Mai Der Vang, born October 20th, 1981, is a Hmong poet raised in Fresno, California. Her parents come from Laos and are refugees from the Laotian Civil War, settling in the United States after the U.S. pulled out of the war. Vang received her BA from UC Berkley, her MFA from Columbia University, and is now teaching the MFA program in Creative Writing at Fresno State ("Mai Der Vang"). She is an esteemed writer whose essays have been published by such places as The Washington Post and The New York Times, and her two collections of poetry, Afterland (2017) and Yellow Rain (2021), have received a number of awards. Afterland was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award, longlisted in 2017 for the National Book Award for Poetry, and selected as a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Likewise, Yellow Rain was made a finalist for the California Book Award, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the LA Times Book Prize in Poetry, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Both works aim to shed light on the misrepresentation and untold stories of Hmong people during the secret war in Laos. Vang uses language in an effort to bring to light the experiences Hmong people underwent during the Secret War. She has also curated a five-part series, "Writing From the Absence: Voices of Hmong American Poets," where she features five other Hmong-American poets and interviews them about their work.
Click here for the link to the series.
"Kev kawm sau paj huam tau tso cai rau kuv koom nrog cov khoom siv tes ua ntawm lub tuam txhab txhawm rau sau rov qab tawm tsam nws. Nws tau tso cai rau kuv siv tus nplaig ntawm sab hnub poob tawm tsam nws tus kheej txhawm rau txhawm rau txhawm rau kuv tus kheej piav qhia, kuv tus kheej sau ntawv."
"Learning how to write poetry has allowed me to engage in the craft of the establishment in order to write back against it. It has allowed me to use the tongue of the West against itself in order to weave my own narrative, my own literary being."
—Mai Der Vang, poet.org interview
Click here to see Vang speak on Yellow Rain in a YouTube interview.
"Bio." MAI DER VANG, https://maidervang.com/bio/.
"Mai Der Vang." Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, https://poets.org/poet/mai-der-vang.
Andrea Wagner is a English Literature and Rhetoric graduate student, a Penumbra editor and frequent contributor, and a writing tutor for Stanislaus State University.
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Essence Saunders is an editor for Penumbra Online and a fourth year undergrad at CSU Stanislaus. She enjoys art, music, and writing and has worked with Penumbra since the Spring of 2020.