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Burnings – A chapbook of poetry by Ocean Vuong (Cover art by Ashley Blazawski). The poems of Burnings explore refugee culture, be the speaker a literal refugee from a torn homeland, or a refugee from his own skin, burning with the heat of awakening eroticism. In this world, we’re all refugees from something…
PRAISE FOR BURNINGS
Roger Bonair-Agard, two time National Slam Champion, author of Tarnish and Masquerade
“I was born because someone was starving…” ends one of Ocean Vuong’s poems, and in that poem, as in every other of his poems, Ocean manages to imbue the desperation of his being alive, with a savage beauty. It is not just that Ocean can render pain as a kind of loveliness, but that his poetic line will not let you forget the hurt or the garish brilliance of your triumph; will not let you look away. These poems shatter us detail by detail because Ocean leaves nothing unturned, because every lived thing in his poems demands to be fed by you; to nourish you in turn. You will not leave these poems dissatisfied. They will fill you utterly.
Hoa Nguyen, author of Hectate Lochia and Kiss A Bomb Tattoo:
Ocean Vuong is a poet of rare lyrical gifts and urgent stories to tell. “Memory,” he writes, “has not forgotten you.” No, it hasn’t forgotten the burning city or the taste of blood nor the hanging of rags or the violence of war. Vuong’s poems are testament to the enduring power of poetry and its place in this human universe.
Vuong’s poetry is about being a man with all of the emotions that go with masculinity. Looking at Vietnam where he was born, he is taught to behave one way and then in his adopted home, America, he learns a different aspect of masculinity. Raw and intense, his poems will comfort and discomfort at the same time — and most likely strike several nerves.
Eric Nguyen, You Fight Like Anne Rice!:
Vuong’s poetic world is a world of pain: the pain of lives interrupted (in “Burnings”), the pain of never being able to come back (“Returning to the City of My Birth”), the pain of pleasure that cannot possibly last. But reading these poems–these wise, sometimes sad, sometimes sensual poems–one can see that pain can perhaps be the most beautiful thing of the human experience: not in a masochistic way, but because it’s universal, something that one must acquire to be recognizably human: there simply is no other option. This is perhaps best articulated in the last poem “Seeing It As It Is,” a bittersweet moment where a blind girl gains her eyesight and sees a burning building: “Mommy,” she says, “you were right. This world/is beautiful.”
Born in 1988 in Saigon, Vietnam, Ocean Vuong is currently an undergraduate English Major at Brooklyn College, CUNY. His poems have received an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Beatrice Dubin Rose Award, the Connecticut Poetry Society’s Al Savard Award, as well as two Pushcart Prize nominations. His work has appeared in Word Riot, Kartika Review, Lantern Review, SOFTBLOW, Asia Literary Review, and PANK, among others. He lives in New York. Check out Ocean’s blog here, or stalk him on Facebook.