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Meet this Vietnamese-American poet who ‘means to fix English’

Meet this Vietnamese-American poet who ‘means to fix English’

Thursday, June 02, 2016, 18:22 GMT+7

A New York-based poet of Vietnamese origin has carved out a niche in the American poetry scene.

Ocean Vuong, 28, has emerged as a phenomenon in recent years.

In his article dated April 7, 2016 in The New Yorker magazine, Daniel Wenger called Vuong “a Poet Named Ocean who means to fix the English-language.”

Vuong was born in 1988 on a rice farm outside Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) before he and his six relatives moved to Hartford, Connecticut, two years later.

Vuong recalled in the interview with The New Yorker that he had struggled with English long before he could use it.

The young boy actually did not learn to read until he was eleven.

As an adult, Vuong often talks about having been brought up by the women in his family.

His father was jailed for hitting his mother shortly after the family’s arrival in Hartford, and the couple was divorced soon after.

It was his mother and grandmother that taught him their field songs and aphorisms, and cherished his infatuation with poetry, the article said.

His mother, a manicurist, named him Vinh Quoc Vuong after learning from a customer that the word “ocean is not a beach, but a body of water that touches many countries – including Vietnam and the United States.”

Vuong infused the significance of his name into his work published last year, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong.”

In high school, the young man would jot down his very first poems.

In 2008, he went to Pace University to study marketing, but quit after three weeks.

At Brooklyn College, he became an English major, and considered a writing career after poet-novelist Ben Lerner joined the faculty and gave him the idea.

Vuong’s grandmother died of bone cancer while he was studying at Brooklyn, according to The New Yorker article.

She was buried in Vietnam, which Vuong traveled back to for the funeral.

“I was overwhelmed, because everyone looked like my family,” he told the magazine.

“Vuong’s poems are graceful and wonderstruck. His lines are both long and short, his pose narrative and lyrical, his diction formal and insouciant. From the outside, Vuong has fashioned a poetry of inclusion,” the The New Yorker observed.

Meanwhile, in her article in March 2014, Eleanor Jackson, poetry editor at, described Vuong’s books as “brimming with lyrical intensity,” “conjuring a ravishing devastation,” and considered the young poet someone capable of “rare lyrical gifts.”

His books, “Burnings,” and “YesYes Books,” released in 2010 and 2013 respectively, were both selected as recommended LGBT reading by the American Library Association’s “Over the Rainbow” reading list, she added.

A 2016 winner of the Whiting Award and 2014 Ruth Lilly fellow, Vuong has also nabbed honors and awards from Poets House, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, and a Pushcart Prize, according to his own website.

His poetry and fiction have received rave reviews in Kenyon Review, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Poetry, and the American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets.

His work has been translated into multiple languages including Arabic, Cantonese Chinese, French, Italian, Hindi, Spanish, and Ukrainian, the website added.

Vuong published his first full-length collection, “Night Sky With Exit Wounds,” earlier this year.

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