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Showing posts from October 30, 2005

imaginary cities: coni --

City of sleepy subways and swift downstrokes. City of empty apartments and overcrowded hostels. A city without inhabitants, only visitors. Disgruntled in their winter jackets, following memorised but outdated itineraries, tourists wander but do not take photographs. Information is posted on streetcorners but it has been superannuated. City of scripts and small change. Sweet rays emanating from prison blocks in the seaside suburbs, ships' lights winking off the coast. Your journey here has been for nothing - trouble follows you daily and you sleep warily at night, expecting axe attacks. The fetid air of the abandoned fish markets only serves to further intensify your unease. Flags snap in the breeze. Random parties, initiated by means of short wave radio, continue until late in the morning. Conversations are limited to a few words of introduction: name, previous location, mission. Ladders lead to the decaying overpasses, where travelling merchants set up camp. All manner of currenc…

imaginary cities: cloni --

Downtown in the city of greige skylines: muskrats grope for cinnamon oranges in the shadows of a giant air-conditioning outlet. Who can see, who can ever tell. I yawned through the catalogue of an important import-export agency and then left the quiet surrounds of the riverside precinct for the subway station. Here, one finds the computing museum, decked out in industrial grey, drab as the hair of a dead willow in the rain. Visitors may inspect the pre-orwellian desktop devices, the shining racks of digital arcana and a real-life approximation of a c21 drone factory. Dust is a major issue here, causing all sorts of outages and re-routing work, work that will never be done. Outside, in the rusted evening, I enjoyed a performance of what someone claimed was an original folk-dance, all cyber can-can and goofish pule. The faint druzzling in my ears kept me enraptured throughout the performance. I became increasingly aware of the machinations of your heart, at its terminus, waiting to exha…

imaginary cities: capa --

Autumn in the city of snow-stolen leaves. City of donkey's eggs. City of the never-sleeping conduits, of seasonal employment as a street-painter. Reporting for duty, I am issued with a broom and a facsimile of a work of art. I am told that I must re-create this work of art by sweeping selected leaves from the pavement. The wind plays havoc with my attempts to simulate Van Gogh. My swirls of sea and sky quickly become fuzzy, their edges jagged with sneaky leaf prints. By the time I have completed the outline, I must begin again. Old men interrupt their games of go to offer advice, or simply laugh. By the end of my shift I have managed to herd the offenders into a corner near a rubbish bin for disposal by my assistant. Our supervisor takes my broom and informs me that my services will no longer be needed. It's something of a relief to walk home to my one-room apartment, under the avenues of dying trees, and to kick up the leaves as I go. There will be other jobs. By winter, the …

Korean Modern Poets Association

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Last Tuesday I was invited to read some poems at a meeting of the Korean Modern Poets Association, being held at the prestigious Sejong Cultural Centre in Seoul. I'm not sure what the purpose of the reading was, although someone told me that it was National Poetry Day in Korea. In any case, I was to read one of my poems and a poem by a famous Australian poet. Beforehand, however, I met up with my friend Joseph (pictured below). Joseph has been working as a TA (teacher's aide) at Sogang this semester but is a former Navy Seal, and is now studying linguistics. I prefer to call him a scientist but he hates it when I say that. An all-round good guy.



We spent the afternoon together looking through bookshops (including Kyobo, the biggest bookshop in Seoul) and then, when we ran out of things to do, I suggested we go to a hof and get charged for the reading. Joseph drank only a few sips of his beer but I gallantly got through all of mine before visiting the impossibly small toilet (p…

imaginary cities: cadu --

Lost city of the broken draft, Cadu is a pile of turnips rotting in the moonlight, begging for a trundle. Sagacious as a small pea, its typical inhabitant wears a crown upon his head to hold his mirrors in. While the powers of the crown have been disabled, still its physical properties bear mentioning. In another forum, perhaps. Sizzling with fury, the senile old junkyard presses home its non-existent advantage, tying up loose ends and splitting dead deals. Cadu has all the bonhomie of a prune. The days here are like auctions, randomly-announced, building towards their voyeuristic climax and then suddenly passed in, with an enormous boom from the thunder mallet of darkness. All of this has been written before. Only the names, places, dates, events and outcomes have been changed, to ensure the originality of our infinite oblivion. Even the end is intimate, here. Swallow the fermented juices of a sting-inducing weed, then bellow at the dogs waiting for scraps of conversation. Wheels? Wh…

