In Poetry Is Not a Luxury we use the best contemporary poets to explore the most urgent social issues. Each month we focus on a different book and discuss poetry as poets do. We read our favorite poems out loud, listen for sound and rhythm, consider how the poet plays with language, and consider the joys and sorrows in the poems.
Our 2017-2018 season focuses on Voices of the Silenced/Voices of the Resistance.
Our November selection is Mai Der Vang's Afterland. This powerful, essential collection of poetry recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum.
Winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, selected by Carolyn Forché, Afterland is the story of Mai Der Vang's own family. In telling it, 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.