2021 Shelley Memorial Award
Selected by Ben Olguín and Vijay Seshadri
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.
The Poetry Society of America is proud to honor him with the 2021 Shelley Memorial Award. Arthur Sze was born in New York in 1950. He has published eleven books of poetry, the first when he was twenty-two and the latest in 2021. Sze has received innumerable accolades and awards, and is recognized as a master of his craft. Sze’s vision of American poetry is expansive. He is in dialogue with a wide range of poetic traditions, from the Chinese to Native American oral traditions to Southern Cone poets such as Pablo Neruda, and is a paragon of late-twentieth and twenty-first-century poetics.