poetry, loneliness, grief, memory, mother/daughter, father/daughter, illness, mental illness, childhood, translation, language


Mother Tongue is an exploration of loneliness as a first language. For the collection's speaker, loneliness is not an abstract emotion, but her first movement, first breath – her mother tongue.

Through depictions of childhood and young adulthood, such as the origins of birth in "birth speak" or the mature reflections of "like adults should do," Mother Tongue answers the question — who does a child wrought with loneliness become?

Using language to translate the sentiments of the body, the many faces of grief, and the mosaic of memory, the collection traverses the speaker's relationship with her mother as a nurturer of pain in poems like “on an evening walk in mt. vernon," with her father as a witness of his near-death experience in “the night I learn my father's kidneys are failing," and with her brother as a shadow of his mental illnesses in "a conversation with my brother as test."

Throughout the collection, poems like "a letter to my father's subconscious" and "what I've learned about absence while studying korean" play with false cognates and the elasticity of sound, while poems like "glimmers" make a connection between the instinct of hunger and the recurrence of loneliness, where the speaker relishes, "in spanish, I can say I have hunger / as if I could give it back."

Acting as Mother Tongue's anchor is the "vacation in_____" series, which features the speaker in conversation with a male partner and describes a depth of loneliness unalleviated by presence, ultimately conveying the inability to find satisfaction in another person.

From grappling with an inner deadness in “[the dead girl]” to finding hope in "new heaven, new earth," Mother Tongue is a wrestle with language, the self, the past, and God, cementing itself as a journey toward reconciliation, and if possible, being birthed again.

Completion Date




Committee Chair

Thaxton, Terry


Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program

Creative Writing






In copyright

Release Date

May 2029

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)

Accessibility Status

Meets minimum standards for ETDs/HUTs

Restricted to the UCF community until May 2029; it will then be open access.