April in Seoul

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

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

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

Crossing the Yellow Sea for Seoul

i made a trip to the mainland by ferry the other day to make an Ikea run for our new pension. Though being inside Ikea literally makes me feel like i’m being crucified while a crow pecks at my viscera, i at least had an opportunity to take some photos of the ferry & Seoul— gotta make the best of a skull numbingly dull situation such as any situation involving Ikea.
The ferry gave me ample chance to use the windows for reflection-shots & people were pretty off guard. In Seoul i was only interested in the buildings, as they provoke so varied a response in me & in people generally, but i was so busy in Seoul i didn’t have much of a chance to take as many photos as i’d have liked.
On returning i haven’t been all that well, the schedule was a bugger, having to sleep in a public room over night, next to snoring ajeossi & then having to cook breakfast for a full house as soon as i got back; plus, Seoul’s overbearing noise & pollution always does a number on me— i don’t know how human beings have come to develop a tolerance for thriving in cities, they are vile places. i am on the mend now after walking down by the sea & drinking in some sea air. Enjoy the fruits of my 2 day trip.

Argus Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

begin in Seoul

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

begin in Seoul

하나 : Seoul’s nervous system

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

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

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

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

둘 : subway soliloquy

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

셋 : a short nocturne

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

넷 : the one who sees gods

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

다섯 : bird in a bee hive

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