Not Here

Coffee House. Apr. 2018. 120p. ISBN 9781566895095. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781566895194. POETRY
In this second collection from Lambda finalist Nguyen (This Way to the Sugar), the pain is so real and raw that it nearly overflows the superbly crafted lines. This son of Vietnamese immigrants explores the horrors of the war that reshaped his family while limning his struggles with being gay in an unaccepting community. In particular, Nguyen affectingly highlights his difficult relationship with his mother, who "knelt in front of a shrine & asked// to be blessed with a daughter & I here I am: the wrong/ monster; truck stop prom queen in his dirt gown." Yet by book's end he asks, "When she is gone, who will call my name?" Memory is no plus; several "White Boy Time Machine" poems uncomfortably recall early, edgy sex, while elsewhere the poet proclaims: "descendants of flight/ enough already!"
VERDICT Not easygoing but absorbing, important reading.

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