Award-Winning Poetry Poetry Friday

[Poetry Friday] The Fearless Truth and Haunting Beauty in Mai Der Vang’s Poetry

poetry friday

Fats here.

This week’s Poetry Friday will feature a poem by Hmong American poet, Mai Der Vang. She is the 2016 Winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets for her work entitled, Afterland. Mai was nominated by Carolyn Forché, an American poet and human rights advocate. Carolyn is best-known for coining the term “poetry of witness.” Read below what Carolyn has to say about Mai’s poetry.

“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… is nothing short of astonishing.”

Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Kay at A Journey Through the Pages!


Spirit, when I flee this jungle, you must too.
I will take our silver bars, necklace dowry, and the kettle
forged from metal scraps just after last monsoon.

Among the foliage, we must be ready to see
the half-decayed. You must not run off no matter how much
flesh you smell.

Nor should you wander to chase an old mate.

Spirit, we are in this with each other the way the night geese
in migration need the stars.

When I make the crossing, you must not be taken no matter what
the current gives. When we reach the camp,

there will be thousands like us.
If I make it onto the plane, you must follow me to the roads
and waiting pastures of America.

We will not ride the water today on the shoulders of buffalo
as we used to many years ago, nor will we forage
for the sweetest mangoes.

I am refugee. You are too. Cry, but do not weep.

We walk out the door.

Photo by Istvan Kadar.


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