Recalling a life during wartime, Portia Choi used her memories to craft a series of poems. She has collected that work into a book, "Sungsook: Korean War Poems," which she will be signing today at Russo's Books.
"The Korean War started when I was 2 years old," said Portia Choi, "I wrote the first poem 35 years ago when a dear friend helped me to feel what it was like to be in the war."
Choi came to United States in 1956. She became a medical doctor and works in Public Health; she was president of the Kern County Medical Society. She organized the National Poetry Month for Kern County every April with other community poets since 2010. She lives in Bakersfield with her husband and two sons.
Kern County poets have heard and read her poems. Don Thompson, a prominent poet, remarked after reading her poems, "Choi writes honest, heartfelt poems that portray the courage and resilience of refugees struggling to survive, without sacrificing the charm of the little girl who lived through it all."
Another poet, Ann Williams, who facilitates a Bakersfield poetry writing group, said: "In this remarkably beautiful poetry, as a young child during the Korean War, she draws us into that situation as if we were experiencing it ourselves, step by step and mile by mile.
"The serious reader becomes that child, hearing every sound, and feeling; and also the warmth and power of a determined mother. The music of this poetry is an experience not to be missed."
Although Choi began writing poems decades ago, she waited 20 years to put together a collection. That delay allowed her to enhance her work in ways that would have not been possible before coming to Bakersfield.
"I am glad that I had waited. Since coming to Bakersfield in 1996, I met Neal Vance, a veteran of the Korean War. He served in Korea with four other teenage friends from Bakersfield in 1950.
"Only Neal survived and now lives in Bakersfield. I wrote a poem about Neal," said Choi. She also met Gita Lloyd, the local artist, who illustrated the cover.
There will be a signing of the book today from 1 to 3 p.m.
She will be performing the poems on March 14 at 7 p.m. as part of the open mic organized by Kevin Shah. Both events will be at Russo's Books, 9000 Ming Ave.
-- Portia Choi news release