The Masters Review Blog

May 10

May Book Review: Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

In our second book review of May, we turn to our first poetry collection: Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong, whose debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, was widely celebrated on its release. Of the new collection, reviewer Irene Lee writes: “Vuong refuses finality, but honors death by acknowledging the depth of grief, which is also the depth of love. He is not afraid of the word as a tool to take one step beyond fatalism.” Read the full review at the link below.

Ocean Vuong runs his fingers through time as if it is water in his new book Time Is a Mother. And, upon contemplation, time does have similar properties to water: in the way it wavers; in the way it melts; in the way it stands, a thick mist before us. In the end, time, like water, has been here all along, it is that which we share.

Time Is a Mother is Ocean Vuong’s second book of poetry. In 2019 he published the novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, which won him acclaim and the MacArthur Fellowship. This new book of poetry is subdued. It is a relatively short compilation that centers around the death of his mother, a center which is not entirely substantial. Throughout the beginning of the book there are slight lines printed on the pages like the lines of a notebook, but they are neither consistent, nor self-referential. It is hard to make an unfinished feeling into a warm one. But the book’s intimacy reaches out to readers, as if to say: you know when you know about what it’s like to lose someone you love.

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