Born in the Mekong Delta and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Hoa Nguyen studied Poetics at New College of California in San Francisco. With the poet Dale Smith, Nguyen founded Skanky Possum, a poetry journal and book imprint in Austin, TX, their home of 14 years.
Robert Tejada of Tripwire praised her book Dark saying "Through a torsion it effects between the representation of memory and immediacy, Hoa Nguyen’s Dark comprises a series of self-portraits weathered into the magenta fade of Kodacolor prints; into the warp of random perspective as viewed from the telescoping lens of time. Nguyen has wrought a music whose candid nature is identifiably her own, with its unique attention to the embarrassments of the spoken.[...] Stretching sense with clamped sound, Dark is articulated in a language that enacts the amazement and discomforts in the transit from childhood to adulthood; the shaping of self from passive recipient to active subject."
She is the author of several poetry collections, including Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008 and As Long as Trees Last. Her 2016 collection was Violet Energy Ingots, which the publishers noted "contain a sense of dis-ease, rupture, things frayed, and grief—as love shimmers the edges. Ryo Yamaguchi describes Nguyen’s writing as “a kind of stuttering with intelligences, impressions, and emotions flaring up as the words find their pathways.” As grounded in the earth as in the stars, her poems are reminders of the possibilities of contemplation in every space and moment. It was listed in the top poetry books of Fall 2016 by Publishers Weekly.
Her poetry has also been collected in the anthologies Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sound: The Teachers of WritersCorps in Poetry and Prose (City Lights, 2009), The Best of Fence (Fence Books, 2009), For the Time Being: A Bootstrap Anthology (Bootstrap Books, 2008), Black Dog, Black Night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry (Milkweed Editions, 2008), and Not for Mothers Only (Fence Books, 2007).
She often has a spare, brief style such as her poem "Pharoah Notes" from Violet Energy Ingots:
She lives in Toronto, Ontario where she curates a reading series and teaches poetics privately and at Ryerson University.