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Timelord Dreaming

Winner, 2016 Western Australian Premier’s Award!

You wake in the middle of the night with a terrible pain radiating from your lower side up to your chest. An ambulance is called, and you’re rationed ever increasing doses of morphine on your way to the hospital. In the EW, a heart attack is ruled out but the mystery intensifies. Until a CT scan reveals the truth…

“You”, in this case, was the author, who, with the kindness of a Dr Who understudy and other medical staff at the Mater Hospital, Brisbane, survived a urgent operation and had many medicated days to reflect on an often surreal experience.

Timelord Dreaming uses “tweetems”, microtexts with Internet call-outs, to recreate one man’s journey through the parallel universes of patient and personal identity. If you’ve ever been hospitalised, you’ll find much that is familiar – and not always comfortable – here.

Dr David P Reiter won the 2012 Western Australian Premier’s Award for My Planets Reunion Memoir. Timelord Dreaming continues his innovative work in the frontier between text and digital media.

ISBN 9781925231021 (PB, 84pp);
140mm x 216mm

AUD $25 USD $18 NZD $27 GBP £12 EUR €14
ISBN 9781925231038 (eBook) AUD $13 USD $10 NZD $15 GBP £6 EUR €7


In this volume, Reiter presents the reader with a poetic response to his experiences in hospital, as the cause of extreme pain is diagnosed, treated, and operated on.  

The short poems inhabit a region between reality and the speculative. The treating doctors merge with images of Doctor Who, and various inhabitants of that Doctor’s universe, or multiverse, appear in the pages. Daleks, Cybermen and equipment such as the sonic screwdriver run shoulders with nurses, spirometers and the dubious properties of hospital food. The result is a vivid and, at times, moving chronicle of the journey through serious illness, and the mysterious world of medicine from the patient’s perspective.

Here is an example, from early in the process of diagnosis, where the poet is in the Emergency Ward:

"Excluded your heart. Now for the shadows.
My 10#sonic screwdriver will scan for 11#aliens."
Yes, my pain is there, and there – a solid 8.

Immediately apparent is the inclusion of links, which take the reader from the text of each poem into the worlds of the internet. These links are repeated in footnotes. The "aliens" link in the poem above, for example, takes one to a web page outlining identifiable mistakes in Aliens, the 1986 film. We immediately see the hideous attraction of mistakes to someone caught in the terrifying parallel universe of medical diagnosis. The ebook, of course works more efficiently in this regard than the printed book, although one could use the links given in footnotes to explore the added dimensions.

Personally, while I chased some of the links, and found some of them fun or illuminating, I also found the appearance of the poems a little cluttered. At least in the printed book, I would have preferred simple footnotes (or end notes) containing some of the linked information, and the poems presented without the underlining and tags.  Others may delight in the intertextual voyages being ticketed from within each poem.

David Reiter dubs the form of these poems, which he writes that he invented while in hospital, the tweetem, which he states is a cross between the "character limited tweet" and "Japanese forms like the tanka".  I have to say that I do not like the word "tweetem"; to my ears it sounds too cute. But there is no denying the powerful kick of some of these works, whatever one thinks of that name.

Many people are writing poems combining the exigencies of Twitter and either haiku or tanka, and finding this to be a convenient and portable way of composition without the need for pen, paper, or even sonic screwdriver. A phone is all one requires. At Micropoetry.com, tweeted poems from around the world are brought together, allowing the curious to find poets of interest. Most of the poems here are, in some way, derived from Japanese forms. Tinywords, founded in 2000, is a daily magazine publishing and distributing haiku, tanka and brief haibun by web, email and SMS.  Timelord Dreaming can be seen as part of this developing tradition.

This book is disconcerting, amusing, timely and adventurous. It should be of particular interest to those undergoing medical treatment. In reusing motifs from popular culture, particularly that of science fiction, the poet ties deeply personal experiences to those we share through the web and other created worlds.

– P.S. Cottier, Sydney Morning Herald

Illness as altered reality isolates us from the world. Sharp as a scalpel, David Reiter beams trippy tweetems from his hospital bed, cracking sterile walls and piercing us with poignancy.

