The legendary Hmong American poet Pos Moua passed away in Merced on April 22, 2020.
He gave the world a tremendous legacy of groundbreaking verse from his people in his collections Where the Torches Are Burning, and Karst Mountains Will Bloom. I truly enjoyed his work as a kindred poet over the space of 25 years. His approach to poetry was very different from mine but we enjoyed a special harmony and commitment to creating a literary space for our communities in diaspora.
For thousands of years the Hmong did not have a written language until the mid-20th century, making his journey in creating full-length collections of poetry all of the more significant. I first became aware of his writing thanks to Mai Neng Moua and the writers of the Paj Ntaub Voice Hmoob Literary Journal. Over the course of nearly 3 decades, we appeared in many publications and anthologies together, including Bamboo Among the Oaks and How Do I Begin?
Last year I had the joy of publishing 3 of his poems in the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement housed at the University of Purdue, in advance of the 45th anniversary of the Southeast Asian Diaspora so many of us share in common. I admire the joy for literature and poetry he instilled in his students, a remarkable feat in this day and age. I will miss him.
In the decades we shared the poets path, we had a chance to meet in person only once, in 2017, as the Hmong American Writers Circle, UC Merced, and the Merced Multicultural Arts Center came together to honor him on his journey as a writer and community builder.
As refugee writers, that is something we always implicitly understand,and may never take for granted.
In his journey as a poet, I’m aware of him reading only once in Minnesota, with the poet Soul Vang and Mai Neng Moua on July 10, 2019 at the Hennepin County Library. I just finished recommending his book over atLittle Laos on the Prairie earlier this month as part of the recommended reading list during National Poetry Month and the upcoming Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
My sympathies go to Pos’ family, friends, community and students, but I know we can take heart that his voice, vision and verse will endure, lighting a trail, a beacon for writers everywhere, from the mountain peaks to the deepest valleys of the earth, joyous, humane and abundant in memories worth sharing.