Time, normally associated with death and erasure, embodied in the image of the Greek god Kronos devouring his young, is transformed by the poet into a mother with endlessly regenerative power ... illustrates the poet's efforts to reconcile inexorable fate with aesthetic transformation, eternal absence with continuous presence ... Aesthetically complex yet emotionally accessible, Time is a Mother at once innovates and affirms the existing poetic tradition, bringing to mind John Ashbery's Paradoxes and Oxymorons. Vuong's portrait of Hồng is both intimate and iconic ... By addressing Hồng in 'Dear Rose,' Vuong also reaches out to us who, in reading his work, become his mother, the poem, and his community through space and time.
Not since Emily Dickinson has poetry conveyed such an oceanic openness to the self’s quiet laceration and resilience. These new poems collect fragile private moments and glue them together, like Joseph Cornell’s collages made out of rescued materials. They are emotionally potent due to their inherent vulnerability. Bullet imagery cuts through the book ... Vuong’s words hit us with debris that resemble our own memories of art, love, grief and survival. His mothering poems register the incompleteness of life, even as we find ourselves in a world where a single word, a quick turn of phrase or a short line make a difficult moment bearable. All the same, the violent process of fermentation they exhibit keeps poetry pungent, truth-seeking and unerasable.
There’s something about Vuong’s writing that demands all of your lungs. The succinct line arrangement and absence of full stops in poems such as 'Dear Rose' force you to breathe heavy ... Being led by urge and compulsion feels central to the emotional landscape of Time Is a Mother, sometimes to the point of recklessness. The painterly opener, 'The Bull', sets the tone for this sense of wild abandon ... Underneath the macabre scenes is an innocent curiosity and thirst for truth and beauty. These ghost poems are about the cavernous corners of loss, grief, abandonment, trauma and war, but that doesn’t result in nihilism or apathy for life; in fact, Vuong approaches death like an entrance rather than an ending.