Dr Leah Kaminsky, Deputy Editor, Poetry & Fiction, Medical Journal of Australia

In the half-life world of hospitals, pain and medication, Dr Reiter has taken us on his journey into and through his mind. Taking twists, turns and delightful detours, he has developed a new form of digital communication – tweetems. While some draw on visitations of Doctor Who, the tweetems also take us on a myriad of musical and educational voyages. Between sonic screwdrivers and white cell scouts, Timelord Dreaming ensures our normalacy bias will be prodded and deconstructed.

Anna Maguire, Digireado

Dr David P. Reiter

Winner of the Western Australia Premier’s Award for Digital Narrative and the Queensland Premier’s Award for Poetry among other distinctions, David P Reiter has been recognised internationally for his ground-breaking creative works.

Hemingway in Spain and Nullarbor Song Cycle began as text works and later were extended to films. My Planets: a fictive Memoir as well began as a physical book and an enhanced CD but then, in collaboration with the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, became the innovative My Planets Reunion Memoir, an interactive website in which text, film, audio performances, classical music, astronomy, and animation converge on a journey from separation to reunion of biological families.

In his latest hybrid work, David creates ‘tweetems’ – text and social media moments – that immerse the reader/viewer in the timeless and sometimes surreal experiences of being an emergency and post-op patient.

David is Publisher/CEO at IP (Interactive Publications) and lives in Brisbane with his wife, two children, and menagerie of irreverent pets.


The Timelord has landed in Florida!

The Gallery (interactive multimedia)

Paul & Vincent (Quicktime film)

Hemingway in Spain (feature film)

Nullarbor Song Cycle (short film)

My Planets Reunion Memoir (digital narrative; interactive media)

David's YouTube Channel

David's blog on Goggle +



Hospital stays are usually the stuff of clichés. If you’re lucky enough to survive your stay in Emergency and get admitted for observation or an operation, and are public enough about your situation, people will take note and chat with and about you. Social media makes it so much easier to document your journey from arrival to departure and points beyond, and for people to share your experiences. Often these will be friends or close acquaintances, but sometimes they’ll be “friends” you’ve admitted to your network for whatever reason who identify with your circumstances enough to message you for all to see.

As a patient, you feel your identity slipping away the longer you remain in hospital. And the older you are, the more likely you’ll be called ‘love’ or ‘dear’ by time-poor nurses and orderlies. In the artificial light and the drip-haze of medication, time and the senses blur and surreality takes hold. The mind tries to latch onto fragments of the familiar and even these dissolve without a drug free effort to capture them.

I decided to invent a new form to recreate and reflect on these fragments, what I call the tweetem. It’s a cross between Japanese forms like the tanka and the character-limited tweet. Each tweetem must be self-contained, with a kick in the tail at the end, in 140 characters or less. Whether or not this new form endures, or is even tolerated from the beginning to the ending of the work at hand, is up to you.

The overall narrative is under compression, as I’ve said, but it has the kinetic potential to expand associatively if you pursue the many hyperlinks (diversions) offered. This is easier if you’re viewing the digital version but still rewarding if you’ve opted for the physical book and have an Internet device at hand.

And, yes, the Timelord I met in the haze and half-light was real, and I trust that he will one day sidestep out of his parallel universe long enough to meet his more infamous other.

Ticking boxes: ‘is he still conscious?
When did his #chest pains, shortness of breath, begin?
Please secure all dogs & attack guinea pigs.’

In situ: ‘you say your father died of a #heart attack?
Have you ever smoked?’ Passive counts.
As my pain tightens… #regeneration coming on?

‘Please scale your #pain from 1 to 10.
We sustain for the EW – no exits on our watch.
Name, date of birth, allergies – best to memorise.’

Drugs, glorious drugs! please Mr Para
may I have some more? Mr #Morphine and I
have never played tag, until now…

4D Print from the #Tardis
#Dr Who at the EW shapeshifts for the transfer,
blue jab in my bowels, #centrifuge of max focus
betrayed by a tease of dancing lights.

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