Idleness, a dog’s lot

The Rock (not the muscle-headed Hollywood Rock who doesn’t perform his own stunts but looks hard like he does) in T.S. Eliot’s play explains,

The lot of man is ceaseless labour,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.

Now assuming idle here isn’t a play on idol—which, with a lit-crit cone on my head I’d argue it almost, incontestably, must be—I get this, really, in a knuckling way, a dig in my plexus; especially the difficulty of idleness, especially when the idleness in question breeds guilt. Our 0 hour contractors would surely agree with that about ‘irregular labour’ too, I haven’t met any of them, but they must, mustn’t they?

I am idle. Yes, idle. It isn’t my fault, I don’t think so anyway, I won’t take that slap in the gob. My routine is a binge of uncertainty. I wake early, read (a sort of reading. I re-read most of the lines) whilst my attention is drugged by the early morning roster of horrible American sitcoms, fuzzy and warm, a safety net cueing us when to laugh, the correct level of laugh-intensity, so we fit in—how else would we know otherwise? Every fibre of my snobbish taste rebels against the magnanimous push to be involved.

Why my dad watches these I just don’t know, they are bloody awful. One features the archetypal fat guy, who inflects his sentences, a cue for us to be hysterical, in the present tense. His wife is gorgeous of course, which dismantles the reality of the aesthetic pecking order, when, we ugly people have expended enormous energy accepting the bottom-tier ranking genetics plugged us in.

There is 24hour news to cheer me up. I am become an inveterate consumer of all news. I’ll even stomach the berating tactics of the indefatigable Piers Morgan, God bless him and his uncompromising, style (?). Actually, the way that he is programmed entertains me immensely.

Despite the exorbitant sum of money Susanna Reid receives for stomaching the patriarchal knob rash that is Piers Morgan, I can’t help but pity her. She can hold her own of course, she’s probably got a PhD in political science for all Piers might know. If you watch carefully, as I have inevitably begun to do, you can see her gnawing through her bottom lip when he folds his arms, gathers himself and starts to expound; sure she’ll draw blood one day. The live, brutal bludgeoning with a stiletto at 7:30 a.m. of Morgan, will be a good day for women, and I for one will rouse from my idle stupor and petition Reid’s release.

The irony of this idleness is multifoliate.

First of all, looking for work these days seems to encourage idleness. I went to a local agency in town the other day & they had one job: a warehouse packer, part time, night shifts. Everything being done online, you find gob-shite jobsites, upload CV, scroll lists of a billion menial jobs you could do standing on your head, despite being worded in such a fashion as to make them sound impossible to do, and with a single click you have applied. There is endless disappointment when you look at a job for laboring only to see you need a special permit; or gardening or even data input, where you need a special qualification—as if you need a special dispensation by some ruling-body to be slow-roasted with boredom. This goes on until you start to feel disorientated, vomit in your mouth a little, collapse with such force on your keyboard a key lodges under your eyelid—what follows is rage, panic & a visit to the NHS, where a nurse will tell you off for wasting resources & time.

I cannot adequately express in English how soul-crushing a task this is. The inexorable sadness of it makes me loath our systems, which have infiltrated this process because of the encouragement we tacitly approve via our reception to convenience.

My father has always been a hard worker. It is etched into our family’s moral compass. I agree with it. Yet I can’t help but think that idleness is really something I need to explore, something that might actually need to be more encouraged in society.

I often hear people whine about work, but then before they’ve exhaled, they’ll admit how it halts any uncomfortable thoughts, helps them regulate what simmers beneath the surface of themselves: an existential crisis. Thinking is a terrible thing. This is a limit of consciousness, so people think. It is easier to complain about doing something you don’t want to do consciously or otherwise, than it is being left to be conscious of one’s human frailties. I think there is a certain idleness to be scared or unwilling to participate in your own humanity. We are estranged from animals because of our thinking, to sacrifice this for repetition is to fear the immense complexity and duty to being aware of ourselves. The irony is, the idler is potentially more inclined to this pit of existential waywardness than the hive-minded and duteous.

