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The Old Philosopher
Vi Khi Nao

2016 • 80 pp. 7 x 8 1/2"

$15.95 Paperback, 978-1-937658-48-9

“The poems of The Old Philosopher are keen and bright; sharp like ice in winter, these seemingly fractured lines perform the strangest roles. I believe in all the wicked wisdom... [continued in Reviews below]”—Kazim Ali, Judge's Citation,

Winner of the Nightboat Books Prize for Poetry

The Old Philosopher is enigmatic, sexual, biblical, anachronistic, political, and personal all at once. These quiet, implosive poems inhabit a nonlinear temporality in which Vi Khi Nao brings biblical time and political time together in the same poetic space, allowing current affairs to converse with a more ancient and historical reality.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“The poems of The Old Philosopher are keen and bright; sharp like ice in winter, these seemingly fractured lines perform the strangest roles. I believe in all the wicked wisdom contained here. Vi Khi Nao risks much—she weights each line with deep spiritual and emotional resonance, yet the voice of the poems never fails to surprise. The opening section of quirky, lacerating lyrics give way to a deceptively quiet series of narrative poems that only serve to show how fully language can come to inhabit lived experience without compromising one stitch of poetry’s power to de-center and disturb. The collection closes with a masterful prose sequence that fuses the various approaches of the poems that came before. Political, prayerful, peripatetic, the work of Vi Khi Nao feels so necessary, so intense, so immediately now.”—Kazim Ali, Judge's Citation

“Even if you think you are hallucinating, you are not, the lights actually are “bouncing / Off a panther’s undulating / Back.” The pain is real, the dreams are real, and so is the sewing machine. People are just no longer used to a glass mountain that doesn’t shatter. We have grown more accustomed to the mountain having simply been removed. We may have already forgotten that “god is a child / who pretends to pray / because in the midst of his holy make-believe childhood / he is a beautiful version of daffodil twirling in dew.” We are no longer used to the heart’s engine revving with such quiet, lonely, insistent, anatomical intensity. Not so many people have traveled in Vi Khi Nao’s language mind before. Here is your ticket, a vagrant fragrance.”—C. D. Wright

"Fortunately, Vi Khi Nao’s debut poetry collection The Old Philosopher, though ravishingly experimental, is not like that. Nao’s poems are eminently readable, having a brisk, breezy, informal voice (“See ya around, pancake faces,” the speaker of one poem says slangily) and being widely spaced on the page in a way that invites the eye to partake. Reading her words, you find yourself turning pages at a rapid clip."—Jenna Le, Fanzine

“Body, earth, family, global politics, and God pushed thoughtfully through a meat grinder with memory and sex blades: this is the work inside The Old Philospher, winner of the 2014 Nightbooks Prize for Poetry.”
—Leslie Caton,
Prank Magazine

From the Book:

Almost—This fallen
Biblical step—almost removes me
From the timeline of grasping
This fallen step—almost a remorse drawn
Into impulse
Traps my cranium in bones—flesh
My memory inspired by
The panting imbued by sound—of the import-
Ance of ritual—of the habit
Missing note from the lungs—cripples my
Breath Timekeeper
Takes metonymic note—This is that time—
I my ribs are piano keys

VI KHI NAO was born in Long Khanh, Vietnam. She holds an MFA in fiction from Brown University, where she received the John Hawkes and Feldman Prizes in fiction and the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Awards in poetry. Her work includes poetry, fiction, film, and cross-genre collaboration. She is the author of two novellas, Swans in Half-Mourning and The Vanishing Point of Desire. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:37:02 -0500