English PhD candidate Henry Wei Leung wins national poetry book prize

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University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Educ Spec, Languages, Linguistics & Literature, Office of Community Relations

Poet and UH Mānoa English PhD candidate Henry Wei Leung has won the 2016 Omnidawn 1st/2nd Poetry Book Prize for the manuscript Goddess of Democracy.  The book will be available from Omnidawn Publishing in October 2017.

Leung received a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA in Fiction from the University of Michigan.  Despite this impressive educational pedigree (which included a gig at Oxford), Leung draws his passion for writing from a natural hunger to create and to express -- not from the confines of academics, although he appreciates its rigor.  He combines course studies with self-education, which he achieves by an insatiable appetite for literature.  He said he loves UH Mānoa for its genuine students, dogged academic inquiry and political awareness. 

Leung and his sister were raised in Zhongshan, California, and Hawaiʻi by their mother, no stranger to working multiple jobs while taking English language night courses.  While his early years, geographically, may have appeared multicultural to many observers, they in fact proved to be the opposite for Leung, who felt he had little access to the cultures he desired to experience.  The isolation and loneliness led him to immerse himself in the literary world.

Not surprisingly, Leung is as prolific a writer as he is an enthusiastic teacher and scholar.  He is the author of a chapbook, Paradise Hunger (Swan Scythe 2012), and the translator of Wawa’s Pei Pei the Monkey King (Tinfish, 2016).  His poems, essays and translations have appeared in such journals as Crab Orchard Review, Drunken Boat, The Offing and ZYZZYVA.   He has received Kundiman, Soros and Fulbright fellowships.  In Spring 2017, Leung also received the prestigious John Young Scholarship in the Arts from UH Mānoa, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the UH System.

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