Local poet elevates the voices of Korean adoption

Laura Wachs as a baby with her birth mother (left) and her adoptive family (right).

“I am a walking anomaly trying to find out what makes me ignite”.

My name is Laura Wachs. I’m a spoken word poet from Seattle. I was adopted from Seoul, South Korea when I was six months old.

This June I will be taking my first trip back to Korea. Returning is something I’ve always wanted to do. But I was held back by doubts over whether I wanted to try to find my biological family while there.

After an unhealthy relationship with my adoptive family I’ve felt scared of feeling rejected by both them and my biological family. But life is short and I’ve decided there is nothing to lose and only much to learn.

I feel both honored and overwhelmed about the opportunity to explore my dual existence. Being raised in a white middle class family while being of Korean heritage leaves many gaps in my knowledge of self.

I feel ignorant toward Korean traditions. I struggle with identity, racism, privilege and entitlement. I also struggle with lack of self-worth and feeling like I am not wanted. In order to navigate these emotions and questions I use poetry.

Poetry is a medium that saved my life from depression and suicide. It taught me how to own my voice, how to own the empowerment in my voice and above all gave me a community.

While preparing for my trip I was linked to Korean adoptee networks, online support groups, guest houses for adoptees in Seoul, and organizations like GOAL and KoRoot who aid adoptees in learning about the culture and finding their biological families. Over the weeks, I read, messaged and talked with people all over the globe about the endless complexities of adoption.

It inspired me to turn my trip into a project. I had a vision of collecting these stories and by means of poetry creating a tangible dialogue. Thus was born “The Voices of Korean Adoption.”

This project has the following goals: a series of workshops that focus on both writing and performance skills, a showcase of poetry performances that will benefit KoRoot and/or GOAL, a published book of poetry written by adoptees from around the globe, and a second book of poetry written on my personal journey.

With twelve years of experience writing , four years of performing, two years of hosting shows and curating a successful benefit show for the Crisis Clinic of King County this past December, I am confident in my ability to do this work.

Above all, I am passionate about this work and I know that doing it will heal my heart as much as heals others.

So, dear Seattle community I ask for support. Think of your adopted brother, sister, mother, father, friend, think of your own adoption and how it has shaped you, think of your search for identity and help all of us find strength in that search together.

Click here to donate to the “Voices of Korean Adoption” Kickstarter Campaign. To learn more about Laura Wachs or for additional information about the crowdfunding campaign, contact Laura at laura_wachs@hotmail.com.


Open letter to my biological mother

Dear Kim, Hye Kyung
When asked about you
I am all tight fist
A bud holding its breath
Afraid if I bloom
People will notice how disposable I feel
My chapped lips
My peeling fingers
Behind the garden of my heart is rot
Is a hole as big as the house I grew up in
That no amount of water could save
When my mother left
Color drained from my eyes
I opened arms like pages of a book
Held her hard to chest
Hoping she would take another look
But we are two dimensional
Pressed flowers are a trite, unnecessary thing
When asked about you
I say “I don’t have any romanticized expectation about our exchange”
That is to say “I do not need you”
You are the botanist in me’s wet dream
Natural curiosity
Fertile soil to step bare feet into
To study where I came from
Your name sits soaking in the jar
of my closed lid mouth fermenting
Take this as a warning to wither arms
back up into your sleeves
I’m not here to reunite as family
Past experience has taught a mothers trust
is dangerous and full of weeds
My family tree grows rings that do not ripple
Roots that only reap that which they sow
I am so long forgotten they do not know
How much I miss them
Do you miss me?
Is there a hole inside your chest
Where a bud was pulled too early
by tight fists, a gaping hollow
in the soil of your heart big enough to bury
a daughter you never got to hold
You live in the shadow of a mother
who got rid of me
after you got rid of me
An echo off a mountain top who tells me
I don’t belong

Dear Kim, Hye Kyung
I am good at not belonging
I am terrified to meet you
Terrified you’ll prove me that I’m wrong.


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