People (those bloody people) these days, often ask me what I will do with myself now. I have explained my plan to do my MA, then to work toward a PhD. Explaining that PhD’s are funded, has on numerous occasion provoked an outcry: “Why do I have to fund you reading books?” Some, more than makes me comfortable, think PhD’s are funded through taxation. Terrifying isn’t it. As far as I am aware, PhD’s are funded through universities or by businesses. It isn’t the taxpayer’s burden. (Brief aside: these same people forget the miniscule amount of the British budget that goes to people out of work, most of the money for the benefits budget, goes towards pensions, some 100 odd billion.)

Ironic then that that which un-idles us establishes idleness in other areas, areas essential to our development as human beings. Therefore, it takes a daring escape into idleness, to go without the securities afforded by employment, in order to work on yourself. Eliot was onto something, who’d have thought? Because of societal resistance to this, few people are afforded the luxury of being inveterate readers, having hobbies that involve training oneself to be proficient at an art or in studious pursuits. It is in the interest of those that structure society to demonize such pursuits. I think I half believe this, I mean I don’t really think our overlords demonstrate a keen enough intellect to sully our efforts to, get smart. I do still think this was why Gove said what he said about nobody wanting to listen to experts, and why education is no longer hailed as the cornerstone-decision of every school leaver. Plenty of statistics have been produced on how much more money non-graduates are paid than graduates—Google it. What is never remarked, is how little a properly educated person really wants. Maybe I am sheltered by my own requirements and a few I know, who manage with so little and while not exactly happy, probably wouldn’t  trade what they have figured out for flash cars and holidaying twice a year. Puerile aren’t we. Daft. Stubborn. Doomed to a life of misery, to be sexless, saggy, ugly, useless: human.

It is complicated. Everything is. Idleness simplifies. While I am not open to an extended period of doing nothing, I will try to make the most of my current idleness. Everyone’s doing something, a lot of those doers are making a right pig’s ear of what they do, I don’t see how it can hurt to just stop being a doer for a while and watch what’s going on.

There is in idleness the sensation of feeling invisible; I could do with disappearing for a while.

New Year, new poem up @Riggwelter Press

Happy New Year. Going to refrain from repeating my message from last year (something about not celebrating the passage of precious time).

I find myself this year, back home after 8 years living in Korea, teething in my own culture & wondering what the future has in store. This period of adjustment is challenging & those who follow this blog will understand what I have given up to return to England. My departure from Korea was sad, it just felt like time to move on. I suppose somewhere within myself, an ordeal felt like a peculiarly logical step; which I have John Berryman to blame for.

My decision to leave didn’t make leaving any easier, parting from my ex-wife was very upsetting, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment having to leave her after so many trials & experiences together. Parting from the guesthouse was also difficult, a place I built myself, put a great deal of energy into establishing & making sure it functioned; but also a home. I am glad my ex-wife will continue to run it & I can go back to visit in the future.

Moving on, this poem @RiggwelterPress is hopefully a harbinger of a year of publications in such quality journals & more besides.

I hope all are well with hopes for the coming year.


Remembering the day she discovered Kim Seung-hee (time?)

…The same day my period began
I discovered the poet Kim Seung-hee.
I happened on the book at lunch in the library
attracted by the title Life Inside an Egg

which me & a friend chuckled 
about because we'd had eggs for lunch

& because we knew a rumour that one of the girls
in the library had an abortion we didn't understand.
I skipped mathematics
to hide in a cubicle | sobbing as much
through my panties as my eyes.
Why hadn’t anyone told I’d bleed like this?
The cozy | walled interiority of childhood
bulldozed & the austerity of adulthood cusping me.
A teacher found me truant. I rebel-sulked their anger & disappointment
“Young girls who pay attention to such nonsense
turn into spinsters without prospects.”
It was a bi-lingual translation | I was as rapt
by the English as by the strength of Seung-hee
to mock the nonsense on TV & puzzle the interiors of eggs.
The teacher paid no mind to my cheeks blush-tracked with tears.
That’s the mentality of an all-girls school
with a religious chip on its shoulder
—it commands your attention while filling the air with ghosts….

Yeongsil hiking trail (1:12 p.m.)

