ... All of this reverb is riveting, thrilling actually ... Sze’s question is, 'What line of sight leads to revelation?' His answer is in the multiplicities of view these poems depict and in the risk of change and chance they enact.
Sze creates tensile energy by balancing the cerebral with the physical ...and almost every poem incorporates unique details not united by theme or likeness ... The poems often require rereading, as speaker and location can change abruptly, and it's challenging when Sze seizes upon the negative, what is not happening now ... But in the end...each poem provides a sensual, intellectual take on the world ... Provocative work; a solid addition to academic and popular collections.
The tenth book from Sze...contains poems in a range of forms, from hybrid prose poems to luminous lyric fragments, gracefully unified by a preoccupation with transformation ... Sze artfully matches style and content, the poems changing shape as the book unfolds ... The writing itself revels in the 'infinite' refractions and reverberations of poetic technique, as possibilities are gradually unearthed through formal shifts ... [a] gorgeously layered experience ... Finely crafted and philosophical, this is a book that rewards multiple careful readings.