Hieu Minh Nguyen


HIEU MINH NGUYEN is a queer Vietnamese American poet and performer based out of Minneapolis. Recipient of 2017 NEA fellowship for poetry, Hieu is a Kundiman fellow, a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine, and an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson College. His work has appeared in PBS Newshour, POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, BuzzFeed, Poetry London, Nashville Review, Indiana Review, and more. His debut collection of poetry, This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) was named a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the MN Book Award. His second collection of poetry, Not Here, was published with Coffee House Press in 2018.  Source

Buffet Etiquette

My mother and I don’t have dinner table conversations

out of courtesy. We don’t want to remind each other

of our accents. Her voice, a Vietnamese lullaby

sung to an empty bed. The taste of her hometown

still kicking on the back of her teeth.


My voice is bleach. My voice has no history.

My voice is the ringing of an empty picture frame.




I am forgetting how to say the simple things

to my mother. The words that linger in my periphery.

The words, a rear view mirror dangling from the wires.

I am only fluent in apologies.




Sometimes when I watch home movies, I don't even understand

myself. My childhood is a foreign film. All of my memories

have been dubbed in English.




My mother's favorite television shows are all 90s sitcoms.

The ones that have laugh tracks. The prerecorded emotion

to cue her when to smile.




In the first grade I mastered my tongue. I cleaned

my speech, and during parent-teacher conferences

Mrs. Turner was surprised my mother was Asian.

She just assumed I was adopted. She assumed

that this voice was the same one I started with.




As she holds a pair of chopsticks, a friend asks me

why I am using a fork. I tell her it's much easier.

With her voice the same octave as my grandmother’s,

she says “but this is so much cooler.”




I am just the clip-art. The poster boy of whitewash. My skin

has been burning easier these days. My voice box is shrinking.

I have rinsed it out too many times.




My house is a silent film.

My house is infested with subtitles.




That’s all.      That’s all.

I have nothing else to say.





Literary Movements:


Spoken Word

Anthology Years:




Childhood & Coming of Age




Literary Devices:


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


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


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

Varied Punctuation

diverse use of punctuation.