This is the book of poems that I've been reading for the past couple of months, one a day in the morning while my coffee brews. It's taken me a while to get through it, more so than other books the same length, perhaps more because of me than because of the book itself. Sometimes a book of poems feels like a message from the universe; this one just felt like a book of poems. But again, that's about context.
Some of the poems in Not Here felt opaque to me. Not necessarily in a bad way, more in a 'this is the void between one person's experience and my own because we are all alone in the end' way. And then other poems felt incisive and illuminating, particularly when Nguyen writes about the body and/or physical existence. There were a lot of poems I did really like.
One of my absolute favorites is "Heavy":
The narrow clearing down to the river
I walk alone, out of breath
my body catching on each branch.
Small children maneuver around me.
Often, I want to return to my old body
a body I also hated, but hate less
Sometimes my friends—my friends
who are always beautiful & heartbroken
look at me like they know
I will die before them.
I think the life I want
is the life I have, but how can I be sure?
There are days when I give up on my body
but not the world.
I am alive. I know this. Alive now
to see the world, to see the river
rapture everything with its light.
n.b. A lot of the content in this book is quite heavy, including poems about child sex abuse and abuse within families and communities, so read with caution