Motif Lately

This is a motifational poem. The motif motifates the writer, spurring associations to render the poem into a unity, if only a superficial, galvanizing unity. But where would anything be without either motifation or superficilaity? Nature made man & man makes superficial motifations. It’s endless.

The motif for me is occasioned by a form of activity reactive to anything, funded motifationally by the capacity to draw congruous & incongruous subject matter into abstract (or otherwise) assemblages.

I suppose this is merely another explanation of a poem. But it is mine. & it has its own terminology.

I have punned mercilessly. Forgive me.

Motif Lately
The bloated bleating, cross-wired metonym.
A chasm, chiasmus;—this stainless steel fork
& knife for splitting pictures of a body.
Folds & creases in zoom, gorges—the eyeball,
scrupulous, dilated pupils: Earth from space, cocooned
in the milk of gods—a lukewarm swab to rim the eyes,
crusty rheum scooped out; the thankless trees,
become themselves, their own nomenclature.
Wind-woke-humming, haywire machinery
: I woke sleeping last night, unbuttoning a floor
of cotton, descended; perhaps I wanted…
to unzip my bed & shimmy in metaphorically.
I woke proper, switched on the lamp to find
my bed sheets sprawled across the room
me, shaken from the struggle in my dream,
from the substrata leaking out before dawn.
Sun worship even as the arid stiffening
of soil prevents crow & magpie.
This chip on our shoulder, filled for now
with clods of animal fat—crud of the land,
the faeces of subjugated cattle plugging holes
in us even as it shreds holes in the sky, land, water.
Innocence, brand panic—everything
you thought pure, spoiled ganglion.
A dog, elegant, long limbed cross-bred
Jack of Spades, tail buoying it hind, to lick
our wounds sterile—why else would man
make best pals of them? Everything to our advantage…
Sensitivity isn’t…sensible—it can kill!
You wind up with a heart in your esophagus
gasping for explanations to yourself; brain
weeping through the left hand’s arthritic fingers;
kidneys squeezed in the right for stress relief,
dreaming your body oiled & bound, arranged
like half a withered oak in a granite sarcophagus.
Who doesn’t want to break linearity & learn
what will happen one moment, the next
& even further; to plot life with stiff upper lips
like a rudder to pilot tides pleached with moonlight
only to wish for a U-turn after hindsight?
Orpheus, past cozying to his discriminate self,
wanted nothing more than to be a bachelor
: couldn’t he feel Eurydice’s soft flesh
pressed to the tips of his fingers, his palm?
Why could he not trust touch, hear
her footsteps, the patterned eagerness
to leave Hades in her heaving breaths
—O the exaggerated drama of farewell?
The unflattering rigors of happiness
—the banality, pursuit all compensated
at a later date by someone else, out of sight
& mind, nameless : timeless—otherness without
much to lose, we assume all things but time.
The following night a wind barged in & blew
the starred curtains flat against the ceiling;
I rummaged folds for buttons, a zip
but nothing…

Drinking to forget again (nearly home time)

Yoon Yong is drunk again.

Drinking to forget again (nearly home time)
…3 bottles of Soju later & staggering thoughtfully
through tight gullies | her stomach
packed full of pig | mouth reeking of garlic
noxious enough to stun a jindo—the stars like pheasant tracks
—if you count all the stars is that how old the universe is?
like counting tree rings to know the age of a tree.
What bollocks I think up sometimes!
The old houses shake under the wind’s saline weight |
a commotion of thin voices she can hear inside
as well as the clatter of dishes
—the noise of domesticity
reminding her to give her daughter a call.
There is no answer—she is probably sleeping.
She wants to punch the air
but realizes how juvenile & cliché it is |
she wants to box the moon | debate
with wind | dress in shadow drunken
on gloom to stir the poetic | rather
than parrot a language I hate.
“Rest | tomorrow is a big | new day…”


There will be a Yoon Yong poem today & tomorrow. I promise.

