Time Is a Mother
How else do we return to ourselves but to fold
The page so it points to the good part
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.
The author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, winner of the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T. S. Eliot Prize, and a 2019 MacArthur fellow, Vuong writes directly to our humanity without losing sight of the current moment. These poems represent a more innovative and daring experimentation with language and form, illuminating how the themes we perennially live in and question are truly inexhaustible. Bold and prescient, and a testament to tenderness in the face of violence, Time Is a Mother is a return and a forging forth all at once.
“Ocean Vuong’s Time Is a Mother is haunting, inconsolable, and at the same time a playful, generous in spirit, tender, inimitable book. The poet’s late mother is these pages’ muse and guardian spirit, as poem after poem Vuong redefines our idea of what an elegy can do it, what it is for. But from all of this intersection of tragedy and tenderness, true wisdom comes: Vuong teaches us not just how to grieve, but how to live.” —Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa
“Piercing . . . The poems in Time Is a Mother give us a path to examine the complexities of what it means to lose a mother, and what it means to embrace family and the self even when we want to look away. In Vuong’s tender yet unflinching words, we are reminded that only a mother can carry a beating heart within her body.” —Los Angeles Review of Books