April in Seoul

The title is a dead give away for this post.
Been sitting on this set quite awhile & finally got round to having a dabble with them.

I was visiting my pal Omar, a musician from Morocco. I happened to, at this time, meet a very interesting man called Saad, also from Morocco. We met outside Omar’s lodgings around 7 a.m. & proceeded to continue talking until around 4 a.m. while we flaneuered Seoul, taking in the sunshine & putting the world to rights. It was very interesting to watch Omar & Saad converse, as they would oscillate between perfect French, Arabic & English. One would ask something in one language & the other would respond in a different language. This was not done boastfully but in a almost absentminded, organic manner, which was joyful to watch. Saad was very pleased with my curiosity.

Alley 골목
Waiting for God
Tabby Tradition
Should the cat be trusted with the fish

3 poems published at the High Window

Very pleased to have 3 poems published at the High Window alongside so many talented poets. Thanks to the editors David Cooke & Anthony Costello for taking them. The Resident Artist, Angela Smyth also did art work for my poem Cover Story.

The poem Cover Story, just to give you a bit of background, is also about Master-nim, the subject of the second poem, who was the fella i worked alongside while building our guesthouse. The 2nd Master-nim poem was published at Underfoot.

i’d like to take this opportunity to thank & greet any new readers (followers) of my work & to those of you who continue to ‘like’ & comment. It means a lot & it is an essential part of my days, as i am very isolated where i am, so discussions are welcomed. i also want to apologize if i don’t get around to reading & discussing your work with you, it isn’t because i got tired of you, or bored, but Summer has flash flooded me with work. We are finishing up two new houses, which require our attention now, as well as tending to Inn Jeju & the larger volume of guests due to the Summer season starting. So i will always respond & try to get around as best i can to reading & engaging with your work (you know who you are).

Much obliged


The Black Shore Rubbish Disposal of Paradise

i recently sent this one to Tim Miller at wordandsilence, via email & he said these things about this poem: one hell of a first stanza!!!!!!!!!!!!! (my exclamation marks) Of everything you’ve sent me this one is tops for me.!!!!!!!!! (my exclamation marks).
It’s interesting to me what yr doing with this place people go on vacation to (namely Jeju Island); I don’t know if you’ve read Don DeLillo’s Underworld, but there are long sections in there about a guy visiting a trash dump & reflecting on all our garbage. all the anthropomorphic ways of describing the scene–moustaches, anorexia, bouquets, pregnancy test, burial, galloping–tied to real images of shells, skulls, tides etc., are all a wonder. 

i don’t think Tim’ll mind me quoting him. cheers Tim.


The Black Shore Rubbish Disposal of Paradise

i walk the bow spat sprig of land at least
three times a week or more : i can release
the dog there as i know she will not leap
in the sea & no one usually walks that shore
—most find the chainsaw wind too much meither
perhaps the perils of the black rock
taunts them with an abstract of ill luck.

i see the same jettisoned garbage
—the tide comes in & drags it with, then dredges
it all to the same nooks in new arrangements.
the sodden lengths of rope— like offal
& umbilical cords—ties the 100 year cactus
fronds shaped like bunny ears, bulbs of purple fruits
like bruised elbows covered in microscopic needles.

slowly the sea chews chunks of rock
it will eat all this coast one day, i reckon.
medicine bottles prescribe dust & last
autumn’s foliage— dry grass moustaches
grow out of anorexic gaps. a dead gull, fish
hook jammed into its wing— slow death, eye
popped out like an oyster. fish spine

—the bleached skull of an animal i can’t
confirm— buoys stranded waiting for the tide
barnacles stud them— resemble lizards.
bouquets of hardy red plants hucking salt
ash from a fire Haenyo made hemmed by peel
& a collection of shells, makeshift chopping board
the sea sanded smooth for them. rusty aerosols

& broken baskets. a pregnancy test for the sea
which surely never comes back negative
—only open burial, the galloping of decay
by tides i’ve yet to schedule— the dig of wind in oily
feathers flesh & bone—would that i’d grieve?
i realize it’s all part of some abstruse plan
so why must i remind myself so often?



glossary: the cactus mentioned is not actually 100 years old but its name baeknyeoncho (백년초) means 100 hundred years. it is covered in imperceptibly fine needles. i made a beautiful syrup with it one year. they put it in chocolate. it is a nightmare to harvest & peel. it grows in such abundance by the ocean you can go & pick it at your leisure in November-January as no one is really bothered about it. make sure you tae thick gloves if you want to harvest some.

