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    6 Hmong Poets You Need To Read Right Now

    It's December, which means that Hmong communities across the US are celebrating the Hmong New Year. There are over 260,000 living in the US today from California to Rhode Island, although few outside of their community understand the complex story of how the Hmong came to the US as part of the Secret War for Laos during the Vietnam War. The Hmong didn't have a written language until the mid-20th century, and few were able to engage in creative writing until the mid-1990s. In recent years the US has seen Hmong American poets really starting to come into their own. Here are six poets who have their own books available for you to start reading if you want to get an understanding of their diverse community and culture.

    Mai Der Vang

    Mai Der Vang's debut poetry collection, Afterland, was selected by Carolyn Forché as the winner of the prestigious 2016 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets, and was published by Graywolf Press in April 2017.

    Born in 1981 in California’s Central Valley, she earned her MFA in poetry from Columbia University where she was awarded the Corrente Poetry Fellowship. Vang received her BA in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

    Her poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, The Journal, The Cincinnati Review, The Missouri Review Online, Radar, Asian American Literary Review, The Collagist, and elsewhere. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others.

    As an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle, she is coeditor of How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heydey, 2011).She has received residencies from Hedgebrook and is a Kundiman fellow. She lives in Fresno, California, where she works as a writing/creative consultant.

    Soul Vang

    Soul Vang received an MFA from California State University, Fresno. He is the author of Song of the Cluster Bomblet (forthcoming from Blue Oak Press) and To Live Here (Imaginary Friend Press, 2014).

    A U.S. Army Veteran, Vang received the Fresno Arts Council’s Horizon Award and is an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC).

    His writing is published in Academy of American Poets (,Water ~Stone Review, Black Earth Institute, Abernathy Magazine, Asian American Literary Review, Fiction Attic Press, In the Grove, The Packinghouse Review, Southeast Asia Globe, and The New York Times, among others.

    His poetry has been anthologized in Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing (New Rivers), How Much Earth: An Anthology of Fresno Poets (Roundhouse), Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans (Minnesota Historical Society), How Do I Begin? A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday), and NEW CALIFORNIA WRITING 2012 (Heyday).

    Soul has received the Horizon Artist Award from the Fresno Arts Council, the Foundation for Art & Healing Veteran's Scholarship to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, a Merit Scholarship to attend Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing.

    Khaty Xiong

    Khaty Xiong was born to Hmong refugees from Laos and is the seventh daughter of fifteen brothers and sisters. She is the author of debut collection Poor Anima (Apogee Press, 2015), which is the first full-length collection of poetry published by a Hmong American woman in the United States. This collection was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award, the first collection of poetry by a Hmong writer to receive that distinction.

    In 2016, she received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in recognition of her poetry. Xiong’s work has been featured in The New York Times and How Do I Begin?: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, 2011), as well as on the Poetry Society of America’s website. She lives in Gahanna, Ohio.

    Burlee Vang

    Burlee Vang is the author of The Dead I Know: Incantation for Rebirth (Swan Scythe Press, 2010) and coeditor of How Do I Begin? A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, 2011). His prose and poetry have also appeared in Ploughshares, Alaska Quarterly Review, and North American Review, among others. "

    Also a filmmaker, he was awarded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 2011 Nicholl Award. He teaches at Long Beach City College and lives in Cerritos, California. His poem "To Live In The Zombie Apocalypse" was nominated for a 2017 Rhysling Award.

    Pos Moua

    A graduate of the University of California at Davis, Pos Moua has studied with Gary Snyder, Alan Williamson, and Sandra McPherson. He is the author of the influential 2002 collection Where the Torches Are Burning, one of the first collections of poems and prose by an individual Hmong poet living in California's Central Valley. It movingly chronicles his dangerous travel with his people from Laos to the United States, and provides an account of love and family and identity in the poet's new land.

    He lives in Merced, California, with his wife, two sons, and two daughters, and teaches English and Hmong full-time at Merced High School and part-time at Merced Community College. His work is also represented in Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing.


    M. "Hauntie" Yang is an artist, ethnographer, and poet from California. She is the 2016 recipient of the Robert Dana Poetry Prize for her collection To Whitey and the Cracker Jack. She has presented at events such as Karst Mountains Will Bloom and the Western Literature Conference, and has appeared in the Academy of American Poets as well as exhibiting at UC San Diego, the Helmuth Gallery, Thumbprint Gallery, Mandeville Annex Gallery, and The Loft at La Jolla, CA.

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