BINGO – Verse
In this collection of poetry, Ocean Vuong, according to the summary on Goodreads, “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.” Here’s the thing, though. I didn’t experience any of that. The entire collection feels like Vuong had poems that he had lying around that hadn’t been published yet that sold as a meditation on grief, hoping no one would look too closely.
“The Bull”, “Old Glory”, and “Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker” were my favorite poems (and the only ones I really enjoyed) in this collection. “The Bull” is the opening poem and has a wonderful dream-like feel to it. The imagery just straddles the divide between abstract and concrete which is a sweet spot for Vuong. It’s too bad that this collection starts off with one of the strongest poems in the collection and is unable to capture that same magic throughout. “Old Glory” is a mirror reflecting the violent language that we use regarding sex. It’s a shocking poem that drives the point home with a tank. It’s lack of subtlety is what makes it stand out though. “Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker” was the most moving piece. It’s so simple in premise yet so effective and one of the few poems that hits the brief of the collection.
I really wanted to like this collection. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one of my favorite books that I’ve read recently. In that book, Vuong’s grief regarding his relationship with his mother is palpable. I was expecting a similar experience reading Time is a Mother but unfortunately I was mostly left bewildered.