Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Walt Whitman Award: “Afterland” by Mai Der Vang

Poet Mai Der Vang was born and grew up in Fresno, California. As she describes in the Spring / Summer issue of American Poets Magazine, she was about 10 years old when she wandered into her uncle’s house to look at his books. And there on a shelf, among the textbooks he was using for his courses in mechanics at a local community college, were several National Geographic magazines dating back to the 1960s. What each of the issues had in common were stories about the Hmong people of Southeast Asia.

Mai Der Vang
For Vang, it was a life-changing event. She discovered where she came from. And she would also discover where she was going. And her discovery would lead her to poetry and other literary writing and the Walt Whitman Award.

Afterland is Vang’s first collection of poems, and much of not all of its 57 poems is about the Hmong people. They live (and lived) in southeastern China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. During the Vietnam War, thousands were recruited by the CIA to fighter both the North Vietnamese and the communist Pathet Lao. Without U.S. support and protection, the Hmong would find themselves especially vulnerable.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

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