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Night Sky with Exit Wounds

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  25,518 ratings  ·  3,154 reviews
Ocean Vuong's first full-length collection aims straight for the perennial "big"—and very human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. None of these he allows to overwhelm his spirit or his poems, which demonstrate, through breath and cadence and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the fiercest hungers. ...more
Paperback, 89 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Copper Canyon Press
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Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  25,518 ratings  ·  3,154 reviews

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Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely lovely book of poems. Nearly every poem ended in a way that left me saying "mmmmm" with pleasure or admiration or the quiet of feeling stunned by such beautiful words. ...more
Larry H
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The most beautiful part of your body
is where it's headed, & remember
loneliness is still time spent
with the world.

To read Ocean Vuong's Night Sky with Exit Wounds is to be dazzled by gorgeous lyricism. I picked this up as part of my exploration of contemporary poetry I have been experimenting with over the last several weeks. It's amazing the breadth of talent that exists in this genre.

I realized after reading the first few sentences of Vuong's first poem just how talented he is. It certainly
may ➹
I just don’t know / how to love a man / gently. Tenderness / a thing to be beaten / into.

This is a book best read slowly, out loud, in your bed during the late hours of night when nothing feels real. What a beautiful collection of poems focusing on themes ranging from immigration, the body, family, and war, each word painting a careful image that slices into you. Some of what Vuong wrote may have gone over my head, but the things he made me feel... I had so many visceral reactions throughout the
if even some of this is as amazing as the title i'm in for a ride.

update: that was a lot to live up to.

review to come / 3.5


reading books by asian authors for aapi month!

book 1: kim jiyoung, born 1982
book 2: siren queen
book 3: the heart principle
book 4: n.p.
book 5: the hole
book 6: set on you
book 7: disorientation
book 8: parade
book 9: if i had your face
book 10: joan is okay
book 11: strange weather in tokyo
book 12: sarong party girls
book 13: the wind-up bird chronicle
book 14: portrait o
persephone ☾
this book is the reason why i will not give up on reading contemporary poetry.
i cried not only because of the sadness that quite clearly radiates from this book but also for the beauty of it all, for the poetic metaphors that felt divinely nostalgic, for the descriptions that felt so vivid yet incredibly soft and for the hope that some poems still managed to convey despite the terrible events that were recounted.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, recs, poetry
Sparse and suggestive, the poems benefit from several readings: Vuong's language has a way of blossoming when read closely. Favorites included "Homewrecker," "Into the Breach," and "Anaphora as a Coping Mechanism." ...more
Steven Critelli
Apr 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Notwithstanding his youth, by the time Night Sky with Exit Wounds was published in early 2016, Ocean Vuong was already well-known as a exciting new poet, with poems in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, The New Yorker, The Poetry Review and other prominent poetry journals. So it was with much anticipation that I read this book. I regrettably say I was disappointed, partly because I expected a lot more in the way of a wunderkind's talent, with poetry that was as sophisticated as it was effusivel ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017, read-2018
“I didn't know the cost
of entering a song - was to lose
your way back.”
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt, 2019, east-asia, poetry
Night Sky with Exit Wounds is an invigorating, razor-sharp poetry collection that meditates with both candor and artistry on themes of war, nationality, sexuality, and violence. Vuong, born in Vietnam and raised in the US, threads details of his own family history into his broader narrative verse that centers on Vietnamese identity. It's a fierce, provocative, political, and sensual collection that I found both challenging and moving, and I'm looking forwarding to reading Vuong's debut novel On ...more
Dannii Elle
Actual rating 4.5/5 stars.

"Ocean, don’t be afraid.
The end of the road is so far ahead
it is already behind us.
Don’t worry. Your father is only your father
until one of you forgets. Like how the spine
won’t remember its wings
no matter how many times our knees
kiss the pavement. Ocean,
are you listening? The most beautiful part
of your body is wherever
your mother’s shadow falls.
Here’s the house with childhood
whittled down to a single red trip wire.
Don’t worry. Just call it horizon
& you’ll
TJ ☾
Nov 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
💫 song: navy blue - hasani

“Dearest Father, forgive me for I have seen.”

fav poems:

🔹 a little closer to the edge
🌊 immigrant hiabun
🌀 headfirst
🦋 self-portrait as exit wounds
🪁 notebook fragments
"There are seagulls above us. There are hands fluttering between the constellations, trying to hold on....

"Everyone can forget us -- as long as you remember."

-Ocean Vuong, from "Immigrant Haibun"


I admire Vuong's use of repetition, of theme and variation, in poems like "Threshold" and "Trojan." While I often gravitate toward more traditionally structured, more metrically restricted verse than Vuong's, I concede that it is exactly his preference for unmetered lines that allows him to use repeti
maggie (rin's version)
“Then, as if breathing, the sea swelled beneath us. If you must know anything, know that the hardest task is to live only once. That a woman on a sinking ship becomes a life raft—no matter how soft her skin. While I slept, he burned his last violin to keep my feet warm. He lay beside me and placed a word on the nape of my neck, where it melted into a bead of whiskey. Gold rust down my back. We had been sailing for months. Salt in our sentences. We had been sailing—but the edge of the world was n ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Stars. Or rather, the drains of heaven – waiting. Little holes. Little centuries opening just enough for us to slip through.”

“I hold the gun & wonder if an entry wound in the night would make a hole wide as morning.”

Published in 2016, this is Ocean Vuong’s first full collection of poetry. A book about violence, identity, NY vs. Vietnam, sex, being gay, Grandma, living the legacy of Vietnam and the war (He was born in Saigon), and feels ecstatic, bursting with enthusiasm and reflecting pain. F
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Trish by: Michael
Published in 2016, this is Ocean Vuong’s first full collection of poetry. We will never know how a boy emerges, so young, with a talent so great. A poem chosen at random lights deep, protected nodes in our brain and attaches to our viscera. We recognize his work as surely as we appreciate a painting, or a piece of music. He appears a conduit, not a creator.