imaginary cities: basi --

Go back to Basi. Get silly fresh. Tidy your hair. Check that every memory you can recall is actually yours. You may not get another chance to protest at the passing of time with such rigour. In Basi, where all the men wear shoulder pads, hoaxes are committed on a daily basis. Don't be worried, over-confident or fooled - you have already been defrauded. Smell the long wisps of a lie, coiled in the air just above your identification badge. Walk the streets and cross yourself off wanted lists. Graffiti is encouraged here. Custom dictates that women should be served first, whether it be a restaurant or a bureaucratic exam. Water pipes dispense a strange liquor. Bathing in this yellowish gooze is said to ward off many ailments, though those who make this claim are also said to be in the employ of one company or another. Did you forget your satchel? How, then, do you expect to gain entrance to our gentleman's club? You will be forced to spend the next four hours in a cheap and dilap…

imaginary cities: auda --

Auda, city of burnt grass and black limousines. City of nudes and spider lilies. How the grass stands up even though it is on fire, whistling a harvest tune. By the railway lines, entropy rules: jagged weeds and mystery melons scramble for space, riddling the rails, disguising the sleepers with their fantastic tendrils. Like a smoker's signal, brave and futile. Trains slice these ribbons into tendons, timetabling history, scattering seeds, accelerating some abstract chaos. Trampled soccer balls like snakeskins or leather on the shining road. As inspectors, we climb the stainless steel stairs, pass the plastic clinic and the coffee mall, then enter the machine room. Here the rumble of traffic is merely a shiver in your bowels, increasing anxiety but barely shaking the keys. Predicting story arcs is what it's all about. Prisoners, good deeds and friendships betrayed. The studios will be eating out of our hands. Privately, we model alternate scenarios: the prisoner escapes; the c…

imaginary cities: atro --

This city with no streets but networks of amputated limbs. This officious city of criminal investigations and inquests whose soul is a square of cheap, grey carpet and a water dispenser. The tinkle of pachinko, the sudden sirens of attack. Those women with the hand bills, so stubborn and intent upon their mission, invading the bodyspace of the factory workers like influenza. Sheets of steel carried by a dozen men at a time towards the railhead. Rain, in bursts of noise upon their heads. Somewhere here there is a map of the city's improvements but no one I speak with has seen it. Wheelchair-bound ladies protest at the new constructions rising up around them in terrifying spirals. No-one is allowed to see them. Behind their riot shields, the police men are only boys. Some of them wear white sneakers, as if they have been called in from basketball practice. Sleeping street people curled up like scraps of paper on the subway stairs, trusting that the spirits of Atro will protect their…

Photos from my first few days in Seoul

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My friend Steve, whom I met during my first week in Seoul, has kindly forwarded me some snaps he took during that time. It seems so long ago now - the days were insufferably hot and the evenings were beer-soaked. I tell you, it's hard to enjoy a beer in this town when the temperature's down to zero degrees celsius at night. And it's not even winter yet. Yikes. Anyway, please consider ...


Steve (second from left), Fatso the Wombat (second from right) and Juergen from Austria (far right) get jiggy with some locals in a gay bar in Insadong, after drinking two large jugs of lemon soju. Don't ask.


The offending liquor, which tasted like lemon cordial but which rendered us technically blind before we even left the building.


Wall menu in a Jongno restaurant where we ate raw meat. As if we could tell what we were getting! I'm not sure if the yellow duck was also on the bill. Ha ha!


Juergen and Fatso take a well-earned beer break after slaving over a George Foreman grill pac…

imaginary cities: anti --

A city of terminals. Crashing cymbals greet the slapping match contestants. Skies rain down grey, metallic drops of thunder. Manners are loose. At the station, hawkers sell second-hand saucepans and yesterday's newspapers. Here the time is digital but everything else succumbs to the analogue of winter. Only one species of tree has been planted here. Nevertheless, each tree sheds its skin at a different rate, the pixellated leaves shimmering in the haze of pre-nitrogen fuel emissions. There is a river here, known as "the snake" in the strange, unpunctuated language of its people. They crowd the banks, shaded by the giant overpasses and rusted cantilever bridges. Once there was a port here but the river has silted over the years and is now so shallow children can walk across it, unimpeded. Shopping bags inhabit the water as the jellyfish once did. Smoke from plastic fires stings the eye. Banners have been hung between the tallest trees, demanding celebrations. Wearied, the…

imaginary cities

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