GHOST OF, BY DIANA KHOI NGUYEN
Selected by Terrance Hayes as the winner of the Omnidawn Open, Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost Of is a book of stunning verse and innovative visual constructions. Poems become mirrors, wedges, eels, fish in a pond, and Gyotaku that Nguyen pairs with snapshot photos from her childhood. This is a collection about leaving, about absence—a mother fleeing Vietnam, an infant, “two minutes after [she] was born,” already making her “first evacuation,” and, most of all, a brother leaving emptiness behind him in death. In her poem “Family Ties,” Nguyen remembers the evening her brother “cut out only his face from every / photograph in the hall.” The reader sees these photos, disfigured, layered like a stutter, the brother’s form removed, yet made more visible by its absence—a ghost’s empty silhouette, a white hole that Nguyen fills with verse on the opposite page. Here’s a world where poetry is what comes into the gaps, what fills the voids, where poetry might fill what grief leaves behind.