Showing posts from 2005

So long and thanks for all the soju ...

Well, the time has come to cease talking of many things, to stop going to PC Bangs, to pack up my bags and head for different places, to leave behind many happy and strange memories of my time here. It is hard to believe that four months ago I arrived in Seoul in the middle of summer, and that now this city is goign through its coldest December in a century. How much has changed, both for me personally and in the world in general during that time. How people have grown older, or younger. People I will never see again. Parts of me I will never know again. Stop me before I get too sentimental. But let me just say, one thing I will really miss is my Korean phone with its ringtone, these lines from "The Girl From Ipanema":

Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes - ah ...

I still have some poems to finish (especially my planned epic ode to Starcraft) but I think I will post them on my home page instead. For fi…

For you ...


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imaginary cities: vorti --

<------ A city of terminals. << This city with no streets but networks of amputated limbs. << City of burnt grass and black limousines. << Go back to Basi. << Lost city of the broken draft, Cadu is a pile of turnips rotting in the moonlight, begging for a trundle. << Autumn in the city of snow-stolen leaves. << Downtown in the city of greige skylines: muskrats grope for cinnamon oranges in the shadows of a giant air-conditioning outlet. << City of sleepy subways and swift downstrokes. << City of miniature cities, laid out on lawns like picnic lunches, skyscrapers made from sweetstuffs, syringes for telecommunications towers, lights blinking away the loneliness of miniature people gazing up at the stars. << City of warm breaths and gentle men. << Sister city of the radiant golden hair. << City of incompatible systems, apocalyptic notations and superannuated evangelists. << City of riotous dance halls and movies …

PC Bang Signage (55)


imaginary cities: viva --

Viva! Page not found. Viva! City of marshall arts. Viva! Grape soda. Viva! Song lyrics spread from mouth to mouth. Viva! Your mouth, my lips. Viva! Trouble girl. Viva! City of endless planes. Viva! The angel of hips. Viva! Snowy boots. Viva! Timpani. Viva! Pansori. Viva! Ko Un. Viva! Hiddink. Viva! Holland. Viva! Pa ra pa pa pum. Viva! Namsan. Viva! Bukhansan. Viva! Hongdae. Viva! Seventies record collections. Viva! The hiss and pop of vinyl. Viva! Dancing boys. Viva! Moriapo. Viva! Mokochukcha. Viva! Demilitarised bones. Viva! Hangul carved from snow on the rear window of a white car. Viva! Strangely addictive. Viva! Isaac. Viva! I love PC Bang. Viva! Squat toilet. Viva! Navy Seal. Viva! Captain of Pirates. Viva! JSA. Viva! Old Boy. Viva! Starcraft. Viva! Bulguksa. Viva! Sansachun. Viva! Comfortably nunchukka. Viva! Imaginary kitties. Viva! Quiny. Viva! Perpetual reconstruction. Viva! Visa run. Viva! Alien identification. Viva! Professors. Viva! Lost in translation. Viva! Zero transm…

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imaginary cities: toxi --

City of organisms. City of organs. City of tissue. Organisms that change shape depending on the flow of traffic. Organs that thump and glow, in time with the jingling of beggars in the aisles. Tissue that blows in the wind and is mistaken for snow, finally alighting upon a loudspeaker. City of poisoned organisms pelting streetwalkers with shame, bludgeoned in turn by firehoses and backdrafts. City of poisoned organs that sing songs about the girl who was supposed to be here yesterday, with just the faintest taste of Christmas carols. City of poisoned tissue, readable in the grey cheeks of strangers, interpreted by the buzz lights of the underpass, irretrievably cold. City of organic organs and hipster drills, banshee wails and coo-eyed blubber, wilting on the footpaths and draped across the bridges, inviting guests to their strange womb-like corps. City of organ tissue sandblasted and bent, rent from the chaos hole of delirium and banged up on newsprint and grape soda. City of tissue …

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imaginary cities: tena --

City as weary as a tree that cries leaves. City on the edge of hopelessness, on the duckboard of despair. The pathos of a rushed existence, coupled with an addiction to shuffling. Manacled to the winter sun-dial, I tripped upon a field of transparent snow. Windows were curtained, dogs barked all night at the makkolli moon. Rubbish bins filled with mysteries and secrets. The scent of a cigarette smoked by the man in the dark overcoat walking ahead of you in the lane. The irresistible soundtrack of dance music bleating from the stacks parked out the front of discount stores. City of sock stalls. Orange tents that could be situated on a battlefield, soup kitchens for the passing crowds. Fatty fish spirals on skewers, paper cups filled with machine broth, its clouds like sheets of white mist that hit the face, drunk. Balloons kissing ceilings. Background noise on handphones, the tinny voices of disconnected souls. Sweet city, I will miss the memory of your hand in my pocket. I will miss y…

Check me out in the Korea Times!

