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  • Route 7 Review

Tamsen Malone—Time Is a Mother Poetry Book Review

“Inside my head, the war is / everywhere.”


Ocean Vuong was born in Saigon, Vietnam before immigrating with his family to Connecticut. He

graduated from NYU with an MFA in Poetry. At the young age of thirty-five, Vuong breaks conventions.


Time Is a Mother (Penguin Books, 2023) explores Vuong’s contemplative path. Imagine an existence where you have lived hundreds of lives yet seek solitude in exploration. Vuong guides the reader through his past life and current perspective in this four part book.


Throughout Vuong’s poetry, each moment is conveyed using vivid imagery. In Rise & Shine, he describes “four yolks into a day / -white bowl, spoon / the shells. Scallions hiss.” Vuong gives readers a glimpse into what is really going on in the Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker purchasing “Chemo-Glam cotton scarf, flower garden print.” And, in Old Glory, Vuong uses simple school-boy slang, “Bro, for real though, I’m dead.”


As an openly gay man, Vuong adds a subtle element of romance to his poetry: “but needing beauty / to be more than hurt gentle / enough to want, I / reached for him,” and, “so I let him kiss me / for nothing oh well.”


As a younger person in our evolving world, Vuong observes the behavior of those too blinded to know what it is like to be an outsider their entire life. While contemplating his past, Vuong allows the ever-raging war of humanity and the war in his own head to be freely expressed. Those who seek a safe place will find a gentle comfort in his words. As Vuong would simply put it, “I was made to die but I’m here to stay.”


Tamsen Malone

Tamsen Malone is currently a junior attending Utah Tech University majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She’s from Northern California and enjoys exploring the natures of Utah.



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