Thailand Footprint: The People, Things, Literature, and Music of Thailand and the Region

John Gartland (Photo by Eric Nelson)

John Gartland (Photo by Eric Nelson)

Bangkok is full of interesting expatriates. Foreigners choosing to make Thailand their home for a variety of reasons. John Gartland is one such interesting expat. John was born in Warrington in Northern England. He graduated with honors in English from Newcastle University and has a master’s degree in Elizabethan drama. He has spent time in the United States, has worked in the government sector, in the telecommunications business, as a rock n’ roll music producer and as a college lecturer and professor. He has recently returned to live in Bangkok a second time after being Visiting Professor of English Writing at Korea National University of Education , and  Lecturer in English at  Bayan University College in Muscat.

Gravity's Fool - Poems by John Gartland

Gravity’s Fool – Poems by John Gartland

John Gartland is a published novelist and poet. Thailand Footprint is pleased to showcase some of his poems today along with the art of Chris Coles as well as photographs by Bangkok photographers, Eric Nelson and Aroon Thaewchatturat.

Portrait of poet, John Gartland by Bangkok Noir artist, ChrisColes

Portrait of poet, John Gartland by Bangkok Noir artist, Chris Coles

The Company of Poets

You’ve heard a kind of clown
dismissing poetry,
as rarefied and precious, not real life;
till, cut and sliced by love’s
exquisite and inexorable knife,
he’ll find the bottle comfortless enough,
and fumble in his misery for rhyme.

Still craving for some vanished stuff of rapture,
attempting to contain the heart’s decline,
and learning there’s no science that will capture
or can resurrect a passion. It’s a sign that life
will seek out rhythms, incantations, dreams,
to celebrate its stature, and to wonder at itself.
Each dances, in his fashion, to that driving score it seems;
but poets live the fuller, by their nature, beating time.

And I’ll seek out the company of poets,
the company of poets I’ll make mine.
When poetry has bitten you you’ll know it;
it’s just an arc of words but in the overall design
of things, there’s everything in life laid out below it;
from birth to love, and death, and celebration;
and before the robot reaper can consign
you to your headstone you will ride imagination’s
launcher high above the milling cities,
be the Process speaking, for a time.

So I’ll seek out the company of poets,
the company of poets I’ll make mine.
They’re taking passion’s pulse
and they are signaling the future,
they’ve freedom for a mistress
and they’ve history for a tutor,
and they can image water into wine.
Each new day is their holy book,
and apparatchiks hate them
for scoffing at all priesthoods
while embracing the divine.
So give to me the company of poets,
the company of poets I’ll make mine.

Those black flags of mourning, who better to fly them?
The tender intrigues of the aspirant heart,
that life-shaking love that you have for your children,
how better to tell them? Where better to start?
Where else but the company of poets?
whose alchemical pilgrimage sets them apart…
Where else but the company of poets?

Those ephemeral fires of the beacon lights,
on the century’s headlands, glowing;
like poems, are markers we leave to rite
our passage and our going.
Bright seeds on the wind that flower despite
the perennial cloud of unknowing,
and they’re sown by the company of poets,
the indelible company of poets.

John Gartland

Soi Cowboy by Chris Coles now found hanging, prominently, at CheckInn99 in Bangkok

Soi Cowboy by Chris Coles now found hanging, prominently, at CheckInn99 in Bangkok


Judas hangs about in lost property,
channel hopping.
Reality Arena, Caligula’s TV hit,
has viewers congealed to their seats.
“It’s the same old bread and circuses shit”,
says Herod, still regal, on the Oprah show.
He’ll be networked once he’s out, you know,
a degree in demographics from an Open prison;
now, when he speaks the media listen.
But that’s old hat; there’s wall to wall promotion
on all stations for “Hits the murderers listened to.”
Can you get into that?
A six album set, if you didn’t steal it already.
“Suffer Little Children”, whispers Myra Hindley
and the social workers nod,
“I’m immortal now”, croons De Troux,
“Let bygones be bygones”, says God,
“I’m chillin’, I’m chillin’”.

My cap’s on backwards, I mastered rhyme.
It ain’t complicated, so rap’s just fine,
I’m a tattooed mother’ and an arrogant swine,
I beat my bitch and she toes my line,
I’ve got a big shooter and I fuck with crime,
got jewels in my teeth and I done some time,
I’m rich, you can kiss my asinine,
I’m chillin’, I’m chillin’.

