Franny Choi

regarding the yellowface poet

Posted by on Sep 09 2015

[ Poem in response to m.d.h., white poet who used a Chinese pseudonym to get published in Best American Poetry. ]


choi jeong min
for my parents, Choi Inyeong & Nam Songeun

in the first grade i asked my mother permission
to go by frances at school. at seven years old

i already knew the exhaustion of hearing my name
butchered by hammerhead tongues. already knew

to let my salty gook name drag behind me
in the sand, safely out of sight. in fourth grade

i wanted to be a writer & worried
about how to escape my surname – choi

is nothing if not korean, if not garlic breath,
if not seaweed & sesame & food stamps

during the lean years – could i go by f.j.c.? could i be
paper thin & raceless? dust jacket & coffee stain,

boneless rumor smoldering behind the curtain
& speaking through an ink-stained puppet?

my father ran through all his possible rechristenings –
ian, issac, ivan – and we laughed at each one,

knowing his accent would always give him away.
you can hear the pride in my mother’s voice

when she answers the phone this is grace, & it is
some kind of strange grace she’s spun herself,

some lightning made of chainmail. grace is not
her pseudonym, though everyone in my family is a poet.

these are the shields for the names we speak in the dark
to remember our darkness. savage death rites

we still practice in the new world. myths we whisper
to each other to keep warm. my korean name

is the star my mother cooks into the jjigae
to follow home when i am lost, which is always

in this gray country, this violent foster home
whose streets are paved with shame, this factory yard

riddled with bullies ready to steal your skin
& sell it back to your mother for profit,

land where they stuff our throats with soil
& accuse us of gluttony when we learn to swallow it.

i confess. i am greedy. i think i deserve to be seen
for what i am: a boundless, burning wick.

a stone house. i confess: if someone has looked
at my crooked spine and called it elmwood,

i’ve accepted. if someone has loved me more
for my gook name, for my saint name,

for my good vocabulary & bad joints,
i’ve welcomed them into this house.

i’ve cooked them each a meal with a star singing
at the bottom of the bowl, a secret ingredient

to follow home when we are lost:
sunflower oil, blood sausage, a name

given by your dead grandfather who eventually
forgot everything he’d touched. i promise:

i’ll never stop stealing back what’s mine.
i promise: i won’t forget again.

Announcing My Holiday Sale!

Posted by on Dec 09 2014

From now until Dec. 18th, buy one copy of Floating, Brilliant, Gone through my new online store and get the second half off! Buy two copies, and get the third half off, plus a free personalized postcard to hang up by your desk when you need inspiration!

If you’d like the copies signed to anyone in particular, just add a note when you place the order.

Again, this offer is only valid through my online store, not Amazon. Not only will you be getting a great deal, but you’ll also be buying directly from the artist. Hooray!

Click here to purchase!

New review of Floating, Brilliant, Gone on Muzzle Magazine

Posted by on Nov 21 2014

The wonderful Muzzle Magazine just posted a lovely review of Floating, Brilliant, Gone.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Franny Choi’s debut poetry collection Floating, Brilliant, Gone skillfully addresses trauma, identity, memory, and grief, positioning the poet as both witness to and evidence of loss, daring the past to blink first. Jess X. Chen’s illustrations – birds and bones, trees and feathers – highlight the uneasy ethereality that runs through the collection. Together, the words and images evoke the relationship between absence and permanence, a haunted house with windows opening onto surprising moments of beauty and joy.”

Read the whole review here.

New Tour Dates!

Posted by on Oct 21 2014

Just added a bunch more tour dates for November and December here! I’ll be in Boston this Friday at Simmons College, so come say hello if you’re in the area!

P.S. The photo above is from a recent reading with Natalie Shapero and the Poetry Foundation at the University of Chicago’s Gallery 400. The reading was in conjunction with an incredible exhibition by the performance arts collective My Barbarian.

Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship Finalist

Posted by on Aug 25 2014

I’m so thrilled/humbled/proud/sweptoffmyfeet/slightlynauseousatthethoughtofit to announce that I’m a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. From the Poetry Foundation’s website:

Five Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships in the amount of $25,800 each (previously $15,000), will be awarded to young poets through a national competition sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. Established in 1989 by the Indianapolis philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the fellowships are intended to encourage the further study and writing of poetry.

See the list of 31 finalists here. I’m proud to say the list of finalists includes two other members of Dark Noise, Danez Smith and Nate Marshall, as well as friends Ocean Vuong and Joshua Bennett. I’m so lucky to have these gorgeous minds in my life.