In his brand of multiverse, David P. Reiter probes planetary identity as exploratory memoir, ‘tweetem’ snapshots of the mind and body from stress to recovery, and fanzine remixes of Dr Who. In these key selections from the award-winning My Planets: a fictive Memoir, Timelord Dreaming, and Time Lords Remixed: a Dr Who poetical, he tests the limits of genre and text.
The physical edition features colour images and links to external sites intended to spur the reader’s imagination.
|ISBN 9781922332851 (PB, 124pp);
140mm x 216mm
|ISBN 9781922332868 (eBook)
Here we have a satirical, surreal and insightful narrative that invites readers to click through, look up, chuckle and question everything. In this complex world of prokaryotic spiders, robots, Light Eaters and other science fiction treats, readers encounter poetry that serves as its own Tardis. Using the persona of Dr Who, Reiter warps dimensions and definitions. All is not as it seems though. Beyond the sci-fi fandom and miscellany is a distilled and vital poetry that deserves multiple readings.
– Jayne Fenton Keane, author of The Transparent Lung
Whether you’re a proper Whovian or someone who’s never encountered the Doctor before, you’re going to find plenty in Time Lords Remixed to intrigue, entertain and surprise you. David Reiter’s cunning, elegant poetic recaps of several seasons’ worth of Doctor Who take the Doctor through the most significant regeneration yet: from him to her, from Peter Capaldi’s practitioner of the midlife crisis to Jodie Whittaker’s lighter and more optimistic touch. David Reiter skilfully captures this change in voices, while bringing along for the ride all manner of companions, adversaries, monsters, and recurring characters and themes. Time Lords Remixed is bigger on the inside: climb in.
– Tim Jones, author, and co-editor of The Stars Like Sand
Time Lords Remixed is a collection of poems for Whovians or whoever likes their poetry fast-paced and clever (but not smart-arsed). It’s one for disciples of the time lords, but written by a poet who can turn a tercet or two. Reiter wants to know what makes a good man (it comes up more than once):
I realise I’m
not a good man, or a general, or even
President of the Earth, but an idiot
– (from Death in Heaven)
Why do people talk aloud
when they know they’re alone,
skipping heartbeats in the dark?
– (from Listen)
Sometimes you think you’re in a surrealist dream (also in the manner of the Doctor):
Reality has a glitch in it
as you watch for the trap street
There are only two
ways to escape a quantum shade:
undo your tell-tale tattoo or
unplug the raven’s death counter
– (from Face the Raven)
Time Lords Remixed stitches in references to just about everything (in the manner of the series) from Christie, to Dickens via Valhalla and the rest with a short salute to politics and more deeply to current eternal issues:
At what point does migration become
invasion? The trick is to go opaque,
shapeshift your skin or better yet
your small talk. And fine-tune your grammar
to the edge of visibility. I consider these portals
as I saunter through “Amazing Grace”
– (from The Zygon Invasion)
which feels very much like the life of a poet (or is that just me?).
Inevitably physics comes into it:
How can you doubt that poetry and physics
are the same? They almost rhyme except
when they don’t but even then their tune
begs to be discovered. Most people
frown when they don’t understand,
– (from The Pilot)
There were many things I didn’t understand because I’m not a Whovian, but there was much I did and all of it was interesting. And there are references which can be followed (I did sometimes). You could spend days inside this world if you wanted to. Whatever a day might mean in this world.
Time Lords Remixed is confident. It moves with assurance and intelligence and has something to say, then enacts it:
There are some things we should never
proxy to our dreams.
– (from Last Christmas)
– Chris Mansell, author, and publisher of PressPress
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:
EW – SUNDAY, MIDNIGHT
"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
At one level, David Reiter’s My Planets is extremely complex (verse, prose poems, autobiography, short fiction, photographs, etc.), but at another it is quite simple. The author, a Jewish only child, at the age of 50 with both his adoptive parents dad suddenly discovers his birth mother, Eileen, and that he is in fact the eldest of seven across the combined families of his genetic parents.
In common with the memoirs of many of other adoptees, Reiter’s also brings out the insecurity the process almost necessarily involves – and the long-standing question, "Why was I given up?" Luckily, Reiter’s adoptive parents were by-and-large supportive, though the death of his father when Reiter was only 11 was clearly a setback.
Reiter grew up in one of the poorer areas of Cleveland, Ohio, where he seems to have been one of the very few white kids in a black neighbourhood. A further isolation was that there were very few Jews in the suburb. His frustrations in this context and well brought out and there is a child-like envy of some of his (adoptive) relatives who live in the richer, white part of town. Reiter’s treatment of this early part of his life is almost a bilungsroman, albeit told in fragments.
What is equally remarkable, however, is the author’s more difficult attempt to capture the life and personality of the birth parents he never knew when young. The social context in the United States cities at the end of World War II is graphically brought out, including the sexual recklessness of the time and the psychological damage experienced by veterans, even by those who (like Reiter’s birth father) didn’t see combat. In prose sections like "What a Girl’s Got to Do" and "Dancing Sinatra", Reiter very convincingly recreates a sense of a woman who is drawn to sexual adventure and who feels that a more luminous fate should await her than her circumstances allow. It’s hard to know how much of this material Reiter heard directly from his mother after he met her again and how much he fictionalised from the raw data his birth family must have supplied after the reunion. In either case, it’s done with both an understanding of the times and considerable empathy and affection.
