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.”
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.