Today in the PEN Poetry Series, guest poetry editor Maggie Nelson features two poems by Hoa Nguyen. About Nguyen’s work, Nelson writes: I’m enraptured by Hoa Nguyen’s poems. Forged in a “condensery” related to that of Lorine Neidecker (whom Nguyen admires), Nguyen’s poems incite a similar awe and bewilderment: they hang together by force of an utterly original, almost occult energy. They offer new possibles for how and why language might cluster together, which means they also offer a new pathway through the world. Deceptively colloquial, cerebral yet unafraid of abjection, emotionally rich but weirdly, shrewdly citational, her poems teach me something I haven’t yet understood. Here are two pieces I just pried from her notebook, fresh. For others, consult her excellent most recent collection, As Long As Trees Last (2012).

I Don’t Care

I don’t care anymore
one emblem of a whole pattern

I’m going to the café
Want the bag     rinky-dink it

Rain me      mother
Brain me

Consciousness means something else
a side of sliced ham

I gave the carved medallion
Horse relief and tender

My grey grey grey
bangles       and leapings

Black snake in the mud



Screaming      mostly
I like to dance    dark woods
stony hills      lonely & moody
god      I can scream
floating piped tunes
mantle for protected onces

are]      possibly  “all”


You always “take me to yr hearts”
moon lit     sweet     after unearthly
whiskered tree-love     trusted
with my small horns

Such a mood flower    sequined
feet padding about

No      I do not want to see
pictures of your white progeny 


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).