Poet Mai Der Vang Responds to Pao Houa Her’s Photos
In conjunction with Pao Houa Her’s Walker Art Center exhibition, Paj qaum ntuj / Flowers of the Sky, the museum’s Mn Artists platform invited Mai Der Vang to respond to two works in the show through poetry. The author of Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press, 2021) and a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, Vang wrote “Forest of Beginnings” in response to Her’s Mt. Shasta series, a photographic examination of the landscape of northern California terrain where Hmong immigrants have thrived through the cultivation of marijuana.
In a recent interview, Her described the terrain: “The land was deemed uninhabitable by the United States government in the 1960s, and they were literally giving it away for free. There isn’t water there. You can’t farm there. So, again, I’m interested in the resilience of Hmong people and our collective imagination in history. Hmong people have been able to turn it into this really prosperous space.”