'We all have vibrant inner lives': A chat with Minnesota Book Awards-winner Su Hwang

“Bodega," by Minnesota Book Awards-winner Su Hwang
Minnesota Book Awards-winner Su Hwang shared her poetry, what she’s reading for comfort right now, and a little inspiration for quarantine writing on MPR News' All Things Considered.
Courtesy of Milkweed Editions

When Su Hwang accepted her Minnesota Book Award for poetry, she was wearing her pajamas and holding a glass of red wine. The annual ceremony honoring Minnesota authors had to go virtual this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It actually kind of worked in my favor, because I get really nervous public speaking,” she said. “But it would have been nice to be surrounded by my friends and other writers.”

“Bodega," by Minnesota Book Awards-winner Su Hwang
“Bodega," by Minnesota Book Awards-winner Su Hwang.
Courtesy of Milkweed Editions

Hwang has no trouble expressing herself in her winning collection of poems, “Bodega.”

The book, published by Milkweed Editions, is both intimate and universal, harnessing the magic of childhood to draw readers into the stories of her immigrant parents and neighbors.

“I hope that readers will be able to take away compassion and empathy for the other, like the person sitting behind the cash register in a corner store or someone mopping up the floor in a diner, just understanding that we all have these really vibrant, inner lives,” said Hwang, who was born in Korea and raised in New York.

Hwang recited one of her poems on MPR News. You can hear it, as well as what she’s reading for comfort during the pandemic and some prompts for those looking to write while sheltering at home. Use the audio player above to listen.

You can find more writing prompts from Poetry Asylum, which Hwang co-founded with poet Sun Yung Shin. And you can find a list of this year’s other Minnesota Book Award-winners here.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.