What an honor to have been on Grace Cavalieri’s preeminent show where poets have a chance to highlight their work and process of writing and creating.
I don’t remember ever being a grandchild, but I have the pictures to prove I was.
I like looking at photos of my grandma because she looks so much like my dad.
My father used to be a dentist in Korea.
I remember my father telling me there was a conspiracy against him getting licensed to be a dentist in the U.S. and I thought he was crazy. But the more I understand of the seventies and immigrant discrimination, I don’t think he was crazy. Do I have proof that New York University conspired to keep my dad from passing his exams and getting his license to practice? Not exactly. But maybe the truth is somewhere in between conspiracy and institutional xenophobia.
We got to NYC when Nixon was still in office and the war in Vietnam was alive and well. Enter us Korean immigrants into this mix for one fucked up cocktail of Yellow Peril and xenophobia.
I wish my dad would have returned to Korea way sooner than he did. He could have just returned to his dentist life and my mom could have stayed in New York. What did she thnk she was going to find in America? I wonder if the allure of America is just a gimmick. A trick to bring in the gullible. Perhaps it’s not an equitable promise for all who heed her siren song?
Amidst the racist rants of “Go back to your country,” I sometimes wish we had.
we, the living
have this compulsion
to walk backwards into the past
as if the past has been waiting all this time
at the kitchen table
for our return
but the past has things to do
a forever schedule of sorting and erasing memories
for how quickly they get hoarded
and become the present
if you’re not careful
–excerpted from “Forever Schedule” by Jiwon Choi
In high school I got sick off gin and swore it off forever.
Except I developed a taste for it in my thirties. The myth of drink for writers is intense. I am not immune to it, but it’s got less to do with my writing than with my psyche. But I can’t write when I’m shitfaced anyways.
I admire Bukowski and can concede that his affinity for drink may have had an effect on his work. Yes, drinking changes us, probably changed him––maybe he allowed it to became his companion. But certainly the core of Bukowski as a writer and poet was himself, his life experience, his childhood, his memories, etc.
My dad kept a bottle of Johnnie Walker under his chair for many years. I think he knew we knew, but did he care? I don’t care if you know about my bottles, I kinda wear them on my sleeve.
Maybe the bliss
that came with drinking came
only after a certain period
of apprenticeship. Eddie likened
it to the holy man’s self-flagellation
to experience the fullness of faith.
––excerpted from “Gin” by Philip Levine
I had a family in Korea. I had roots.
I wasn’t always alone as I am now.
My parents left Korea in the early seventies and I am sorry for that. I wish I could have grown up with my big extended family and lived an uncomplicated life as a regular Korean person.
As a displaced person, I worked to extend my dysfunctional nuclear family to include the friends I managed to keep. And it was a smart thing to do because life is a better time when you are connected to good people.
But I’ll always have my Old Ladies.
it was still
where it had all begun.
––excerpted from “A Feeling” by Robert Creeley
My parents were seriously ill-matched.
Neither ready to live grown up lives, but rushing to marry because that’s what was expected.
In their wedding pic, I swear my mom is bending a bit so she won’t tower over my father. I wonder how much she cared about. I was reading in Louise Bogan’s bio about how her mother shot up four inches past her father after they got married, and how her mother never forgave him for that.
In elementary school, a friend’s family invited me to be in her first communion ceremony and it looks like my mom thought it was a good idea. Crazy though because I don’t think my friend was old enough to marry God. Is anyone, really?
But look at my super-cute dress.
Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
–– excerpted from “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” by William Carlos Williams