Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection aims straight for the perennial “big”—and very human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. None of these he allows to overwhelm his spirit or his poems, which demonstrate, through breath and cadence and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the fiercest hungers.
“Night Sky with Exit Wounds establishes Vuong as a fierce new talent to be reckoned with… This book is a masterpiece that captures, with elegance, the raw sorrows and joys of human existence.” —Buzzfeed’s “Most Exciting New Books of 2016”
“This original, sprightly wordsmith of tumbling pulsing phrases pushes poetry to a new level…A stunning introduction to a young poet who writes with both assurance and vulnerability. Visceral, tender and lyrical, fleet and agile, these poems unflinchingly face the legacies of violence and cultural displacement but they also assume a position of wonder before the world.” —Judges’ citation, Whiting Award, 2016
“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
“Vuong’s powerful voice explores passion, violence, history, identity—all with a tremendous humanity.” —Slate
“In his impressive debut collection, Vuong, a 2014 Ruth Lilly fellow, writes beauty into—and culls from—individual, familial, and historical traumas. Vuong exists as both observer and observed throughout the book as he explores deeply personal themes such as poverty, depression, queer sexuality, domestic abuse, and the various forms of violence inflicted on his family during the Vietnam War. Poems float and strike in equal measure as the poet strives to transform pain into clarity. Managing this balance becomes the crux of the collection, as when he writes, ‘Your father is only your father / until one of you forgets. Like how the spine / won’t remember its wings / no matter how many times our knees / kiss the pavement.’” —Publishers Weekly
“What a treasure [Ocean Vuong] is to us. What a perfume he’s crushed and rendered of his heart and soul. What a gift this book is.” —Li-Young Lee