The above pic is not from Yeongsil Trail, but Donnaeko Trail, which is connected. The pic captures a hazy view of Seogwipo, the 2nd, other, southern city of Jeju. Donnaeko is, for roughly 6km a steep path, sheltered by dark umbrage most of the way—you suddenly come out of the trial & are met with this stunning vista.  Just down this lush trail is a graveyard. A decent days hike, is  to ascend Yeongsil, coming round the head of Halla (Baengnokdam, which you need to hike another trail to see into & thus see its dish). Yoon Yong doesn’t go to Baengnokdam, but she would know that it holds a lake, with access restricted to the public & not even a conceivable route down. She would be more than capable of making the dish analogy—it’s a well-known sight to all Koreans, even if they’ve never hiked the Seongpanak or Gwaneumsa Trails to Baengnokdam.   (Below is a photo of Yeongsil, pretty much the opposite end of the featured image.)

Yeongsil hiking trail (1:12 p.m.)

…Baengnokdam is a dish left in the rain |
a cloud rummages through its feelings lent to the earth

: the hike up Yeongsil trail is worth the energy & time
for the perspective & view of Seogwipo city.

An 1hr & ½ to the shelter | people enjoying Baengnokdam’s facade
eating ramen | rice cake | drinking bottles of rice wine.

Alone | Yoon Yong eats melon & swigs a tin of beer.
She sits & watches society in miniature | in exile

from their usual selves & functioning better for the parallax
—they look so innocent | carefree animals.

After all we are still animals.
Sun frills in the rim of her can |

jetsam of shine—antumbra: rumour.
From Donnaeko trail on the way down | there’s

a graveyard | with Seogwipo city behind it then the sea |
the headstones like dominoes & the small mounds

that hold the dead like supine | pregnant women
—death provides everything | I want a good death

: everything we do is from our fear of death
—money for quality | health for longevity & words for immortality.

To waste time is a contemporary sin.
“It’s relative y’know | just think about that for a moment…

…Anything learned is stubbornly resistant to being
rehashed by outside interference | to a source

of information from another ego challenging
the value of what the other knows

: it was time spent become a debt to the biological clock
which must be repaid | exactly…”

—A barter for time is energy & energy is bartered time.
“Who said that?” I did.

For every question a library of answers.
Right & wrong are just the binary solutions—we’ve others.

No matter the rise of the machine | our mechanisms are not
1s & 0s nor do they fit on the sides of a coin…probably…


[Update, apology & then…]: Jeju Airport (8:56 a.m)

My online presence, has reduced significantly, I feel. I’d just like to offer an apology for not being more involved in other peoples’ writing; something I really enjoy engaging with. I am, as well as working 7 days a week sheltering tourists & feeding them, working on a collection of short stories, which is constellating in the forefront of my mind: their anxieties, movements, conversations— right there playing out, too quick for me to keep up with. As well as this I am thinking about reviews for 2 poets (you know who you are—things are happening); then of course poems don’t let up throughout all this activity, I have no control over their arrival. I am also, owing to recently taking to Twitter, finding many journals to submit to & have increased my submitting activity significantly. Then, reading, which is my entertainment. I am currently reading Notes from the Underground (again) alongside Nietzsche’s The Gay Science & I swear it is as if they complete each others sentences. I hope, perhaps after I have polished off some of the above, to write some incisive, multiple short pieces on these correlations as they turn up. I am just underlining & producing marginalia for future use at the moment; always a useful habit to get into.
So busy & apologetic (but pleased with so much activity) & here I’ll conclude with the next poem from the Yoon Yong set.

Jeju Airport (8:56 a.m)

…The Plane lands! The carousel | luggage
—people rushing to the toilet

—people rushing into the Malbok heat | to meet
placards | hand written names | strangers

who know each other from a phone call or email
—men in suits | importance-posture

as if each step were a spike in their profit margins
hiking up pecuniary scatter graphs

—& taxis | hire cars | mopeds humming in designated areas
—people sipping lattes | coffee | more like brown crayons

dissolved in skin-blisteringly hot water
—check-in | schedules & tickets— the flapping of digits

on digital boards | so much attention to time
in the business of tourism— the steady erosion of authenticity

even as they seek authentic experience.
Weather dense as granny’s fruit cake |

Halla Mountain barricaded behind breeze blocks of moisture.
The exoticism of palm trees | still | in this heat |

their previous incarnations |
parched rungs up slow-retting trunks.

