cover image A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure

A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure

Hoa Nguyen. Wave, $18 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-950268-17-7

The ambitious fifth entry from Nguyen (Violet Energy Ingots) combines ghosts (a word that appears repeatedly in the titles of these poems) and language: “You lose every other/ word.” Here, word is synonymous with family and homeland. Woven throughout is a biography in verse of Nguyen’s mother, Diê.p Anh Nguyê˜n, whose presence amplifies the book’s longing, allowing it to act as a kind of testimony. Nguyen writes: “mother wept for not/ seeing ‘home’ again and then didn’t.” In these works, home is a place ransacked by Western violence; the aftermath of sanctioned attacks echoes throughout, captured in the pressing question: “and how do you protest disaster?” But there is playfulness in these poems, too, such as when Nguyen pokes fun at the English language (“The past tense of sing is not singed”), while also toying with the very structure and delivery of language itself (“This non-enough-ness/ learns me to be Tough”). “I rename myself a bell to ring,” Nguyen writes, and that bell rings with impressive tonal and melodic versality throughout her work. This dense collection, rife with the life of the body, is proof of what language can bear witness to, a testament Nguyen makes wholly her own. (Apr.)