Mai Der Vang's "Afterland" Released by Graywolf Press

April 5, 2017

Graywolf Press has published Afterland, the debut poetry collection by alumna Mai Der Vang ’14. The publication of the book is part of Vang’s 2016 Walt Whitman Award, which she received last spring. That award is given by the Academy of American Poets and carries a monetary prize of $5,000, making it the largest award for a first book of poetry in the country. Poet Carolyn Forché selected the winner. In addition to publication of the winning manuscript by Graywolf, Vang also received a six-week residency in Umbria, Italy.

In 2016, Forché said of Vang’s book, “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.”

Graywolf executive editor Jeff Shotts added, “The selection of Mai Der Vang’s Afterland is an inspired and inspiring one. This book gives us a voice and a cultural narrative that is little heard in American poetry, and it gives us a moving, searing portrait of the resilience of Hmong refugees and immigrants that feels both overdue and immediately timely.”

Vang is a member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle and co-edited How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. Her poems have appeared in such places as Ninth Letter and The Cincinnati Review, and her essays have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post.