NIGHT SKY WITH EXIT WOUNDS by Ocean Vuong
Copper Canyon Press, 2016
Night Sky with Exit Wounds is an invigorating, razor-sharp poetry collection that meditates with both candor and artistry on themes of war, nationality, sexuality, and violence. Vuong, born in Vietnam and raised in the US, threads details of his own family history into his broader narrative verse that centers on Vietnamese identity. It’s a fierce, provocative, political, and sensual collection that I found both challenging and moving, and I’m looking forwarding to reading Vuong’s debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous even more, now.
The type of review that just quotes a bunch of passages tends to be my least favorite to both read and write, but I’ll break my own rule here because my own words feel rather inadequate next to these:
“How a horse will run until it breaks
into weather — into wind. How like
the wind, they will see
him. They will see him
when the city burns.”
– from Trojan
“Snow scraping against the window. Snow shredded
with gunfire. Red sky.
Snow on the tanks rolling over the city walls.
A helicopter lifting the living just out of reach.
The city so white it is ready for ink.”
– from Aubade with Burning City
“He laughs despite knowing he has ruined every beautiful thing just to prove beauty cannot change him.”
– from Immigrant Haibun
“To love another
man — is to leave
no one behind
to forgive me.
I want to leave
no one behind.
& be kept.
The way a field turns its secrets
The way light
keeps its shadow
by swallowing it.”
– from Into the Breach
“Don’t laugh. Just tell me the story / again, / of the sparrows who flew from falling Rome, / their blazed wings. / How ruin nested inside each thimbled throat / & made it sing”
– from Seventh Circle of Earth
You can pick up a copy of Night Sky with Exit Wounds here on Book Depository.