…My cheekbones are fine | my chin if a little chiseled.
I don’t agree with where my hair parts
the same as my father’s | not symmetrical like my mother.
Glad I got mother’s long legs
but my father’s eyes.
Nose is fine | not too flat to use the sun for a clock.
Mother | watching her soap operas all afternoon
—do you identify with any of the characters mom?
“What strange questions you ask me Yoon Yong.
It’s just a TV show | it isn’t real.”
I once asked mom what a feminist is |
she told me “it’s the English word for woman | daughter…”

Learning the art of not-taking-for-granted

(More untidy, preliminary insights from reading Heidegger. )

Taking a thing for granted is complex. There is an art to not taking something for granted. Being in the world is firmly established, as we interact with other things, tools or technologies, in order to provide the balance needed to be alive, we don’t exactly sense ourselves doing this, it just happens; there is something a priori, a fore-knowing conditioned into how we go about being & interacting in & with the world. For Heidegger we fall prey to the world, & “falling prey to the world means being absorbed in being-with-one-another as it is guided by idle talk, curiosity and ambiguity.” (Being & Time) For Heidegger in order to be in the world we must be tranquilized with it to some extent, there must be barriers to staunch us so that in our everyday mode we function as a unit. “Idle talk and ambiguity, having-seen-everything and having-understood-everything, develop the supposition that the disclosedness of Dasein thus available and prevalent could guarantee to Dasein the certainty, genuineness, and fullness of all the possibilities of its being.” (Being & Time) What this means is that there must be a mechanism for a status quo to be maintained, a default mode of being, which is being ontically. Ontic being is a conditioned being, it is how we exist day by day, but it does not preclude other ways of being, it allows for them by being ontic, everyday. “This tranquillization in inauthentic being, however, does not seduce one into stagnation and inactivity, but drives one to uninhibited “busyness”. Being entangled in the “world” does not somehow come to rest.”  

Conditioning must be taught & learned, nevertheless (to varying degrees of proficiency owing to undeniably cultural factors, which I don’t wish to go into here) we assume someone is there for a new born child when they come into the world, to help them get started, as Father John Misty sings in Pure Comedy “we emerge half formed and hope who ever greets us on the other end, is kind enough, to fill us in” Although his error here is giving the agency of perception of hope to an unborn, who we can only assume has no such pre-established, potential bias. It may be that not asking for our births, not having to solicit parents, we inevitably become takers-for-granted. The system works, we are entangled & tranquillized in by our conditioning.

It is self-evident that we must eat, sleep, work, defecate, consume, procreate, watch TV, check Facebook, take selfies, talk with friends, love our family. This is being, ontically. The qualia of things, their inherent “handiness” (Heidegger) & shown-ness, their apophansis is something learned, but in essence, speaking from the stage in human development currently reached, taken for granted. But something incredible still happens regardless of how perceptive we are about that which is taken for granted.

We take them for granted up to a certain point: when things run smoothly & provide for us, we don’t need to think about why they are the way they are or how they do what they do. We take little note of our sewage system till a fatberg or concreteberg blocks them & we suffer blockages that interfere with our senses through stinks we are unaccustomed to. We understand the relevance of something in their failure. Knowing the relevance of something we confront the

substance it carries forward into our everyday. Heidegger says of relevance: “The totality of relevance reveals itself as the categorical whole of possibility of the connection of things at hand. But the “unity” too, of manifold presence, nature, is discoverable only on the basis of the disclosedness of one of its possibilities.” (Being & Time) The blockage of sewers alerts us to the excretive function of our being, which must be handled; just as the throw-away culture that leads to landfills is an ever present reminder of our waste potential. We see our nature come to the fore as a problem to be solved, for the course of which to be changed in the failure of something.

Ontological being is in no way superior to ontic being: “Being is always the being of a being.” (Heidegger) Ontic being takes a decent chunk of what it is about being that seems insignificant but which, once investigated, has a profound impact on what it means to be a being.

Biological processes happen to us, & we know instinctively that we must keep the body nourished & only when we note failures of the body, do we really note how our body feels; as in noting the failure of a structure that carries waste away we note that we waste. You are very aware of your head when you have a headache, but once it is gone, you return to taking your head for granted. We take a thing or process for granted because it works especially well.

Only that which works exceptionally well can be taken for granted. There is a wonderful irony to this: it is very difficult to appreciate something when you cannot perceive it for being too close to you. Heidegger explains:

The concept of meaning includes the formal framework of what necessarily belongs to what interpretation that understands articulates. Meaning, structured by fore-having, fore-sight, and fore-conception, is the upon which of the project in terms of which something becomes intelligible.

