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Ghost Of

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  312 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Ghost Of is a mourning song, not an exorcism or un-haunting of that which haunts, but attuned attention, unidirectional reaching across time, space, and distance to reach loved ones, ancestors, and strangers. By working with, in, and around the photographs that her brother left behind (from which he cut himself out before his death), Nguyen wrestles with what remains: ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published February 1st 2018 by Omnidawn

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Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  312 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A collection of beautifully written and moving poems, many of which revolve around her brother's suicide. Interesting use of poetic space with what looks like shards of text cutting into the pages sometimes used as petals of a flower. As well as creative use of family photographs to underscore the feelings of loss.

Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Longlisted for the National Book Awards this poetry collection is not just haunting in its words, but also in the images it contains. The collection deals primarily with her deceased brother and the grief and confusion over his loss. She is a multi-media artist, so this book is also filled with family images with the missing brother cut out and poetry shaped to his form. This presents a compelling, emotional read.
This debut collection, selected by Terrance Hayes for the Omnidawn '16-'17 Open Poetry Book Prize, concerns how a family is disrupted by the death of a beloved young brother. The language is oblique, slippery, but it is strongly suggested that the death was a suicide, possibly involving a car and possibly also involving water (see, for example, this eponymous poem). It is also implied that the death was not entirely unconnected to the family's history as Vietnam War refugees, a link verbalized ...more
Laurie Anderson
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Diana Khoi Nguyen’s “Ghost Of” is an incredibly well-written and well-constructed scrapbook of lyric poems and photos where the central muse — her brother “Oliver” — is violently cut out. At the center is the haunting disappearance of her brother, gone by suicide, but before doing so he tenderly excised his image from all of the family photos that figure prominently in this collection.

I wonder if Oliver is his real name or if it, too, is wordplay for “all over” as in “it’s all over for that one
Martin Ott
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This haunting memoir in verse explores the death of a brother, identity, and exile in poems that whisper terrifying and beautiful truths, with unforgettable images that weave a tapestry of light and darkness.
L. A.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Unique and moving. The multi-media photographs and cut outs are striking and serve to make the collection read as a whole, rather than as individual poems grouped together. This is a book that warrants re-reads
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This was beautiful and I’m very inspired by its graphic design choices. The more poetry that calls the genre into question the better.
C. Varn
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Diana Khoi Nguyen's "Ghost of" is surreal, elliptical, and haunting: Nguyen doesn't just write an elegy, but takes one into the forms and headspace of mourning. Nguyen's experience as a multi-media artist leads her to incorporate analogous and concrete forms through the text, creating formal representations of lack and haunting that pair very well with her expressionistic and surreal texts. Furthermore, Nguyen's invocation of the Vietnam War and her family's inheritance as refugees ...more
Anatoly Molotkov
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"what may exist between appearance and disappearance, between sound and silence, as something that is nearly nothing - slow music, quiet music, spare music - of sound and form I fell asleep tonight after feeding us both it was hard to think of you cold..." In this inspiring collection, Diana Khoi Nguyen renders grief in shape as well as in story, resulting in a moving, innovatively presented book that deals with deeply personal aspects of outliving a loved one while offering the reader new tools ...more
Dragon Tran
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Diana Khoi Nguyen produces pain and beauty from the most unexpected places, objects, moments. What results is the perfect braiding of the two, a state which reflects the generative process itself. But what can a death generate? What can a suicide? What can be birthed from what is missing?
Preston Stell
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very cool words and very cool visuals. The visuals are a new aspect that I’ve come across in poetry. A sad collection, but interested to see her grief process in poetry.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
It's hard for me to review this book because, on one hand, I did find it very effective in portraying the madness of grief; on the other hand, I found it so tedious to read that I found myself angry at the book for the majority of time I was slogging through it. As a person struggling with grief and trying to write about it, I just wanted these poems to do more than convince me as a reader that grief is maddening. Additionally, even though the artwork was interesting and haunting, the visual ...more
Andy Oram
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This is an intriguing little book with some of the most varied styles and literary experiments I have ever seen pulled together in a single author's collection. The main theme springs from the author's deep feelings for a brother who died young. He left a hole in her life illustrated visually by pictures with figures cut out and poems with gaps in the lines. The Vietnamese was and the migration of the author's family also come up as themes. The author sometimes talks to us directly and sometimes ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
2 stars

I'm not too proud to admit I just didn't get this one. The conceit is interesting, but I felt very emotionally distanced from poems whose subject should, in theory, be emotionally moving. And I found the shape poetry very distracting simply because the way the words were broken up between lines made it hard to read/not a seamless reading experience. Which was probably the point. But I didn't like it \_(ツ)_/.
Amie Whittemore
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful, haunting, heart-breaking book, wrung from grief in ragged edges, in broken containers. While it is the story of one sister's grief over her brother's death by suicide, it is also the story of migration, of climate change, of how loss is part of the container as well as what breaks it.

