Susan Nguyen


Susan Nguyen's debut poetry collection, Dear Diaspora (University of Nebraska Press, 2021) won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Her poetry is often interested in the body: how geography, history, and trauma leave markers, both visible and invisible. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and a Pushcart Prize and have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, Tin House, Diagram, and elsewhere. She is an alum of Tin House Winter and Summer Workshops and the Idyllwild Writers Week. Her hobbies, beyond reading and writing, include photography, zinemaking, hiking, and otherwise being outdoors. Nguyen earned her BA in English from Virginia Tech and her MFA in Poetry from Arizona State University, where she was the poetry editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. She has taught creative writing at ASU and the National University of Singapore, and she received a fellowship from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing to conduct an oral history project centered on the Vietnamese diaspora. She was named one of PBS NewsHour’s “three women poets to watch in 2018.” Source

How To Forgive

She asks me to write a list

of all the names I’ve been called.

And then a list of things

that are killing me.

Where to start? Susie. Sue.

Big Head. Men have called me cold.

Men I know, men I don’t.

It’s all over the news

how they want to kill me.

It doesn’t matter what they

call me. When I was 17, I kneeled

on the stained carpet at Men’s Wearhouse,

looping a tape measure around

a small boy’s waist and he showed me

my name. He pulled his eyes slant

as I measured the distance

between belly button and floor: inseam

or outseam, it’s hard to keep track.

A wedding, his father said.

There was going to be a wedding.

The boy needed a tux.

I don’t like this memory

because I did nothing.

In remembering,

I become nothing again.

Not long after in college,

I was sorting clothes in the back

of a Goodwill. Court-ordered community

service. An older man took

his time looking me up

and down as I sweat through my shirt,

threw pit-stained blouses

into the discard pile,

everything else the salvaging bin.

I went home with him for years,

not knowing about the prior assaults.

Would my knowing have changed

anything? He was gentle

to my face. I only ignored

his texts sometimes.

Men have destroyed me

for less. Even the boy.

I’m supposed to tell you

I forgive him—

he was just a boy.

I forgive myself instead.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Racial Injustice


Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie


a figure of speech wherein a writer raises a question and then immediately answers it

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered

Varied syntax

diverse sentence structure