Legible Language: Artist Profile of Hieu Minh Nguyen

DVAN, the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, in a generous partnership with the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, is proud to announce our 2019 DVAN/Djerassi Writers & Poets Residency, awarded this year to the poet, Hieu Minh Nguyen. This month-long residency will be hosted at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, where writers and artists are provided food and lodging and opportunity to work on their art in the beautiful, remote, natural surroundings of the Palo Alto Mountains. 

Through this partnership with Djerassi, DVAN has had the opportunity to offer 1-2 writing residencies to writers per year: in 2018, we hosted a one-week “Dialogues Across Borders” residency (with accompanying sold-out public event at the San Jose Museum of Art), which included ten Vietnamese diasporic writers from four different countries; in January 2019, we hosted a one-week residency for 12 women writers of our She Who Has No Master(s) collective project (with an accompanying sold-out Tender Table event at SJMA), and in August for the first time we are able to invite a single writer for a more immersive month-long residency. Currently, the DVAN Writers Residencies are by invite only, although at a future date we may move to an open application process.

We are thrilled to be able to host Hieu Minh Nguyen in August 2019 as our DVAN/Djerassi Resident Artist. Below we give you a profile of Hieu, who was chosen on the merit of his exceptional poetry publications to date.


Hieu Minh Nguyen’s collection “Not Here” on Coffee House Press.

Artist Statement

Soon as I became proficient in English, my mother asked me to translate the morning news to her. She wanted to participate with the world, so I found ways to explain house fires and high speed chases. As a grade-schooler, I could even stumbled my way through political scandals. The events, however, that proved most formidable to my relationship with language, were those that felt impossible to describe: 9/11 happened when I was ten; Columbine when I was eight; Matthew Shepard was murdered when I was seven. I was asked to study and translate the world’s atrocities into not only language, but a kind of logic. My writing, therefore, uses inviting language—language some might call accessible—to make the world legible to subjects like my mother, and to make subjects like my mother legible to the world. In fact, above my desk, I have a photograph of her atop a horse. It is sort of ridiculous: her large sun hat and tacky orange dress. Taken summers ago, the photograph represents my mother’s visit to a Vietnam that, as our remaining relatives die, will ultimately give her no reason to return. And because I am my mother’s son, I am fluent in loneliness. And because I am a poet, I know what it is to be a tourist everywhere I go.

Hieu Minh Nguyen’s debut collection, “This Way to Sugar” from Write Bloody Press.

Artist Bio

Hieu Minh Nguyen is a queer Vietnamese American poet from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014) and Not Here (Coffee House Press, 2018). A recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, Hieu is also a 2018 McKnight Writing Fellow, a Kundiman Fellow, and a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. His work has appeared in Poetry Magazine, Best American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets, and The New York Times. He is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College & will be a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University this fall.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here