In honor of National Poetry Month, we’re interviewing several poets and asking them a few questions about poetry. Our second featured poet is Chiwan Choi! Stay tuned all month for more featured poets.
1) Why poetry?
Because for me it means being able to speak, being able to say that I existed in the world, because it’s the tool my voice uses to dig tunnels that help me find others, because it protects and fights for the thing the world has always wanted to take from me, because it allows me to speak to myself, to join the conversation, the dialogue, that has always existed through the course of our history.
2) Do you feel like poetry is more or less important & relevant today?
It’s as relevant as it’s ever been, I suppose. In that — it’s still used to shed light on the human experience. In that — it’s still used to destroy and exclude others. In that — we still reach for it when it all becomes too much to bear.
3) Tell us about one poet who has greatly influenced you as a writer and a thinker.
Probably Aimé Césaire. He is my very favorite poet of all time. His “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land” is one of the greatest literary achievements, in my opinion. He taught me to think politically in poetry and not be afraid to go face to face against the world. I’m still angry that not one teacher/professor I ever had class with from grade school through MFA ever taught him in any of my classes.
4) Tell us about one lesser-known contemporary poet who you’d like more people to know about.
I want to say two poets who have been working together: Rachel McLeod Kaminer and Rocío Carlos. Their “Attendance” project is really one of my very favorite things and actual had an impact on how I experience the world around me.
5) Share with us one of your recent poems and tell us a little bit about its context.
Today, it’s this one: http://www.mudcityjournal.com/chiwanchoi
I think I wrote it as part of my “if 100, then 150” project. Much of it ended up getting incorporated into THE YELLOW HOUSE, but this one didn’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about my father — scratch that. About him in the context of questioning manhood and masculinity and me.
Chiwan Choi is the author of 3 collections of poetry, The Flood (Tía Chucha Press, 2010), Abductions (Writ Large Press, 2012), and The Yellow House (CCM, 2017). He wrote, presented, and destroyed the novel Ghostmaker throughout the course of 2015. Chiwan is a partner at Writ Large Press, a downtown Los Angeles based indie publisher, focused on using literary arts to resist, disrupt, and transgress.