Some readers may wonder why the book is so consciously fragmented and perhaps why Reiter has arranged his material in terms of the planets of our solar system (and the classical myths associated with them). A part explanation might be that the materials of his book are either remembered in fragments or came to him later in that manner.
Another, perhaps, is to give the story of his early life (and those of his relatives, biological and adoptive) a wider resonance, to place himself and them in more universal context. Some may consider the dramatic monologues spoken by some of the planets as distractions from the "real" story but, as Reiter’s concise outlines of some of their associated myths implies, our human behaviours are often influenced by factors well beyond our own knowledge and/or control (including the eternal patterns of mythology).
My Planets is also available from the publisher as an enhanced eBook, which pushes the fragmentation principle even further by adding more images, sound, music and film."
– Geoff Page, The Canberra Times
"David Reiter’s provocative fictional multimedia memoir combines a textual narrative with a rich tapestry of audio, video and animation to explore the meaning of family, connectivity and identity. The planets provide both a narrative structure and a shifting series of perspectives asking not just how we understand who we are, but how that story shifts with different sets of eyes. This is a profound digital narrative which both makes the most of the various possibilities of the digital realm whilst weaving a provocative, engaging and all too human tale."
– Judges’ Report, WA Premier’s Book Awards
"David Reiter subtitles his latest book ‘a fictive memoire’, which is an essentially contradictary term and at the same time complementary. If ‘fictive’ is make-believe and ‘memoire’ is autobiography, where do the two come together?
In My Planets Reiter weaves memories of his own upbringing as a white Jewish boy in an American inner-city, with present-day musings of a fifty year-old American Australian who has just found his birth mother after his adoptive parents have died. These stories, presumably, are true. He also gives a third-person account of his birth mother’s and father’s memories. These, presumably, are not. And I’m not saying that they are false, it’s just that one cannot write about one’s conception from the points of view of the lovers without using a bit of imagination. After Reiter’s father recounts his nightmares of fighting Nazi soldiers in the war, he writes:
The real moon came out from behind a cloud just then, and he looked so pale to her, like an abandoned child. She eased down, covered him with her body. (26)
This has to be imagined. And it is beautifully imagined. These were my favourite passages in the book.
The book is divided into nine parts, each given the title of a planet. This works as a structural link to the psyche of Reiter who, as a child, always felt he didn’t quite belong and must have come from outer space and who, as an adult, lives on the other side of the world from where he was born, seeing a whole new set of stars. Each first chapter of each part is told in the voice of the specific planet so each planet, too, has a story to tell. This suggests that stories are both ancient and endless, and no particular story carries any more weight than the next. I love the writing of the planets and think them a clever strand for Reiter to work with, but conceptually I think it has been taken too far: the book’s title, its cover, the black and white photographs of the solar system throughout the book. Too much ‘planets’.
Alongside crossing over from fiction to memoire, from first person to third person narration and from human to inanimate narrator, Reiter also plays with form. He weaves poetry into prose, and some memories bear both of those titles. This seems a very natural way for a poet/novelist to write and Reiter seems to do it organically. Yet with all of these juxtaposing styles it is no surprise that the chronology of the telling is all over the place: back and forth, and sometimes repetitive. But this is the way memory works. When we think of a person from our past, we don’t create a timeline of images. We remember in a much more fluid way. Though this doesn’t make for gripping storytelling, it does experiment with memory and art, and so the story is told uniquely. I think the patchwork craft of the book works well for Reiter, placing it in the overall literary genre. But with it comes some confusion as to where all of the names fit into the family, and into which family they fit (we are, after all, talking about two mothers, two fathers, both of their mothers and fathers, several siblings, aunties and uncles and children). A family tree at the beginning of the book would have helped this confusion but, given that the crux of the book lies in its disjointed telling, a little confusion doesn’t hurt.
Reiter is the founding publisher for IP, which is an interactive press publishing poetry and fiction in print, e-books and multimedia. A ‘Reunion Page’, as an accompaniment for the book, is soon to be published on IP’s website, but for now you can visit it on https://www.facebook.com/MyPlanetsReunionMemoir."
– Heather Taylor Johnson, Transnational Literature
I am a writer myself, and this work shows me just how many new tricks the simple book still has up its sleeve. There are some amazing samples of it available online, if you go to https://ipoz.biz/myplanets.
The online version is a knockout multimedia show, but there is more poetry here in this version. I met the author when he won the Digital Narrative category in the 2012 WA Premier’s Book Awards, in which I shared the Children’s Literature category. I heard his acceptance speech, and I had a chat with him after. I sensed that this was something different.
I was right. This is a book I will keep coming back to, for the joy of reading, and also to learn more of my craft. Aspiring writers are advised to do likewise–and aren’t ALL readers, at least in their hearts, aspiring writers?
– Peter Macinnes, Feral Word Herder