Heidegger Being & Time

“Meaning is that wherein the intelligibility of something maintains itself” (Being & Time)

Only we can be provided with a meaningful existence & provide that existence through our own efforts. Ontic being, being everyday, is certainly not so much less meaningful for not being ontological, but I would contest that it is not as intense. When we endeavor to develop our ontological sensation of the world, the attunement of our thoughts, perception, intuition & our proprioceptive responses become amplified because we are aware of awareness, & moreover, aware of the art of not-taking-for-granted. We perceive at once the necessary ontic functions while  we perform them.

Heidegger cannot begin to get into being without first qualifying that there are these distinctions that while not exactly apart, are distinct owing to the quality of experience that comes with choosing to look ontologically. To be ontological we must look beyond the a priori ontic mechanism that works well enough to in some regard pull the wool over our eyes, so that we do not reveal distinctions about ourselves, to ourselves. Heidegger, explaining Dasein (being presence):

Dasein is a being that does not simply occur among other beings. Rather it is ontically distinguished by the fact that in its being this being is concerned about its very being. Thus it is constitutive of the being of Dasein to have, in its very being, a relation of being to this being. And this in turn means that Dasein understands itself in its being [Sein] in some way and with some explicitness. It is proper to this being that it be disclosed to itself with and through its being. Understanding of being is itself a determination of being of Dasein.

Heidegger, Being & Time

In tandem with ontic being is the inevitability of taking being one step further ahead of the ontic. In its preliminary development, ontology was religious, it was cave painting, hand prints in ochre. This nascent becoming aware of our being, like a baby first recognizing its own body in a mirror, became religious & then philosophical, scientific & so on (for the sake of brevity).

Psychology has gone some way to getting us to be more open with ourselves, to be ontologically mended through the thinking of our emotions. We take notes in real time to determine patterns of behavior that we might switch them at our will rather than leaving the switching to the ontic, instinctual whim.

There is an art to not taking things for granted. It is somehow becoming perceptive of that which is indivisible because it works so well, that we come to be experts in a field or create aesthetically. For ontic being, words are something spoken because we do so. But for ontological being, they can be used to express poems. The poet can never take words for granted, else how could they be poets? An architect cannot possibly take a material, or shape for granted. 

A poet must listen to language, in hearing language there is heard, more than revelations of the shape of sound, more than the significance of showing, more than intelligibility & access to meaning, even more than feeling, because all this & more coalesces, which is a whole not being greater than the sum of its parts, but each of the parts being greater than the sum of the whole (Morton); the intensity with which the distinctions of the parts are felt to be intrinsic to each other is the only way good poems can be written. It all must come meaningfully together to avoid the shortcomings of an ontic use of language, which while important, is just a tool. Language must mean more than expressiveness to a poet, or else poetry stagnates. We cannot have a poet like JH Prynne or Roy Fisher, even a poet like Michael Symmons Roberts, if poetry is to be only a matter of being perfectly intelligible. Language & the distinct necessities that constitute any artistic practice, must not take what allows for it in its manifest potential, for granted. There is no ontic art as such: as soon as we create anything we are immediately transferred into the ontological & what gorgeous intensities await us there. God should be proud & grateful to us for creating him, to paraphrase the poet Rawcliffe from Burgess’s Enderby novels.

Finally, the question stands: does the ontological become ontic, in that the everyday becomes experienced as purely ontological? Sort of. A pure ontological existence, I assume, would be too overwhelming & though I don’t believe society would collapse in any sense, it may, become something like the failure of the society of Alphas in Brave New World, where the difficultly became a matter of the orientation of people on the same wave length into a stable hierarchical order, so processes get done: we need people who perform functions that make society stable. But therein lies a conundrum. Who decides? Well we all can, if we choose to reconfigure how we perceive the efforts of people in different roles in society & how we compensate them. This is pretty obvious & telling when we consider how useless footballers are & how much they are paid compared to the team of men who must descend into a sewer to clear a fatberg, which is of an importance far in excess of a footballers role in society. The irony isn’t missed. A footballer has not taken the ball, nor their body or training for granted & yet it is likely the man who cleans the sewer would rather be anything other than the clearer of his own kinds’ detritus & ordure.

