Many fine books of poetry came out in the United States last year, bit one that stood out in particular was Diana Khoi Nguyen’s debut collection Ghost Of (Omnidawn Publishing), which was a finalist for the National Book Awards for Poetry. About the book, the poet Terrance Hayes has written, “These poems sing to and for the ghosts of identity, history and culture; they sing like a ghost who looks from the window or waits by the door.”
Like Shimon Adaf’s Aviva-No, which featured in episode 3, Diana’s book also addresses the death of a sibling. And like Adaf, Diana also searched a way of writing about her grief. This seeking prompted a series of formal experimentations, many of them taking shape around the image of the family photograph.
Ghost of acknowledges that grief can be incredibly isolating, and that one’s grief is not always translatable or comparable to another’s. At the same time, the poems of Ghost Of also explore how the grief state can open up a wider dialogue with the past—and with the voices that lie both within but also outside of the frame of our family pictures and memories. And it is in that space that we can connect with the grief of others and where we can share our losses. Diana is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Denver and on the eve of her winter break, we connected over Skype to talk about the perseverance of eels, technologies of printing, and how poetry allows for the possibility that our dead will remain present with us in one form or another.
Poem read in this episode:
“A woman may not be a safe place” from Ghost Of (2018, Omnidawn Publishing)