Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue

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Author: Chaelee Dalton

Publisher: Gold Line Press (2021)

A poetry collection meets cookbook, Mother Tongue celebrates the recipe as a testament to women’s labor and communal care, transmitted and transformed across borders and generations. Dalton uses the recipe form to trace their return to a mother and nation they have never known, and to evoke the simultaneous intimacy and distance they feel embodied in their family histories. While Mother Tongue centers on a personal experience of transnational adoption, in doing so, it illuminates a greater collective sense of hunger and mourning embedded within global frameworks of food, consumption, and connection.

“In Mother Tongue, Chaelee Dalton trains their exacting eye and lyricism to capture the multiple sites of disruption and rupture that exist when one is born in one country and then adopted into another. In Dalton's case, those countries are South Korea and the United States, and they move deftly through the permeable boundaries of geography, culture, and (double) daughterhood, capturing the nuances of how a body is both at home and not at home… As someone who didn't ‘learn how to cook from [their] mothers,’ Dalton navigates unknown territory by way of intuition: via taste, via song. This is no mere book of recipes, no collection of poems that I have ever encountered before: what Dalton captures are the tense and inexplicable ways in which we are entangled by genetic, socio-cultural, and familial ties. What they offer is a reckoning, an indelible one.”

–Diana Khoi Nguyen

“These fiercely tender poems in Mother Tongue  have an undeniable alchemy: the yearning made beautiful by giving it a name, the map that can be drawn only by staring into the abyss. Longing and desire are poignantly intertwined into the craft of each of these poems, leaving behind both a familiar hunger and the relief of discovering a compass that points towards home, even when it is a constantly moving target… Chaelee, with fearlessness and compassion, writes the speaker into a history that was taken from them. This collection is an unforgettable offering of ‘what our ancestors buried: what is a grave and what is a garden.’”

–Arhm Choi Wild