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'I'm beginning to hear a needle drop.' Poet reflects on family ghosts

Photo of poet Diana Khoi Nguyen (left) and her family. The negative space in the foreground used to be an image of her brother Oliver, who sliced himself out of the photos with a utility knife. Oliver would go on to commit suicide.
Courtesy Diana Khoi Nguyen.
The first pane of Diana Khoi Nguyen's poem 'Triptych.'

Denver poet Diana Khoi Nguyen's family is haunted by bees. 

It's easier for them to speak about the bees than it is to speak about her brother's suicide. But in her new book of poems, "Ghost Of," Diana is talking.

The poems move through spaces and silences, winding in and out of family photos her brother cut himself out of with an X-acto knife. In one poem, she explores how this removal of his body from the frame presaged his removal of himself from his body.  

Her parents never say her brother died, or committed suicide. Instead they say he was lost - like a shoe, or a glove. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact one of these resources: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255 Hotline available 24/7. Online chat also available. Crisis Text Line741741 Text from anywhere in the U.S. with a trained crisis counselor. Available 24/7. Forefront Suicide Prevention (UW) Information, training, and resources. Not a crisis line.

The Vietnamese language, says Diana, doesn't have a subjunctive mood. That's the mood that is used in many languages to express regret: should have, could have, would have. Both the language and her family tend to try and look forward. In her work, however, Diana looks closely at the past, so that it isn't lost.

"Triptych," a poem

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Year started with KUOW: 1985 – 1986, 1991 – 2004, 2012
Year started with KUOW: 2018