10 EPIK Haikus

As my year with EPIK comes to a close, I find myself thinking a lot about the experience. Below are 10 haikus that reflect what I’ve learned while living, teaching and traveling in South Korea (though really they’re applicable to anyone teaching or living abroad anywhere!).


Blackout Poetry (Part 1)

This week I did a lesson on blackout poetry with my intermediate level high school students! Normally the project is done with texts from newspapers, magazines or novels, but I was worried about the vocabulary being too broad/out of reach. I wanted my students to focus on having fun, being creative, and playing with the language, rather than looking up/learning new words. So instead, I typed up a batch of their weekly English essays, omitted the names, and returned them for use with this assignment! Not only did this assure that the vocabulary was appropriate, it also made the assignment more personal and interesting!

A Blessing in De Skies


It happens abroad

Feeling homesick

To explore is a great gift

But the tug of the deeply familiar in the midst of differences

Emotions too hard to deal with

Sometimes can be a blessing

Away from home will help you to remember that you love home

A Belated Eulogy

On June 12, 14 years will have passed since my mother died.

On my birthday this year, April 16, another tragedy occurred in my current home, South Korea. The Sewol ferry accident that resulted in the loss of so many lives, many of them teenage children, would be a tough pill to swallow anywhere. In a country as small as this, it knocked the wind out of an entire nation.

I was asked if I wanted to write something about it. I said I would, but did not want to exploit someone’s pain for egotistical tears. For 14 years, I have been hesitant to write publicly about my mother’s death for fear of the same. But, a lot has changed since 2000. Fourteen Mother’s Days have come and gone. This Mother’s Day, hug your moms if you can.

Inside, I’m Still Growing Up

We communicate not by age but by wave length.
Not everyone will see eye to eye. Some of us will be too short.

Those older may be bolder with words but just as concerned with perceptions
perceived as impressionable Tweens not ready to be seen.

Age is just a number may be cliche to say but I’ve had better conversations with childless rakes in their 60s
and elementary school students in South Korea than some fellow 35-year-olds. The calendar may say we have
a similar time, but we are far from a similar place.

And you may have to accept not everyone will see things this way. Feel sorry for them.


PEN Reading in Jukjeon, April 26

Just a little announcement regarding an exciting event which I’ll be participating in this Saturday afternoon in Jukjeon, Yongin. There is a PEN Korea poetry reading by Korean and foreign poets based in Korea taking place and yours truly will be one of the readers. Expect a good eclectic mix of readers in a relaxed […]

Talk Talk, Two Weeks Inside Gimhae

There’s too much talk to what’s been said.
Let’s breathe a little longer.
Pause three beats instead of one.
If anyone complains, maybe they should try it.
Not enough beats? Maybe there’s more.
Four or a score, because the words from your vacuum
Are just so fucking poor, suck riches from the world,
Give no change at the door, only piss for the floor.
Your mind is gone.
That’s it.
It’s gone. Where is it?
Let’s put it back in the center of the situation.
Listen to the rain outside. It’s beautiful.
Your focus is unfocused.
It’s not bad. But, you’re going to make it worse if you worry.
Why worry? We’re not here for long.
Your biggest misfortune is someone’s miracle.
You’re fat and healthy and people love you.
So, let’s breathe a little longer.

“Poetry & Art” – An Essay on Creative Production (2008)

During 2008 I was slap bang in the middle of a masters in 20th and 21st Century Literature in the University of Southampton. At the time, one of the course options was a poetry writing module, which was part of a larger creative writing MA but suitable candidates could take part if they had proof […]

Even We Are Never Forever

I wrote this on a bus ride after work the other day, following the news that three of our school’s favorite students, and some of the best conversationalists, had left the hagwon. One was somehow getting bad grades in school and his mom pulled him, while two decided to go to another hagwon. Those two didn’t tell me until the day was over. The other one didn’t tell me at all, I found out from his Korean teacher, who also was not told about any of them until that day.

And while students come and go, after spending nine months here and seeing them literally grow up over that time (they’re about 12), it felt like a little bit of the air was knocked out of me.


Before you know it –

It will be autumn in Korea
The green leaves that sprung up and out from the earth
Will fall back to the earth
Taking the stifling steam bath with it
And you will be renewed.

Before you know it –

It will be winter
And by then you will know if
You’ve chosen to stay in Korea
Or finally, after over 10 years,
Put it to bed for good and always.

Before you know it –

You will be somewhere else,
Be it February 2014,
Deep in the withering Busan summer,
or another year gone.
What then? Before you know it, you’ll know.

Before you know it –

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