Onanism

A poem from Yoon Yong. I had a debate in the pub the other week about onanism. I have a theory that the violence of men, may have its root in onanism: in one onanistic act, a man lays waste on a rag, to an entire population. Dylan Thomas was concerned with this. So is Yoon Yong.

 Onanism
 
…Reclined | tensing in the shallow relief of the sofa
his unimpressive prick in his left hand |
 
tugging it like a monk feeding prayer beads through
his pious fingers | the girl on girl porn panting
 
out of the Apple Mac—it tickled her
how he tucked it away quickly & closed the laptop lid
 
getting up to greet her with a peck on the cheek
& mumbling something quickly
 
“…about going out for dinner in Itaewon—pasta?”
I wonder if he just likes the one kind of porn |
 
is it habit & if he looks for women like me?
Mom called me when she found “sex magazines”
 
in her brother’s room.
Panicky as only our mother is she called | not sure what her
 
“duty to the situation” was— should she tell
the father | or have a private talk with her son
 
about the immorality of “touching yourself” | even
though she knows nothing about it
 
—this is what happens when no-one talks &
the “unspoken rule of thumb” is the solution
 
to taboos in polite society: no one
has the foggiest idea what to do…

Library by the sea—Geumneung Village

As promised, more from Yoon Yong.

 Library by the Sea— Geumneung Village
 
…An outdoor library with little wooden cubes
painted in shades of the sea & glass doors that hold 2 or 3 books
 
—sand | pomegranate red & grass | 
the glass doors with smooth wooden knobs
 
& little bronze hasps | handmade chairs to sit & watch the sea
—Biyang island like a turtle | drinking sun.
 
Yoon Yong’s in Geumneung Village reading
a copy of Wordsworth’s Complete Works
 
—I couldn’t find my stride with English poetry | yes
I know the cadence of the iamb when it runs
 
but never felt its natural measuring of speech.
“The cloying decorum like a William Morris showroom”
 
as Dr. Stiles put it | fell on my deaf ears.
To me it sounded like a mechanized fuck
 
: the man on top plowing away
while the woman takes
 
“a pounding for king & country”
—the continuity of man breasting for Homo Spiritus…
 

Appearances

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


Appearances
 
…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…”

Nostalgia

Yoon Yong.

Nostalgia
 
…The morning news buzzing in the background...
—Her father stopped reading the newspaper
 
when his sight grew dim.
She liked to see him read: she felt in good hands |
 
that her father could guide her.
She tried to replicate the paper’s cackle
 
with other materials—my own onomatopoeia
—when she played grown-ups.
                           
Seldom would her father give the newspaper
as a prop— when he did | she kept
 
it till it wore to shreds.
He uses a tablet which comes nowhere close
 
to producing the same
authority & distinction…

It must be the final day

Yoon Yong wakes into her final day on Jeju Island. This isn’t the last of the series, but it’s coming.

 It must be the final day
 
…At dawn | the magpie matinee | oriole | finch | white eye |
starling | wren & sparrow shaking the air | the thick brush
 
& the weak light of the garden.
If someone wrote a poem about my life
 
I hope they’d never make me a Romantic.
Perched in a bay tree | 2 starlings | their heads pivot
 
like a teetotum “on its last legs.”
Their raspy eeks rattle dew from the leaves
 
which glaze a low wall—somebody left their washing out
tethered with shining spider webs.
 
Moisture & immature sun light.
Could I know myself better from this picture…?

The dilemma of loving a child

Yoon Yong is edging closer to the end now. Just so you know, hagwons, in Korea, are privately run academies, which children attend as well as school. They are largely English academies, however there are math, science & art hagwons too. They fill a void school’s cannot fill due to the Korean school system not being arranged in levels of ability as they are (or were) in England, where students are placed in groups suitable to their ability. In Korea all abilities are put together in the hope that every student has the same opportunity. However, what this means is the level is set lower than a proportion of students, who just get bored. So hagwons challenge them & enable improvement. You must have money to send kids to good hagwons. It illustrates status & good hagwons can provide students a higher level of proficiency than their class mates at school, mother’s with a social milieu, teachers with jobs & business owners with a competitive though often profitable venture. In short, there are tons of hagwons.