How can the man who cleans out the sewer be ontological about/in their role? Society’s habits as to scales of importance is in desperate need of an overall. With this switch of insight an inveterate ontological perceptiveness can arise & bring with it immense benefit to our sense of meaning & the purpose with which humanity goes forward.

A good deal of confusion…

Still trying to get my head on straight, I have the neck thread into the shoulders, but maybe the thread has worn on the fixture or on the head. Toggling, wiggling to get the thread in place, the satisfying couple of the track of the thread so that the light bulb blinks on into full, hard light. The wagging struggle is on going.

Thought I’d compensate with a poem from the Yoon Yong series, not as daring as the previous one, but more formally different & in its form, akin to my current state of mind. In addition, & a bit late, but better late than never, thanks & congratulations to Linda Wolff for including my poem Moonlit Migrations in issue#1 (The Ache of the Pen) of her Wolff Literary Press & the best of luck in a long run into the future.

A good deal of confusion
-&-know-they’d-look-bett-er-in exa-gger-a-ted-wat-er-ing-of-eyes

Court—a droigneach

(The following is taken from a thread on the blog of the poet Cynthia Jobin

According to my favorite Book of Forms (Lewis Turco, 1968)….DROIGNEACH (pronounced dray-ee-nock) is Irish. Syllabic. A loose stanza form. The single line may consist of from nine to thirteen syllables, and it always ends in a tri-syllabic word. There is rhyme between lines one and three, two and four, etc. There are at least two cross-rhymes in each couplet. There is alliteration in each line—usually the final word of the line alliterates with the preceding stressed word, and it always does so in the last line of each stanza. Stanzas may consist of any number of quatrains.
The poem (not the stanza) ends with the same first syllable, word, or line with which it begins.
A possible scheme:

Lines: syllables and rhymes:
1. x x b x x x x xxa
2. x x x x a x x x xxb
3. x x x x x b xxa
4. x x x x a x x xxb
5. x x x x x d x x xxc
6. x x x c x x x x x x xxd
7. x x d x x x x x x xxc
8. x x x x c x xxd

