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Night Sky with Exit Wounds

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  11,126 ratings  ·  1,234 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.
Paperback, 89 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Copper Canyon Press
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Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,126 ratings  ·  1,234 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.
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
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, favorites, 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."
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
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: east-asia, poetry, lgbt, 2019
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
"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
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.”
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."

David 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
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
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
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnam, read-2019, poetry
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
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
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
Probably I shouldn't write this review until I reread this book. It's easy enough to do. One book from 35 poems. Probably I shouldn't write this because it came with such high expectations, which are, let's face it, a writer's worst enemies. Me, I'll take low expectations any day. If someone finds something good, I'll be happy. And maybe they will, too.

Ocean has a way with words. Words that demand attention. I still remember the Beloit Poetry Journal poem of his I read, "Telemachus." I loved tha
Tyler Goodson
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: six-stars
Read this one hundred times.
Zachary 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
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 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A powerful collection of poems, about desire, longing, war, and loss. Vuong writes of the shattering effects of the Vietnamese war for the people of Vietnam. His poems are shot through with desire: for others, for sex, for meaning, as well as loss: of people, of love. The world and he are the scars of love and longing, stars the exit wounds of the bullets of pain we survive (or don't).

I felt drunk reading these poems, drunk on the words. Rich and as laden with beauty as a flower is with scent. I
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!
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Silly me. I thought love was real / & the body imaginary." ...more
Eric Anderson
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are some books which sit on your shelves for ages and you know you'll love them, but don't get around to reading them for some reason. “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” by Ocean Vuong is one of these. First published in 2016, it feels like one of those break-out books of poetry that's been universally lauded. His poems have that arresting quality as they clearly come from the heart and contain an urgent desire to communicate. The book is comprised of three sections: the first mostly deals with ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
4.5, rounded down
Eric Norris
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
I don’t know if you will enjoy the book Night Sky With Exit Wounds, by Ocean Vuong. That depends on you: how closely you read it, how often, and your individual taste. I read it twice. You might read it more. Or less. Or never. Or never again. Or learn it by heart. Always a nice thing to do with poetry.

I should warn you though. Buying it entails a small financial risk that you will have to undertake.

Unless you receive it as a gift for your birthday, or on Halloween, or some other happy occasion.
Raisa Beicu
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Probably the best poetry book I have ever read.

“If you must know anything, know that the hardest task is to live only once.”
“That rain. How something that lives only to fall can be nothing but sweet.”
“Only a mother can walk
with the weight
of a second beating heart.”
“My mother said I could be anything
I wanted - but I chose to live.”
“I am ready to be every animal
You leave behind.”
“To love another
man - is to leave
no one behind
to forgive me.”
“You will always remember what you were doing
Callum McAllister
I was ready to be disappointed, because I'm not sure any poetry book can live up to the hype of waiting half a year for it to be published in the U.K., but it was probably the best collection I've read in the last year - maybe longer.
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

& so what - if my feathers
are burning. I
never asked for flight.
Only to feel
this fully, this
entire, the way snow
touches bare skin - & is,
suddenly snow
no longer.

- Devotion
Laura Noggle
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2017
One of the most achingly beautiful books of poetry I've ever read.

For the past two-ish years, sentences and images revisit me from Night Sky with Exit Wounds.

There is no escaping—might be time for a reread.

Immigrant Haibun

"... 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 nowhere in sight.
Stars. Or rather, the d
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt, poetry
Beautiful. Mesmerizing. Raw. Hypnotizing. Engrossing. Amazing.
I could probably keep going but it's starting to get annoying-- ANYWAY-- wow what poetry. I, by no means, am a poetry fanatic or otherwise knowledgeable in the field. BUT. I know what is beautiful and what is good (and they don't always mean the same thing). This is both. This is honestly perfect.
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Ocean Vuong is the author of the debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019) and forthcoming in 15 other languages worldwide. 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 Firs ...more

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Here at Goodreads we take our summer reading seriously. After all, there are beach bags to be packed and ereaders to stock! ...
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“How sweet. That rain. How something that lives only to fall can be nothing but sweet.” 101 likes
“& remember, / loneliness is still time spent / with the world.” 76 likes
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