Jonathan Cape has signed an award-winning debut American poet to its list, Ocean Vuong, tipped to be "an important new voice" after making "huge waves" in the US.
Associate publisher Robin Robertson acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to Vuong's first full collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, from Copper Canyon Press, for publication in spring 2017.
Vuong, a 2014 Ruth Lilly fellow, was born in a rice farm outside Saigon in 1988. At the age of two, after a year in a refugee camp, he and his family arrived in the US, where he became the first literate member of his family, aged 11. He subsequently wrote the poems that would become this first full-length collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, at Brooklyn College while mentored by American poet and novelist Ben Lerner.
Originally published by Copper Canyon Press, a small independent press in Washington, in April 2015, Night Sky with Exit Wounds has gone on to win the 2016 Whiting Award for Poetry, became the subject of a feature in the New Yorker, and has sold over 15,000 copies in the past two months, according to Jonathan Cape.
Robertson called it "the most unusual first American collection I’ve seen in many years". Robertson added: "Unlike the usual worn-out MFA fodder, Vuong’s language is fresh and precise; he has an eye so alert that the book is studded with strange, arresting images."
Ocean's work has also received honours and awards from Poets House, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, and a Pushcart Prize, and been translated into Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, French, Italian, Hindi, Spanish and Ukrainian.
Vuong is the latest poet to join the Cape list, following Alice Oswald, who is shortlisted for this year’s Forward Prize, and Andrew McMillan, whose physical won last year’s Guardian First Book Award, and recently secured a £2,000 Somerset Maugham Award and an Eric Gregory Award at the Society of Authors' annual Authors' Awards this week.