After this word from our sponsor,
Al Jazeera, embedded with the Taliban!
More amputations and beheadings, live,
and our token woman journalist who
reads the news at five. Commercial break,
a woman’s lips through an embroidered slot,
“Something for the weekend?”
Adultery and a drink will get you stoned,
Or maybe you forgot.
Relax! to a cool, fanatic vibe.
Sheikh, rattle and rolling heads,
no moderates are left alive.
The anchorman’s just chillin’. “Clive,
Reminds me of the view from the Republican
window at the old Rue Robespierre.
(These people can teach Europe nothing
about losing your head in a crisis!)”
And now at last we take you there,
To Isfahan, a missile silo filled with
Mullahs’ radioactive teeth,
to seed an unbelieving west.
With business confidence so low,
where else can you invest but Club Inferno,
fastest growing franchaise, and the best.
Four horsemen drinking margaritas in the bar,
chillin’. Scythes gleam in the umbrella stand.
Then, strikes up the band
behind the President’s address
on the State of Rape and Roll,
and everyone’s in lost property now,
to watch. With closing time at hand,
the speech is kind of droll,
and chillin’, really chillin’.

John Gartland

Chris Coles Landscape

Chris Coles Landscape

Bangkok De Profundis.

In a time of rising waters,
He has cried to thee oh Lord.
It was becoming hard to bear,
waking up each morning as a cockroach.
His junkie girlfriend stole the laptop,
the phone kept ringing at odd hours,
and insomniacs haunted him,
invading his rooms to smoke Old Delirium
in strange contraptions, fashioned
from detergent bottles and glass tubing.

False prophets network,
scares and admonitions,
“Seek shelter from the coming flood”
for markets fall, and pundits pall
like necromancers shocked by futures,
awed at stocks’ exposed positions.

More flashbacks of those corpses wrapped
in blood-stained sheets where Hades
meets Suwintawong highway,
and demons dressed as strutting cops
play out satanic games with car wrecks
and six lanes of hurtling pick-ups,
loaded with the damned.
Nothing stops, apart from hoping,
in that darkness;
hoping, and the grand design of God.

Years of debris; a throwaway world
is gagging his high watermark.
The residue of empires, dismembered ideologies,
gangrenous mullahs,
severed heads in doggie bags,
girls stoned to death by dumper truck
where high tech. serves Islamic rigour;
and women’s bodies, feared
and lashed with equal vigour,
float the septic tide to state,
that, rotting, raped and subjugate,
masked, or beauty acid-scarred,
this jealous hate redeems some family’s honour
and the keeping of a slave.

“Seek shelter from the coming flood!”.
More warnings from the networks
of disaster in plain sight.
Infected by the future
and recoiling from the light,
from the morning watch,
to subliminal night, Lord,
he channel-hops the ads. and lies,
awaits the blind inexorable wave.

Let thine ears be attentive
to the voice of his supplication.
Please take his urgent call oh Lord,
extend to him religion’s consolation.

Icons of old wizard monks,
expensive relics in a locket,
the sacred, decorated trunks of
twisted, bent, revered old trees,
an idol, or a totem,
or the fetish of of a prophet,
an amulet of Vishnu,
or a string of merit-making beads
to finger in a pocket.
A road map of the Tree of Life,
a prayer mat, sacrificial knife,
a sacred stone they venerate,
a holy spring where they prostrate,
and, chanting loudly, flagellate;
some mutilation rituals they find,
somehow express their
tortured, ingrown toenail of a mind.

To these they bow, by these they wait,
for heaven’s ultimate blind date;
hypnosis by a holy book,
subservience to a priestly look.

Yea Lord, he drinks a bitter cup,
deliverance eludes him yet.
The creator, playing hard to get,
has, once more, frankly, stood him up.

Manipulation, thought correction,
machiavellian misdirection.
Digesting God’s indifference,
inhaling insignificance,
in times of rising waters,
a Minoan maze of lies.

The sacred books, the king, the host,
those feet at which men grovel most;
the bloodstained flag, the Holy Ghost,
the biggest fairy tales require
most pious genuflection,
and these the thinking cockroach
will contemptuously despise.

