The Old Philosopher
Poetry | $15.95
paperback, 80 pages, 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 in
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 978-1-937658-48-9

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.

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