The essay is the observant part of me: the idealist, the thinker, the seer of what goes on in my world. Poetry is the part that wants for things sometimes beyond my means, for people who are often beyond my means, for a life that I have yet to live. In poetry, I am always reaching. That is probably why I love the essay but cannot leave poetry.

Marilyn Abildskov says that my writing contains “an intense longing for ecstasy and annihilation.” Courtney Jameson says, “it uses binaries in a way that isn’t simplistic.” What both of these statements convey is the paradox of the transnational, transracial adoptee that is at the center of all of my work — a pointed longing, an absence on which to hang everything, an original first beginning. But to begin without knowing, where can I be found? I don’t have an answer to my question yet, which is why I write with what Brenda Hillman calls a “wonderful obsessive quality,” and what the psychological community understands as the “ambivalent” and “schizophrenic” nature of the adoptee’s mental landscape: split, shifting, anaphoric, cyclical, postmodern.


Photo Credit: Stacey Butcher

Reaching high outside Dublin, Ireland circa 2003

I’ve been called a mixed media writer, sometimes lyric, sometimes hybrid, perhaps even a little too confessional.  I am always writing across and to cross lines of form and genre, and I fully admit to using any and all means of self-creation and self-expression to service my work, including ones that take me away from the page.

But I think of my writing like this — a living expression of our highest potential, limited only by imagination and a beautiful structure. I write from the ground up, every essay a Gothic cathedral. I used to walk by old Gothic buildings on the streets of Budapest every day, the bad graffiti on the sides a marker of social progress, but the highest arches still ornate and reaching. And to me, that is poetry.



Written December 10, 2012

Revised January 11, 2018



  • John Ashbery
  • Walt Whitman
  • Kimiko Hahn
  • Diane Seuss
  • Adrienne Rich
  • Lyn Hejinian
  • Brenda Hillman
  • Carole Maso
  • Ann Lauterbach
  • Susan Griffin
  • Nellie Wong
  • Amber Tamblyn
  • Mary Oliver