흑자 Jeju through n’ through


I am imperfect- I admire that in something especially myself
: such a dominant weakness in so many other living things
I have used to my advantage: to coddle humans
into feeding me scraps which I’ll get by on.
the tip grew into this burl like the grip of a gear stick.
I developed the use of my abdomen to even out
the missing equipoise like how a trolley at the supermarket
with one iffy wheel at the fore means people
put some muscle into steering to keep the straight & narrow.

I walk well enough, but racing into trots I veer the weight
of myself away from the direction I travel in, which makes the trot unique.
I have this peculiar manner of slinking like an accordion
a sort of stretch & move action arching the back like a nave.
already cooing like an Aboriginal with a bullroarer
calling across the bush, you know I’m near. I’ll eat more than the dog
– there’s infinity hidden in me somewhere. an infinity of tones
to my repertoire I’ve noted how seeming desperate to articulate
to speak the narrative of my day in purrs & meows

makes me appealing to people- they’re then likely to fork
out on a morsel of something. I was once called 흑자,
which is practically untranslatable -unique in character
– something like honest carefree incapable of ill will, the black stones used in 바둑
which the old men play in the shade of nettle trees they said.
they found me outside a restaurant where he got drunk;
i pawed out rolling around like 김밥 begging from guests leaving & entering.
I wanted feeding hadn’t eaten a decent meal in days.
he wanted to feed me the skin of mackerel flayed with chopsticks

that remained on the tables, simply because I tried
didn’t scarper like a pheasant when he entered but showed affection
like a monk with a singing bowl chanting for alms.
but the harridan complained 그 고양이 미우니까, 밥 주지 마세요!
i hate that cat, you shouldn’t feed it!
I rolled on my back purring & meowing- this was life or death.
I didn’t give a toss about the abuse she flung in my direction
this was a matter of life & death
– he scooped me up skinny with pleadings & took me with him… 

my poem 해녀 featured on Jose Angel Araguz’s thefridayinfluence

i am over the moon to report that the poet Jose Angel Araguz, author of the beautiful, aphoristic The Book of Flight, has published one of my poems 해녀, alongside photographs by the mythographer, filmmaker & photographer of Joey Rositano, on his blog thefridayinfluence.

you have perhaps read about my admiration of Jose’s work before that he was the first contemporary poet i read who made me see the value in writing from this generation, rather than from this generation with the pulse of another generation long since flat-lined. i would never have placed myself, my experiences of this chanced upon life, into my poetry were it not for reading Jose; so for him to now see value in my work after i have admired his for some time is a wonderful feeling. it is always appreciated when strangers passing through, register with some aspect of my work, but when it is someone you  truly regard as a titan of words then it really is a hallelujah moment.

& to add to this there’s Joey Rositano, who is doing so much important work in the area of Jeju  religion; the fella actually learned the Jeju dialect & has had rare access, which has allowed him to witness, intimately, the traditions of the Jeju people & the 해녀;  an ongoing project of 4-5 years now. Joey has had access to the 해녀 few people get, he has been out in the boat with them whilst they dive, he has been to their rituals & i can only surmise it is because he has won their affections by his efforts to learn their native customs, his efforts to stop the demolition of their village shrines, to ultimately speak with them in a language most surmise only they can know. his documentary on Jeju shamanism is almost complete & promises to be a monumental spectacle; i only hope i can get some time off work to go to the opening. if you want to read more about Joey’s research go to pagansweare.wordpress.com

here are some more photos by Joey for you to feast your eyes on:

Argus Paul

i find myself getting more fixated on photography these days. i watch documentaries, rummage through blogs, journals, even in a waiting room, cafe, restaurant i thumb through mags at composition & framing; look with lenses at the world happening, thinking in photos. i am a perfect amateur, but i think i have been nipped by the bug of photo.

i want to draw people’s attention to a pal of mine who is not an amateur: Argus Paul. i have followed his progress some years now, at first without an eye or even any respect for the method of photographing, then i started to see & thought Paul’s work very good. however, Paul recently took a trip to Bangkok where he did a workshop with david alan harvey & the photos from that trip astonished me.

thai news has been saturated in grief of late owing to their beloved king dying. Paul captures the subjective & objective perceptions with a series of photographs at once human, jarring, personal, emotional, make use of a range of compositional methods that accrete dimension, of people’s identity, memory, social status, grief & much more i am sure repeated study of the images will draw out of anyone who gives them the attention they deserve. they have something of the gritty in your face style of William Klein, a brutal honesty & devotion to subject but also a manipulative element that bends the viewer into feeling the environment.

