Not Here

Poetry by Hieu Minh Nguyen

April 10, 2018 • 6 x 9 • 120 pages • 978-1-56689-509-5

Being queer and Asian American; families we are born into and ones we chose; nostalgia, trauma and history—all dissected fearlessly.

Not Here is a flight plan for escape and a map for navigating home; a queer Vietnamese American body in confrontation with whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia; and a big beating heart of a book. Nguyen’s poems ache with loneliness and desire and the giddy terrors of allowing yourself to hope for love, and revel in moments of connection achieved.

About the Author

Hieu Minh Nguyen was born in 1991, a child of Vietnamese immigrants, his debut collection of poetry, This Way to the Sugar, was a finalist for both the MN Book Awards and the Lambda Literary Awards. Nguyen has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Kundiman, the Vermont Studio Center, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Loft Literary Center. His poems have appeared in Poetry, the Offing, BuzzFeed, the Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. He lives in Minneapolis.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“Nguyen attempts a courageous exorcism of shame in his brilliant and disquieting second collection, exposing the baggage of living as a queer person of color in a white-supremacist, classist, heteronormative society. . . . Nguyen communicates with stunning clarity the ambivalence of shame, how it can commandeer one’s life and become almost a comfort.” Publishers Weekly, boxed and starred review

“Nguyen’s voice feels simultaneously young and ageless, uncertain and wise. His poems are pitched somewhere between page and stage, as if said aloud right into your ear.” —NPR

“Nguyen, a queer Vietnamese-American, confronts whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia in poems that ache with loneliness, desire, and the giddy terrors of hoping for love.” —Publishers Weekly

“The worlds Nguyen summons and dismisses in these poems are mesmerizing, like the visions of a sorcerer, but not because they’re magical—because they’re real. All of them animated by a wild wit that feels like it could throw a car like a baseball. I’ve been waiting for this book, and if you’ve ever read one of these, you probably have been too—this is an essential debut. Not Here is here.” —Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night

“These dazzling poems by Vietnamese-American poet Hieu Minh Nguyen are exactly what we want to be reading next year, as they provocatively address the in-between spaces in life, those areas between love and longing, pain and pleasure, belonging and alienation. Nguyen’s imagery is a sensory wonder, evocative of the depths of trauma and the dizzying heights of hopefulness and desire.” —Nylon

“‘Sometimes, to avoid a catastrophe: the disappearance of a limb or relative, you must make sure everything burns,’ we are told in Hieu Minh Nguyen’s Not Here. These brilliant poems illuminate those spaces between sincerity and mischief, vulnerability and audacity. Nguyen’s irrepressible warmth is fueled by honesty, longing, and curiosity. ‘Everything burns’ in this amazing collection. Not Here blazes and enlightens.” —Terrance Hayes

“Hieu Minh Nguyen’s fabulous book of poems, Not Here, is just one of those books you can’t stop reading. There are so many complicated relationships traversed in this book, of which the speaker’s relationship with his mother is the primary one. Nguyen is a magician with form, using a variety of forms as a way of searching and longing but never finding. As the speaker says: ‘Let me be clear: any love I find will be treason.’ This is a book about desire, about race, about sexual identity, about the slippage of memory, about culture. The writing is fierce and sad, and so skilled. It crackles. It is essential.” —Victoria Chang

“Nguyen has created a poetry collection that serves as a map, as an escape plan, as a guide to surviving in a world violently opposed to lives lived outside a whitewashed outline.” —Bustle

“Hieu Minh Nguyen’s Not Here is a book I brace for, in awe and relief. His work is so tight, searing, and unabashedly sharp and full at once. His poems turn me into a horizontal entity. Reading them, I have to lie down. They remind me of gravity, how it pins me to the world without ever touching me. Hieu’s work is like that. A kind of force. Or better yet, a force of kindness.” —Ocean Vuong, Literary Hub

“‘Like all agony, there are pleasant moments / but only when we forget / what carried us here,’ says Hieu Minh Nguyen’s Not Here. His is a brutally beautiful collection of poems that considers home, queerness, Vietnamese American identity, whiteness, trauma. It is imbued with a hungry wit, seeking belonging, seeking existence, seeking survival. The speaker interrogates his own origins: the blanks, the empty spaces, the words whited out. ‘Oh, but why am I here?’ he asks. The memories he encounters are fossilized creatures, unearthed as these poems kneel down in a field and sift the dirt of childhood through their fingers, looking to see what forgiveness they might find.” —Elizabeth Willis, Avid Bookshop

“Hieu Minh Nguyen has such a wonderful spirit, and that spirit pours through each and every page. This collection has it all; the poems will make you drop your surroundings and stand in awe. I love this book so much. It was like a punch straight to the heart, and I mean that in the best way.” —Matt Keliher, Subtext Books

“Nguyen uses a wide variety of styles to provocatively confront whiteness, evoke both pleasure and pain, and find a sense of home in deep loneliness.”Washington Blade

Praise for Hieu Minh Nguyen:

Lambda Literary Award finalist Minnesota Book Award finalist Poets & Writers Debut Poets 2014

“Hieu Minh Nguyen’s Not Here is a book I brace for, in awe and relief. His work is so tight, searing, and unabashedly sharp and full at once. His poems turn me into a horizontal entity. Reading them, I have to lie down. They remind me of gravity, how it pins me to the world without ever touching me. Hieu’s work is like that. A kind of force. Or better yet, a force of kindness.” —Literary Hub

“Hieu Minh Nguyen’s poems travel through time.” —PBS NewsHour

“Nguyen's writing is by turns electrifying and somber, heartrending and triumphant. He packs a devastating amount of emotion into just a few words, and each poem bristles with striking images.” Hyphen

“Hieu’s book should be required reading. He is patient with his ghosts, letting each sing its song of broken glass and burning houses and bathroom rugs as band aids for black mold. I can’t imagine life without these poems. Thank you Hieu.” Bao Phi, author of Sông I Sing

This Way To the Sugar explodes with a longing to hold the past and future, make them dance and give birth to Hieu Minh Nguyen, who the whole time has been spinning each line into impossible being. These are gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, death-defying poems filled with brilliant bursts of gusto that will clear out your ‘house . . . infested with subtitles.’” Ed Bok Lee, author of Whorled & Real Karaoke People

“You owe it to yourself to read this book. That may sound exaggerated, but it is my hallowed truth: Hieu Minh Nguyen’s poetry reminds me why I began writing and why I love this genre. His work is crisp and brave and incredibly alive. Each poem will thump inside you like a new heart.” Sierra DeMulder, author of Today Means Amen