Notes on the Process

I asked someone I know, a translator called Neil Patrick Doherty, who is studied in the Irish language, what droigneach means. He told me it means ‘thorny’. Very fitting. I don’t know if this is because the form is a thorny one, or if it ends up turning the poet thorny?
One of the first things I thought when tackling the droigneach was, what can I get away with? I needed to make room for myself, to maneuver in my function. I have cheated by giving myself the option of hinging rhyming words both on their alliterative as well as assonant potential & of course, its use as a full end/start rhyme. This provides options, which is something desperately needed in a form as formidable as this. In addition, this opens up the form to more interesting acoustics & halts the dulling of the scansion, where the perfect fit of words becomes more a matter of getting the fit, rather ingenuity coming into the process.
My subject too had to be one that wasn’t simply there to be experimented on. I don’t like this idea & wanted the poem to mean something. I chose law, love & divorce; I think the context is clear enough that I don’t need to spell it out. In addition, law & love become metonymy for form & function. The theme of movement, freedom & imbalance applying in my mind both to marriage & poetry.
“In my beginning is my end.” This is problematic as the opening 1st or 2nd beats must rhyme with the final tri-syllabic beat of the 2nd line: xbxxxxxxxxxa / xaxxxxxxb. However, because the opening must be repeated at the end, it must be tri-syllabic too.
I had shot myself in the foot here as I had already devised the ‘eternal / cubicle / nuptial / eternal’ rhyme scheme for the 1st & 4th verse. My remedy for this was ‘movable’, which was assonantal with ‘overcast’ & end rhymed with ‘nuptial’. It further had functional usage, the relation between ‘eternal’ & ‘nuptial’ with ‘movable’ within the context of the subject, should be clear. This solution, also made the opening line flow nicely, establishing the subject & opening up maneuverability. Is this cheating? If it is, I am bloody proud of myself.
Before all this, there was the matter of tri-syllabic end rhymes. This is actually quite a hopeful point about the form, as tri-syllabic words are abundant. I am not ashamed to say I used a rhyming dictionary for this, but only because I had most of my rhymes already & wanted to make sure there weren’t better rhymes & also to finish off my rhyme sets. I don’t even know why I am apologizing, as thesauruses, dictionaries etcetera are all just tools there to be used.  
The cross rhymes I decided to loosen & I acquiesce that some are questionable. The ‘Korea’/ ‘her hair’ might arguably be a more tacitly sonic slant end rhyme, & may be questionable; as is ‘curious’ & ‘odours’, although I personally think this works nicely. I was loath to omit function for form here & no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t fix these. It worked to my advantage on ‘acacias’ & ‘a cue to kiss’ though. The major hurdle really is the cross rhythm. It really is cumbersome. You can easily trip up here & lose in tackling this hurdle, the movement of your function.
I haven’t tried to continue the last line of each verse with the beginning of the next. I have allowed each verse their freedom.
Without my little cheats, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed writing this as much as I did; it is the effort to find the tweaks, which is really pulling apart the mechanism, which makes using difficult forms worthwhile to me.
I think poets have largely abandoned form because they concern themselves so much with function, which has usurped form to become the formal principle. However, it doesn’t have to be the case that function & form cannot coexist in the belly of a formal poem. To avoid the imbalance, it takes immense concentration. I have been working on this all week, sitting at my computer replacing words, maneuvering the scansion, all while paying mind to how the poem’s meaning might be more effective.. Before typing it, I filled 6 heavily scrawled pages in my pocket notebook, then a further 4 in my manuscript sized notebook & I have lost count of the minute iterations on the computer. & while I may not have a perfect poem (when does that ever really happen?) I have something I know has been worked out, it has balance & is in some part unique for being attempted & wrestled into being.
People write feeling toned free verse all the time without criticism, & when we do attempt to criticize it, there is a canon of popular poets who have popularized the form, so we end up without a leg to stand on & the correct backlash is probably to call this snobbery. I am not saying free verse cannot be musical, nor that it isn’t credible, only that there is a reason it has usurped verse forms & while one of them may be that the freedom it offers, makes for better poetry, it has also made it easier to write poetry, in that the shape of the poem becomes organically through the developmental expounding of function. This is attractive. It invites the poet to take full control of their poem from the inception. But I’d argue that, to be better at free verse, would be to understand the mechanics of various forms & have them at your disposal. There is nothing really hindering you then from developing your own shapes as well as borrowing from tradition. That would be truly free.
So I forgive myself for finding solutions to as stubborn a form as this, I hope you will too.
It isn’t perfect, but I’d be very impressed to read a droigneach poem, which manages to balance form & function in the way that a poet might with the sonnet, or even a strict form like the sestina or villanelle. The sonnet allows for immense freedoms compared to the droigneach.
While I recommend any serious poet should attempt this, I don’t know as I’ll be returning to it in a hurry.
Without further ado, here is Court.

Following Jobin’s model my poems structure looks as follows: 



(You get the idea. In fact, you might say 'I've stored' is
in sonic relation to the 'd' rhyme scheme: 'curious' & 'odours'. & further,
the 3rd verse beginning 'In felt' is alliterative to 'uniting' & 'us: noting'.)


We make laws movable, then ask, if love’s eternal? 
Etiolate men hand forms out to sign; overcast
weather pastes these grey panelled corridors—cubicles
collect years of error, processed by bureaucrats.
I’ve stored this memory: our stroll beneath acacias
—a cue to kiss: a symbol on a door, curious
odours. May-warm, she wore white linen, loose; Korea
her hair & skin, she said the sign was ‘just cultural’.
In felt seats, divorcees fidget, whispering,
waiting, while the judge, divided, our annealer,
annuls our coupled tensions, one thing uniting
us: noting the mistake in picking one another.
He asks our names, to confirm we want the annulment.
So it went…we closed what opened nuptial
—nodded, then the judge stamped our document.
Not being obedient, we make laws movable?

5 poems published @The Wagon Magazine

Thanks to Krishna Prasad for taking these 5, which, I don’t think are very easy poems & particularly the last poem, which is about the Seorak War Memorial in which the poet imagines histories superimposed in real time. I went through a stage of submitting poems without titles, simply using the lemniscate & this has been my only success, so I am pleased about that. In addition to my poems, John Looker has written a Letter from London for this issue of The Wagon & John is always worth a read.

The link is here.

