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

Excerpt from “Beautiful Short Loser”

Stand back, I’m a loser on a winning streak.


I got your wedding dress on backward, playing air guitar in

these streets.


I taste my mouth the most & what a blessing.


The most normal things about me are my shoulders. You’ve

been warned.


Where I’m from it’s only midnight for a second

& the trees look like grandfathers laughing in the rain.


For as long as I can remember I’ve had a preference for

mediocre bodies, including this one.


How come the past tense is always longer?


Is the memory of a song the shadow of a sound or is that too



Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I imagine Van Gogh singing

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” into his cut ear & feeling peace.


Green voices in the rain, green rain in the voices.


Oh no. The sadness is intensifying. How rude.


Hey [knocks on my skull], can we go home now?


That one time Jaxson passed out beside a triple stack of

jumbo pancakes at Denny’s after top surgery.


I can’t believe I lost my [  ], he said a minute before, smiling

through tears.


The sadness in him ends in me tonight.

It ends tonight! I shouted to the cop who pulled us over for



I’m not high, officer, I just don’t believe in time.


Tomorrow, partly cloudy with a chance.


I know. I know the room you’ve been crying in

is called America.


I know the door is not invented yet.


Finally, after years, I’m now a professional loser. 


I’m crushing it in losses, I’m mopping the floor

where Jaxson’s drain bags leaked on his way to bed.


I’m done talking, officer, I’m dancing


in the rain with a wedding dress & it makes sense.


Because my uncle decided to leave this world, intact.


Because taking a piece of my friend away from him

made him more whole.


Because where I’m from the trees look like family

laughing in my head.


Because I am the last of my kind at the beginning of hope.


Because what I did with my one short beautiful life–

was lose it


on a winning streak.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


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


the usage of words in a clause that are repeated in reverse order


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

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered


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