Paul’s Bangkok series was recently published by harvey in his evolving journal burn.

Paul’s Facebook Instagram  & website where you can find his series on wrestlers, cosplay & an intimate portrait of parents & loved ones grieving for their children who died in the Sewol ferry disaster, a very moving collection.  i am not going to post a ream of photos here, you really must go & see for yourself, you won’t regret time spent with them.

(the featured image is from Paul’s Reflections Inside the Seoul Metro & my favorite photo from that series Bupyeong-gu Office To Onsu).

on the adequacy of landscape

i find landscape pictures difficult: the lighting must be absolutely spot on, which is determined by a number of factors you have no control over but must anticipate. your pretty much onto a winner for light early morning or evening, but the afternoon can be a nuisance.

the variegation of the layers of cloud must be bold for me, this will mean they are moving, shifting the light, if they break & coagulate constantly, giving the sun opportunity to break out. if a blue sky isn’t solid enough but washed with a milky patina mingled with light it makes for an ugliness i can’t abide & is difficult to work with. so i don’t always end up with what i feel is an aesthetically stimulating photo, regardless of whether the landscape has implicate beauty. unfortunately Korea gets a lot of humidity & on those days i pretty much throw my hands up in defeat. there just isn’t a good atmosphere to muggy, humid days. the most photogenic days for me are those days when the wind is swift & urges the cloud with its swiftness, the cloud tends to layer on these days & sometimes their tones will vary too & it just begs for being photographed.  

behind my place are farmer’s field that revolve through the seasons & can be very photogenic

view of Seogwipo from Donnaeko trail

the last stretch of Donnaeko, a treat after a steep descent through claustrophobic forest, to open into airy field of grass sloping into Oreum

that last stretch of Donnaeko offers some expansive views all the way out to sea

one of the lesser viewed sides of Hallasan, i don’t know whether north, south, east or west


autumn timothy on the east side of the island

Yeongsil trail 

Biyangdo island seen from hansupul, again behind my place

begin in Seoul

i am still reeling in my tongue from the surprise reception i received after Tim Miller published me on wordandsilence. i have never had that much focus before & it felt good.
i am following it up with a poem Tim helped me edit, an apt follow up then.
Cities terrify me & here is what seeps from me after a visit to one of them. (none of my own photography in this post.)

begin in Seoul

하나 : Seoul’s nervous system

the subway trains i think of as electrical impulses bolting
through tunnels fixed with myelin wires synchronous
with axon tracks that hurtle & swerve toward dendrite terminals
at which passengers, each an extension to a diallelus, get off
& knot each, in itself, coagulate system, a complex entirety;
all of which keeps the nucleus of the Seoul’s organism
palpitating & suspended like a heart on the cusp…
29 bridges leap back & forth, south to north over the wide hips of the Han
from Gangnam to Jongno-gu, linking fleets of metal phoenixes
which transport Seoul’s population to endless options of luxury.

Bukhan Mt leers down on all of us in impartial judgment
& filters lungfuls of our smog each minute- who has
known the inflexible torments of history’s pitfalls;
mislaid entire idioms in the sharp angles of her mind
& witnessed lost alphabets, philologists recovered for their king,
liberate the illiterate poor & stoke the pipe fume of the bitter aristocracy.
watched infectious paranoia consume monarchs with madness,
the last tigers that haunted her forests hunted down for sport,
& heroes rise out of the Imjin war & in ’68 erected in stone
at Gwanghwamun, as a reminder of the indomitable spirit of Korea.
seen calendars switched as the opulent stars seeped into traffic
& span with a celerity beyond the dawn’s circuitous grief.
it will protect her Seoul, even from the consumption of its self.
as the turbid river- where the constellations once knelt & drank
& the people flocked its banks, washed, communed, fished,
as it escorted Bukhan’s mineral volumes, rich oath of rock,
to the rapid verbosity of the undine’s alluvion
-is mopped up by the sea like gravy from a sailor’s dish.

