Ocean Vuong

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Ocean Vuong
Ocean vuong 8045064 (48458986647) (cropped).jpg
BornVương Quốc Vinh
(1988-10-14) October 14, 1988 (age 33)
Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam
OccupationPoet, writer
EducationBrooklyn College (BA)
New York University (MFA)
GenrePoetry, essays, novel
Notable works
Notable awards
www.oceanvuong.com Edit this at Wikidata

Ocean Vuong (born Vương Quốc Vinh,[1] Vietnamese: [vɨəŋ˧ kuək˧˥ viɲ˧]; October 14, 1988) is a Vietnamese American poet, essayist and novelist. Vuong is a recipient of the 2014 Ruth Lilly/Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2016 Whiting Award, and the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for his poetry.[2] His debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, was published in 2019. He received a MacArthur Grant the same year.[3]

Early life[edit]

Vuong was born in Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam.[4] His grandmother grew up in the countryside while his grandfather was a white American soldier in the Navy originally from Michigan. His grandparents met during the Vietnam War, married and had three children, Vuong's mother being one of them. His grandfather had gone back to visit home in the U.S. but was unable to return when Saigon fell to communist forces. His grandmother had separated his mother and aunts in orphanages, concerned for their survival before reuniting as adults. They fled Vietnam after a police officer came to suspect that his mother was of mixed heritage and in turn was prone to discrimination by the regime's labour policies at that time.[5]

Vuong in 2014

A two-year-old Vuong and his family eventually arrived in a refugee camp in the Philippines before achieving asylum and migrating to the United States, settling in Hartford, Connecticut, United States with six relatives. His father abandoned his family after that. Vuong was reunited with his paternal grandfather later in life.[2][6][7][5] Vuong, who suspects dyslexia runs in his family,[5] was the first in his family to learn to read,[7] at the age of eleven.[6]


Vuong attended Glastonbury High School in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a school known for academic excellence. "I didn’t know how to make use of it," Vuong said, noting that his grade point average at one point was 1.7.[8]

While in high school, he told fellow Glastonbury graduate Kat Chow he "understood he had to leave Connecticut." "After spending some time at a community college, Vuong headed to Pace University, in New York, to study marketing. His time there lasted only a few weeks before he understood it "wasn’t for him."[9]

He then enrolled at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, where he studied 19th-century English literature under poet and novelist Ben Lerner, and received his B.A. in English.[10][11] He received his M.F.A. in poetry from New York University.


Reading at the Library of Congress, 2015

Vuong's poems and essays have been published in various journals, including Poetry,[2] The Nation,[12] TriQuarterly,[13] Guernica,[14] The Rumpus,[15] Boston Review,[16] Narrative Magazine, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times.[17]

His first chapbook, Burnings (Sibling Rivalry Press), was a 2011 "Over The Rainbow" selection for notable books on nonheterosexuality by the American Library Association.[18] His second chapbook, No (YesYes Books), was released in 2013.[19] His debut full-length collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds,[20] was released by Copper Canyon Press in 2016; as of April that year, the publisher ran a second printing.[21] His first novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, was published by Penguin Press on June 4, 2019. Writing in The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino sees the "structural hallmarks of Vuong's poetry—his skill with elision, juxtaposition, and sequencing" in the novel.[22] Paul Batchelor, writing about his first collection in New Statesman, remarks on the surreal imagery of his poems.[23]

In August 2020, Vuong was revealed as the seventh writer to contribute to the Future Library project.[24] The project, which compiles original works by writers each year from 2014 to 2114, will remain unread until the collected 100 works are eventually published in 2114. Discussing his contribution to the project, Vuong opined that, "So much of publishing is about seeing your name in the world, but this is the opposite, putting the future ghost of you forward. You and I will have to die in order for us to get these texts. That is a heady thing to write towards, so I will sit with it a while.”

Currently, Vuong lives in Northampton, Massachusetts,[25] and is an associate professor in the MFA Program for Writers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.[25] He is a Kundiman fellow.[26]

Awards and fellowships[edit]

List of Awards Received by Vuong
Award Year Citation
Academy of American Poets University and College Poetry Prize 2010 [27]
Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets 2012 [28]
The Elizabeth George Foundation Fellowship 2013 [29]
Chad Walsh Prize, Beloit Poetry Journal 2013 [30]
The Pushcart Prize 2014 [31]
Ruth Lilly/Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship 2014 [32]
The Narrative Prize 2015 [33]
Whiting Award for Poetry 2016 [34]
Forward Prize for Poetry Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection 2017 [35]
T. S. Eliot Prize 2017 [36]
Kundiman Fellowship 2018 [26]
MacArthur Fellow 2019 [3]
Dylan Thomas Prize - Shortlisted for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous 2020 [37]
NAAAP Pride Award 2020 [38]

Personal life[edit]

Vuong has described himself as being raised by women. His mother, a manicurist, during a conversation with a customer, expressed a desire to go to the beach, pronouncing the word "beach" as "bitch". The customer suggested she use the word "ocean" instead of "beach". After learning the definition of the word "ocean" — the most massive classified body of water, such as the Pacific Ocean, which connects the United States and Vietnam — she renamed her son Ocean.[6]

