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Night Sky with Exit Wounds Paperback – April 5, 2016
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read."—Booklist Learn more
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"[A] masterpiece that captures, with elegance, the raw sorrows and joys of human existence." --BuzzFeed Books
"Extraordinary." --Los Angeles Times
"Ecstatic, bawdy, haunted, and brilliant with the pressures of its arrival."--Boston Globe
"...[T]errifying, heartbreaking, surreal, and lyrical-I'm not quite sure how a poet can fit so much humanity into so few words. Ocean Vuong creates and poses alternate universes within these poems. He stands at the feet of American poetry and unties the masters' shoelaces. Night Sky With Exit Wounds is a must read and re-read, a book that will be cherished." --Lambda Literary Review
"[A] haunting and fearless debut." --Publishers Weekly
"This book, with all of its fears, is probably what you've been hoping for."--Kenyon Review
"This original, sprightly wordsmith of tumbling pulsing phrases pushes poetry to a new level." --2016 Whiting Award citation
"In Vuong's "Night Sky," the entry and exit wounds are real, torn open by gunshot and "misfired" words, but his poems insist we can be made whole by rapture."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Vuong's major contribution in Night Sky With Exit Wounds is to push back against the inclination to let fear define the exile's life." --LA Review of Books
'[O]ne reason Vuong's debut collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds feels so exquisite, so necessary, is that he offers another way to hold the present moment.' --Georgia Review
"Vuong's powerful voice explores passion, violence, history, identity--all with a tremendous humanity." --Slate
"[A] debut that will cement Vuong's status as one of the most important new poets writing today." --Rain Taxi
"Vuong's pitch-perfect approach, through the legacy of war and forced displacement, shows us why we can't afford to let him remember them alone."--The London Magazine
"At a time when poets are resigned to making boredom a commodity, [Vuong] reminds us that the limits of intimacy are an exhilarating frontier, and that the most urgent communications begin with the overture of letting down one's defenses."--The Rumpus
"Night Sky with Exit Wounds is the kind of book that soon becomes worn with love. You will want to crease every page to come back to it, to underline every other line because each word resonates with power."--LitHub
"Occasionally there is a book so exquisitely realized that a reviewer wants simply to point to it and say "read this." Ocean Vuong's Night Sky with Exit Wounds is such a book."--BODY Literature
About the Author
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He created a past life. Part of that creation became "Night Sky with Exit Wounds," which won the 2016 Whiting Award and has now won the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize.
The collection is comprised of some 35 poems. Several of the poems are directly about his father, and Vuong imagines different reasons (and realities) for not knowing him. His father was imprisoned. His father is shot and dumped in the ocean, his body washing up on a beach. His father drowns in Newport Beach, California. His father is caught up in what happened in Vietnam. His father is an American soldier. The family is sailing on a refugee boat, fleeing a burning city. Vuong creates these different realities to fill a void, a painful void, one that leaves the poet experiencing his own "exit wounds."
The poet also imagines what might be his own creation.
A Little Closer to the Edge
Young enough to believe nothing
will change them, they step, hand in hand,
into the bomb crater. The night full
of black teeth. His faux Rolex, weeks
from shattering against her cheek, now dims
like a miniature moon behind her hair.
In this version, the snake is headless-stilled
like a cord unraveled from the lovers' ankles.
He lifts her white cotton skirt, revealing
another hour. His hand. His hands. The syllables
inside them. O father, O foreshadow, press
into her-as the field shreds itself
with cricket cries. Show me how ruin makes a home
out of hip bones. O mother,
O minute hand, teach me
how to hold a man the way thirst
holds water. Let every river envy
our mouths. Let every kiss hit the body
like a season. Where apples thunder
the earth with red hooves. & I am your son.
The poem is filled with the kinds of sharp and vivid images and metaphors found throughout the collection - the faux Rolex watch dimming like a miniature moon, a home made of hip bones, a night full of black teeth, a headless snake, a field shredding itself with cricket cries. Vuong creates jarring, often disquieting, abrupt and unexpected pictures, almost forcing us to acknowledge a truth in these self-created realties.
Vuong, in addition to the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize, has received a number of other honors and recognitions - a Ruth Lilly Fellow; a Pushcart Prize; and honors from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, and others. He received the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets from the American Poetry Review. His poems have been published in numerous literary and poetry journals, and he is the author of Burnings (2010). He is an assistant professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
The poems of "Night Sky with Exit Wounds" are often graphic; several of the poems are about sex. Many of the poems imply that the absent father has led the poet on his own search for his fundamental identity. Tinged at times with anger, sadness, and yearning, it is a stunning, haunting collection.
"When our lips touched the day closed
into a coffin. In the museum of the heart
there are two headless people building a burning house.
There was always the shotgun above..."
"Depending on where you stand
your name can sound like a full moon
shredded in a dead doe's pelt.
Your name changed when touched
by gravity. Gravity breaking
our kneecaps just to show us
the sky. Why did we
keep saying Yes–
even with all those birds.
Who would believe us
now? My voice cracking
like bones inside the radio.
Silly me. I thought love was real..."
Get this collection! You won't get closer to a heartbeat than this!
Top international reviews
Four stars, though, because most of it sounds rather good. So it's probably something important, for people who understand.
You want to read modern poetry at it's finest - here you go! :D
The poems are easily read and understood, so it is well worth purchasing this collection regardless of one’s literary background.
SO: If you like work that is brave and revelatory, you want to buy this book. If you like literature that breaks new ground for others, like good research does, you want to read this book. If you like books full of heart and wisdom, you want to read this book. Whether you are religious or humanist, you want to read this book.