everything seems caught in quotation marks here.
idling people dozing or waiting to receive updates,
to see if so & so got something better than they got;
prodding rapidly their screens to collect worthless points
in cartooinsh games so garish & quick they foment epileptic starts.
there could be drastic consequences if that young chap doesn’t
turn that tinny, synthetic K-pop, like nails rattled in a can, off, soon!
i hear old men fart on their seats to keep them warm & ward
off potential seat usurpers; 3 codgers stare, size me up,
regardless of my having no intention to take their designated seat.
children too, stare, ruffling their eye brows like muslin curtains
to say why does that face have a beard & why’s it here?
desperate sales men & women staccato quick step
along every carriage . stop . to spin their well-rehearsed spiel
to flog their picnic mats, gloves, pocket radios, rain macs
– practical items people don’t realise they need until they do.

it would be easier if i could envision Seoul as how things are;
but an errant synapse in me will not permit complicity.
between this many vapid, pale faces, there must be,
there has to be according to the law of averages, just one
capable of muddling the whole grimy lot of it together
into an adequate transliteration of the death trope, for us to quote.

둘 : subway soliloquy

i cotton on to the mannerisms of others, i know
them better than they know themselves & yet
i haven’t a clue as to who i am, what i am doing here;
am i on a tour of their sin, to share their gluttony for haste
& the morning after imprecations in favour of slothfulness?
in this place i have more opinions about than i ever
had regarding myself. i’ve always been deliberately evasive
with traffic lights. i’ll begin being all over again in a year or so;
i’ll take myself some place else i can never understand.
& still, though i have some vague hope, no one will
come to me with arms full of themselves revealed
& explain to me how best to mimic them without
missing a step or having to make a second attempt
: that would make all the difference to me- until then…

셋 : a short nocturne

no doubt it’s just the solemn collapse
of the nocturne over the slab of city
that swings a lonely girl
like the hidden stars into an object of pity
whilst ambulances stencil hazards out incomplete dark.

넷 : the one who sees gods

a young lad drank too much & made himself a shambles
: grass stains on his left shoulder & right knee,
he’d been hauling the world here & there methinks,
garbles the mouthwash of his woman troubles to me
in a language only the inebriate understand so well;
fails to stand still as the plinth i wish him to mount,
zig zags in an irregular helix shuffle narrowly missing curb-traffic.
every Seoul he meets he flatters with the title
god of my generation; he’s correct every time
: in this neon, the right application of moisturizer, toner, foundation,
oils, mascara, gloss, everyone glistens with alchemical scintillae,
the shadow cast from suspended footsteps follow under street lamps,
their unguents repel the sewage & cheap fried food
– these synthetic god types are the prototype of what
so many here pine for once their bank accounts flower.
all there is here is looking good, it is simple : keepmouthshut,
head in airplane mode, regulate breath & pray the surgeons
will look kindly on us all from their Gangnam offices
this summer & have a 50% sale on chin chiseling & eye widening
before the sea change of age decimates a chance of romance.
meanwhile, the fashion industry indiscreetly favours us,
the death of the old season takes care of our beatitude
& don’t forget booze, which is always a helping hand
: it, without altercation, fixes the ugly & shy into objects of adoration.

다섯 : bird in a bee hive

i feel at odds with this wide expanse
that claims so much of us, to be much of us,
its didactic, tarmacked arteries, telling us where to go,
promising us the will to choose rather than follow
the foul mouthed halitosis of its slogans pasted on billboards
telling us what to buy, suggesting insurance to coddle us
& loan interests’ %, to help give us more of…
taxi drivers’, gave me indigestion, more so even than
the piss-flat lager, the poxy ingredients for the pseudo curry
& greasy Chinese food ladies with fur clutch purses,
leopard print shirts, plastic stilettos & panda kohl ladle,
cloying to their trachea while they chat schools & cash.
the stench of faecal waste could ossify the clouds
& melt the glass façade of Yeouido, crisp its river park
: it’s no surprise i should feel claustrophobic then
: it is a tight space in me for it- we are not infinite
& neither is it infinite: it wouldn’t take much to level the Seoul.
a mosquito suffocating in urinals, squeezed
into dwarfish bathrooms in slim corridors of afterthought.
people narrowed into the Thermopylae of their screens
where they defend nothing but their single plate,
bowl or glass; occupation, job, routine, hobby, style, ideology.
i am grateful that birds with nooses round their throats
cannot from the avenues of birch & blossom nor
from gallows humour, be kicked to an untimely end.

historical episodes from the life of Halla Mt

i made a recent hike up to ask the goddess for context. i wrote this poem a while back now, but as she answered my request i submit this poem, in genuflect thanks.