In November 2021, an excerpt from Vuong's novel 'On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous' was featured in that year's New South Wales Higher School Certificate exams. The paper, the first of two English exams taken by year twelve students in the Australian state, required examinees to read an excerpt from the novel and answer a short question responding to it. On the exam's conclusion, Australian school students bombarded Vuong with confused inquiries via Instagram, to which the author responded in humorous fashion.[39]

Vuong is openly gay,[40] and is a practicing Zen Buddhist.[41]





  • Burnings (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2010). OCLC 1001862161
  • No (YesYes Books, 2013). OCLC 878505119

List of poems[edit]

Title Year First published
Trevor 2016 Vuong, Ocean (March 25, 2016). "Trevor".[42] Buzzfeed.
Someday I'll love Ocean Vuong 2015 Vuong, Ocean (May 4, 2015). "Someday I'll love Ocean Vuong". The New Yorker. Vol. 91, no. 11. pp. 50–51.
Scavengers 2016 Vuong, Ocean (November 7, 2016). "Scavengers". The New Yorker. Vol. 92, no. 36. p. 51.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous 2014 Vuong, Ocean (December 2014). Poetry magazine. Winter 2014–2015.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Vessel for Peace: An Interview with Writer Ocean Vuong". The Well&Often Reader. February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Ocean Vuong". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. May 11, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ a b "Ocean Vuong – Class of 2019". MacArthur Foundation. September 25, 2019. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Nguyễn, Kevin (October 16, 2013). "Eavesdropping on Ocean Vương's New Book". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c Armitstead, Claire (October 3, 2017). "War baby: the amazing story of Ocean Vuong, former refugee and prize-winning poet". the Guardian. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "How a Poet Named Ocean Means to Fix the English Language". The New Yorker. April 7, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Review: 'Night Sky With Exit Wounds,' Verses From Ocean Vuong". The New York Times. May 9, 2016. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  8. ^ Kat Chow, "Going Home With Ocean Vuong," The Atlantic, 4 June 2019, accessed 2020-5-15.[1]
  9. ^ Kat Chow, "Going Home With Ocean Vuong."
  10. ^ "Brooklyn College | Ocean Sounds: A Brooklyn College Alumnus Reflects on His Life". Brooklyn.cuny.edu. June 5, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  11. ^ "Brooklyn College | Mentoring Demands Respect, Says Ben Lerner About His Work with Ocean Vuong". Brooklyn.cuny.edu. June 14, 2013. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  12. ^ Vuong, Ocean (January 28, 2014). "Eurydice". The Nation. Retrieved August 28, 2016. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  13. ^ "|". Triquarterly.org. July 15, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  14. ^ "Ocean Vuong: I Remember Anyway – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics". Guernicamag.com. June 14, 2013. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  15. ^ "Ocean Vuong". The Rumpus.net. August 28, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  16. ^ "Poet's Sampler: Ocean Vuong". Boston Review. September 8, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  17. ^ "Ocean Vuong". as.nyu.edu. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  18. ^ "2012 Over the Rainbow List–74 LGBT Books for Adult Readers! – Over the Rainbow Books". Glbtrt.ala.org. January 22, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  19. ^ "yesyesbooks". yesyesbooks. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  20. ^ "Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Poetry by Ocean Vuong". Copper Canyon Press. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  21. ^ "Copper Canyon Press – Timeline". Facebook. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  22. ^ Tolentino, Jia (June 3, 2019). "Ocean Vuong's Life Sentences". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  23. ^ Batchelor, Paul (July 18, 2017). "Ocean Vuong's poetry brims with precise, surreal and erotic imagery". newstatesman.com. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  24. ^ "'You'll have to die to get these texts': Ocean Vuong's next manuscript to be unveiled in 2114". The Guardian. August 19, 2020. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  25. ^ a b "oceanvuong". oceanvuong. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  26. ^ a b "Fellows". Kundiman. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  27. ^ aapone (December 31, 1979). "University & College Poetry Prizes". University & College Poetry Prizes. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  28. ^ "Ocean Vuong – 2012 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prizediacritics.org". October 18, 2014. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  29. ^ "The Elizabeth George Foundation". Elizabethgeorgeonline.com. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  30. ^ "Ocean Vuong wins the 2013 Beloit Poetry Journal Chad Walsh Poetry Prize". Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  31. ^ "Welcome to Pushcart Press: Publishers of The Pushcart Prize". Pushcartprize.com. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  32. ^ "Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  33. ^ "Ocean Vuong – Narrative Magazine". September 8, 2014. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  34. ^ "Ocean Vuong". www.whiting.org. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  35. ^ "Congratulations to the Forward Prize winners – The Poetry Society". poetrysociety.org.uk. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  36. ^ Cain, Sian (January 15, 2018). "TS Eliot prize goes to Ocean Vuong's 'compellingly assured' debut collection". the Guardian. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  37. ^ "Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 shortlist announced". Books+Publishing. April 8, 2020. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  38. ^ "Awards: NAAAP100, Inspire, Pride | National Association of Asian American Professionals". www.naaap.org. Retrieved August 17, 2020.
  39. ^ "'What the hell is an HSC exam?' Poet Ocean Vuong pokes fun at perplexed Australian students". the Guardian. November 11, 2021. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  40. ^ "Ocean Vuong: The TNB Self-Interview". August 1, 2011.
  41. ^ "What Scares Writer and Zen Buddhist Ocean Vuong". August 16, 2017.
  42. ^ "Poem: "Trevor" By Ocean Vuong". BuzzFeed News.

External links[edit]