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Jiwon Choi doesn’t hold back when it comes to the outer life we all deal with, or the inner life with its particular wrenchings and beauties.  Her tough-minded, original poems—and her wonderful eye for detail—remind  us that poems can be haunting whether they focus on chronic problems in our society or the death of someone close—or the kind of white bread “that reminds you of flesh off the backside or that resides inner thigh.” A Temporary Life is an impressive and inspiring book. 


 —Charles North 


“ ‘Buttering,’ bedazzling’ ‘shellacking,’ ‘kissing’ – in I Used to Be Korean, Jiwon Choi’s “present participles wrestle with the past tense, winning every match through sheer candor and vitality. The poet’s ‘rosebud power’ and honesty are dynamic, as is her grasp of history, family, identity, and eros. Out of keen attention, Choi makes poetry of butchery and blame and pockets empty but for lint. There’s something Sapphic—both scorching and tender—in a poem like ‘I Ate Your Heart Out,’ and something of Robert Frank’s vision in Choi’s fresh takes on, say, Texas (i.e., ‘America’). ‘Korea is far away’ from the Oyster Bar in Grand Central and many of the other sites mentioned in these poems, yet it (the mother) is ever present, whatever the poet is or ‘used to be.’ Choi is learned but never academic (she’s too nimble and street-smart to be academic), and I love her way of seeing and thinking. I Used to Be Korean (a riddle of a title) is a beautiful book.”


—Linda Norton

“Drop me off anywhere with Jiwon Choi—these wildly radiant poems of music & magic reel us in, fairy tale realisms mingled with elemental sound songs, mighty rumblings from the inner worlds of ‘human mass transit’ asking ‘What was it all for?’ so potently, in so many lifetimes & variant places—this is a wondrous book.”

—Naomi Shihab Nye

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