Ocean Vuong


Ocean Vuong is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 30 languages. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur "Genius" Grant, he is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize. Vuong's writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Granta, Harpers, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Village Voice, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a 2016 100 Leading Global Thinker, Ocean was also named by BuzzFeed Books as one of “32 Essential Asian American Writers” and has been profiled on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PBS NewsHour, Teen Vogue, Interview, Poets & Writers, and The New Yorker. Born in Saigon, Vietnam and raised in Hartford, Connecticut in a working class family of nail salon and factory laborers, he was educated at nearby Manchester Community College before transferring to Pace University to study International Marketing. Without completing his first term, he dropped out of Business school and enrolled at Brooklyn College, where he graduated with a BA in Nineteenth Century American Literature. He subsequently received his MFA in Poetry from NYU.  He currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts where he serves as an Associate Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at UMass-Amherst. Source

Reasons for Staying

The October leaves coming down, as if called.


Morning fog through the wild rye beyond the train tracks.


A cigarette. A good sweater. On the sagging porch. While the family sleeps.


That I woke at all & the hawk up there thought nothing of its wings.


That I snuck onto the page while the guards were shit-faced on codeine.


That I read my books by the light of riot fire.


That my best words came farthest from myself & it’s awesome.


That you can blow a man & your voice speaks through his voice.


Like Jonah through the whale.


Because a blade of brown rye, multiplied by thousands, makes a purple field.


Because this mess I made I made with love.


Because they came into my life, my brothers, like something poured.


Because crying, believe it or not, did wonders.


Because my uncle never killed himself—but simply died, on purpose.


Because I made a promise.


That the McDonald’s arch, glimpsed from the 2 AM rehab window, was enough.


That mercy is small but the earth is smaller.


Summer rain hitting Peter’s bare shoulders.


Because I stopped apologizing myself toward visibility.


Because this body is my last address.


The moment just before morning, like right now, when it’s blood-blue & the terror incumbent.


Because the sound of bike spokes heading home at dawn is unbearable.


Because the hills keep burning in California.


Through red smoke, singing. Through the singing, an exit.


Because only music rhymes with music.


The words I’ve yet to use: Timothy grass, Jeffrey pine, celloing, cocksure, light-lusty, midnight-green, gentled, water-thin, lord (as verb), russet, pewter, lobotomy.


The night’s worth of dust on his upper lip.


Barnjoy on the cusp of winter.


The broken piano under a bridge in Windsor that sounds like footsteps when you play it.


The Sharpied sign outside the foreclosed house: SEEKING PUSH MOWER. PLEASE CALL KAYLA.


The train whistle heard through an open window after a nightmare.


Sleeping in the back seat, leaving the town that broke me, intact.


Early snow falling from a clear, blushed sky.


As if called.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:


Body & Body Image

Faith & Hope


Joy & Praise

Mental Health

Poetic Form

Strength & Resilience

Literary Devices:


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


joining two or more words to create a new word


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”