Night Sky With Exit Wounds

Night Sky With Exit Wounds

Award-winning, 2016-published Night Sky With Exit Wounds is a beautiful collection of often startling poems by Vietnamese-born, American-raised refugee Ocean Vuong. Spanning war, the fall of Saigon, gay love, families and much more, the poems may traverse sometimes familiar ground, but they offer fresh perspectives using language that sparkles as if its very words were diamonds.

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We at Travelfish are prolific readers, but we often fall down when it comes to staying abreast of what’s happening in the poetry world. We blame memories of horrible effort required in high school to make sense of stuff from the distant past, but this is really, truly no excuse. If you’re like us, picking up a collection like Night Sky With Exit Wounds is an easy and painless way to reenter this corner of the literary world. (As is, incidentally, Mai Der Vang’s Afterland.)

To continue with our metaphor—trust us, nothing so awkward appears in Vuong’s work—these poems are exquisite jewels. Or crystallised essences of emotions, surprising and somehow aptly rendered.

In this Guardian profile, Vuong says that he was “a terrible student” at a rough school where “being a slight, queer, yellow boy, it was very easy to be picked on”. He learned to read aged 11 and suspects that dyslexia runs in his family, according to the piece. “I think perhaps the disability helped me a bit, because I write very slowly and see words as objects. I’m always trying to look for words inside words. It’s so beautiful to me that the word laughter is inside slaughter,” he’s quoted as saying. This precision, with each word seemingly handled very carefully as it was placed on a page, between others equally carefully selected, is striking.

These are poems to sit with, allowing the feelings Vuong conveys to percolate to the surface and the evocative images to shimmer to their best advantage.

Consider “Threshold”, the first poem:

“On my knees,
I watched, through the keyhole, not the man showering but the rain falling through him; guitar strings snapping over his globed shoulders.”

Or Trojan:

“The dress petaling off him like the skin of an apple.”

Or Thanksgiving 2006:

“Brooklyn’s too cold tonight
& all my friends are three years away.”
My mother said I could be anything
I wanted—but I chose to live.”

One of our immediate favourites was Notebook Fragments, a collection of disparate snippets, just as the title suggests:

“Even sweetness can scratch the throat, so stir the sugar well.—Grandma

An American soldier fucked a Vietnamese farmgirl. Thus my mother exists. Thus I exist. Thus no bombs = no family = no me. / Yikes.”

A note on whether to go e-reader or paper: We could not get our Kindle to render the text small enough to accurately reflect the line settings printed on paper, so shallow indents were shown where line breaks should have been. If you have the time to wait for it, we’d suggest buying the hard copy.

Buy online: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble |



108 results found

Burma (Myanmar)

Burmese Days
Burmese Days

By George Orwell

Finding George Orwell
Finding George Orwell

By Emma Larkin

Miss Burma
Miss Burma

By Charmaine Craig

The Glass Palace
The Glass Palace

By Amitav Ghosh

The Trouser People
The Trouser People

By Andrew Marshall

Cambodia

Dogs at the Perimeter
Dogs at the Perimeter

By Madeleine Thien

Holiday in Cambodia
Holiday in Cambodia

By Laura Jean McKay

Hun Sen’s Cambodia
Hun Sen’s Cambodia

By Sebastian Strangio

Hunters in the Dark
Hunters in the Dark

By Lawrence Osborne

King Norodom's Head
King Norodom's Head

By Steven W. Boswell

River of Time
River of Time

By Jon Swain

The Gate
The Gate

By Francoise Bizot

Indonesia

A House in Bali
A House in Bali

By Colin McPhee

Beauty is a Wound
Beauty is a Wound

By Eka Kurniawan

Black Water
Black Water

By Louise Doughty

Home
Home

By Leila S. Chudori

In the Time of Madness
In the Time of Madness

By Richard Lloyd Parry

Indonesia Etc.
Indonesia Etc.

By Elizabeth Pisani

On the Java Ridge
On the Java Ridge

By Jock Serong

Ring of Fire
Ring of Fire

By Lawrence Blair

The Malay Archipelago
The Malay Archipelago

By Alfred Russel Wallace

The Rainbow Troops
The Rainbow Troops

By Andrea Hirata

The Year of Living Dangerously
The Year of Living Dangerously

By Christopher J. Koch

This Earth of Mankind
This Earth of Mankind

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Under the Volcano
Under the Volcano

By Cameron Forbes

Laos

Malaysia

Singapore

Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians

By Kevin Kwan

From Third World to First
From Third World to First

By Lee Kuan Yew

If I Could Tell You
If I Could Tell You

By Jing-Jing Lee

In Transit: An Anthology
In Transit: An Anthology

By Zhang Ruihe and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow

Sarong Party Girls
Sarong Party Girls

By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Singapore Noir
Singapore Noir

By Cheryl Lu-Tien Tan

State of Emergency
State of Emergency

By Jeremy Tiang

Sugarbread
Sugarbread

By Balli Kaur Jaswal

The Tower
The Tower

By Isa Kamari (translated by Alfian Sa'at)

Thailand

A Tiger in Eden
A Tiger in Eden

By Chris Flynn

Bangkok Found
Bangkok Found

By Alex Kerr

Hothouse Flower
Hothouse Flower

By Lucinda Riley

Jasmine Nights
Jasmine Nights

By S.P. Somtow

Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind
Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

By Carol Hollinger

Many Lives
Many Lives

By M.R Kukrit Pramoj

Sightseeing
Sightseeing

By Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Thai Street Food
Thai Street Food

By David Thompson

The Beach
The Beach

By Alex Garland

The Drinking Food of Thailand
The Drinking Food of Thailand

By Andy Ricker with JJ Goode

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Narrow Road to the Deep North

By Richard Flanagan

The Sad Part Was
The Sad Part Was

By Prabda Yoon

The Windup Girl
The Windup Girl

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture
Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

By Philip Cornwel-Smith

Vietnam

Bright Shining Lie
Bright Shining Lie

By Neil Sheehan

Destination Saigon
Destination Saigon

By Walter Mason

Dragon Apparent
Dragon Apparent

By Norman Lewis

Fishing for Tigers
Fishing for Tigers

By Emily Maguire

The Lover
The Lover

By Marguerite Duras

The Quiet American
The Quiet American

By Graham Greene

The Refugees
The Refugees

By Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sorrow of War
The Sorrow of War

By Bao Ninh

The Sympathizer
The Sympathizer

By Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried

By Tim O’Brien

When the War Was Over
When the War Was Over

By Elizabeth Becker

General