Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Messenger from Depth

While I was travelling around Asia in 2001-2002, I wrote some poems in Hong Kong, some more in Thailand, and finally a whole bunch in India.

When I got back I vacillated for a long time over what to do with them. I kept a travel diary as well (of course), and I had a sort of idea that an edited selection from that might make quite an interesting travel narrative. I guess the idea was that I'd committed every conceivable error a naive Western tourist could compass, which might be amusing for readers to contemplate.

The travel book didn't really work, though I did produce a lengthy typescript version of it: "Too many signs," said one disinterested critic.

What did seem to work was a collection of the various sets of poems, faced with severely edited versions of certain of my diary entries. This became a book which I called Messenger from Depth (after one of the exhibits -- I think an underwater listening device -- in the Technology Museum in Bangalore). I was the messenger, back from these deep and ancient cultures ...

The book went so far as to be scheduled for publication, but then I got cold feet. I still liked the individual sets of poems, but they didn't really seem to add up to more than the sum of their parts (my own running definition of a book of poems).

As a result, I put out the Indian poems in a little chapbook entitled A Bus Called Mr Nice Guy (Auckland: Perdrix Press, 2005). The Thai poems were published in Summer Book from Eye Street, an anthology edited by my friend Raewyn Alexander (Auckland: Bright Communications, 2005). There wasn't enough space to put in the diary entries there, though, and the pictures had to be in black and white. I've therefore decided to post the whole set of Thai poems here on my blog, colour pictures, embarrassing confessions and all.

See what you think. When I read them out at the farewell dinner for our little group of Intrepid Tours travellers, they certainly provoked a certain amount of response (and even a few corrections on matters of detail). Maybe they were just too drunk to be embarrassed.


  1. Hill Country

  2. In the Opium Museum

  3. Golden Triangle

  4. On the Frontier

  5. Air-con Bus

  6. The Débâcle

  7. Ayutthaya

  8. To the River Kwai

  9. Rafthouse

  10. Erawan

  11. Erewhon

  12. The Massage Parlour

  13. Bangkok


Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Michael,

Thanks for that.

btw, really sorry that I had to miss your reading in Devonport last month ... I've been doing a lot of toing and froing between here and Wellington lately, which has kept me from going to a lot of things. I hope it went well.

Nice to see new things as they appear on your blog, too.

let's catch up soon.

best, jack

Anonymous said...

great short stories, I'll send them to my friends. I know at least a couple of them who will enjoy them the grand way