By Hoa Nguyen
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
ISBN# 9781940696348 (5.5x9 104pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781940696355 (5.5x9 104pp, limited edition hardcover)
The poems in Violet Energy Ingots contain a sense of dis-ease, rupture, things frayed, and grief—as love shimmers the edges. Ryo Yamaguchi describes Nguyen’s writing as “a kind of stuttering with intelligences, impressions, and emotions flaring up as the words find their pathways.” As grounded in the earth as in the stars, her poems are reminders of the possibilities of contemplation in every space and moment.
Listed in the top poetry books of fall 2016 by Publishers Weekly
SHORTLISTED for the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize
In her first book of new work since Red Juice: Poems 1998–2008, Nguyen further develops her impactful, complex, and lyrical style. Nguyen’s poems blend startling imagery with a calming sense of stasis. Her work has been described as a feminist ecopoetics, the basis of which can be seen in moments of subtle fascination with the natural world.
Nguyen’s playful criticism of our society of the spectacle shows how we deflate the currency of ancient nobility by our own reductive values surrounding identity and beauty, as she cries the old songs down the river.
The New York Times
Hoa Nguyen’s poems tread delicately but firmly between the linear demands of narrative and syntax on the one hand and between registers of speech and forms of address on the other. There are spaces for breath, and asides hovering in parentheses. There are also the slippages in language, in the slide from, say "staring" through "starving" and "starring" to "scarring". Everything is at once tangential yet surprisingly direct. This is where the pleasure and depth reside: in the off balancing of the language and its pure, uncalculated tone. What are the poems about? Many things, often simple and direct, like food, or sex, or rivers, or sickness. The poems are packed with fine precisions and particulars. But there is politics too, sometimes startlingly straight as in the poem about Andrew Jackson or sharp-edged as in "Screaming". Violet Energy Ingots is a fully mature work in that it is confident of both its voice and its readers’ alertness. It makes its own space. It demands it and holds it.
Judges' Citation from the Griffin Poetry Prize
We quickly fall into a deep trust that whatever she says is earnest to the utmost, is a matter of personal importance....We feel freer to suspend our need for immediate understanding; we feel encouraged to accept uncertainty as a necessary aspect of both the self and poetry. Though at first glance her work may look too challenging to enjoy, these familiarizing and reassuring effects make Nguyen one of the best experimental poets a novice reader can pick up.
The poems themselves are violet energy ingots, a series of tenuous knowing moments that eschew the monumental gestures of narrative, polemic, or other familiar forms our cultures have made to mark modernity’s abuses of power. Monumental gestures that give us something to say when asked for an account. Instead, the poems take up the work of showing the way that the very fabric of the daily, of language, and of our selves are marked by historical trauma.
Karla Kelsey, Constant Critic
If ever there were a collection of poetry to read between sweeping the floors and scrubbing the dishes, the body moving through a place where thoughts of pharaohs float with thoughts of tomatoes and terry-cloth bathrobes, it would be this one.
Terry Abrahams, wildness
…Violet Energy Ingots, shows the poet at the top of her form. Like her previous work, these poems are collages with scenes from domestic life, allusions to the literary canon, surreal imagery, found quotes, and the occasional pop song lyric.
Eric Nguyen, diaCRITICS
[S]he somehow manages to point out the serious imperfections in our modern world, in our human history, in people and societies as a whole, while still being in utter awe of the beautiful, the humbling, the miraculous…. Nguyen’s writing is vivid and kaleidoscopic, and you’re just as apt to get lost in her imagery as you are to be moved by her messages.
Despite all of the otherworldliness of her verse and its digressions, Nguyen keeps us tethered to the present, to the diurnal, and, most impressively, to her.
Caitlin Youngquist, BOMB Magazine
Nguyen’s poems are lived in, lived through, woven into the everyday. This dailyness is sometimes domestic, but never solely—it’s political, spiritual, and these are intimately connected… Nguyen’s open form breaks borders between poems, leaving them open in conversation with each other, the reader, the world outside the poem.
The title and what it signifies hinge upon an industrial-sounding term: an “ingot” is a mass of metal that is cast into a convenient shape for storage (like a brick, for example); in this book, Nguyen compacts life’s days into concise blocks of terse light and power—and they are anything but simple.
Jennifer MacBain-Stephens, Agape Editions
Anti-abject, antsy-urgent, these poems rely upon the well-observed phenomenon that vocabulary is itself ticklish, inter-associative and never really all that vague. Nguyen’s highly alliterative, almost leonine line, often proceeding in paired thoughts separated by a breath, is companionable, and commends these poems to a walk.
Cam Scott, League of Canadian Poets
Violet Energy Ingots continues her work in the small, personal moment, presenting a series of narratives stiched together in coherent lyric collages of halting breaths, pauses and precise descriptions.
Violet Energy Ingots is a lesson in the poetics of disturbance… Nguyen’s poetics are such tenuous knowing moments: disparate genres and materials are drawn together and distilled in each poem — distilled but also activated and bright, ingot-like.
Hoa Nguyen is the author of several books of poetry, including As Long As Trees Last, Red Juice, and Violet Energy Ingots, which received a 2017 Griffin Prize nomination. As a public proponent and advocate of contemporary poetry, she has served as guest editor for The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2018 and judge for the 2020 Griffin Prize for Poetry, and she has performed and lectured at numerous institutions, including Princeton University, Bard College, Poet’s House, and the Banff Centre’s Writers Studio. Recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize and a 2020 Neustadt International Prize for Literature nomination, she has received grants and fellowships from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the MacDowell Colony, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Her writing has garnered attention from such outlets as The PBS News Hour, Granta, The Walrus, New York Times, and Poetry, among others. Born in the Mekong Delta and raised and educated in the United States, Nguyen has lived in Canada since 2011.
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