Insomniac transexuals
are texting, seeking parts again.
Awake within the whispering walls,
illumination swirls and falls
to fractals in a pipe bulb,
when, aware God’s not returning calls,
or dealing absolution,
he crawls out of the depths, not least
to shun the poisonous fix of priests,
and charter his own flight to dissolution.

For, Lord, he’s turned his back upon
some name we may not utter
without slavish self-abasement,
the mediaeval violence policing laws of love;
a million milling zealots
trampling by their sacred monolith;
psychosis aping saintliness,
when push comes to fanatic shove.

And the globalised multiplex; virtual reality,
brand slaves on Prozac grazing the mall.
Where history simply is discarded fashion,
junk’s TV, rap culture, and soundbite celebrities,
mainlining cage fights, an armchair in hell.
In a time of rising waters,
He has cried to thee, oh Lord.

Last call for oblivion, welcome aboard.

Let thine ears be attentive… attentive oh Lord!

Last call for oblivion, darkness on board.

John Gartland

Female Guardian of the Bangkok Night by Chris Coles

Female Guardian of the Bangkok Night by Chris Coles


Anna glides among the drinkers
and her girls at Anna Jet.
The customers pay tribute with their eyes.

Her girls are young,
available and beautiful, and yet,
as she irradiates the storyline
of evening with her smile,
and lets her hand rest lightly
on some shoulder for a while,
her backless dress of silken gold’s
as tight as gilt upon
an art collector’s statuette.

Her girls are young,
available, and beautiful and yet,
it’s Anna with her silken style
who dances in the memory
while we cross the floating world
to Anna Jet.

Hot night, the bar that’s open
to the dealings of the street,
the techno music, short time girls,
a DJ who is seemingly determined
to defeat our death in this
sublime apotheosis of the dance.

I think of Wagner talking about Beethoven
and glance at strangers who
are dancing on their naked lives.
Here in the floating world, the dream survives;
drink deep, and dance, and banish sleep
for Anna shines among her girls
like some erotic statuette,
and it’s always short time, you can bet,
golden short time.
And the bass is driving nails
into the past
in Anna Jet.

John Gartland

Farang in theBangkok Night by Chris Coles

Farang in the Bangkok Night by Chris Coles


When she leaves me,

and I’m ordinary again,

a flickering filament,

a melancholy solo

in a wasted hour;

a speech without conviction

in an empty auditorium,

a cherry blossom bough

that will not flower.

When she leaves,

this falling rocket coughs,

its motor won’t restart.

I’m gravity’s fool again;

just ordinary debris

destined soon to fall apart.

And her absences,

like tree rings,

all her absences

will show,

that day they open

my abandoned heart.

John Gartland

Bangkok Noir Artist, Chris Coles prepares for presentation - Photo by  Aroon Thaewchattura

Bangkok Noir Artist, Chris Coles prepares for presentation – Photo by Aroon Thaewchattura

For more information about the Poetry of John Gartland please visit Poetry Universe by clicking the photograph of John, below:

John Gartland on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok (Photo by Eric Nelson)

John Gartland on Sukhumvit Road with some of the characters found in the Bangkok night. (Photo by Eric Nelson)

For more information regarding the art of Chris Coles, please visit: or his excellent blog, BANGKOK NOIR, consistently voted one of the Top Two Blog’s in all of Bangkok by clicking the Chris Coles painting below:

Farang Fashion Designer at Q-Bar by Chris Coles

Farang Fashion Designer at Q-Bar by Chris Coles

6 Responses to “Bangkok Expat Profile … Poet John Gartland with art by Bangkok Noir Artist Chris Coles …”

  1. Arthur

    Very interesting piece……maybe the Expat culture scene in Bangkok has something in commons with Paris circa 1900….Berlin 1920…

  2. Kevin Cummings

    Thank-you, both. Indeed there is more to expat culture than the Singha singlet, long shorts and flip flops.

    Be here now, is usually good advice.

  3. Kevin Cummings

    Thanks for your post. There is indeed a book. And if you click on the home page of this blog you will find a book review of NAVIGATING THE BANGKOK NOIR by Chris Coles. Click on the picture and it will take you right to an Amazon link where you can learn more about it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: