Boreum’s Fight with the Sea

TSomething a little different, a somewhat mythological piece, though the hero of the poem is a dog, my dog, who you may recognize from other poems of mine. i am sure many of you may know what this is a parody of.

Boreum’s fight with the Sea

At first the sea retreated. clenched
its face up crenellate, maw all molars
— Boreum flashed her canines, sun dyed
accent dripping off them. The sea whispered orders

in the ears of black-head gulls, formation! Signaled
themselves into a boomerang, which split
the sun— their beaks fixed bayonets
—nosedived kamikaze at Boreum, some speared

the scoria & billowed like tattered flags
— Boreum got out of dodge to avoid the
incoming reserve of gulls following the flops
— hoop curved rewind upward parabola

pouty pinions nipped, they stalled firm
& limbered to land. the sea sent the next trick-up-its-sleeve
commanded a light brigade of waves
—Boreum blinded by the coruscating sun in their foamy

manes— volley of pebbles, glib as katabatic wind
as solid, chewed up by their fat hooves, Boreum
in a briny, shallow crevice, waited
out that cavalry, insensate with its own aplomb.

The sea had pulled all its punches, weary
it opted to negotiate— Boreum had just one hope
: she wanted to be best pals with the sea.
From the grapple of paw & wet salt came friendship

which sailed beyond their differences. Good sea : Good dog.
Heading back home Boreum wouldn’t quiet nor
still, barking & wagging wagging & barking her
tail & tongue, for her new pal the sea.

Pagans We Are does TEDx (video inside)

so proud to call this man my friend. i’ll keep this short as there is so much inside waiting for you to learn & i should not take up your time with my praises that could fill an ocean.


This past November, I gave a TEDx talk on Jeju Island, where I’ve been documenting shamanic shrine culture for the past five years, as you well know if you follow my page. I talk about my video and photography work and the importance of preserving sacred spaces, many of which are in danger on Jeju Island as well as world wide. I made my own version of the Tedx talk because the audio of the original is not so good and some of the content was cut during the editing. Here is my version. Please share!

Text of the talk in English with Korean translation:



I have been documenting shamanic shrine worship on Jeju Island, South Korea, for the last five years. Jeju Island is a beautiful, once more remote place than it is today located about 60 kilometers south of mainland South Korea…

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unconventional birth of a tungso flute

i have quite a few stories in this vein that i have heard either from the horses mouth [Daesa-nim] or those that know the horse. i am trying to recollect them for poems. this is just one of those stories that really stands out for me.
for those who want to call bull crap on these stories you are welcome to, i nowhere state my position on the matter & nor do i think it the poet’s job to take a side— here, i am merely the impartial receptacle of such stories, which i have experienced— i reserve my judgement for my self or face to face conversations perhaps over beverages. but i don’t think i’ll have this problem with the wonderful bloggers of WordPress.

i have used rhyme in this poem, in a quite peculiar way, much of it remains concealed behind a subtle device: that of relationship— so that multiple words (at least as i see it) have something relational somewhere in the sounds of the word, so that a di or trisyllabic word such a meditation can have words with d, t or n sounds rhyming with it— & that may carry over to two or more other words, this makes for a subtle music: sort of like how Brian Wilson could tandem keys at once to create a solid melody, like he does in Wouldn’t it be Nice. i really take my cue from reading Simon Armitage’s Tyrannosaurus Rex vs The Corduroy Kid where he doesn’t exactly use this technique but he does find subtlety more to his liking, though he does use exact rhyme at times. read him, he’s good, very good.


unconventional birth of a tungso flute

i’m sure it probably began with one of those
4-D visions he’s known to get in the mirrored cube of his head
—of Dangun inspiring morale once the long exodus
from the Pamir range was concluded at Baekdusan
—his knackered caravan of followers in need
of their spirits roused— so Dangun took out his
tungso flute & blew their tired to smithereens.

without the foil wrapped idiosyncrasy of internet
to teach him how to carve a tungso flute
Daesa-nim set out for Jiri Mt in S.Jeolla province
to a bamboo forest & settled into meditation
—inquired to the forest’s collect-call-consciousness
which one of you wouldn’t mind being hacked
down— the canopy hushed… one stocky & brave agreed.

