Carolyn Forché Selects Mai Der Vang as 2016 Walt Whitman Award Recipient

Posted on

Mar 23 2016

New York, NY (March 23, 2016)—The Academy of American Poets is pleased to announce that Carolyn Forché has selected Mai Der Vang as the recipient of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award, the nation’s most valuable first-book prize for a poet. As the winner of the Whitman Award, Vang’s manuscript, Afterland, will be published by Graywolf Press in April 2017 and the Academy of American Poets will purchase and send thousands of copies of the book to its members, making it one of the most widely distributed poetry books of the year. Vang will also receive a six-week all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy, as well as $5,000. In addition, she will be featured on Poets.org and in American Poets magazine.

The 2015 Walt Whitman Award-winning book, Rapture, by Sjohnna McCray will be published by Graywolf Press next month.

Established in 1975, the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award is designed to encourage the work of emerging poets. Previous recipients include poets Nicole Cooley, Suji Kwock Kim, Eric Pankey, Matt Rasmussen, and Alberto Ríos, among others.

About Afterland Forché writes: “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—incising the page with the personal and collective utterances of both the living and the dead, in luminous imagery and a surprising diction that turns both cathedral and widow into verbs, offering both land and body as swidden (slashed and burned)—is nothing short of astonishing. Here is deep attention, prismatic intelligence, and fearless truth.”

Mai Der Vang was born on October 20, 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. Vang’s poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, The JournalThe Cincinnati ReviewThe Missouri Review OnlineRadarAsian American Literary ReviewThe 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. She has received residencies from Hedgebrook and is a Kundiman fellow. Vang lives in Fresno, California, where she teaches at Clovis Community College and works as a writing/creative consultant. 

About Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché is currently director of the Lannan Center for Poetry and Poetics and holds the Lannan Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Winner of numerous awards, her honors include the Academy of American Poets Fellowship (for distinguished poetic achievement), as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Forché’s books of poetry include Blue Hour (HarperCollins, 2004); The Angel of History (HarperCollins, 1994); The Country Between Us (HarperCollins, 1982), which received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award and was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets; and Gathering the Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), which was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets by Stanley Kunitz. She is also the editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (W. W. Norton, 1993) and the coeditor of Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500–2001 (W. W. Norton, 2014).

About the Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American Poets is the nation’s largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. The organization produces Poets.org, National Poetry Month, the popular Poem-a-Day series, American Poets magazine, resources for K-12 educators, an annual series of poetry readings and special events, and the Academy of American Poets Prizes, a suite of major awards that recognize emerging and established poets. 

About Civitella Ranieri

Located in a fifteenth century castle in the Umbrian region of Italy, Civitella Ranieri Center is a workplace for international writers, composers, and visual artists. Since 1995, Civitella has hosted more than six hundred Fellows and Director’s Guests.  In keeping with the spirit of its founder, Ursula Corning, and the tradition of hospitality and support for the arts that she established at the castle, the Center enables its Fellows to pursue their work and to exchange ideas in a unique and inspiring setting. For more information, visit civitella.org.

About Graywolf Press

Graywolf Press is a leading independent, nonprofit publisher committed to the discovery and energetic publication of contemporary American and international literature. Graywolf champions outstanding writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry at all stages of their careers to ensure that diverse voices can be heard in a crowded marketplace. Recent books published by Graywolf have won the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award, among others. For more information, visit graywolfpress.org.

Contact: Emily Liebowitz
(212) 274-0343, ext. 22
[email protected]