Chiwan Choi: The Fire This Time

By Jack Grapes

From: Cultural Weekly


When Chiwan Choi first walked into my class over 25 years ago, he was a 17-year old teenager, quiet and introspective. The writers in my Method Writing class were all adults, well into their 30s, and many even older. Some had already written books, novels, poems, plays, screenplays even (what a concept in Hollywood!), and were all excellent writers. Chiwan snuggled into a nondescript spot on the couch, scrunched between a guy who planned to win the Nobel Prize and a gray-haired woman who had already won one. I don’t think either one planned to learn new tricks, despite Method Writing’s array of linguistic tricks and literary constructs. Everyone in the room, I’m sure, were thinking to themselves, should I read my story about incest or abuse or sexual escapades in front of this 17-year old boy who seemed so innocent and naive.

Then after the first week of introductions and discussion of process, everyone went home to write based on the first concept of Method Writing. I didn’t want to call on Chiwan right away; I wanted to give him time to acclimate, have a chance to hear the others. About halfway through the class, after the break for coffee and cookies, I called on Chiwan. He pulled out a piece of paper from his back pocket and unfolded it several times until it bloomed in a creased sheet of 8 ½ by 11 loose leaf paper. And he began to read. And it was one of those experiences you have when all your assumptions fall away and you’re left in awe. Chiwan was a writer – even more so, a poet. Not one line was stale or forced. It was as if the words came out of necessity. There was wisdom that startled the gray haired lady to his right and intellectual configurations that humbled the guy who planned on the Nobel Prize.

Where did he get this? I’m not even sure Chiwan could have told us if we’d asked him. His family had left Korea when he was five. But he was pretty much an American teenager. This American teenager wrote like a master. A master who didn’t need to pretty anything up, didn’t need to show off his intellect, a master who could draw a straight line without a ruler, a master who could hit the high note without straining. Read Rest of Article Here


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