I need a new hat: the weave came undone.
I need a Toothbrush & Tampons—Taxi?

“You’re not going to walk all that way alone
in this weather? | look at it…”

Nietzsche’s questionnaire

Nietzsche concludes book III (268-275) of The Gay Science by posing 8 questions to himself & answering them. I found, answering them as if they were philosophically incentivized Rorschach blotches, quite revealing.
I prepared this post yesterday, it was my father’s birthday, so I sent him the questions to answer, to find out something about himself; no better day to have something of yourself revealed to you on the day you were born, right? I wish more people considered such a gift for me.

Here are the questions with my answers, I encourage you to share your own answers in the comments, & make this post more interactive, which is my intention—indulge me, for Nietzsche’s sake.

What makes one heroic? Not being tempted by convenience.

In what do you believe? That the content of character improves with the impartial harvesting of ideas, for ideas sake.

What does your conscience say? First let me wake it…it sleeps so heavily…it says… just a moment…”YOU ARE HUMAN & STILL NOT ENTIRELY AWARE OF IT. WHY?

Where are your greatest dangers? In the guilt that I deserve for the correction of other people’s ongoing errors, committed blindly.

What do you love in others? That they are capable of persuading themselves unexpectedly.

Whom do you call bad? Those who are courted by a single emotion or idea & make a passion & persona out of it.

What do you consider most humane? To listen without the urge to reply.

What is the seal of liberation? To not be ashamed to be seen with your Self.

Irena Hergottova (7 Poems)

  1. Thrilled that I was able to encourage Irena to submit to us, she is a poet with a rare insight on her lived perspective as a woman, wife, mother, migrant & humanitarian.
    Please, please, please encourage Irena to write more, she’s really very good at it & needs people to tell her, to give her the confidence to do it as much as possible, for my sake, think about me dear readers, I want more to read from Irena.

Thanks for reading & see our submissions page if you are interested in submitting, we are always open to submissions from emerging writers, hidden, shy writers & the cream of the crop. We don’t care where you are in your career, we want the best, we want poems that reveal, expand, incise with insight, boldly baffle, poems impossible to predict but speak to our deeper senses of understanding, the poems from everyone to everything, the poems of our climate, clippered with lillies & speak out the kindling as they rage on the pyre.

Underfoot Poetry

Nothing of Me on the Moon

The moon where I live
sucks up all darkness,
it’s a pond upside down.

The moon that I know
casts a circle of brightness,
a Chinese lantern in the sky.

Like a pot of honey never falling,
she just sits there, waiting for my glance.

I no longer ask such questions as
what’s the air like, is there noise?

I am happy sitting near the window
resting my eyes on the distant ball of stone.

I narrow my view—does she ever wonder,
am I a blot of blood, a stubborn stain
or just a fleeting interest
with a shimmering spotlight,
a random puppet
positioned in a frame…?

In the blink of an eye, everything’s forgotten,
there is nothing of my presence imprinted on the Moon.

An ocean that no one sees,
drops of rain falling on its surface at night…
I mean the sea…

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Flicking through the channels with Pa

i understand people may not understand, perfectly, the language used, it is written using the intonations of my home town of Cannock, back in England, which has a peculiar idiom. It is English, but somewhat truncated, due to a mix of lunacy & bad genes. But there is melody there & i thought it might be an interesting exercise for readers to make of it what they will from the context & sound.

Flicking through the channels with Pa

(A night much like any other, bored & skint a son sits with his remote-control-hogging father who flicks through the channels like a slow motion metronome, never able to make a decision, never watching anything but menu bars, for hours at a time. There’s never anything on.)