(all photos by yours truly.)

한라 ii.JPG
the head of the goddess

historical episodes from the life of Halla Mt

in her youth, she leaked supple magma from her tantrum head
that cut through ribbons of Pliocene cacophony to grow an island
of offspring. her lake of fire long extinguished, now a lake of water.
she is a docile old dame & curtained by fine dust, which airplanes
that land every 5 minutes coagulate around her once beautiful head
of flaming hair, helped by the ships that berth in the ever widening harbors,
ever themselves widening & leaking a dust spume of tourists,
hot with ignorance & pockets full of rubbish.
the primal cacophony is mechanized & lucky her hearing has
deteriorated while bird song blends or is usurped by smart phones
& the wind in the trees with the rubbing of Gore-Tex on Gore-Tex.
when she was young, womb full of child she spoke a brutal, savage prose
: she was impetuous, omitted formula for orgiastic nights with Buddha’s Generals
who turned to broody crows or jagged rocks that tourists photograph;
back then, when there were promiscuous nights, romping beneath a moon
not yet fossilized but fertile, a moon shaped like a child’s eyelash
& too there was the Great Bear, peeping tom through the key hole Cassiopeia,
who fondled with himself while she washed bare breasted in rains
of a young earth;- she knew that he watched & she knew the Generals would come
(& still she gave the Great Bear his show) horny after hunting albino roe deer
all afternoon, which she broke in for dressage, galloping through cypress forests with urgency. generals wiped their cocks clean with mint leaves that grew in her forests,
they ate amanita muscaria until they lost their minds & tore bits
of her flesh with their teeth which grew back with the seasons & gave
them strength to return each night. all the heirlooms of her profligate womb
have grown antique themselves, their mother long senile- they are helpless.
in her crepuscular years (pre-senility) she settled for a poetry that garnished
all her love sick memories with patronizing incidental details
: the way her breasts moved bare & how she quivered when the Generals
smothered her nipples with vibrato lips & bit her hip bone, how they came
with arms full of gifts & long hair combed into tapers like pine trees,
how they told stories of long wars without end they fought bravely in;
she wrote all this in the diary of her fluid metamorphic rock that if
you have the poetic sense enough to read her odd prose, you can find fragments
leaping into the sea. now her breasts are like plastic bags full of offal hung on a nail.
after the hysterectomy the Generals never came but changed to bitter crows.
the roped trails & the track used for carrying ramen to the shelter
at the foot of the peak have hogtied her & all her milk & honey has dried up,
been packaged for the gift shop. she is Jeju & Jeju is she.
& soon she’ll be a feast for pollutants, corrode into brine & waves.

as you ascend on your right these rocks, which are said to be Buddhist generals who turned to stone after devouring their mother who fell in a cauldron

perhaps more stone generals. it isn’t just the stones here, but the crows too are said to be generals


funny how you grow out of things: i used to enjoy reading poems about seasons, but back then i was obsessed with the Romantics. my appreciation has shifted solely to their more difficult works rather than the wet-through lyrics they wrote to make some cash. i wrote this lyric to be in as un-Romantic a mood as i could muster. (all photographs by me).

beach people.JPG


it is the time of year tourists pullulate
the beaches white hot with vitamin D like shredded sea
sponge regenerated from its individual cells,
& season their lacklustre skin with the salt of the sea.

the ocean which still cannot speak
in a language we can understand, a sea that child
like ughs & ahhs complaints to us in broken
waves of onomatopoeia : my larynx must be healed!

& i sat observing them when of a sudden
a lack of horizontal fix took place & tourists’ necks
distended from their shoulders so that heads
stretched to the tattered clouds like busts of lighthouses on a scissor lift.

at first i blamed the finger of the sun’s prod
for altering the picture of my world to that of an old TV set
with an over used, dysfunctional cathode rod
making people’s limbs spool like a BBC debate;

but it was them : a changing picture
rather than a picture of change & i’m unsure if worth
the salt that signals an emotional report
& governs the traffic of our cells, nerve to nerve.