I'm very excited to say that there's an article in today's issue of English language newspaper The Korea Times that profiles my PC Bangs project here in Seoul. You can read the article online here.

Big thanks to journalist (and artist) Bridget O'Brien, who definitely has a love of poetry (boy, is that a nice change!) and to photographer Kim Hyun-tae who managed to make me look cool in the pic (above). So strange to be in the newspaper - it's my first feature profile ever! Zippedy doo dah!

Postscript: while this site hasn't quite been overwhelmed with hits since yesterday's article, the story has been mentioned here on the website of poet and writer Moses Iten. Yay!

Snapshots of Almost Contact

Melbourne-based new media artist, lecturer and all round soju-panda Larissa Hjorth, who is also undertaking an Asialink residency in Seoul at the Sszamjie Space, held an open studio the other night, to celebrate the completion of her "Snapshots of Almost Contact" project. Please, consider ...

Soju-Panda Eyes herself: actually, this shot was taken last month at the Sugar Bar in Hongdae but seeing as we ended up in exactly the same place the other night, there really is no difference ...

An example of the kinds of works Larissa has been creating out of the distinctive Korean fabric pattern. Steve Jobs, look and learn ...

Seoul's best-kept secret, three piece band the Whilebird Chirpings, featuring Jooyoung on keyboards, Matt on lead vocals and drums, and Bridget on lead guitar. Rumours of their imminent demise should be treated with alarm.

Bridget, an artist who moonlights as a staff reporter for the Korea Times, tries to point to a picture of her phone. Unfortunately, bein…

A Poem by my Australian Culture Students

One of the highlights of my Australian Culture classes was the series of student presentations which took place at the end of the semester. In one of the final presentations, on the topic of Australian poetry (a topic that no one was really that keen to tackle), the students (including the cute koala pictured below) broke out into song, the lyrics of which I have presented below. They also gave me a cd featuring an mp3 version of the song, which I hope to upload soon.

Aussie and we Korea

Thank you Prater for your class
Made us become Creator
oh My dear Prater.

Though I sometimes took a nap.
At least I know Phar lap.
Met I Kangaroo and oodgeroo.

No more nasty Vegemite.
I don't want another bite.
No more ABC news tonight.

Now old ANZAC wowow
Thanks for comin' at hard time.
From your land to end war crime.

As time goes by, We say good-bye.
Just one thing to remember.
We had great time from September.

Learning so far Australia
showed us who we really are.
Forever Aussie and we Korea.
Forever Aussie…

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imaginary cities: scar --

City of sadness engines and wet kindling. The tell-tale signs of tampered seals, broken message sticks and gravity defeated. Neon diodes for restless leaves. Coming to the end of a demolished line, and realising that you've left your instruments at the coup. Riots raining down like spent cartridges, with no way of telling who's abused, who's simply rumbling. Shadowed by a mallet, mimicking the sound of grisly gums. Lights explode, revealing the weird interstices between our sweaty hands. You're running. I'm bringing up the rear, like a goofy bear caught with his nose in honey. Sunsmiles, rapids and cantilever bridges. Did you bring the ordnance? Damn. Strapping incendiary clocks to our thighs, I wince in pain at the slightly radioactive buzz. Chills emanating from yesterday's snow piles. A dog whose fur is the colour of dirty snow disappears amongst the garbage, urinates and then jumps out at a passing electric vehicle. Misses. Smile, you're on planet Scar …



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Soju Glacier

soul cracked on a mountain sheet
soju warms me with glacial heat

mind snared on a toothless high
soju shoots me up into the sky

body wrapped around a sharp pin
soju heals me like rain on tin

fingers burnt by a solar flare
soju sooths me like bomb scares

eyes dimmed by the wet eclipse
soju numbs my vision & my lips

heart broken by passing times
soju thrills me with its rhymes

imaginary cities: saga --

The ajumma comes to the end of her story - the slicing of a giant onion into irregular chunks - and looks up at me as if I am about to leave. The truth is, I just sat down. She tosses the white stories into a pink plastic tub and picks up a second tale. I pick at my kim chi like it's an excuse someone's about to give me, and which I do not want to hear. But the truth is, I've heard it a thousand times before, and this time the kim chi tastes just as vinegary, just as spicy as the last one. I look up at the old man cooking pork on the little grill and mistake him for someone I once saw at my grandfather's funeral - leathery, small, beaten down by time. The truth is, I have seen him before. He's the guy who tried to shake my hand in the laneway and tickled his index finger against my palm, like a small worm against my skin. He recoils from me now, anticipating my inevitable reaction, and goes on turning the small slices of meat story. The old man looks up and sees a …

