After the success of Ocean Vuong’s poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, some dismissively suggested that the poet explore themes other than “war, violence, queerness, and immigration,” Kat Chow reported in a 2019 Atlantic profile. But Vuong wasn’t done considering those topics. So he disregarded his critics and wrote a novel. In On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong continues to grapple with those questions, evoking his childhood with urgency, lyricism, and—more than anything—careful attention to emotional truth.
A background in poetry can enrich the process of writing fiction, helping writers create descriptive and emotionally resonant works. In an interview with The Atlantic, the author Souvankham Thammavongsa said that she relied on the same “discipline and rigor and attention” when writing poetry and short stories, but still aimed to make her fiction distinct. The young-adult author Elizabeth Acevedo draws from her experience as a poet, English teacher, and aspiring rapper to write propulsive novels about young Afro-Latina characters in a variety of styles: The Poet X, a verse novel, follows a 15-year-old who finds solace in poetry; the protagonist of With the Fire on High, which is written in prose, finds herself through cooking. The poet and novelist Ben Lerner turns his focus on language itself (and the men who manipulate it) in The Topeka School.