Students from a number of classes and aspiring writers gathered on the second floor of the Nevada Wolf Shop on Friday, March 8 for an evening of honest poetry from Minneapolis-based poet Hieu Minh Nguyen.
Nguyen has a plethora of accolades, which include being a recipient of the 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellowship for poetry. His work has been featured in PBS NewsHour, POETRY Magazine, BuzzFeed, Poetry London and many more platforms. Coming off the release of his second poetry collection “Not Here,” Nguyen gave the audience an insight into his world by reciting select excerpts from his book and holding a question and answer session afterwards. To cap off the night, audience members were encouraged to purchase “Not Here” and participate in the book signing.
Nguyen began his performance interacting with the audience. Laughs echoed across the room as he discussed his pride in being a Gemini and told those who are a Sagittarius to stay away from him. Right off the bat, the audience connected with him and later on this introduction signaled Nguyen’s willingness to let people see different sides of his personality.
Although jokes and laughter emerged throughout, Nguyen dove into serious subjects as well. One of the first poems he recited looked into the life of his Vietnamese mother and explains having to translate the news in English for her at a very young age. He describes the pain involved in being exposed to certain realities of the world unfolding in front of him. This proved to be a very compelling and honest story as he candidly expressed his mother being the person he understood best in the world. Because of this, Nguyen often credits her as a major influence to his work.
Other poems involved Nguyen’s own version of a high school graduation speech he created, which he was never asked to do. His friendships throughout his life were heavily mentioned in the poems he presented. Having a difficult time with depression at the time, Nguyen reminisced having a pact with his best friend to go out every Saturday to see Minneapolis drag queen Monica West even if they didn’t want to.
Lila Libby — a first year creative writing graduate student — read “Not Here” for her poetry writing workshop and found Nguyen’s work captivating. Libby particularly found the different interpretations of the poems very interesting.
“I really loved these poems when I read them and to hear them come to life in his voice was very exciting. He made the poems in the page feel kind of melancholic, but he made them very funny in person and I thought that was awesome,” Libby said. “It’s really cool how there’s different emotions that occur between spoken poetry and written poetry.”
The Q&A portion of the night was extremely insightful. Nguyen opened up about his passion for words and how crucial it is to be obsessed with poetry in order to improve one’s storytelling. Audience members asked about achieving a sense of intimacy through writing and Nguyen expressed why he believes humor invokes this connection with people in his own work.
With the positive audience response, the night proved to be a success. As an aspiring writer herself, Libby feels as though people should attend more of these readings at the Wolf Shop.
“I’ve been going to all of them because I’ve realized that since I’ve been in grad school, I wanna support other writers. I wanna be supported, so I should support other people too. That’s why I’ve been going in and buying the books and getting them signed,” Libby said. “It’s just been a wonderful experience so far.”Stay tuned for more events highlighting writers at the Nevada Wolf Shop. Check out https://events.unr.edu/ for more information.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.