Night Sky With Exit Wounds (2016): Look Even the Title Is Amazing

It’s been a very long since I’ve written a review. Thankfully I’ve had the chance to read a lot more these days.

It was really kind of a coincidence that led me to reading this book. When discussing Asian American authors with my professor, Ocean Vuong was one of the names that popped up. It just so happened that my friend had told me about this collection of poetry at around the same time, so I borrowed her copy and began to read it.


I ended up loving it so much I bought my own copy.

I loved it. I thought it was incredible, brilliant. I had always loved poetry–the lilting rhythm, the vague sense of there was something beyond what I could comprehend, the visually appealing aesthetic of language.

But I swear Ocean Vuong took it up another level.

I really loved how simple his words were. In the end, mostly really amazing poetry is comprised of simple words, words that I know and can use. But they just seem to demonstrate more mastery over it because whenever I try, it just ends up as ink on a page, whereas Ocean Vuong can somehow conjure up a sense of beauty and sublimity. In his poem, “Immigrant Haibun,” he describes sailing on an ocean and when he comes to the topic of the conversations he’s had on a sailboat, he adds, “Salt in our sentences.”

I know the word “salt” and “sentences” and I know how to use prepositions and pronouns. But any of the poetry I write never seems to come across as powerful as that line, “Salt in our sentences,” which turns out to be one of my favorite lines in the entire collection.

I don’t know how he does it.

And it’s so personal too. With what seems to be a semi-autobiographical poetry collection, Vuong describes things in a way I had never considered could be possible, but it works, it absolutely works, and it works wonderfully.


And he’s so young. What the heck. 

Night Sky With Exit Wounds is beautiful. You may not believe me right now, but it is. It’s rare that I find a piece where I really consider to be beautiful. There are books that excite me, thrill me, make me think. Night Sky With Exit Wounds just makes me want to reread the lines, to sink back into the tug of the poem. I want to read them out loud, but my roommate is doing her computer science homework so I settle with mouthing the words under my breath.

Conclusion: Deeply personal and mysteriously abstract sometimes, Night Sky With Exit Wounds is absolutely stunning, in content, but most of all in the poetry style of simple words, synesthesia, and I swear a little bit of magic. Bonus points for being part of the very underrepresented Asian (American) authors in English literature. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon: 10/10.


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