Written by Chad Dally
Mai Der Vang — who will close out the 2017 Central Wisconsin Book Festival in Wausau on September 30 — is one of 10 poets selected as a nominee for the National Book Award in the category of Poetry for her debut collection “Afterland.”
“Afterland,” which recounts the Hmong exodus from Laos, the fate of thousands seeking asylum, and the resilience of the Hmong culture in exile, is already an award-winner, having picked up the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the American Academy of Poets.
Organizers consider themselves lucky that Vang is willing and able to join us for this festival. She’ll be making the trip to Wausau from Chicago, where she is a 2017–2018 Visiting Writer in the MFA Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Judges for the National Book Award’s poetry prize typically sift through about 150 books of poetry to compose a “longlist” of 10 titles, which then will be narrowed to 5 finalists in mid-October. The finalists in each literary category are invited to a ceremony in New York City in November, where the winners will be announced. The National Book Award has been handed out to writers across multiple genres since 1950.
If Vang’s “Afterland” is chosen as the winner, she would join such poetical luminaries as Philip Levine, Allen Ginsberg, and Wallace Stevens.
The local book festival event with Mai Der Vang begins at 7 p.m. on September 30 in the James F. Veninga Theater in the UW Center for Civic Engagement, 625 Stewart Ave., Wausau.
A Q&A and book signing will follow her reading.
Below is a small sample of her work…
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.
— From Mai Der Vang’s “Transmigration”
More information about other Central Wisconsin Book Festival events taking place all over town can be found at www.mcpl.us/cwbf.
We so appreciate the following event sponsors for helping us put on our first-ever Central Wisconsin Book Festival!
Library Specialist | Marathon County Public Library
Chad Dally is a library specialist with the Marathon County Public Library, where he’s worked since 2012. He splits his time at the library between reference and programming, and generally prefers to read nonfiction over fiction. He’s heard chickens are smart, but the small brood he keeps at home provides evidence to the contrary. Email Chad Dally
You might also like…
- Celebrate “National Women’s Small Business Month” With Two Free Community Events
- Library 3rd Floor Targeted to Meet Senior Activity Needs
- YWCA Wausau :: We’re More Than Just the Red Doors
Please email our Editorial Board with your comments, suggestions, and article ideas.
And if you spot a typo or an inaccuracy, please contact us so we can fix it. Thanks!