Poetry Reading: Jennifer Cheng, Mai Der Vang, Emily Jungmin Yoon

Friday, May 4, 2018 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm

Join us for the poetry readings with Jennifer Cheng, Mai Der Vang, and Emily Jungmin Yoon. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

At 57th Street Books

RSVP HERE (Please note your RSVP is requested but not required.)

About Afterland: The 2016 winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Afterland tells the personal story of Mai Der Vang’s family alongside the broader cultural story of the Hmong people and their exodus from Laos. Walt Whitman Award judge Carolyn Forché writes of the collection: “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.”

About Mai Der Vang: Mai Der Vang is the author of Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and currently serves as a Visiting Writer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, LA Review of Books, Guernica, among other outlets and anthologies. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. Mai Der is a member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle where she helped co-edit How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. As a Kundiman fellow, Mai Der has completed residencies at Civitella Ranieri and Hedgebrook. Born and raised in Fresno, California, she earned degrees from the University of California Berkeley and Columbia University.

About Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems: Mixing fable and fact, extraordinary and ordinary, Jennifer S. Cheng’s hybrid collection, MOON: Letters, Maps, Poems, explores the ‘feminine monstrous’ as it draws on various Chinese mythologies about women, particularly that of Chang’E (the Lady in the Moon), uncovering the shadow stories of our myths — with the belief that there is always an underbelly. MOON explores bewilderment and shelter, destruction and construction, unthreading as it rethreads, shedding as it collects.

“What are the secret aspects of a book, which cannot be spoken of and that unfold in ways that nobody can describe to us in advance? In a world where ‘boundaries are slipping,’ what modes of metamorphosis now become possible? Can radical change be read as a ‘map of the body in motion’? I am interested in Cheng’s idea of story as the place where we come to ‘forget something, as much as remember.’ This is a formulation that precipitates the artifacts and deities of the book: ‘the logic of dust cloud, spiral.’ Everything that’s left behind. If reading is a form of pilgrimage, then Cheng gives us its charnel ground events, animal conversions, guiding figures and elemental life. ‘I want to mark a new map for a body opening,’ she writes, and then she does.” —Bhanu Kapil

“...What distinguishes this study of the Self in proximity to Other and to the World is the way Cheng refuses to tell stories and instead, insists on asking them. With curiosity and attention, MOON shines its light on inquiry as art, asking as making. In the tradition of Fanny Howe’s poetics of bewilderment, Cheng gives us a poetics of possibility.” —Jennifer Tseng

About Jennifer S. Cheng: Jennifer S. Cheng writes poetry and lyric essay. Her debut book, HOUSE A, was selected by Claudia Rankine as winner of the Omnidawn Poetry Book Prize, and she is the author of the forthcoming hybrid collection MOON: Letters, Maps, Poems, selected by Bhanu Kapil as winner of the Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize, and Invocation: an Essay, an image-text chapbook published by New Michigan Press. Her writing appears in Tin House, Conjunctions, AGNI, The Literary Hub, Black Warrior Review, DIAGRAM, The Normal School, Guernica, Hong Kong 20/20 (a PEN HK anthology), and elsewhere. She was a Fulbright Scholar and received fellowships and awards from Brown University, the University of Iowa, San Francisco State University, Bread Loaf, Kundiman, and the Academy of American Poets. Having grown up in Texas, Connecticut, and Hong Kong, she lives in San Francisco.

About Ordinary Misfortunes: Korea continues to grapple with the shared memory of its Japanese and US occupations. The poems in Ordinary Misfortunes incorporate actual testimony about cruelty against vulnerable bodies—including the wianbu, euphemistically known as “comfort women”—as the poet seeks to find places where brutality is overcome through true human connections.

About Emily Jungmin YoonEmily Jungmin Yoon is the author of Ordinary Misfortunes, the 2017 winner of the Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize by Tupelo Press and selected by Maggie Smith, and A Cruelty Special to Our Species, forthcoming from Ecco Books in September 2018. She is represented by Jin Auh at the Wylie Agency. Her poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, POETRY, The New York Times Magazine, Korean Literature Now, and elsewhere. She currently serves as the Poetry Editor for The Margins, the literary magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and is a PhD student studying Korean literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E 57th St
Chicago, IL 60637