Ocean Vuong on How Language Builds an Architecture For Our Souls
From the Thresholds Podcast, Hosted by Jordan Kisner
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the new essay collection, Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
In the first episode of our second season, Ocean Vuong discusses his book On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, how he realized at sixteen he needed to change his life, and how language can be a bridge we build out of a situation that seems hopeless—and how language can also build “an architecture for our souls.”
From the interview:
Ocean Vuong: I tell my students, your brain is probably telling you something important. It’s saying you’re not ready. Take that image with you. Go on a walk and live your life and maybe something about your life. You pay attention to it, can show you how to write that thing. Don’t fight it. So much of our culture is bent on fighting David and Goliath, wrestling the muse. We look at creation as a battleground. And I think it’s one of the greatest detriments to creativity is to see ourselves as participants in a war when it should be participants in creation.
This episode is brought to you by: Betterhelp. Get 10% off your first month by visiting betterhelp.com/thresholds; What Happens at Night by Peter Cameron, now available wherever you get books from Catapult; and, Luster by Raven Leilani, now available from FSG.
Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese American poet, essayist, and novelist. He is a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, the 2014 Ruth Lilly/Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2016 Whiting Award, and the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for his poetry. His New York Times-bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was published in 2019 and his debut poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds was an NYT Top Ten Book of 2016. He serves as an Assistant Professor in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at UMass-Amherst.