A poet clearly in control of his medium
This year's winner of the TS Eliot prize for poetry is a startling and unique new voice that will doubtless make waves at home in the US and all around the World. Ocean Vuong's highly personal collection of poems, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, is a post-modern collection of lyric and prose poetry around the themes of war, sex and immigration.
Ocean Vuong's biography goes someway to explain his distinct voice. Born in Ho Chi Minh City in 1988 he made his way to the US as a refugee. As the first person in his family to speak English proficiently his achievement in this book is extraordinary. Night Sky with Exit Wounds includes the heart beats of other Vietnamese poets, namely Nguyen Chi Thien, but its Vuong himself who uses the English language in his own way to tell his truth. Night Sky with Exit Wounds is Vuong's debut full-length collection and was first published in the US in 2016.
The work blends classic Western prose poetry with Far East influences, shades of Tanka and Haiku, to create a post modern form that rejects traditional forms and structures. Most of the work is set in the US though there are glimpses of an earlier life in Vietnam.
Brooklyn's too cold tonight
& all my friends are three years away.
My mother said I could be anything
I wanted - but I chose to live.
Vuong cleverly uses a number of graphical devices to bring his voice to life from the minimalism of Seventh Circle of Earth which is reduced down only to notes to the broken cadence of Of Thee I Sing.
Vuong isn't afraid to reveal his influences, the collection's notes and acknowledgments contain myriad references from American/Indonesian poet Li-Young Lee through to Luther Vandross, Ocean Vuong is a writer clearly in control of his medium.
A finger's worth of dark from daybreak, he steps
into a red dress. A flame caught
in a mirror the width of a coffin. Steel glinting
in the back of his throat, A flash of white
Discover Ocean Vuong's work here https://www.oceanvuong.com/poems and via the clip below
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong published by Jonathan Cape, 96 pages.
Agree with my review? Comment and share to join the discussion #readmorebooks