Poet and multimedia artist Diana Khoi Nguyen is the author of Ghost Of (Omnidawn Publishing, 2018) and the chapbook Unless (Belladonna*, 2019). Her second collection of poems, Root Fractures, will be published by Scribner in early 2024.
Ghost Of was selected by Terrance Hayes for the Omnidawn Open Contest, and was a finalist for the National Book Award and L.A. Times Book Prize. It received the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and Colorado Book Award. Her poetry, prose, and visual poetics have appeared widely in magazines and journals such as Poetry, American Poetry Review, and PEN America.
Born and raised in California, she earned a BA in English and Communication Studies from UCLA, followed by an MFA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the University of Denver. She has taught creative writing in academic and literary community settings such as the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, University of Washington at Bothell, Randolph College Low-Residency MFA, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Hugo House, Tin House Writers Workshop, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Naropa's Summer Writing Program, and the 92Y, to name a few.
A Kundiman fellow, Nguyen’s other honors include a recent 2021 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as awards from the 92Y "Discovery" Poetry Contest, Key West Literary Seminars, and Academy of American Poets. She has also received scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.
In Spring 2022, she was the inaugural Asian American artist-in-residence in the Department of American Studies at Brown University, where she curated the community exhibit at the Providence Public Library, “Would That: Expressions of Possibility in Asian America and Diasporas.”
Currently, she collaborates with the Vietnamese womxn and non-binary, gender nonconforming collective, She Who Has No Master(s), and where she also mentors SE Asian literary artists in a new mentorship program.
Teaching and Writing
In the classroom, I always try to go there—beyond any boundaries which may comprise (and confine) both in the classroom and in creating writing tradition. Formal boundaries often keep students and educators from talking about personal matters or topics considered gross, taboo, or uncomfortable. I seek to cultivate a creative space in the classroom in which participants may engage in exploration of underrepresented and at times deeply emotional themes through open, honest, and respectful dialogues. Because I teach creative writing, it is crucial that students delve into difficult topics, to take them apart, try to sympathize, empathize, and understand how these issues operate and affect oneself and others—because whether they are writing poems, stories, or personal essays, they are all world-makers of visual and linguistic means, and it is imperative that these worlds are dynamic, that they bear verisimilitude to the conditions of consciousness and existence: emotion, feeling, impulse, uncertainty, discovery, to name a few.
But to anchor the writer through this at times precarious process, I support and advocate for risk-taking and play, but from a play of security and safety first.