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Not Here

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,201 ratings  ·  174 reviews
Not Here is a flight plan for escape and a map for navigating home; a queer Vietnamese American body in confrontation with whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia; and a big beating heart of a book. Nguyen’s poems ache with loneliness and desire and the giddy terrors of allowing yourself to hope for love, and revel in moments of connection achieved.
Paperback, 76 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by Coffee House Press
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Average rating 4.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,201 ratings  ·  174 reviews

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Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding collection of poetry about queerness, boyhood, sons and their mothers, what we carry when who we are is not enough for the people who should love us best, desire and the thrall of want. Cockfight is a real stand out but all the poems offer something beautiful, razor sharp, intelligent, interesting, memorable.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, recs, poetry
Over the course of a few dozen poems, Nguyen confronts his relationship to space, memory, and pain as a queer Vietnamese-American man. The collection consists of a mix of long and short pieces, addressing everything from childhood trauma to the loss of love, and it features a wide array of forms. Nguyen's versatility as a poet is mesmerizing, as are the cadences of his poems. His images are lucid, his language uncomplicated and moving. The poems considering Nguyen's relationship to his mother ar ...more
3.5 stars

A vulnerable, moving poetry collection written by queer Vietnamese American author Hieu Minh Nguyen. As a queer Vietnamese American myself, I related to so much of the content here, including how Nguyen describes confrontations with whiteness and racism, difficult and nuanced relationships with family, and general moments of sadness and connection. Though his words felt relatable to me, he has a distinct voice all of his own. Certain lines took my breath away, like "I'm told to be open
This was recommended by a fellow poet and did not disappoint in that it had some beautiful lines along the way. Nguyen tackles issues surrounding his coming-of-age as a gay Vietnamese-American, so the extremely personal topics touch on racism, homophobia, and his own inner turmoil growing up.

Some poems cross into TMI territory, but I most appreciated the poems concerning his mother and grandmother, father and uncles--that is, the way coming out can create anger, fear, hysteria, and hate within
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, queer
went into this only knowing that hieu went to high school with one of my best friends and that last week I definitely reached out to him on twitter and said he could take a picture of my butt for unstated artistic purposes and then I picked up his book at the library and all I could think about was Minneapolis and how much I long for it and how beholden I am to the entire oeuvre of this poet community that I am trying to offer up my own literal ass as a boon to mark my appreciation
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

Stellar collection. Clear-eyed observations on the bond between mother and son, mental health, and race.

"I'm trying to understand that memory / is not a technology, a full charge / will get you nowhere, if you're stuck / tracing the perimeters of your dull nostalgia / for an exit." -from "Punish"

"Too often, I don't tell people / (people I love) I am sad. I don't think that's some- / thing they would want to hear. Because they love me. / Because I don't want them to feel like the currenc
Emily Polson
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Bless language
its impossible walls
its flexible agony
a thin line
I keep tripping over

Hieu Minh Nguyen faces his issues head on with these poems, discussing molestation, queerness, racial identity, and his complicated relationship with his mother. The collection picks up speed in the second half, where nearly every poem made me pause, ponder, and reread. My favorites were, in order of appearance:

-"Attending the Party"
-"White Boy Time Machine: Override"
musa b-n
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Many many content warnings that I definitely wish I'd been given before I read this - abuse, child abuse, parental abuse, fatphobia ... this poetry is incredibly and speaks to me more than a lot of poetry has in a while. I'm glad to have read it. It is definitely achingly sad. ...more
Lisa Lieberman
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely lovely, heartbreaking poems. I found the epigraph for my current novel:
Let me be clear: any love I find will be treason.
Can't remember which friend recommended this, but THANK YOU!
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: tlb, apl, lgbtq, poetry, 2019
Didn't like this one as much as This Way to the Sugar, but still a solid collection of poems here. Favorites include: Lesson; Dear X; Attending the Party; The Study; Apology, Sort Of; Again, Let Me Explain Again. ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is not a collection that is easily digestible. It sits with you. Sits heavy on your mind and tongue. Loops circles in your brain as you try to unthink it. It made me think about sex and who we are to each other when we have it.

It’s subject is trauma - sexual, familial, historical. The site of the trauma is the poet’s voice & the poet’s body. The poems point backwards and forwards as the voice uses sexual encounters to renact the various traumas again and again. All the while the voice stri
Blythe Baird
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books of poetry I've ever read. Poignant, beautiful, startling, captivating. ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book of poetry that I've read this year. ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hieu Minh Nguyen is an unstoppable light? An incomparable force? A delight to the senses? Yes. Once again, Nguyen has written a collection that left me gasping for breath and grasping for more. His poems are introspective, reflective, and gorgeous. He spills what feels like his whole being on the page writing about childhood trauma, sex with strangers, his relationship with his mother, and being a depressed person just trying to get by. What he leaves is a collection full of a passion, at times ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nguyen's debut collection is outstanding. If you have enjoyed the work of Kaveh Akbar, Ocean Vuong, and Chen Chen, this is very much in the same thread. It is an exciting time in poetry.