 The dilemma of loving a child
 
…My daughter must be taught to be an individual
—I can’t bear the thought of her becoming mechanized.
 
Little Sarang bashing at an iPad & squealing
as chunky characters pop & parade | singing nonsensically.
 
She must suffer for it like me—then I’ll love her.
She’ll succeed in being unique.
 
Is it not a life of agony to be an exile in your own culture?
Dual heritage will marginalize her perhaps
 
—her English will be naturalized
which will elevate her above all the other kids.
 
That’ll irritate all the fuddy-duddy stuck-up girls
I knew in high school | who now make-up
 
their daughters like princesses. 
I won’t get those exorbitant hagwon bills.
 
She’s already on top. We are individuals against our will.
The democracy of character the cult of personality.
 
The Falun Gong of I
—our organs gauged out like a trowel foisting up a root.
                          
Beaten for blood to test the resilience of our bone & muscle
by truncheons of our own making
                                  
—our leader AWOL overseas | with a permanent Visa
& eating well | living in luxury while
 
slowly | in  pain we lose bits of ourselves
physically & then (after terms of endurance) mentally…
 

Her daughter Sarang (Love) appears in a dream

Finally pulled my thumb out & turned my computer on. So many books to read. Here we have Yoon Yong, mothering doubtfully, exposing her flaws through the flesh she has produced, as the image she produces in her dream. The biological aspect through the child image, becoming psychological to tell the identity where it falls into error. Something like that. I may have got mothering, feminism, love, dream, psychology, all of it wrong, but I could only persevere with the direction I felt, in essence, the most interesting for Yoon Yong as a fiction. Where I fall into error I have my intuitions, but I’d be more than pleased to be pointed out where else.

Her daughter Sarang (Love) appears in a dream
 
…“How many died of preventable ailments
because of a belief in transcendentalism?”
 
Her daughter with an adult’s voice
exposing flaws explaining where I steered myself wrong
 
what I could have done better | differently
—euphemisms | apothegms she couldn’t possibly know
 
at her young age—I scribbled notes but…
the pen contained only UV ink.
 
Motherhood is impossible | I worry continually
: I don’t want my Love to grow up to be someone I hate.
 
Everyone says “it just comes to you | it’s natural.”
I kept telling myself to love
 
this jaundiced looking ball of wool
& rolls of skin that cackled like a pocket radio.
 
The primitivism of it suckling hungrily at my swollen nipple
—I wanted to perform the ritual so badly
 
but it made clear to me how tainted | how cosmopolitan I was
: breast feeding repulsed me | it felt so animal.
 
Gravid | I pictured my belly’s contents
lift me out my life like a blimp filled with helium & confetti |
 
rousing me from my apathy like smelling salts |
out my very self—climbing | climbing out | skyward.
 
I couldn’t stomach Korean food during my pregnancy |
not even the postpartum seaweed soup rich in iron |
 
the olfactory idiom & lilting made me nauseous
—I craved quiche or omelet | anything yellow… 
 
 

Two poems ‘Brixham Triptych’ & ‘Nightmare in a Hyperobject’ up as ‘Supplementary’ over @The High Window

Thanks to David Cooke for taking these two very different, very new poems; one written in December while I was in Brixham over Christmas & the other written only a week or so ago. Accompanying the poems are a few hundred words of explanatory prose on the hyperobject, a term I use in the poem Nightmare in a Hyperobject, an eco-poem borrowing terms from contemporary ecological philosophy. All can be read here.

The revolution was televised

Still a bit to go from the Yoon Yong poems. 

The revolution was televised
 
…The protest to impeach Park Geun-hye on those cold December nights
when the people cupped LED candles for “moral warmth”
 
& made Gyeongbokgung resemble a map
of the observable universe circumscribed with its own light
 
—it was then I felt the will of a collective |
the will moreover of Koreans to better themselves.
 
Our ancestors looked on us & encouraged
our behaviour | our rebellion against the absurdity
 
of a leader who puts Botox | Viagra
& Shamanism ahead of her people’s welfare.
 
My disappointment was palpable when
after all the work of protest was done
 
people just went off to eat fried chicken
& drink beer. I don’t know what I expected
 
but not that
—I joined them…

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.