All the Flowers Kneeling

All the Flowers Kneeling



'Gorgeous ... intense ... shimmering ... [an] unforgettable collection'
'Beautiful, sensuous and plural ... a vital and visceral collection. Breathtaking' Joelle Taylor, author of C+nto & Othered Poems
'Brave ... this striking collection ... articulates the unspeakable from various angles ... often nightmarish and dark, there are moments of shimmering release ... an auspicious debut' Seán Hewitt, Irish Times
'[A] powerful debut ... marshals narrative lyrics and stark beauty' The New York Times Book Review
'Vivid ... searingly honest, beautifully told depictions of survival and self-love' Publishers Weekly
'A testament to queer self-love ... a monument to [what] persists'
'A true masterwork ... an exquisitely crafted labyrinth of a book' Electric Literature

This is a book about survival.
This is a book about love.

Visceral and astonishing, Paul Tran's debut poetry collection, All the Flowers Kneeling, charts the rebuilding of a self in the wake of extremity. How, it asks, can we reimagine what we have been given in order to make something new: an identity, a family, a life, a dream?

These rich, resonant poems of desire, freedom, control and rebirth reach back into the past - the tale of Scheherazade, US imperial violence, a shattering history of personal abuse - to show how it both scars and transforms. Innovative poetic forms mirror the nonlinear experiences of trauma survivors, while ambitious sequences probe our systems of knowledge-making and the power of storytelling as survival.

At once virtuosic and vulnerable, confessional and profoundly defiant, All the Flowers Kneeling revels in rediscovering and reconfiguring the self, and ultimately becomes an essential testament to the human capacities for resilience, endurance and love.


  • Sometimes, reading a poet for the first time is like meeting a person: the first impression is defining. That is what Paul Tran's debut is like. A queer, transgender Vietnamese American - such labelling scarcely serves as an introduction - their presence on the page is instantly dramatic: there is a gorgeous sensuality to the writing but a reason for readers to stay alert, to be on guard. A story of sexual abuse is unfolding . . . in a confessional that extends to abuse of Tran's mother and abuse endured in childhood, underpinned by an intense quality of performance at every turn. Tran's work is filled with purpose . . . there is a momentum, a thespian verve that does not mask the work's integrity. There is courage in their ongoing confrontation with pain. One of the questions that arises is: can trauma be contained by form - and how? . . . Impressive . . . These poems are flamboyant in content, yet their craftsmanship is as discreet as invisible mending: you will not see the stitches unless you seek them. And it is invisible mending, in the fullest sense, that Tran does best. There is no expectation that poetry will bring conspicuous resolution . . . superb and ungovernable . . . [with a] shimmering tension . . . [an] unforgettable collection
    Kate Kellaway, Observer

About the author

Paul Tran

Paul Tran received their BA in history from Brown University and MFA in poetry from Washington University in St. Louis, where they were the chancellor's graduate fellow and senior poetry fellow. They have been awarded a 2021 Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize and a fellowship from Stanford University. Currently an Assistant Professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Paul's work appears in The New Yorker, Poetry, and elsewhere.
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