Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Freebie: Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Congratulations to Bart Zimmer and Thomas Baughman, winners of last week’s Friday Freebie giveaway: Safe From the Sea and The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye.

South Vietnam, April 29, 1975
This week’s book contest features the new poetry collection by Ocean Vuong, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, now out from Copper Canyon Press. Vuong is an incredibly vibrant poet; his lines writhe like snakes on the pagedangerous, mesmerizing, unpredictable. The New Yorker had this to say about his work: “Reading Vuong is like watching a fish move: he manages the varied currents of English with muscled intuition....His lines are both long and short, his pose narrative and lyric, his diction formal and insouciant. From the outside, Vuong has fashioned a poetry of inclusion.” I’m currently working my way through the book, slowly so I can give time for each of the lines to sink their teeth into my heart. Night Sky With Exit Wounds is powerful, powerful stuff. Just take a look at an excerpt from Aubade With Burning City, which begins with this note: South Vietnam, April 29, 1975: Armed Forces Radio played Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” as a code to begin Operation Frequent Wind, the ultimate evacuation of American civilians and Vietnamese refugees by helicopter during the fall of Saigon.

     Milkflower petals on the street
                                            like pieces of a girl’s dress.

May your days be merry and bright...

He fills a teacup with champagne, brings it to her lips.
               Open, he says.
                                     She opens.
                                                    Outside, a soldier spits out
              his cigarette as footsteps fill the square like stones
                                                                             fallen from the sky. May
all your Christmases be white
                                      as the traffic guard unstraps his holster.

I hope the erratic spacing comes through on your screen because form is vitally important to Vuong’s work: the way a poem looks influences the way you feel which in turn adds layers to what the poem means. As he said in a 2013 interview, cited at the Poetry Foundation website, “Besides being a vehicle for the poem’s movement, I see form extension of the poem’s content, a space where tensions can be investigated even further. The way the poem moves through space, its enjambment or end-stopped line breaks, its utterances and stutters, all work in tangent with the poem’s conceit.”

If you’d like a chance at winning Night Sky With Exit Wounds, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. Please include your mailing address in the body of the e-mail. One entry per person, please. Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on June 2, at which time I’ll draw the winning name. I’ll announce the lucky reader on June 3. If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email. Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning? Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter. Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.

No comments:

Post a Comment