One of the best new books of poetry I've read this year. Also more thoughts here:
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This the 4th out of the five collections nominated for the 2018 National Book Award that I have read. "Ghost Of" is as lovely, difficult, and idiosyncratic as winner Justin Phillip Reed's "Indecency" - and yet so different from it that the comparison ends there. Nguyen is also one of two Asian-American poets nominated last year, along with Jenny Xie for "Eye Level"; and, both of their collections are strongly influenced by their cultural heritage - but for me that is extent of the similarities. ...more
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
These pages are, in some cases literally, marked as haunted by a missing brother. The poems share the feelings of loss and also his presence while not revealing a story. The visual landscape of many of these add to the effect of her words. I looked forward to reading a few of these poems each day but could only take a bit at a time. There are some I need to read again for the sheer pleasure of the moment they create. I need to reread and think about others some more. I lost the plot in the ...more
Mayuri Singh
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This books is emotionally moving. Diana Khoi Nguyen is a masterful poet. She uses water, music, and animals to portray her grief after her brother's suicide. There are so many fine details in her poetic craft that upon a second read you appreciate more. The subject of this book doesn't portray the nuanced sadness of losing her brother and her relationship with her parents. The language, poetic devices, and line turns are what makes the reader feel her pain. It's a must read for every aspiring ...more
Wyrd Witch
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
4.5 stars.

I know. I keep reading poetry, and these have been some great recommendations. What can I say? I get most of my poetry recs from favorite poets on Twitter and The Poetry Foundation.

Diana Khoi Nguyen's poetry debut is somber and painfully honest. It looks at death, mostly through the lens of a brother who committed suicide, but it also looks at so many things I've thought myself when things have gotten tough. Why do we as humans suffer? Why is our life a cycle of happiness and sorrow?
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pacific-war, 20x25-ii
Metonymy always involves substitution: of an expected, or assumedly integral word by a misnaming from a contiguous plane of association. "Ghost Of" ("One evening . . ."), involving a suicide brother without substitutable-for "character," is a complex and powerful clinamen from that misnaming, that only re-iteratres the troping on the level of conceptual concretion (of the text-format). This invites in documentary text Khoi Nguyen repurposes, movingly.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: viet-am, poetry
I feel like this collection is my twin spirit, like my other half wrote this collection. Every Triptych and Gyotaku is brilliant and haunting.

A Bird in Chile, and Elsewhere
"There is no ecologically safe way to mourn.
Some plants have nectaries
that keep secreting pollen even after the petals have gone.
Like a flower that grows only in th einvisible
the whole world of its body noiselessly shaking against the dust."

The Exodus
"And if you bypassed a war, a war
wouldn't bypass you."
Taylor Napolsky
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I appreciate the mixed media, with the photograph experiments as well as the sort of "word art" with poetry laid out in interesting shapes and designs. The main theme of this collection is strong—omnipresent even when the content isn't directly tackling the sobering subject. In this book Nguyen gets her idea out with total control and an acute sense of where she wants it to go. I suspect I'm giving it three instead of four stars because many of the forms feel too standard for me personally.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Oof. I have luckily never experienced grief for a close loved one this far into my life yet. But the emotions and tie ins to other poems and cultural references to illustrate the visual and emotional void that needs to be filled urgently gets its points across. It is very smartly written and visual art is just as powerful. Amazing poetry.
Candice Snow
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Wow, just wow. This truly felt like the ghost of a chapbook about ghosts on so many levels. I'm usually not a fan of experimental visual art, but it never felt like these pieces were crammed inbetween the poems--rather, they were simply one more clue to unearthing the poet's pain of familial loss. Beautiful!
A lot of these poems are well written + emotive, but reading this was kinda bothersome. just because the print was often small as fuck and there were a lot of visual poems, which at first i found unique and charming and after a while, i felt meh about. just sometimes, but enough for it to dull my enjoyment of the book.

some favorites:
- A Bird in Chile, and Elsewhere
- Overture
- I Keep Getting Things Wrong
- Family Ties
- Triptych
- A Woman May Not Be a Safe Place
- An Empty House is a Debt
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am in awe of this raw and honest collection of poems Nguyen wrote as part of the process of grieving her brother, who cut himself out of family photos around the house sometime before his suicide. Beautiful, haunting, eloquent, and concise.
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful poetry on grief and family. Had the honor of listening to this amazing poet read live at the National Book Awards. There were audible gasps in the room and then it appeared everyone had stopped breathing.
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book about a heartbreaking subject. The poems are stunning both in writing and visual form. Moving to the point of tears while also feeling innovative. Although slim, it is a deep, heavy collection of poems.
Kate Gaskin
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Ghost Of a metaphorical haunting looms ominously over a family undone by suicide. Nguyen's poems are elastically surreal and innovative, seamlessly incorporating unique visual elements. This is a remarkable book that demonstrates in multiple ways the transformative and lasting effects of grief.
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