I can feel the focus of everything shifting. I don't want to write about Korea anymore. Anymore than I would New York, once I stopped being obsessed with the fact that I lived there and just started living there. I live in Korea. I don't want to read about kimchi jjigae and if I never saw the words "hermit kingdom" or "land of the morning calm" ever again, I think it would still be too soon.
A lot of the poets I love have spent large chunks of their lives outside of their home countries, and there's always something so charming about reading about that, and I've also been doing a lot of reading lately by more permanent expat writers, and the things that happen when your whole shebang is language, and then you go and change it. That's happening. Of course that's happening. But I feel like I just zoom in so close that I'll never have that charm, because it's so panned out. I don't have any big philosophies about "the Korean people," other than that they could stand to walk a bit faster and perhaps in a more generally organized manner. Which, by the way, came from New York. Which was also not my home. (New Yorkers, on the other hand, could do with a hell of a lot less irony, the boatloads of which I don't miss at all here in Korea.) Incheon people, though -- I've got a whole roster of thoughts about them.
See what I mean? Zoomed in.
But basically what I'm thinking about today is writing, and how fucking weird it is.
Let me back up and explain that there are some things I'd like to be able to do in the future, and in order to do those things, you need money. And in order to get that money, you have to apply for all kinds of grants and whatnot, and in order to get those grants, you need publication credits to prove you are worth anybody's time. And in order to get those publication credits, you have to stop dicking around on scraps of paper left strewn about all over your fucking everything, and gather all of it up and dig through it and figure out what the hell is going on. And then you have to fill in the gaps.
So, I've been doing a lot of that, and I've also started submitting. My thesis, which I've not even touched or glanced at since a reading I gave at the opening of an exhibition, the theme of which I can't even remember now, shortly after graduation -- that's been dusted off. At an awkward 45 pages, it's too long for a chapbook and too short for a manuscript, but how exactly can you go back and add in poems to something you wrote almost six years ago? You can't. So I hacked it up, and now it's a chapbook. And that's doing the rounds.
Beyond that, there are the poems I didn't think I'd been writing over the past few years, which I found, as I said, all over my damn apartment when I started going through things to get ready to move. I mean, they were everywhere. So those have been sorted through, hacked up, stitched back together and typed. And I've started working on some new stuff.
And it's creepy, you know. It really is. I don't do themes, consciously, but they sure as fuck happen. I'll go two weeks without sitting down to write, and I don't look back at what I've just done before I start, but then, after I finish and start flicking through to get an idea of what's going on, I'll see that what I've just put down is the last half of an unfinished poem from a month ago. And I don't mean that in any kind of abstract sense -- I mean, the same exact subject will just pop out in resolution, following the same narrative and everything, as if I'd sat down to do it on purpose. Not that it would ever happen that way, if I did sit down to do it on purpose.
Last weekend I had some friends round for dinner, and afterwards, sitting around on the floor sipping beers, the subject turned to one artist friend's work. He pulled up some images to show the group, and the Koreans in the room, who are not artists and who work in very systematic professions, started in about what it meant. They wanted the summary -- the mission statement. He looked at me, I looked at him, and we both laughed.
It's not that you just sit there and spew out whatever random thing comes to mind -- it's not that at all, but I do think that's what it sounded like when we stumbled over our words trying to explain it. It's meticulous and it's very systematic in its own way, but fucked if I even know what the hell I'm doing in that moment. Part of me does. But it's not the part that's in charge of, say, putting a shirt together with a skirt in the morning, or reorganizing my cabinet space. Or even writing a blog entry.
Anyway, this is all to say that it appears that I'm finally working on a new manuscript, not by any conscious choice, but just according to what's happening. Which is a little exciting after having been all over the map for so long. I just hope I can get enough publishing credits to my name by the time it's finished to get someone to take it seriously. Or I'll just save it to my hard drive, and wait for my computer to crash, so it disappears forever. Who knows what the future holds?