I’ve known Chiwan Choi for over a decade. We first connected through our photography of Downtown Los Angeles on Instagram. Like me, he woke up early to take quiet walks. While he traversed his Historic Core neighborhood, at the same time, I was wandering the streets of the Arts District with my two dogs, snapping shots of my changing community. It was odd that it took a couple of years before we were formally introduced in person by our mutual friend Edgar Varela.
I chose poetry
then lived this unremarkable life.
Enjoy our conversation and be sure to tune into the “WOLFHOUSE” online poetry discussion on Clubhouse (6pm PST / 8pm CST / 9pm EST)!
~ Melissa Richardson Banks
ABOUT THIS EPISODE
Writer, editor, teacher, and publisher Chiwan Choi talks about living in Downtown Los Angeles and moving to Pittsburgh mostly out of loving support of his wife Judeth Oden who is pursuing her doctorate in Pittsburgh.
Chiwan has been a friend of mine since late 2010 when we first met online through a shared appreciation of taking early-morning photographs of Downtown Los Angeles when it was more of a ghost town than it is today. We finally met in person later and became fast friends. In addition to writing poems and essays, he is an editor of Cultural Weekly and a producer of #90for90, a series of literary arts and music events held on 90 consecutive days in a Downtown Los Angeles bar. He is a co-founder of Writ Large Press, a micro-publishing house that uses literary arts and events to resist, disrupt, and transgress. He is also part of The Accomplices. a partnership between the three existing entities Civil Coping Mechanisms, Entropy and Writ Large Press. Together, he works with his partners to publish books, produce literary workshops and events, create video and other media, and run a literary website and community space — working out of New York, Los Angeles, Portland, and Pittsburgh.
Our conversation segued to #Tayloring and how Taylor Swift serenaded and legitimately inspired him as he wrote the second volume of his poetry trilogy. With a working title of “Taylor Swift,” this volume became named “The Yellow House.”
Little known to the public, but a fun fact among his friends, is that Chiwan has been a former “live tweeter” of his commentary about the “characters” or stars from “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” television shows. He shares that, by watching reality TV, the political landscape of our country is readily revealed.
We also discussed the new Clubhouse program “WOLFHOUSE” hosted by him, which I will co-moderate with him every Wednesday (6pm PST / 8pm CST / 9pm EST), starting on March 3, 2021. If you are on Clubhouse, join us!
WOLFHOUSE is an online place for poetry and discussion. In this weekly series, Chiwan will share a new reading and welcome unpublished and newly published poets to the stage for readings and discussions.
ABOUT THIS GUEST & HIS WORK
Chiwan is a writer, editor, teacher, and publisher. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and magazines. His first major collection of poetry “The Flood” was published by Tia Chucha Press in April 2010. His second collection “Abductions” (published in April 2012) is the first of a trilogy; the second “The Yellow House” was released in 2017 and the third “My Name is Wolf” will be released in mid-2021.
Chiwah has been a featured poet in Los Angeles (Beyond Baroque, Los Angeles Public Library, etc.), in New York, and in San Francisco. His books have been part of the curriculum at Berkeley City College, Riverside City College, and elsewhere.
As an editor and teacher, he has helped writers who have had their works published by Simon & Schuster, Penguin, RA, Noon, Bombshelter Press, Full Fathom Five, KCET, and many others.
Chiwan received an MFA in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School at NYU. After returning to Los Angeles, he co-founded Writ Large Press with Judeth Oden in 2008 after a six-issue run of a literary quarterly called “Wednesday.”
To learn more about Chiwan’s work, visit dtlab.tumblr.com/about. Follow him on Instagram at www.instagram.com/chiwan. If he accepts your friend request, he shares that he is most prolific and unfiltered on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chiwan.
ABOUT THIS PODCAST
Hosted by me, Melissa Richardson Banks, the “MUSED: LA 2 HOU” podcast focuses on topics tied to life journeys connected to Los Angeles and Houston, literally and/or figuratively.
WHY THIS PODCAST
A year ago, I started thinking about doing a podcast that connected my worlds in Los Angeles and Houston. While my friends who are baseball fans might say otherwise, the two sprawling metropolitan areas are similar in so many ways — sister cities of sorts. In some ways, Houston leads the way and in other ways, Los Angeles is on top. That’s why I love these two cities so much. I get the best of both worlds. The two photographs of each city below describe how I felt at the time that I shot them: one as I was leaving L.A. (“Keep Something Alive”), which in hindsight, forecast my year in 2016; and the other shortly after I arrived in H-Town (“I Might Love You”), which mirrored how I was then beginning to feel:
Since August of 2016, until the pandemic, I have commuted monthly from Houston to Los Angeles where I had lived for over two decades. In Southern California, I am known for my work producing, promoting and navigating the art world, which includes managing the Chicano art collection of Cheech Marin, documenting the fast-changing Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles as a photographer known as @DowntownMuse, and running my consulting firm CauseConnect. In Texas, I was able to lay low for a while, enjoy art every day, and be a tourist while re-connecting with my family. My photography continues in Houston and I share images of life here online as @MUSEDla2hou (formerly @HTownMuse). Because I felt “MUSED” out and that is how I came up with the name of my podcast: “MUSED: LA 2 HOU” (if you are from New York, we pronounced HOU as YOU!).
While this is not my first podcast (I hosted and produced “A.D. Live” in 2013 and “A Muse on the Road” in 2015), this time, I had to learn and understand in-studio technology since my previous podcasts were more of an impromptu “woman on the street” format. I am learning so much, so forgive again how I am releasing this – learn with me! Between paying clients and contracted projects, I began researching what I should do, and then Covid messed up my originally planned format (hosting guests in my home, along with a live audience, salon style). Now, I also have had to learn editing and how to remotely bring guests into the mix.
- Wes Brown and Todd Piersen generously have given time and direction to me. Their Tenet podcast is amazing (subscribe!) and I am the featured guest in one of their episodes.
- Christopher Fudurich — mixer, sound engineer, producer and musician — thankfully assisted me with much-needed technical assistance when I first launched this podcast.
- David Strother (electric violinist and composer) and his musical collaborator Scot Ray (lap slide steel guitarist) graciously have allowed my use of a clip of their song “Gravity Plate” from their album “Space Yard” that has my Houston image as its cover. Buy their album on Bandcamp by clicking HERE.
- Jon Berry — award-winning designer and photographer — designed my podcast logo.