Aug 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry

This is the third collection of poetry I’ve read by a Vietnamese-American poet recently, after Dear Diaspora & Night Sky with Exit Wounds. While I did enjoy it overall, I did struggle with what I frequently do in poetry- just not “getting” certain poems. Most of the themes are about his family (mother specifically), queer identity/sex, and connections with the past.

Those that left me with the strongest impression are listed below.

Highlights: White Boy Time Machine: Override, Nguyễn, Pig, Co
May 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Started in the morning and kept coming back to this throughout the day -- I simply couldn't put this down. The reflections about Nguyen's relationship with his mother were outstanding, but I was also particularly mesmerized by the poems about his complicated history with white men.

Perhaps my favorite line: "I'm trying to understand that memory / is not a technology, a full charge / will get you nowhere, if you're stuck / tracing the perimeters of your dull nostalgia / for an exit."
Feb 04, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
C/W:(view spoiler)

There were some beautiful poems in Not Here along with a lot of really heavy emotional themes that I wasn't really prepared for.

"If sanctuary is not a place, but the people we love all under the same impossible & temporary light, how can we convince anyone to stay?"
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
What an overwhelming feeling of lonelyness resounding from these poems. Many of these are a bit erotic, but even his partners in these poems come with a cold anonymity to the reader.  'Again, What Do I Know About Desire?' was the one I kept flipping back to to reread.  ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-poetry
I was tagging poems and lines I loved, and at the end realised I had tagged every single damn poem in this book. Incredible.
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
Jun 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: review-copy
"No matter where we go, there's a history
of white men describing a landscape

so they can claim it. I look out the window
& I don't see a sunset, I see a man's

pink tongue razing the horizon.
I once heard a man describe the village

in Vietnam where my family comes from.
It was beautiful

a poem I would gift my mother
but somewhere in the pastoral I am reminded

a child (recently) was blown apart
after stepping on a mine, a bulb, I guess

blooming forty years later—
maybe it was how the poet said dirt

or maybe it
Elizabeth Willis
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, poetry, small-press
“Like all agony, there are pleasant moments / but only when we forget / what carried us here," says Hieu Minh Nguyen’s Not Here. His is a brutally beautiful collection of poems that considers home, queerness, Vietnamese American identity, whiteness, trauma. It is imbued with a hungry wit, seeking belonging, seeking existence, seeking survival. The speaker interrogates his own origins: the blanks, the empty spaces, the words whited-out. "Oh, but why am I here?," he asks. The memories he encounter ...more
Danny Caine
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
In his new collection Not Here, poet Hieu Minh Nguyen writes “there are countless ways / to justify company. Hunger, overdue balance, whatever.” Here’s how to justify your company with this book: it’s terrific and heartbreaking poetry, a thrill to read. The book’s speaker grieves, desires, cries, and develops a difficult truce with his disproving mother. The son-of-immigrants queer identity is a cause of siege (“the problem / with history / somewhere somewhere someone wants you / gone”) yet the ...more
This collection is full of love and pain, and something in between. I felt these poems, which is one of the best things you can ask for from poetry. Particular favorites include: "White Boy Time Machine: Instruction Manual," "Nguyen," "Type II," "The Study," "Again, What Do I Know About Desire?," "Again, Let Me Explain Again," "Mercy," "White Boy Time Machine: Override," "Changling," "The Ranger," and "Notes on Staying." ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, poetry
When I wasn’t crying I was smiling. These poems shine bright with the glittery blood of trauma and truth. These poems are raw and require attention.
Burnside Soleil
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Great ambition here, and when the poems work, he’s nearly peerless.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, heartbreaking, and visceral. I haven’t been this moved by poetry in a long time.
Callum McLaughlin
Feb 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer-rep, poetry
Written by a queer Vietnamese American, the poems in this collection are largely concerned with identity, trauma, and the painful journey towards acceptance – particularly when you feel othered by those who should love you most. There are a few absolute gems in here, particularly the final poem, Notes on Staying, but Nguyen’s poetic voice and array of styles didn’t always click with me, sadly.
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
so good!
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Hieu Minh Nguyen is a poet, author, and performer. He was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, by a single, Vietnamese-American, mother. He is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow, a recipient of the VERVE grant from Intermedia Arts, and a recipient of the Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grant from The Loft Literary Center. His work has also ap ...more

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“All I’ve ever wanted to be was useful. I can’t stop talking about desire.” 1 likes
“One more thing before you
leave: once, I chose a man
because he looked how I imagine
you would now. Soft hair & a flat
smile. I asked him not to speak. I
asked him to slap me.”
More quotes…