he became the torn up bamboo’s devoted pupil
— interviewed it, asking what steps need he take
to transmigrate the uprooted wood into an immortal
instrument— it whispered lessons plainly in his ear
: how to— whittle down, sand, dimension, the adequate
fahrenheit & method to scorch finger
holes that starve oxygen enough to cause a note

— right measure of varnish to cling film the wood
how to carve the lip plate to resurrect a life
of melody the weather cradles in the wet & wind.
the job done, tungso like an old man’s cane
he had to learn deliverance of notes with bated breath
—that too the tungso helped him with: seared the scores
direct into the hind of thought to plot their own path

to cracks of light like vines
in a shamans wooden shrine.


tungso (퉁소): a type of bamboo flute played horizontally rather than vertically. it is a more advanced type of flute— the danso 단소 being a more rudimentary form, like the recorder to the clarinet say. i can play danso, which says it all really.

Dangun (단군 할아버지): the mythical founder of Korea. the myth says he came from heaven & was placed on Baekdu Mt (백두산) by the father of heaven. Daesa-nim’s version is that Dangun wasn’t a mythic character but an actual man who led an exodus from the Pamir Mountains (from which civilization according to Daesa-nim sprouted) to Korea, which of course was not Korea, or rather Go-Guryeo (고구려). i heard that until the Americans arrived, Korea was called Goryeo (고려) still, but owing to American malapropism, due to mispronunciation, it became Korea. never confirmed this though, just heard it from Korean people, which is perhaps confirmation enough.

Jiri Mt (지리산): the third highest mountain in Korea. it is actually a range of mountains spanning quite a space. i never went there unfortunately, but hope to remedy this. the reason i never went is due to the time needed to really see the place, you need a full weekend, which means trying to book one of the guesthouses in the range, which fill up quickly on weekends.

S. Jeolla (전라) is a southern province of Korea, stretching to the south coast. it is a rural area know for farming, which also makes it famous for good food & drink.

봉황대 (bong hwang dae) Phoenix Pavillion

this was an actual vision/dream i had one autumn while visiting Daesa-nim some years back now. i had been guiding three South Africans around the village & up the mountain all afternoon. then i was left alone before dinner, the weather fine & my eye lids heavy, i went up to a pavillion Daesa-nim built, from which you can look down into the village below & which is parallel to Deokyu Mt. the following poem is that sleep.
it is true— an interesting coincidence or more perhaps— i am not at liberty to give a concrete explanation to the inexplicable; that is what makes it thus.
this poem has appeared here before at some point, perhaps, but i am quite fond of its imagery, which though mythic in tone, was to me at least very real, so i feel it avoids the charge of being mythological & becomes a document of an odd occurrence & so i thought to post it again.


bong hwang dae

how could i forget the day i saw a phoenix
while resting on one of the pavillions Daesa nim built.
the giant bird beak to claw in a coffin of flames,
a nuclear body snagging at the sky’s lucent blue,
gulping & belching clouds of helium & sulphur it carved around itself,
lungs like gas chambers untroubled by fumes,
it scattered sparks like particles of dust
over the furthest pine slopes of the mountain basin
each time it flapped its wings like horizontal sails.

its caw was so loud i heard glass shattering in the next town
echo through the mountain pass to where i lay
hermetically sealing my ears with finger-plugs,
apoplectic as the phoenix quickly lowered in altitude
until directly over me consuming me in its self-ignited furnace
of gaseous breath & heat— a noise stretching to the pitch
of inchoate static cackling in my brain like a Catherine Wheel.
i later told the dream to Daesa nim
of course he said, that’s the pavillion of the phoenix— bong hwang dae.

Choi Soon-sil, the “Rasputin” who Controlled the South Korean President, is no Shaman. — pagansweare

this is a recent post on what a real shaman is. if you are following the political turmoil in Korea at the moment you may be being misled that Choi Soon-sil is a shaman. here Joey Rositano whose photographs i have already introduced to you explains why she is not. please consider following him & supporting his work. he will be giving a TEDx talk at the end of November & when the video is available i will post it.

People have been suggesting over the last week that I write a post on the current presidential political scandal in South Korea and the media’s mischaracterization of shamanism. The truth is, I’m up to my armpits in TEDx preparation and don’t have much time to put together a proper post. I need to return to […]

via Choi Soon-sil, the “Rasputin” who Controlled the South Korean President, is no Shaman. — pagansweare

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

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

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