Son: “If you don’t just put something on I am going to make you eat that remote | starting with the batteries.”
Pa: “Pick summ’t theeennnnnn!”
Son: “I told ya | anyfin’—there The Secret Life of Animals.”
Pa: “Wot d’ya wonna know ‘bout that toss for?”
Son: “I fink the more cogent question Pa | is why wouldn’t I wanna know their secrets?”
Pa: “Well seems a load o’old bollox to me | pick summat else.”
Son: “Y’am jus’ gonna do that for everyfin’ in’t ya? There Christian Sermons by Alf Person: for Enduring any Hardship.”
Pa: “Now y’m teckin the piss ay ya— the God Channel? Sod that.”
Son: “O | ow’z about the BFG film? That’s you that iz.”
Pa: “O ay yow the comedian: Big Fat Git is that it? I’m gonna look like fuckin’ Jupiter for me hols in Summer.”
Son: “D’ya mean Phill Jupitus? Y’say that ev’ry year & seem to jus’ be gerrin’ fatter. Anyway. What guz thru yer ‘ead? You tellin’ me ya dow know why y’am the BFG?”
Pa: “It has t’be summat ‘bout bein’ fat?”
Son: “Y’really dow know?”
Pa: “The anticipation is murder | tell me y’sarky git!”
Son: “Think y’can hack the jip?”
Pa: “Just spit it out!”
Son: (Smirking) “Botched Facial Gland.” (Son instantly drops to the floor clutching his stomach in a fit of laughter & Pa spits out the beer he just sipped (which the Son cunningly waited for him to drink) & also jets out a loud gurgle of laughter that would wake the Minotaur.)
Pa: “(Recovering himself) “Y’am a funny fucker sumtimez in’t ya?”
Son: “I av me moments.”

It’s sobering | to slink down the spectrum of the Absurd…

If you aren’t Absurd yet, then get to it, it’ll put everything in perspective. Thomas Nagel writes on this here, worth a read. Of course, the most well known exposition on the Absurd, is Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus, which really is a text that alters you.

It’s sobering | to slink down the spectrum
of the Absurd. “I’m gladdened with this renewal
of why that grabs my riding hand & snakes
me through the heaving traffic | no collision |
not a single slamming of brakes.”

Man the spirit-level like the TV remote.
Kick in the pelt till full of ligament & tissue
&… last of all | wad the patellar like shut clams.
Man of Life | go check the bacterial dredge
in your Petri-dish for kneaded growth…

…The people in my town | die &
are reincarnate as a bench overlooking
Scrabble® tile harvests | lamb bleated histories |
dyed through the wool stitched talk | men full
of pies | golden ale & bull-shit.

This form of metempsychosis is common
among the old who walked dogs to their graves.
If they had Ikhnaton or Nefertiti’s reach
they’d be entombed with their hound | to keep
them from a busted heart | embalming

the conscience clean
with after-thought.

