Episode 64: Hmong Blues (w/ Khaty Xiong)

Hey everyone. I hope you are well. It has been crazy this past week with all the mass shootings that has been happening in the US. I don’t have much to add other than what a previous guest of this show, Tereneh Idia, recently posted, which is that the people of the global majority needs to unite to end white supremacy, that too many have adopted white supremacy as their ideals, their love, their body, their mind, their work, their art, their heart and their soul. This is something we all have to work on as the global majority. This work never ends. Don’t be afraid to find someone to talk to about these topics. These discussions needs to be out in the open. With that in mind, stay safe wherever you are.

For today, I am interviewing Khaty Xiong, a poet born to Hmong refugees from Laos and is the seventh daughter of fifteen brothers and sisters. She is the author of Poor Anima, the first full-length collection of poetry published by a Hmong American woman in the United States. Most recently, Khaty was awarded a 2020 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. Khaty’s other honors include a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, a Roxane Gay Fellowship in Poetry, and the Nadya Aisenberg Fellowship at MacDowell.

I met Khaty over a year ago at Vermont Studio Center and we bonded over meals, late night chats, and Houdini the cat. Khaty had a very calming presence, which belies the complex thoughts she reveals in her writing. Our conversation goes deep into Khaty’s family history, an important part to understanding the influences of Khaty’s poetry. As Khaty describes it, her body of grief work is an ode to the inability to “return home” as a descendant of illiterate diasporans, interrogating, as well as creating, myths around mothers, death, and gardens. We also discuss being vulnerable, transparent family stories, and the acceptance of grief. Be warned that this is an intense episode. Take care, stay safe, and I hope you enjoy it.

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