BOOK REVIEW: Ocean Vuong: Night sky with exit wounds

July 27, 2017

Ocean Vuong

Night sky with exit wounds

Ocean Vuong’s words writhe and spin the page, his usage and abuse of English is astonishing, he’s more smelter and Vulcan at his poetry forge making these words transform into something other than just letters and meaning, his poems are almost living things, they move in meaning and temperament deepening on how you view them and they squint back at you, spitting, laughing, quietly crying in the corner then looking you straight in the eye with this dark pool of experience.  His ability to re-position, juxtapose, highlight and bring words forward in a flash is astonishing and urgent and his writing gripped me from the moment I opened this book.

His own journey to becoming a poem is as fraught, curious and intense as is his writing and he has the ability to capture small silent moments that will stay with you, nagging you to read them again. To let the words expand in your mind blossoming into his curious and stark beauties. He can compress more ugly things and times too, into something hard and small enough to cope with, but their deceptive lead-like weight gives away their density.

I judge a poet (and I hear Walk Whitman & Emily Dickinson tut tut’ing at my presumption, both surely would have thrilled at Vuong’s talent) by the way the words cling to me, find me in small silent moment, flash up along the hard shoulders of the highways of my life, demand attention from me and hide under pebbles, it’s been two weeks now and still Vuong’s words stalk me. Sometimes poets and poems come to you when you are in most in need of them, they salve or cauterise, but they change you by the reading of them. I never turn my back on a poem and Vuong’s own difficult experience in life and seeking honest gay experiences and love echo me, and each and every one of us. He’s both startlingly original and universal.

He takes us across his life and experience, taking in huge themes; life, death ,war, loss, change, sexuality, queerness, outsider, lover, student, teacher, and  leaving small gifts of glowing hope, that float to the surface of these crafted works. His gay love poems are stark, beautiful and utterly unnerving in their uncompromising adoration. No fear, although often trembling, these poem contradict themselves, strong and fluid, dark but searing, honest but wrapped in untruths.

This book is a magical journey into the imagination and talents of Vuong’s mind and worth pursing for anybody interesting in poems which can change. More spells than sentences, they alter reality as we read them and leave us impressed and impressed upon by this astonishing young man’s collection of debut work.

This is a beautiful, challenging and softly stunning collection of writing and worth reading to remind ourselves of how tender, urgent and universal are our feelings.



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