Like those fishermen down there casting flies that tap the sun-glassed water. / Their lines float out flimsy as spider silk, they sail, what a wayward way back.Comfort, Cape Henlopen
I am a poet, essayist, teacher, editor and K12 arts-in-education advocate. I’ve taught poetry and creative writing for the University of Delaware, Delaware libraries and museums, Eastern Shore Writers Association and organizations across Delmarva. I’ve performed in New Hampshire, Vermont, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Wisconsin. The first person of color to be honored as Delaware’s poet laureate, I traveled widely during my 2008 to 2015 tenure, visiting schools and libraries. I continue to coach high school students for Poetry Out Loud, believe deeply in the necessity poetry and the arts! Both saved me.
My full-length collection of poems, Words for House Story (WordTech, 2013) was a 2015 Best Books selection at Beltway Poetry. I have two chapbooks, Forage (2011), winner of the Whitebird Chapbook Prize, and Your Heart and How It Works (2009), awarded the 2010 Global Filipino Literary Award. Poems and prose appear most recently in Asian American Literary Review, Poetry, The Common online, About Place Journal and Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience.
I’m grateful for BIPOC writer communities I’ve found through residencies at Hedgebrook and VONA/Voices of Our Nations. On my writing journey, I have received invaluable support from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts as a three-time Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow, Bread Loaf Writers as a Bakeless Camargo Foundation Fellow and in community with Asian American writers at the inaugural Kundiman Creative Nonfiction Intensive. If you are working on a book (seemingly forever like I am!) I recommend checking out The Unicorn Author’s Club, whose committed leadership, talented writers, and anti-racist principles have helped me grow as a writer and person.
Other honors include the 2015 Westmoreland Poetry Award, and “Limón Homage” chosen as finalist for RHINO Poetry’s Founder’s Prize. Editors at DIAGRAM and Wings Press nominated my poems for The Pushcart Prize. In an interview at Connotation Press I talk about how my woods and watershed inspire me. I wrote “Brandywine Creek Preambles” for the Academy of American Poets 2016 project Imagine Our Parks with Poems.
As a member of the multi-generational writing collective, The Decades, I support, celebrate and am inspired by fellow women writers of color.
I studied English at Florida State University and the University of California, Irvine, where I earned an MA in English literature. I hold a Masters in Library and Information Science from Indiana University, and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from the University of Delaware. I worked as a school librarian and a teacher trainer in the public schools for twelve years.
As Delaware’s poet laureate (2008-2015), the first poet of color in my state to be so honored, I advocated for opportunities for writers young and older to gather and be recognized. From 2011 to 2017, I co-directed the relaunched Delaware Writing Region of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards to encourage and recognize creative writers in grades 7 through 12. I led poetry workshops for the Delaware Writers Retreat, and I still teach (virtually!) across the state. As a teaching artist for Poetry Out Loud, I continue to lead workshops for high school teachers and students, encouraging young contestants as they learn to embody great poems.
Here’s a a sampling of Poetry Month columns on poetry at The News Journal (delawareonline) published during and after my tenure as state poet laureate.
Family, Work, Community
During my twenties I lived in Tangier, Morocco, and in Évora and Lisbon, Portugal, where I taught English as a Foreign Language. After moving to Delaware, I worked for twelve years in public schools in New Castle County, Delaware and Chester County, Pennsylvania as a librarian, teacher, and teacher trainer in technology. I have experienced U.S. public school systems as a student, parent and teacher.
My daughters Savannah and Bahiya were born while I lived in Tangier, Morocco and São João do Estoril, Portugal. Sons Adrian and Julian were born while I was teaching English in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. For four years, I home schooled my youngest child and also experienced with him the world of a small alternative boarding school he attended. To support #DefundThePolice means, among other beliefs, to commit to re-designing and recreating public schools that hold sacred the dignity and humanity of all students.
From 2013 to 2019, I served as assistant editor for YesYes Books, an independent publisher of poetry. To support youth musicians, I’ve joined the Board of Directors of The Walden School, an innovative music camp that changes lives by training and encouraging performers and composers ages 9 to 18.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio and grew up in Lakeland, Florida, where my Filipino father and German American mother settled our family of ten, at the time, after moving nine times in nine years.
My memoir-in-progress is about surviving violence and the dissolution of my family, including the loss of both parents at a young age. It is also about the tenacity of sibling love and how family bonds heal us. This work is my awakening to my parents’ secrets, inherited family trauma, my fraught biracial identity, hidden families, and what it means to be a second-generation Filipina-American who grew up aspiring to fit into white culture.
I love road trips, hiking, gardening native plants, surfing, drunken noodles, the smell of libraries. Since this pandemic crisis began, I’ve really missed hanging out with family–siblings and nieces and nephews, and especially my kids and step-kids, my granddaughter Rei, and great-granddaughter Anaïs. For the past thirty years I have lived in the woods of northwest Delaware on Leni Lenape land, in the corner of our state called The Wedge.