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Nothing short of beautiful. Fresh feeling poems populated with violence, the roadside, love, and what endures. Where war and tragedy and trauma persists, so do the bold spirit in each of these poems, unafraid to look back be tender. What I found most compelling in Time Is a Mother was the rhythm, dilating and breathing one moment, rapid and pulsing the next, capturing the flow of relative time the way only a voice like Vuong's can.
April 2022 Indie Next List
“Ocean Vuong comes home in his second full-length collection, exploring grief, violence, masculinity and queer life in America. Whether shoveling snow, reversing time, or losing his mother, Vuong will crack you open and heal you.”
— Owen Elphick, Main Point Books, Wayne, PA
The New York Times-bestselling collection of poems from the award-winning writer Ocean Vuong
"Take your time with these poems, and return to them often.” —The Washington Post
How else do we return to ourselves but to fold The page so it points to the good part
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.
The author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, winner of the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T. S. Eliot Prize, and a 2019 MacArthur fellow, Vuong writes directly to our humanity without losing sight of the current moment. These poems represent a more innovative and daring experimentation with language and form, illuminating how the themes we perennially live in and question are truly inexhaustible. Bold and prescient, and a testament to tenderness in the face of violence, Time Is a Mother is a return and a forging forth all at once.
About the Author
Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds and the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A recipient of the 2019 MacArthur "Genius Grant," he is also the winner of the Whiting Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. His writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
“In this highly anticipated second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong ruminates on time. It becomes a character of its own, both an obstacle and motherly, something that can nurture and hold. Written in the aftermath of his mother’s death, Vuong’s poems are raw with grief and darkness, but there are radical moments of joy and resilience even through that. Through these poems, Vuong sings loud and clear of everything worth living for and discovering—just as vividly as he did in his critically acclaimed titles On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Night Sky With Exit Wounds.” —NPR, “Books We Love”
“Piercing . . . The poems in Time Is a Mother give us a path to examine the complexities of what it means to lose a mother, and what it means to embrace family and the self even when we want to look away. In Vuong’s tender yet unflinching words, we are reminded that only a mother can carry a beating heart within her body.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Like Orpheus descending into the underworld, Vuong takes us to the white-hot limits of his grief, writing with visionary fervor about love, agony, and time . . . Aesthetically ambitious and ferociously original . . . Here, he breaks open and rebuilds.” —Esquire, “The Best Books of Spring 2022”
“That’s the essence of Vuong’s talent: he alchemizes deeply individual experiences with universal emotions into what is both familiar and new. . . . We need no more proof of Vuong’s importance in the poetic canon.” —Chicago Review of Books
“An ode to his mother’s passing, Vuong orbits the contours of grief. . . . the poet’s linguistic ferocity illuminates his mother’s spirit from the rays of memory.” —Associated Press
“Aesthetically complex yet emotionally accessible, Time is a Mother at once innovates and affirms the existing poetic tradition. . . . Vuong's portrait of Hồng is both intimate and iconic.” —NPR.org “Time Is a Mother builds on the themes of [Vuong’s] previous books, displaying a new degree of precision and elegant power. . . . Time Is a Mother offers a reckoning with the many versions of ourselves, some altered by time and loss but still true, still open to more life—as a long as we’re willing to risk the depths.” —Nashville Scene
“Vuong’s powerful follow-up to Night Sky with Exit Wounds does more than demonstrate poetic growth: it deepens and extends an overarching project with 27 new poems that reckon with loss and impermanence . . . This fantastic book will reward fans while winning this distinctive poet new ones.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Vuong] focuses on the complicated relationship with his mother in quiet, astonishing lyrics . . . Even the most ostensibly simple moments prove mesmerizing in Vuong's treatment.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Vuong’s second full-length poetry collection grapples with the aftermath of his mother’s death in poems that memorably evoke the stunning immensity of loss.” —Buzzfeed News, 26 Books to Get Excited About This Year
“Tender and heartbreaking . . . this collection of poems thoughtfully considers grief, both as an emotion and a sacred act, revisiting the history he shared with his mother and the understanding of family they forged together. Delving back into the visceral themes that made his 2019 novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous a revelation, Vuong traverses the intensely personal and the broadly political with grace and courage.” —TIME, “The Most Anticipated Books of 2022”
“These poems glisten and rattle, and they deftly mine a host of diverse topics—sex, privilege, beauty, art, poverty, death—to offer us a fresh way of evaluating and understanding our world. Vuong expertly unwraps clichés and rewraps them in fresh packaging so we can perceive their meanings anew. On each page he demonstrates that untranslatable is a meaningless word. His poems say, We’re all humans having human experiences. Let’s figure this all out together.” —Vulture, “49 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2022”
“Ocean Vuong’s Time Is a Mother is haunting, inconsolable, and at the same time a playful, generous in spirit, tender, inimitable book. The poet’s late mother is these pages’ muse and guardian spirit, as poem after poem Vuong redefines our idea of what an elegy can do it, what it is for. But from all of this intersection of tragedy and tenderness, true wisdom comes: Vuong teaches us not just how to grieve, but how to live.” —Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa
“All of Ocean Vuong’s writing shows a masterful attention to detail. He comes at language with a magnifying glass. He holds words differently than everyone else, and when he hands them to you, they are changed. . . . Dealing with the death of his mother, this new book comes from a place of grief and memory, turning loss over and over in a way that only this writer can.” —LitHub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2022”
“Ocean Vuong’s sentences are like tiny icebergs: exquisite and annihilating.” —Nylon, “24 Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2022”
“Among the most haunting in the collection is a poem that lists items ordered from Amazon leading up to the death of his mother from cancer, the last line—one pair of woolen socks—a singular reminder that we come here alone and we die alone, regardless of whether time nurtures us or not.” —Oprah Daily, “The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2022”
“Stories of personal loss are woven into vignettes and memories that explore the most sweeping of subjects—addiction, racism, war, death, family—with a gentle, modest touch and the occasional dose of humor. So, too, does Vuong once again prove himself the rare writer in whose hands experiments with form can become a thing of beauty in and of themselves. . . . Indeed, for all his technical prowess, the most striking thing about Vuong’s writing will always be its warm, beating heart even in the face of life’s cruelties. . . . It’s a body of work as hauntingly beautiful as it is ultimately hopeful, and very possibly Vuong’s best yet.” —Vogue.com, “The Best Books of 2022: A Preview”
“[A] stirring collection of poetry. [Vuong] experiments with language and form while probing the aftermath of his mother’s death and his determination to survive it. Take your time with these poems, and return to them often.” —The Washington Post, “The books to read in 2022 based on what you loved in 2021”
“Both Jarrett and Hess say this poetry collection, Vuong’s second, should be on your radar in 2022. . . . ‘The poetry is just incredible and so moving,’ Hess said. ‘Anyone can read it and cull from it what they need from it at that time, which I love because it really speaks to so many people across many aspects of life.’” —Boston.com, “23 books to look out for in 2022, according to local experts”