Time is a Mother

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Pub Date 7 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 7 May 2022

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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 value of joy in a perennially fractured American spirit. Vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong's poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicentre 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 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.

Discover the powerful new collection from the TikTok sensation and author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

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...

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ISBN 9781787333840
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Featured Reviews

Once again, Ocean Vuong wields the English language into a masterpiece of grief and reflection. The poems are pristine and heartbreaking, and Vuong once again puts into words that which so many have felt, but few feel able to express. A favourite poet, and a must buy.

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Time is a Mother is Ocean Vuong's second collection of poetry, exploring grief and memory and the important details as well as larger questions of self and place. The writing is lyrical and beautiful, as I expected, but also the poems are highly readable, telling stories and putting together images masterfully.

My two favourites were probably 'Beautiful Short Loser', which feels like a collection of biting observations and tells multiple stories at once, and 'Not Even', which is a breathtaking look at self and the past. I also particularly liked 'Dear T' and 'No One Knows the Way to Heaven', and I enjoyed a lot of the different use of form, particularly space, and also the format of 'Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker' which was very powerful whilst only using an Amazon purchase history.

Fans of Ocean's Vuong's poetry probably won't be disappointed—I wasn't, but was drawn into the poems, and I'll definitely want to return to them. I'm still in awe at the combination of powerful meaning, concisely expressed thoughts, and sheer readability of Vuong's poetry.

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Though I am not often drawn to poetry, I loved Vuong’s previous novel (which was poetic in itself), and could not resist the opportunity to experience their poetry.

What an evocative, breathless piece of work. The talent of a writer is when they can make you perceive the world and everyday objects in a completely new way, and Vuong succeeds in this time and time again with each dynamic, confessional poem. The work felt immensely personal and yet relatable all at once. The image of trees as laughing grandfathers and the poignant Amazon History of a Nail Salon Worker will linger with me for a long time. I was also particularly affected by Dear T and Almost Human. To be honest, this work affected me more than I thought it would, and I really thank and appreciate Vuong for that.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the absolutely privilege.

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I have been waiting impatiently for Ocean Vuong's second poetry collection, and Time is a Mother did not disappoint. A beautifully curated collection, with many of the poems dealing with the poet's grief in the wake of his mother's death, and others exploring sex, love, racism, and homophobia. One of my favourite writers, and for good reason. This collection is another stunner.

Thank you to NetGalley, and to the publisher, who granted me a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you Ocean Vuong for singlehandedly saving 2022 - that's not to say that this poetry collection didn't emotionally eviscerate me because damn it really did but Vuong has such a talent for making the reader feel understood and comforted at the same time. After On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous I was worried this would let me down but this is already one of my top reads of the year - will be buying a physical copy ASAP!

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I fell head over heels for Vuong’s lyrical prose last year when I read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and was therefore incredibly excited to see an upcoming release of a new collection of poetry. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House and Jonathan Cape for the proof copy! I was certainly not disappointed.

This was an incredible collection - one that I devoured within a few hours, and immediately flipped back to the start to begin again. It’s an emotional journey that tackles issues of love, loss, relationships, grief, belonging, and identity. Vuong’s words have a way of reaching out of the page and slapping the reader with insights and metaphors so profound and moving that it honestly left me dumbstruck, and more than a little emotionally raw. There is so much expression in only a small book.

If you’re a fan of poetry - please, please read this. It’s out in April!

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I read this over the course of a day, immediately after receiving it from Netgalley (who provided me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review).

I could not put this collection down. Vuong continues to produce some of the most gorgeous writing I've ever experienced tackling broad and intense topics with such aplomb and nuance... it's mesmerising! Just like 'On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous', Vuong explores his relationship with his mother, sexuality, violence, war, time, ageing using repeated incidents or concepts that build and layer upon one another reaching it's crescendo in the penultimate poem. It is a richly crafted piece that moves, ebbing and flowing through peaks and troughs until I couldn't read it fast enough!

Another personal highlight that I LOVED for its honest depiction of forms of masculinity that I hope we're finally coming to the end of, was 'Old Glory'. May none of those sentences ever be uttered again!

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Rating: 5/5 stars

Ocean Vuong had absolutely nothing to prove to me, and still managed to exceed every expectation I thought I had. With his first collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds he introduced himself as one of the most talented poets of his time. With On On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, he cemented himself to be an absolute master of language in general, whether it be prose or poetry. His third big release Time is a Mother however, might be his best work so far.

In this collection of poetry Vuong returns to his exploration of the aftermath of his mother’s passing and the duality of the “ghost” that her memory leaves behind. The duality of agonizing grief against continuous love. The wish to conserve a memory, against the necessity to move forward. The way time is healing like a mother, but also a motherf*cker, for marching forward for you, but not someone you loved.
In addition, there’s the exploration prejudices based off race, sexual orientation, and the intersection of both, that was present in his previous work as well. All of which is done in an intimate, readable and yet poignant way.
For me personally, as much as I appreciate the craft that goes into poetry, I rarely come away absolutely loving a collection as a whole. With Time is a Mother, Ocean Vuong proved himself the exception: not only did his command of language strike an emotional note with me, this collection as a whole was very near flawless. Consistent, cohesive and connected internally (and to his other work), without becoming repetitive. What an absolute feat!

As a final note, I’d like to refer to Vuongs own words in a recent pre-release interview, on his feelings towards this collection, as I feel the do a perfect job of describing the kind of collection this is:

"Every time I finish a book, I am filled with regrets. (...) It doesn't mean that I'm not proud of what I've written — however fleeting pride might be — but only that I wish it could be more, that it could enact the mind's myriad changes in real-time. But a book is, in a way, the photograph of a spirit animated by the imagination and rendered in language. This means that by the time a manuscript is handed in, I would barely know who I am or what I have become since I first wrote it. "But this time, I feel absurdly happy, content, utterly empty and full all at once. For whatever strange and ungodly reason, I don't doubt this book's place in the world the same way I have doubted my own selfhood in it.”

Many thanks to Jonathan Cape and Random House UK for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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A stunning series of poems that question love, faith, existence, fear, humanity, identity, and more. I haven't read Ocean Vuong's other works, but was drawn to this as a meditation on time and its varied meanings given our current circumstance. I was left reeling at the poet's ability to capture moments, reflections, interactions, and to the ponder the most enormous questions of our lifetimes in short lines and stanzas: "I'm not high, officer, I just don't believe in time." UGH, so good. I loved this and look forward to gifting it all over the place.

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This book is sublime.

I’ve loved pretty much everything else I’ve read of Vuong’s, so it should probably come as no surprise to myself that I adored this.

However, this collection is extraordinary. It focuses on a large part on Vuong’s relationship to his mother, and the fallout he faces after her death. But in looking at this, he examines relationships, other family members, and the complicated relationship between language, violence, and sexuality.

Without spoiling anything, the second-to-last poem in this collection unspools into a desperate, vital stream of language, where Vuong switches between agony, grief, love and sexualtiy, and it just erupts into a rhythmic panic that was like nothing I’ve ever read, and which brought me close to tears in the middle of a cafe.

All of my favourite elements of Vuong’s writing are on show here, and yet he still manages to push himself to more personal and vulnerable places than before, with the resulting collection feeling incredibly self-assured and yet powerfully introspective.

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review.

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