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Quipu Paperback – September 1, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Quipu are knotted cords used for record-keeping in Inca civilization, and, Sze reminds us, by the ancient Chinese. As in earlier work, Sze (The Redshifting Web) weaves together details from nature (especially from New Mexico, where he lives), questions from philosophy, and discoveries from modern physics, collecting facts with a Thoreau-like patience. To the hints of Taoism some readers have found in his previous work, Sze adds a focus on domestic life and erotic love. Liminal encounters between people and animals, lovers and strangers, even rocks, fish and sky, create a poetry of simultaneity, and a contemplative mindset: "A moment in the body," he writes, "is beauty's memento mori: when I rake gravel in/ a courtyard, or sweep apricot leaves off a deck,/ I know an inexorable inflorescence." Sometimes Sze has trouble putting his details together, letting the poems and sequences go on too long, or degenerate into mere lists. As in the verse of Charles Wright, however, powers of observation give the best poems and sequences undeniable energies, whether considering a bowl, a candle or a tile in Sze's own living room, or else watching as "a broad-tailed hummingbird whirs in the air—/ and in a dewdrop on a mimosa leaf/ is the day's angular momentum." (Sept.)
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From Booklist

The knotted strings of a quipu, a Peruvian abacuslike device, are the defining threads of connection in Sze's new collection. Whether incorporating nature, philosophy, history, or science, Sze's poems are expansive. They unfold like the time-slowed cinematic recording of a flower's blooming: the seed of an idea is germinated, thought or feeling buds, then the poem blooms entire. Sze has a refreshingly original sensibility and style, and he approaches writing like a collagist by joining disparate elements into a cohesive whole. This approach feels simultaneously familiar and radical because the poems are distilled to essentials we can grasp (an object, a sensation, a thought), but arranged in such odd order that readers will naturally want to search for associative meaning. This quality may make Sze's poems seem too abstract or confounding to some readers. Yet, if one simply allows the poems in (in the same breathlike way Sze inhales the world, filters it through his perception, and exhales it back), they will resonate in surprising ways. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556592264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556592263
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #568,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Arthur Sze, Quipu (Copper Canyon, 2005)

I've heard the name Arthur Sze bandied about by folks in the know for a lot of years now, but is one of that vast band of poets whom I'd never actually got round to reading, and decided this was the year. Quipu had the best title, so I started there. A fine decision, as it turns out, if an entirely arbitrary one.

Sze's palette of interests, obsessions, and symbols is about as wide-reaching as Ezra Pound's, so if you don't have an encyclopedia in your head, you may want to have one handy. Sze does provide some notes at the end of the book, which can be helpful at times, but probably not enough for most folks. Or you can take an alternative approach: just let yourself get lost in the language, and if you still feel like looking up quinoa at the end, go ahead. Those of you who are not cooks and/or watchers of the Food Network will be able to at least get the idea that you're dealing with food, since Sze has his quinoa "simmer[ing] in a pot; the aroma of cilantro/on swordfish; the cusp of spring when you//lean your head on my shoulder." (from the wonderfully titled "The Angle of Reflection Equals the Angle of Incidence") As long as you're satisfied with gathering that quinoa is food, and don't need to go scurrying off to the dictionary, you can sit back and just take in the way the syllables twist, float, and play off one another in that small passage (and the poem whence it comes). It's one of the many gems to be found in this lovely book, which, if you haven't yet read, you should. ****
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By apmxtd on September 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't think he remembers me.
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