One of the poems in this collection has a title referencing a Mark Rothko painting. Glancing at it, we know immediately why he pairs it with
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This poetry collection has been recommended twice on the Reading Envy Podcast by readers I trust - Shawn (Episode 111) and Lauren (Episode 147) but I certainly took my time in getting to it.

Poems span from grappling with a father's experiences and a painful family/country history to the poet's own body and adulthood.

Favorites include "Telemachus," "A Little Closer to the Edge" (also see this video where the poet reads it,) "Into the Breach," "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous," and "Logophobia."

Apr 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
This is the first full-length collection by Ocean Vuong, a rather thoughtless writer who is careless with words and who has never crossed a pathos he didn't immediately take. Voung has a second-rate imagination that never goes beyond his favorite subject, which is Vuong (see his New Yorker poem, "Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong," which is literally addressed to himself, as an example). Page after page exhibits poor writing: in "Prayer for the Newly Damned" he writes "what becomes of the shepherds/ ...more
Meg Tuite
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mesmerizing, unforgettable, and a heart open in your hand. Vuong holds back nothing. This is one to reread and keep on the desk. To hold tight to the connection of why we write!

"When our lips touched the day closed
into a coffin. In the museum of the heart

there are two headless people building a burning house.
There was always the shotgun above..."

"Depending on where you stand
your name can sound like a full moon
shredded in a dead doe's pelt.
Your name changed when touched
by gravity. Gravity breakin
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, owned
Poems about heritage, trauma and refugee status in the first part of the bundle to love reflections in the second part, and a bit more thematically unclear final part
Don’t we touch each other to prove we are still here? - On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous

Section I
Harrowing connections between the fall of Saigon and the fall of Troy kick off this collection:

As if dancing could stop the heart of his murderer from beating between his ribs. - Trojan

In the square below: a nun on fire,
rubs silently to
Imogen Kathleen
Between this collection and On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong is officially one of my favourite writers ever.
I already know that I will return to this collection time and time again; if that isn't the mark of a brilliant set of poems, I don't know what is.

Vuong's next publication, Time Is A Mother, comes out this year and I am incredibly excited to see what he comes up with next.
Steven Godin
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

No doubt Vuong is a talented young poet that is breathing new life into 21st century poetry, which, I'm sure one would admit, if one loves poetry, hasn't been that great. So good for him.
I still think the book is over-hyped though, but that's just me.

One of my faves was Homewrecker -

& this is how we danced: our mothers’
white dresses spilling from our feet, late August

turning our hands dark red. & this is how we loved:
a fifth of vodka & an afternoon in the attic, your fingers

through my hair—my h
Jan 14, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq, poetry
“some nights you are the light house / some nights the sea / what this means is that i don't know / desire other than the need / to be shattered & rebuilt”

Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, vietnam, read-2019
Ocean Vuong was not as well known when I added this poetry collection to my list a few years ago. With the recent publication of his novel, he has entered the limelight. I decided to read this book before the novel as a sort of introduction to his themes and style though I have a sense it probably exists more for itself.

Vuong’s poetry has many themes: family, loss, war, father, mother, love and lovers. Above all of these may be the idea of searching, always searching. He uses the natural world
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Note to self: If Orpheus was a woman I wouldn’t be stuck down here. – from Notebook Fragments

There’s a photograph on the jacket of Ocean Vuong’s debut poetry collection of a small boy sitting on a wooden bench. Encircled by the arms of two women in summery cottons, he gazes steadily at the camera. The elegance is deceptive: it was taken when the family were living in poverty in a refugee camp in the Philippines, en route for the US, after being expelled from Vietnam. Vuong, the only child in the
Z. F.
          I build a life & tear it apart
& the sun keeps shining.

Ocean Vuong is receiving thunderous praise right now for his autobiographical novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, so, on a poetry binge last month, I decided to give his second-most-acclaimed book a go.

Vuong is clearly a gifted poet, with a wealth of harrowing personal experiences to pull from and an evenhanded consideration for both life's darkness and its beauty. He understands the art of formal simplicity, never flaunting
Jenny Baker
Apr 02, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2022, recs-read
Ocean Vuong writes beautiful poetry. They're like snippets of different stories that leave you wanting more. ...more
Chris Roberts
Mar 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
Verse is memory turned around...

A warehouse of the remembered...

And too the forgotten...

And the consciously left out...

Description, diction, misuse...

The author decides what to use...

The poetry medium is deader...

Than the poet ever could be...

Except for me, always, always me...

So now, is this obvious work...

Drop dead, so not dangerous...

Trod through scenarios...

sun against son...

Guess which one won...

Or how in the end...

I ask the wayfarer to...

Wake me up when originality...

Is resurrected, I want
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars, poetry
this book was so formative to my love (and understanding) of poetry when i first read it over four years ago. “on earth we’re briefly gorgeous” is still one of my all-time favorite poems—even if i found its novel adaptation lackluster. i think a little bit of the original magic is lost on me today (the first half of this was slower/less impactful than the second imo), but i love night sky with exit wounds nonetheless.

onto time is a mother!
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it

well this was infinitely better than most other poetry i've read in my life. but its still poetry lol i was lost for about 50% of it and everything went super over my head. BUT. stuff i DID understand, i quite liked. Excited to chat with Prof Vuong about his poetry this week!
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Ocean Vuong is the author of the debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019). 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 Poetr ...more

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