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All the Flowers Kneeling


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About the Author

Paul Tran received their BA in history from Brown University and MFA in poetry from Washington University in St. Louis, where they were the chancellor's graduate fellow and senior poetry fellow. They have been awarded a 2021 Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Currently a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University, Paul's work appears in The New Yorker, Poetry, and elsewhere.


Sometimes, reading a poet for the first time is like meeting a person: the first impression is defining. That is what Paul Tran's debut is like. A queer, transgender Vietnamese American - such labelling scarcely serves as an introduction - their presence on the page is instantly dramatic: there is a gorgeous sensuality to the writing but a reason for readers to stay alert, to be on guard. A story of sexual abuse is unfolding ... in a confessional that extends to abuse of Tran's mother and abuse endured in childhood, underpinned by an intense quality of performance at every turn. Tran's work is filled with purpose ... there is a momentum, a thespian verve that does not mask the work's integrity. There is courage in their ongoing confrontation with pain. One of the questions that arises is: can trauma be contained by form - and how? ... Impressive ... These poems are flamboyant in content, yet their craftsmanship is as discreet as invisible mending: you will not see the stitches unless you seek them. And it is invisible mending, in the fullest sense, that Tran does best. There is no expectation that poetry will bring conspicuous resolution ... superb and ungovernable ... [with a] shimmering tension ... [an] unforgettable collection -- Kate Kellaway * Observer *
Beautiful, sensuous and plural ... Paul Tran has written a vital and visceral collection. Breathtaking -- Joelle Taylor * author of C+NTO & OTHERED POEMS *
Brave ... The pendulum between resistance and repetition in trauma both personal and historical moves throughout this striking collection, which is full of mirrors, pictures, paintings and retold myths, as though trying to articulate the unspeakable from various angles ... Though often nightmarish and dark, there are flashes of abandon, starlight, and moments of shimmering release that extend from costume to cosmos, so that by the end the speaker is running 'naked but for my snakeskin coat / so fast through wind I become the wind' ... an auspicious debut -- Sean Hewitt * Irish Times *
Every so often, a true masterwork seemingly springs forth fully formed as if the goddess Athena, armor flashing and sword raised ... All the Flowers Kneeling arrived ready for war ... an exquisitely crafted labyrinth of a book * Electric Literature *
A testament to queer self-love ... a monument to [what] persists * them.us *
Vivid ... searingly honest, beautifully told depictions of survival and self-love * Publishers Weekly *
[A] powerful debut ... marshals narrative lyrics and stark beauty * The New York Times Book Review *
Paul Tran's debut collection of poems is indelible, this remarkable voice transforming itself as you read, eventually transforming you. I felt at times a passenger, a ghost, implicated, consumed, and ultimately delivered back to myself, renewed -- Alexander Chee * author of HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL *
Between grief and love, past and future, trauma and luminous survival, these are searching, generous poems that enact the resilience of the human spirit, how the art of language-making - story, truth-telling - allows us not only to survive but thrive. This is a stunning debut -- Natasha Trethewey * author of THRALL *
An elegant meditation on many things - history, inheritance, language, trauma, how the self tricks the self, defiance ... All the Flowers Kneeling maps the journey past bewilderment, to knowing, to, finally, the mystery of unknowing, where ... the life we get to choose for ourselves begins -- Carl Phillips * author of PALE COLORS IN A TALL FIELD *
Ravishing ... Formally inventive, psychologically acute ... Tran's debut demonstrates the capacity of poetry to tell the truths which will set you free -- Dana Levin * author of BANANA PALACE *
All the Flowers Kneeling is a gorgeous debut ... Out of violences intimate and imperial, out of survival and self-fashioning, Paul Tran sculpts new forms to contain all. This book is a richness. What a stellar poet for our day -- Solmaz Sharif * author of LOOK *

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