Recent Work By Chiwan Choi

There haven’t been many weeks since the summer of 2014 ended in which I haven’t thought about or someone hasn’t reminded me of #90for90, that time we did 90 events over 90 days in a train station bar. When it ended, it felt like those corny movies where our characters have a terrifying, exciting, overwhelming, but ultimately unforgettable summers that forever change them. In many ways, none of us—Jessica, Peter, Judeth or myself—have recovered from it.



By Chiwan Choi


i don’t know
if everything they told me
is true,
about statues carved in stone
that blinked in the chilean sun,
about grandfather’s deal
with the russians to save the family
as the communists came.

these are questions
i allowed myself to forget in ‘99
soon after
mother asked me what
she should do
about the tumor
in her stomach.

it is a monday
for all of us—
sons, fathers,
street sweepers,
to forgotten things
on the pavement,
a box of books,
most of them in tact,
on 7th street.

my parents only taught me
what was given them,
this ability to spill
to hold our blood
inside us
in bowls made
from hollowed trees
until the weight
of what survives us
gives us comfort.

my father—
and mother too—
wanted me to learn
to keep my eyes
on the ending,
to call death
by a familiar name,
giving me god
so i can embrace it.

how mother—
and father too—
held me until
i was able
to release these poems
that cannot
save us,

to whistle down
the street
on the intermittent yellow paint
in the center,
to the fire,
to skeletons of ancestors,
to the disappearing shadows
of a neighbor that stood thinking,
to the glory
of these things
we have not known.

it is monday,
but how can i speak
of the sky,
a blue that isn’t blue,
when we are
in the basement food court
of a koreatown mall,
eating spicy burnt rice
from stone bowls,
sitting in these end of days
in this bunker
the world we have fought
to love
as father keeps himself
from smiling at me,
a bunker that will
not hold forever
but long enough
for mother to drop seaweed
on my food
with her wooden chopsticks,
long enough for me
to protest.

What have you been drinking?

I’ve been drinking a lot (like gallons) of a beer called Maredsous. A Belgian. Like 9% alcohol and delicious. I go to Pete’s Cafe & Bar on 4th & Main during happy hour and drink much of it. Before that it used to be Piraat Ale. Also Belgian.

And I also drink wine because I love it. I have writing workshop at my apartment on Tuesday nights and we drink and snack during the class. Whatever is left over, I drink it on Wednesday morning for breakfast.
And tequila.

What is your favorite recent film?

Ok. So I can’t stop watching Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. I watched it recently on cable only because it was directed by the guy who directed Raising Victor Vargas, which I also could not stop watching (In fact, for a while, while living in New York after watching that movie, I couldn’t stop saying, “Hey, I’m Victor!”). Anyway, I’ve watched Nick & Norah like 4 times now. I think I will have to illegally download the soundtrack. Kat Dennings! Mmmmm…

Which got me thinking (the movie, I mean) about writing, about what I wanted to accomplish as a writer, and then I thought I had this huge breakthrough of a thought and so I’m walking down 7th St. toward Maple through all that piss stink and I’m walking with my wife and I’m all excited as I tell her that I’ve figured out what I want to do and she says, “What?” and I say, “Ok, so if I could just combine high literary art with uber-melodrama, THAT would be the holy grail!” She’s like, “What?” And I say, “You know, combine, I don’t know, William Faulkner with, you know, Dawson’s Creek! That! That would be the greatest thing!” And she says, “William Faulkner already did that.” And that was the end of that.

Are you tired?


Are you excited?



Well, couple of things.

One — this is HUGE! I got the opportunity, I mean the honor, of working with O-Lan Jones and her Overtone Industries on an opera she’d conceived and was developing. This started like 10 years ago. I got to write one segment/world in the story and one song. And guess what? It’s here! Opening July 8! (Previews starting July 1) In beautiful Culver City! In a beautiful abandoned 25,000 sq ft car dealership space!! It’s actually one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been involved in. Go here for tix.)

Two — this month’s edition of The Last Chapbook Salon was awesome. Every third Sunday of the month, we have a reading at an amazing bookstore in downtown LA called The Last Bookstore. They gave me a shelf to curate with chapbooks from local writers and in return, the writers donated 3 copies each of their chapbooks so the store can make a little money. And it’s been great because people you may not normally see at a reading have been showing up and sharing and trading and buying. Very cool. I’m proud of that one.

What else?

I hate Boston. I’m so happy we beat the Celtics. I’m so happy the Bruins self-destructed in the hockey playoffs. I can’t wait to see the Red Sox lose a 7-game series too.

Any last words?

She’s just jealous because you have a beautiful thorax.