Happy reading.





Midflight digression III Yoon Yong on language (8:37 a.m.)

The 4th poem from my long narrative poem Yoon Yong. (If you go to ‘Korea Poems’ in the menu, you can find the first 3.)
I still keep looking over these, thinking they should be read in a book, but I have yet to take action toward this, I still haven’t quite remedied with myself if this is something that is going to end up with me explaining myself over & over; even defending myself. It is, maybe, a silly feeling; nevertheless I can’t shake it. I feel safe putting them here. So…

Midflight digression III Yoon Yong on language (8:37 a.m.)

…“All language is order wrenched from disorder.”
There should have been a God of Context. “That’s just God.”

Who gives a toss about gods of boots or wine
—we need a whole new pantheon for the contemporary world.

The entropy of language is a crutch.
There are immense amounts of information

down the plughole in the redundancy
of letters | in predictability without vowels

: Clrdge sd smthng bt tht smwhr.
At least a word without vowels in English

still manages to retain sense: in Korean | a character
without a vowel completely throws the balance off

—vowel harmony means sticks without stones.
Hangul looks like a catalogue of perimeters

ㅁ |ㅇ & ㅅ from which to survey & imprison ㅕㅑ
—the panopticon terrified me with its squint.

English offered an exit from those constricting symbols |
comparing dictionaries “mine’s bigger than yours.”

The volume of words in English peaked my curiosity.
The mysteries of an alien language’s deeper shades

felt like an admiral sailing into blank spaces on a map
— I cannot express the extent of my regret for that naivety.

Language is never the thing itself.
Every conversation is a fiction of sorts | especially anecdotes.

News correspondents are a good example
: they report the news just like the anchor does | the anchor could

report all of the news but then we’d likely doubt
the credibility of the reportage because there is no locale.

The same reason we take so many photographs these days
—they back us up when we are narrating the past |

they prove that we were there & thus are here
—people live a fiction but dare not admit it…

Tom Laichas: 9 Poems from “Naming the Animals”

Pleased to be publishing Tom Laichas’ poems on Underfoot today.

If you have poems you think we’d be interested in, check our submission details & get in touch with either me or Tim.

Underfoot Poetry

Named and Nameless

In the midst of the naming, the boy asks: What’s your name?

The Voice remembers: years in the future, others will ask this question. The reply is the same: I am what I am.

The boy: That’s not an answer. We’re all what we all are, nameless or no.

The Voice: But it’s you who must come when called.

Hers & His

Once torn apart, the two freshly skinned bodies take the names given to them. The boy takes one name and the girl another.

They learn the words I and mine.

It will be easy to swallow the fruit.

The girl wonders aloud: what name would I take if the verses hadn’t spoken first?

About his own name, the boy says nothing. He thinks: it has been mine all along.

The Seasons

That first week, all the seasons tumble…

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Marie Marshall (3 Poems)

Very glad that my 1st act as Underfoot’s new guest editor, is to publish a handful of Marie Marshall’s poems (no relation).
Put succinctly, Marie Marshall is the bee’s knees, legitimately one of the finest poets i have discovered during my forage of the Internet, finest poet FULL STOP. Never a word wasted nor misused, never a thought wanting, always impossible to anticipate, & at times full of humour; Marie is my kind of poet. Enjoy.

To read more of Marie’s work go here, spend the afternoon, put a pot of coffee on, set a plate of biscuits, maybe, a mix of Garibaldi & Custard Creams.


marie marshall

Underfoot Poetry


The river’s in constant re-set mode,
sighting by its hand against the banks
what’s up and what’s down. It has
the tattoo of the sky in its eye. Two
girls, leaning against the wall, ignore
it, choosing instead to contemplate
hills and the warmth of each other’s
shoulder, but each has plashed puddles
that have (since) closed up, that eye
winking out. The river’s voice is
understated, catch some in a bucket
and it’s abated. Call by to see brother
Perch in his green-and-silver suit, to
maintain a plastic pot for washing
your brushes, to extract and filter.
Renew! The sun turns you to molten
copper. The river’s dare is born of
hills and ephemeral daymare tails.

from Potty Poetry
(a handful of poems printed on cards and left in the toilets at Burning Man 2016)

We met right here,
but this is no sleazy…

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