Ocean Vuong (2019-20)

Black and white photo of Ocean Vuong. He is pictured from the chest up and looks at the camera.
Photo by Tom Hines.

Ocean Vuong is the author of the novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press, 2019), forthcoming in sixteen languages worldwide. His critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), was a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, and winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, Whiting Award, Thom Gunn Award, and Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his other honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Elizabeth George Foundation, Academy of American Poets, and Pushcart Prize. Vuong’s writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harpers, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a 2016 Leading Global Thinker, Vuong was also named by BuzzFeed Books as one of “32 Essential Asian American Writers” and has been profiled on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PBS NewsHour, Teen Vogue, VICE, The Fantastic Man, and The New Yorker. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Vuong lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he is an assistant professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.


Artist’s Statement

Photograph of Ocean Vuong, who is pictured from the waist up, looking into the camera. He stands in front of a yellow wall that is decorated with plants and small objects.
Photo by Peter Bienkowski.

My hope for my tenure as Artist-in-Residence is to, in collaboration with the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, further the Center for Refugee Poetics, a nomadic epicenter of discourse that takes seriously and centrally the work of artists who—due to war, violence, state persecution, and human rights violations—have been forcibly displaced. The Center’s programming and outreach initiatives reflect the geographic diversity of refugee artists and refract the vast cultural array of refugee poetics. It likewise seeks to engender inventive collaboration between artists, writers, and scholars whose respective projects on displacement militate against dominant characterizations of refugees as passive victims and vulnerable subjects. Last, but certainly not least, the Center for Refugee Poetics is invested in strategically recollecting and tactically remembering the multivalent refugee experience through artist residencies, integrated research, documentation, and archiving.

The term poetics serves as a framework for thinking critically about refugee diasporas across all literary forms. Through these varied lenses, we hope to research, reflect, reframe, and think through global refugee experiences by fostering a dialogue around the ever-changing innovations in literature and narrative art, including oral histories. As such, the spirit of cultural collaboration and conversation between class, race, religion, gender, regional communities, and art practices is at the core of our philosophy, programming, and aspirations.

This work is particularly vital at this time in which a great wealth of writers and thinkers are creating works out of and through geopolitical displacement and state-sponsored aggression on civilians. In this climate of renewed attention on racial disparities, nuclear war, and xenophobic thinking, the Center for Refugee Poetics is focused on a poetics of engagement and communication, both in relation to this historic moment and with an eye toward moments to come. We seek to approach ideas of refugee studies and poetics as a species-wide condition by being a site of continuous and rigorous programming that challenges reductive tropes of refugee communities across the globe, and recasts these narratives into a conversation that is as complex, myriad, and intergenerational as the histories themselves.

Ocean Vuong, Artist-in-Residence


Message from A/P/A

As we look forward to hosting a year of programming focused on the theme “In the Wake of War,” we could not be more delighted to welcome Ocean Vuong as our 2019-20 Artist-in-Residence. Focused not only on the conditions and histories of war that have shaped so much of the Asian/Pacific American experience, but on how that past reverberates across decades, Vuong thoughtfully addresses an array of the concerns that scholars, activists, and students have made central to Asian/Pacific/American Studies and politics. As a poet, essayist, and novelist, he writes with elegance, care, and precision about migrants and refugees, families, love, sexuality, violence, and resilience. Vuong has described survival as a form of “active self-knowledge” and “a creative force,” and his work has inspired and brought insight to a generation of Asian/Pacific Americans. All of us at the A/P/A Institute at NYU are honored to have in residence this important voice in American literature and letters.

Crystal Parikh, Director

2019-20 Artist-in-Residence Programs

Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Friday, April 24-Saturday, April 25, 2020



Press release from NYU