A Temporary Dwelling
cover art by Barbara Friedman
ISBN 978-1-959556-88-6 74 pages $17.00
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 Dwelling is an impressive and inspiring book.
Jiwon Choi’s searing, darkly humorous, and important new poetry collection, A Temporary Dwelling, pulls no punches. This book probes the limits of utopia, exploding the myth of the American Dream. Choi questions such complex notions as nation, truth, body, race, gender and genre, and in doing so she offers blueprints for our collective survival: by staying, by looking, by writing, by eating, by living, by laughing, by loving anyway, “by savoring the unruly honeysuckle eating all the bread and drinking all the wine.”
On the outside, Jiwon Choi is an educator, editor. She is also one of the fiercest champions of new and emerging poets. With that said, it is unsurprising to note that she approaches her poetry with the same passion and sharp eye she approaches all her endeavors. A Temporary Dwelling is a stunning meditation on the body, grief, and place. Readers follow a speaker as they both confront and mourn their deceased mother, their past, and the dysfunction present in both their home and home country. The final stanza of the poem, “What Gods Bequeath Us,” presents these ideas of inheriting trauma as both matter-of-fact and inevitable: “you have known for some time that the gods/ made you out of glass/ so you would not shatter/ just become full of cracks.” While there is pain in these poems, there is also resilience. Throughout it all, Choi doesn’t ask us to pity the speaker. Instead, she tells us to look at their cracks and watch as they continue onward. Choi’s A Temporary Dwelling is more than just a book of mourning; it is an intimate, yet heartbreaking testament to both perseverance and hope.
––Jordan E. Franklin
Jiwon Choi is a poet, early childhood educator, and urban gardener. She is the author of two poetry collections, One Daughter is Worth Ten Sons and I Used To Be Korean. Choi started her community garden’s first poetry reading series, Poets Read in the Garden, during the early Covid years to support local writers. You can find out more about her at iusedtobekorean.com.