Grant Recipients C.D. Wright Award for Poetry Poetry 2024

Hoa Nguyen

Hoa Nguyen stands before a green concrete surface with red and green ivy behind her and growing on a wooden lattice in the background to the right. Her face is turned and she smiles to the right while her body faces the camera. Her right arm is by her side while her left hand holds the strap of the shoulder bag on her left shoulder. She is wearing a blue coat, open over a black blouse with a beaded checkered pattern and black, hanging, teardrop-shaped accent beads. She wears a dark gray fingerless glove and carries a black leather bag with a leather chain link strap.
Photo by Kirby.
  • 2024 C.D. Wright Award for Poetry
  • Poetry
  • Poet, Educator
  • Born 1967, Vinh Long, Vietnam
  • Lives in Toronto, Canada
  • She/Her
  • Additional Information

Artist Statement

I like to think that my poems allow narrative to meet the page and the reader as the past and future in exchange and make possible for a new worlding. Poems that make solid a narrative not possible before, where ‘the real’ may be attached to words or image, not as a monument to itself, but as something else. Something that feels relational and enriches perspectives. I write on the quest proposed by Joanne Kyger: “to find those lost vibrating overtones of the poetry stone” as I seek innovations in sound/meaning possibilities. I am interested in play, odd rhythms, burs, muddiness, inventions, spondees, and slippage. I write poetry because “the Vietnamese believe they have always been poets.”

- December 2023


Hoa Nguyen is a poet of a “troubled lyric”. Born in the Mekong Delta at the height of the war in Vietnam, Nguyen immigrated to the United States where she was raised and educated, and has lived in Canada since 2011. Her writing is influenced by the dissonance, style, and political frameworks of punk and post-punk bands such as Bad Brains from Washington, DC. which fused jazz, funk, reggae, and punk into their music.

A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure (Wave Books, 2021) was inspired by Nguyen’s ambition to evoke her mother’s life as a celebrated stunt motorcycle rider who left Vietnam with her child (Nguyen) and never returned. The lyric poems reweave the ruptures of diasporic experience from obscured archive and rearticulates them in modes of verse biography and hybrid-documentary informed by song. With features of investigative storytelling, polyphony, lyric embodiment, and seriality, the work dialogues with difficulty as it exposes the problems inherent in archive, intergenerational memory, cultural loss, and language itself and arranges a correspondence with a cartography of ghosts.

Nguyen’s other books include Ask About Language As If It Forgets (knife fork book, 2019), You then a Dang (Belladonna* Collaborative, 2017), Violet Energy Ingots (Wave Books, 2016), Tells of the Crackling (Ugly Duckling Press, 2015), Red Juice: Poems 1998 — 2008 (Wave Books, 2014), and As Long As Trees Last (Wave Books, 2012).

A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure was named a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2022), the Governor General’s Award (2021), and the National Book Award (2021). Her book Violet Energy Ingots received a Griffin Prize nomination (2017). In 2020, she was nominated for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, also known as the “American Nobel.” 

Nguyen teaches poetry and creative writing at Toronto Metropolitan University, and serves as a mentor for graduate students at Guelph University and the University of Toronto. She received her M.F.A. in Poetics from the New College of California, San Francisco, CA and her B.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD.

"Durian Sonnet" from A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, Wave Books, 2021.

Hoa Nguyen reads "Crow Pheasant" and "We Sing To" from A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, Wave Books, 2021.