Afterland: Poems (Paperback)
Graywolf Press, 9781555977702, 96pp.
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
The 2016 winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, selected by Carolyn Forche
"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."
"Afterland" is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture's ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known or understood, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath. With poems of extraordinary force and grace, "Afterland" holds an original place in American poetry and lands with a sense of humanity saved, of outrage, of a deep tradition broken by war and ocean but still intact, remembered, and lived.