The Top Contemporary Poet is Thirty, Thrifty and Thriving

The poet Ocean Vuong is creating some ripples in a very positive light over the last few years. Ocean was born in 1988, making him a thriving thirty-one year old. He is an assistant professor in Amherst at the University of Massachusetts where he helps in the MFA Program for writers. His collection that he published in 2016 and debuted with was called Night Sky with Exit Wounds. The collection made him the second poet to ever receive the T. S. Eliot Prize for their first book. His situation has a paradox that he makes the focus of each of his works.

Why Are His Works Unique?

The freedom he obtains as well as the grief he feels at the same time while he writes closer and further from his ancestors. In one of his poems, Vuong wrote about how a soldier from America got a Vietnamese farmer girl pregnant. That’s how his mother was born, and that’s what brought Ocean into the world. He wrote that if there were no bombs, his family and himself wouldn’t exist. In another poem he wrote, the song called White Christmas’s lyrics were played on the radio of the Armed Forces. The lyrics were a signal that the final evacuation of the military of the Americans and the Vietnamese were underway. There were images of helicopters, a war-filled sky, abandonment, and death cut in between the lyrics.

Vuong didn’t know how to talk in English when he went to Hartford and started going to school. He was eleven when he started being able to read at grade level. He started creating poetry when he was still a child. Creating poetry caused him to become a person separated from their family even if he still honoured them as his family. He wrote about how by using his pen to write, he was bringing his family away from becoming extinct. Language isn’t an impediment for him, but it is a conduit. He can use language to visualise one of his memories, like how his mother would damage a pencil as she wrote the first three letters of the alphabet continuously. He could show you that she did this so that she could learn the alphabet on her own. He even described how sweat would seep through her shirt. Language for Vuong is a way to have a situation where communication has been broken already, and he’d be able to conjure wholeness from it. He makes sure that language keeps breaking and builds it up with words again. He thinks that survival and loss are intertwined. He wrote in his debut collection’s opener about how he didn’t know what it would cost to enter a song. He entered a song, and he lost his way back. He lost everything while his eyes were wide open.

What Is Vuong’s Novel About?

Vuong has a novel that he published recently, which is called On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. The story features a narrator that resembles Vuong himself in many ways. The narrator had parents that named him something with no worth in the hope that any evil spirits that pass by would ignore him. They called him Little Dog. The child, Little Dog, grew up in Hartford along with his schizophrenic grandmother and his traumatised mother. When Little Dog became fourteen years old, he worked in a farm out of Hartford as a tobacco farmer. That’s when he got into a relationship with the farm’s owner’s grandson Trevor.