The Hanok Fields

there's another country buried here
in the ground under all this snow -

i can see it in the rice field rows
how the white flakes make them look

like the flat plane of hanok rooves
& as if some long-departed designer

(maybe even king sejong) had seen it
just this way & thought (in all of

this order i smell yin & yang merge
white moon above the dim bird below

the empty furrows coated like tiles
& here i will make my sweeping arcs

their exponential gentleness (earth
a dragon emerges every springtime to

pounce upon their ancestors' burial
mounds (but for now they too remain

cloaked in snow - like turtle shells
awaiting another frozen invasion ...

there's another country buried here
in the ground under all this snow -

i see it in the perfect hanok fields
another place for my mind to grow

Sound of Vitality

It's the sound of a whipcrack,
(whiplash on the windswept road

It's the sound of reed engines
(engine reels & carburettors

It's the sound of a small purr
(purrpure lubricants that whirr

It's the sound of exploded cans
(canplode diode transmissions

It's the sound of pine whispers
(pinepanic at the smell of snow

It's the sound of radio burning
(radiospherical planetoid buzz

It's the sound of dim mechanics
(dim stars on a shadowed orbit

It's the sound of transplants
(plantlungs panting for daylight

It's the sound of beige burrs
(burrpools rotating mindlessly

It's the sound of abstract drills
(drilldown to the rotten old core

It's the sound of puncture hums
(humdrums split like the rapeseed

It's the sound of modest tools
(foolswept into the convex blades

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Back To the Tourist III

you better run, squirrel ...

destinations detonate like
the coyote on acme or speed
my runners wear thin again
- it's time to go back to
the tourist (iii) troubles
i've seen em (stacked them
high lived them low better
clear out of this saloon &
hope a time machine comes
soon ... sitting inside a
pentagon (shooting aliens
is more fun than it looks
send home an ordinary book
hear the killer drone it's
a shoelace they've untied
forgotten homework inside
a locker full of pin-ups &
baseball pendants at home
in the brochured suburb i
took a spin in the rhyme
machine pedalling madly
just to make these hours
swim in buckets shortened
calls - the snowy breezes
& the freshly paved street
sheets of burning rubber
castle motels conventions
buses without destinations

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Some photos and poems from my Creative Writing Students

On Wedenesday I spent an enjoyable evening with my Creative Writing class, who have been a joy to teach and a lot of fun this semester. After starting out rather sedately with some pasta at "The Spoon", things rapidly went downhill, due to the ministrations of soju, baekseju, dongdongju, beer and the strange Korean energy drinks which are like pre-emptive hangover cures. I've posted some photos of the night plus a few poems written by my students using internet search engines. They wish to remain anonymous. I can say, however, that the mittens below belong to Judy.

Why am I standing here?

Why am I standing here?
I am standing here for election as a councillor
Pleased and honored as deputy
For the Parish of the Castel with which
I have a great affinity and where
I would intend to continue living.

Why am I standing here?
I am standing here to see my broken heart.
Yet her soul hasn’t been completely gone
I am waiting to see the way she will turn around
And break my heart.

Why am I stan…

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imaginary cities: rau --

There was a trumpet somewhere but it was tarnished and could only play the theme from F-Troop. There was a drum but it got broken when someone I once knew drove a fork through it, just for something to do. There was a guitar but three of its strings were missing and noone took me seriously enough to play it. There was a harmonica but it fell in the bath and I left it there to rust. There was a flugel horn but you should ask my sister what happened to it, that day at the performance. There was a triangle but it decided to go to Bermuda for a holiday and, strangely, was never heard from again. There was a bass but it got confused with a US Army installation and was arrested for some trifling offence. There was a keyboard but I used it to write things on my computer and it ended up not being able to produce any sounds at all except for the cowbell. There was a saxophone but that went out of fashion in the 1980s along with shoelace ties and pointy black boots. There was a harp but it got …

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Snow Grocer

sits amongst his wares facing
     a heater shaped like a fan with
no blades absorbing radiant heat
     like sun ra soaking up a cosmos

     with white gloves & thin white
hair he sits & laughs every time
     I try to guess what he just said
eg how much to pay for makkolli &

then one day he says eh tonight -
as if he knows what I am
thinking - how these skies look
     pregnant with ice, both of us

     smiling and laughing - tonight!
only it doesn't snow, not tonight
     or any other night this week but
still i trudge on down to him &

ask tonight snow? at which he
     shrugs or laughs or both yes,
tonight, snow
then i realise
     he's been speaking in english

     for days & it hasn't snowed &
then in the dead of last night
     it fell down gently, like a rain
of makkolli on the hanok roof

& i thought about how quiet it
     was & how the sound of snow is
like a human breath on a window
     or footsteps on the world's head

First Snow!