Mai Der Vang

Award-winning Hmong Poet
Walt Whitman Poetry Award-winner
National Book Award Longlist

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • The Flight of the Hmong
  • An Evening with Mai Der Vang

Biography

“Moving and deft, dreamlike and discursive, evolving and devolving, imbued with memory.” –LA Review

“Huge and hallucinatory.” –The Rumpus

Mai Der Vang is the author of Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press, 2021), and Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She was also the co-editor of the anthology How Do I Begin? A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, 2011).

Her most recent book Yellow Rain is a staggering work of documentary, poetry, and collage. Integrating archival research and declassified documents, Yellow Rain calls out the erasure of a history, the silencing of a people who at the time lacked the capacity and resources to defend and represent themselves. In poems that sing and lament, that contend and question, Vang restores a vital narrative in danger of being lost, and brilliantly explores what it means to have access to the truth and how marginalized groups are often forbidden that access. Of this new collection, Kao Kalia Yang says: “Mai Der Vang’s Yellow Rain spoke to a piece of my heart that has yearned for such a work as this to come forth in response to the layered tragedies of our shared history, to establish a record in which our voices cannot be erased, our bodies forgotten, and our names forsaken. An indictment of the highest and most poetic order.”

About Afterland Carolyn Forché writes: “Afterland has haunted me. I keep returning to read these poems aloud, hearing in them a language at once atavistic, contemporary, and profoundly spiritual. Mai Der Vang confronts the Secret War in Laos, the flight of the Hmong people, and their survival as refugees. That a poet could absorb and transform these experiences in a single generation—incising the page with the personal and collective utterances of both the living and the dead, in luminous imagery and a surprising diction that turns both cathedral and widow into verbs, offering both land and body as swidden (slashed and burned)—is nothing short of astonishing. Here is deep attention, prismatic intelligence, and fearless truth.”

Vang’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Tin House, the American Poetry Review, among other journals and anthologies. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. Vang is a member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle where she co-edited How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. A Kundiman fellow, she has completed residencies at Civitella Ranieri and Hedgebrook. Vang is also the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship.

Born and raised in Fresno, California, Vang earned degrees from the University of California Berkeley and Columbia University. She has been an assistant professor in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Fresno State University since 2019.

Short Bio

Mai Der Vang is the author of Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press, 2021), and Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She was also the co-editor of the anthology How Do I Begin? A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, 2011). She has been an assistant professor in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Fresno State University since 2019.

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