A Nail the Evening Hangs On

Monica Sok

In this staggering poetry debut, Monica Sok illuminates the experiences of Cambodian diaspora and reflects on America’s role in escalating the genocide in Cambodia. A Nail the Evening Hangs On travels from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, where Tuol Sleng and other war museums reshape the imagination of a child of refugees; to New York City and Lancaster, where the dailiness of intergenerational trauma persists on the subway or among the cornfields of a small hometown. Embracing collective memory, both real and imagined, these poems move across time to break familial silence. Sok pieces together voices and fragments—using persona, myth, and imagination—in a transformative work that builds towards wholeness.

ISBN: 9781556595608

Format: Paperback

Listen to Monica Sok read “The Weaver” from A Nail the Evening Hangs On:

About the Author

Monica Sok is a Cambodian American poet and the daughter of former refugees. Her work has been recognized with a Discovery Prize from the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center. She has received fellowships from Hedgebrook, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Kundiman, the Jerome Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, and others. Currently, Sok is a 2018–2020 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and also teaches poetry at the Center for …

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“Sok’s reflective debut teases out how the trauma of the Khmer Rouge is remembered and retained in the fabric of the country and within her own family . . . Weaving the threads of her family’s stories, history, place, and identity, these poems glimmer with strength and presence.” —Publishers Weekly

“An unsettling, powerful, important debut.” —Booklist

“An essential debut… Monica Sok’s prismatic portrait of the Cambodian diaspora after the United Stated–backed genocide under the Khmer Rouge . . . moves with tender conviction.” —The Paris Review

“In a world in which genocides, the likes of which Cambodia lived through are being forgotten, this is important work, as lived in as a face . . . Sok honors [her elders] here with the acute, protective tenderness of her gaze, the risks she takes in imagining her way into their lives.” —Literary Hub

“The poet is able to offer quiet wisdom without sentimentality. Ultimately this poet refuses to surrender to victimhood. The chapbook ends optimistically in the borough of Brooklyn, where the young speaker lives happily, sometimes seen in the neighborhood eating bagels with friends and writing new poems. She has found her way to ‘the healing fields.’” ―Marilyn Chin

“Sok never lets up, her detailed sense creating almost constant suspense and tension in this collection. A significant new voice.” —The Millions

“Through poetry, Monica Sok processes her family’s experiences of the Khmer Rouge, immigration and the Cambodian diaspora with mythical, tender reflection.” —Ms. Magazine

“Monica Sok’s haunting debut collection, A Nail the Evening Hangs On, is about the Khmer Rouge genocide, generational trauma, the work of healing and the shape of memory, and what it means (and feels like) to grow up in diaspora as the child of refugees. The poems unfold in a chorus of voices that is both painful and powerful. This is a book to sit with and reckon with. I can’t wait to see what she does next.” —Book Riot

“In this stunning book, Sok’s speaker explores a broad range of poetic forms… This collection is grounded by striking imagery that moves between past and present, allowing both the speaker and the audience to construct memory—and with these constructions, we get the full confrontation the collection embodies.” —Split Lip Magazine

“A Nail the Evening Hangs On is fiery, trauma-stricken, tender, and complicated. Sok weaves together a remarkable collection wrought with memories of those who are alive but not living and those who are dead but not yet gone.” —New York Journal of Books

“Sok masterfully weaves together the skeins of narratives left fragmented by the legacy of war, trauma, and diaspora with a skillful hand, moving fluidly between past and present; Cambodia and Pennsylvania. Together, the poems in this debut collection comprise a whole cloth that is by turns tender and unflinching . . .” —Lantern Review

“All the more impressive when considering that A Nail the Evening Hangs On is Monica Sok’s debut collection of her poetry, this deftly penned [collection] is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and university library Contemporary Poetry collections.” —Midwest Book Review

“Sok’s collection, which Publishers Weekly identifies as shining with ‘unexpected turns,’ deftly represents what is so difficult to represent: the haunting of history, the twisting of lies into truth, forced misremembering or erasure, and the will to heal.” —The Rumpus

“Sok retraces the contours of a difficult and important conversation on identity. She succeeds in using her Americanness to question her sense of belonging in the Cambodian narrative, while inviting the reader in two countries’ complex political history.” —Asian Review of Books 

“The assembled stories in A Nail the Evening Hangs On offer us a continuum of mass loss, as it also offers the grief and power of resilience.” —Pleiades Magazine

“[A] radiant debut collection… [Sok’s] direct voice rings with imaginative power and grace.” —The Los Angeles Review

“Grappling with the lingering collective trauma caused by the Cambodian genocide, A Nail the Evening Hangs On is a reclamation . . . It arises from atrocity but circles around to healing.” —Book Riot

“. . . A luminous first poetry collection from Monica Sok that deftly and lovingly weaves together fragments of Cambodian history and family memory to make some sense of a fraught past.” —The Stanford Daily

As featured in:

NBC News, “An Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Reading List”

Kundiman, “10 Books to Read this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month”

New York Public Library, “Best Books of 2020”