Plagued by the fact & the facts of life

Near the end of Camus’ The Plague, Dr. Bernard Rieux says “But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.”
After reading this, my skin & bones, the rhythms of my organs, the coursing of my fluids, became acutely apparent to me— i realized absolutely that i am a person, an individual, part of a collective, a wider community that despite the cultural nuances & affinities that set us apart, is composed of what i am composed & capable as i am capable.
Regardless of the plainness & brevity of Rieux’s discovery, it is perhaps one of the profoundest moments in literature. It has accompanied me daily since i read it some 2 weeks hence. i actually gasped, letting out a howl of joy, after reading it. It brought me closer to something i have been incapable of formulating in words, overthinking it, i had failed to give it structure & realization, until now. It was so simple, right there in the plain reflection of the word man. By which i mean a shortening of mankind.
i couldn’t have met with it at a more critical time: i have never been more intrigued by my humanity; more thankful of the sheer unlikeliness of it.
Have you ever stopped for a moment & intuited your humanity, taken the deep measure of it & noted the absurdity of being what you are, how, where & why you are? Forgotten about the influential, ancillary by-products of our humanity: God, religion, spirituality, politics; nothing of so much dilemma or purpose; just the bare fact of your existence. What i mean by the bare fact of existence, is a co-operation of intrinsic potentials for understanding the fact of life & the facts of life, not as opposing principles of a [wo]man or Man’s characteristics, but essential ingredients in the remedying of problems.
i marvel at the fluke of it, the banal miracle of it. Maybe it takes a reader to arrive at this insight; for me literature, is the purest medium for substantiating thoughts of this caliber. Culture is after all, imminent in society & whether we know it or not, informs the method by which we can understand our place in it & our creation of it.
In The Plague Rieux & Tarrou, are stand out characters. It seems no coincidence to me that their names, though physically dissimilar, rhyme. & furthermore, rhyme with Camus. They are literary aspects of Camus: one, devoted, plain, honorable, utilitarian & the other, romantic, talkative, fanciful, mysterious. Both of them saintly in their respective aspects: one unaware of it, one all too aware & searching; both with their own methodologies.
Rieux, lives according to the fact of life, whereas Tarrou lives, in pursuit of the facts of life. One is stationary, comfortable, the other, a wanderer.
People can be categorized according to these distinctions. There are those content in the simplicity of devotion to an ideal, which can be family, career (duty or calling) or faith; & those who are unsettled, always alert to the duplicity of experience & the continuity of learning through a mixture of experience & study. Both have something of the calling about them, but they breed quite different characters.
However unalike they seem, Rieux & Tarrou have a common aim: plague.
The plague, whatever metaphorical, metaphysical or pathological form it takes requires the combination & co-operation of both the fact & facts of life. Our plague in question is not necessarily one dimensional, though it may be; it may take one, or combine numerously: it can remove us from the need of one another through suspicion or fear of infection; it can be the abuse of power, to profit from catastrophe, to cause catastrophe for personal gain; the application of punishment in unequal measure to wrongdoing or the punishment of God or nature; it can be minor or major misunderstandings; the inability to love or an overwhelming need to love at all costs; it can be ignorance of your & by extension, others’ humanity—in short, it can be any problem.
There is no use surmounting a problem, without something to live for on the other side. This usually works in tandem to fill a gap left open by the problem. We may survive a terrible illness due to the skill of virologists & doctors, but it is the support, love & friendship of those around us, that give the survival meaning. This is Cottard’s major problem: he has no purpose, he is desperately in need of the Absurd, or simple human contact, which he gets from plague & which he didn’t have before plague. In tackling plague, it is more formidable a problem if the fact or the facts of life, go it alone— they must unite, & advise each other as Rieux & Tarrou, do so succesfully.
Rieux & Tarrou as archetypes of Camus, puts me somewhat in mind of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, for me, a crowning moment in man’s insight about himself.
“1. Man has no body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five sense, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.”
To make the link to Camus, i’d say Rieux is the Body & Tarrou the Soul; Camus, the Energy & Reason. i suppose Northrop Frye would say this link is inevitable owing to the template of myth featuring & structuring all literature.
There similarity in character strikes me too: they were both consistent in their goals & pure in character: working & reasoning for the betterment of people. They were concerned with people & did their utmost to reform society, while simultaneously informing it.
The archetypes are not separate however, there distinction is made only when we anatomize the whole man, using a sort of mythopoeia to dissect in order to understand & formulate strategy, to counter ruination or plague. What i mean is, knowing the function & category of each part in the whole, enables us to better portion out tasks for each part, so as to deliver more effect blows to the ruination or plague.
Tarrou is not a doctor & Rieux is not aware of his saintliness, but only his duty. Together they form a formidable unit to cope with both the body & the soul of the populace.
So what am i getting at? Well, don’t be, solely a mindless body, or merely a mindful soul; fail beautifully to issue yourself the character of one who divests themselves in just the fact of life, or only the pursuit, of the facts of life. Realize your humanity in its corporeality & the extension of the uniqueness of that corporeality being a capacity to think. Thinking is an extension of humanity that is not permitted an animal. An animal reacts, it doesn’t have the means to perceptively alleviate its problems or enjoy its life with the strategies enabled by the density of a consciousness that can reason, enjoy, love, perceive & more.
It seems so daft & obvious to say all this. But i bet many people haven’t considered the uniqueness of humanity & taken that they possess a unique part of it, too much for granted. This is an error & the remedy allows us to enjoy ourselves & others with greater insight & intensity.