Un-dead Poet Community
By Yuthana Praiwan
Bangkok Post, Thailand
Sixty seven-year-old Phor Insorn Rongproa took half an hour to remember one of his poems, which he composed three years ago, in his entirety after being asked by visitor to recite it.
Insorn is poor but famous poet who many people know from nearly all community radio stations in Chiang Mai’s northern districts, he said.
“Most of my poems were on air in full version while other composers’ would be shortened,” said Insorn.
He said he has a fan club for the poems that he composed as a hobby after his marriage collapsed 10 years ago.
“The first copy of my poem was sent by mail to one community radio station. The DJ received my letter and came to visit me after that. Now I have a good credit as a poem composer for the radio station,” said Insorn.
The former government worker in the Royal Irrigation Department (RID), Chiang Mai branch, retired seven years ago and is still composing poems, most of which are involved with morals, ethics and philosophy.
He said his most impressive poem was a radio-on-air state campaign to prevent deforestation. He took many minutes to remember that poem.
“Natural forest fires cause deforestation, but it’s much more harmful if greed is in the thoughts of politicians and businessmen,” according to one of Insorn’s lines.
He knew every word of his poem so well that he watched this visitor’s notes to see that every word was written accurately.
He said he was went from “Mister Insorn” to “Phor Insorn” (“Phor” means receiving high respect from another) when his poems became well known. He had a lot of experience as he traveled to many places while working with RID, he said. He traveled all districts of Chiang Mai and its neighboring province, Mae Hong Son, which were unexpected resources for his ideas for poems. He met his wife there, too.
He met her in Mae Hong Son and married his 18-years-old bride when he was 42 years old in 1983.
“She was beautiful in the local ideal of a cute girl, but her hair was short which was actually not my flavor-long hair,” he said.
“A beautiful face and a good shape are considered ideal beauty for girls, more is plentiful property and cash accounts. But these things are not counted if she has no wisdom and a kind mind,” Insorn said as he noticed the visitor’s handwriting again.
He had been the chief of nearly 300 workers at RID. He had lots of energy to work hard to deal with heavy equipment while building irrigation infrastructure. But later his life totally changed.
He showed his atrophied right arm, unusually skinny with the palm bent downward. He fell off his motorbike in 1996 and was unconscious for three days in serious condition after the accident. He was admitted to the hospital for four months, and after that he tried hard to revive his body. His right arm, however, remained atrophied.
His 13-year-marriage collapsed when he met this severe accident. He decided to divorce.
“I became jobless at that time. She was so young, and her life had to go on. But I don’t have my future now, so I decided to end my marriage life at last,” said Insorn who remains single today.
“I didn’t think to remarry. The only thing that I thought about was my two children, and I want to feed them until I die,” he said.
He said he is lucky since his children were teenagers then, and his 50-year-old brother, who is a farmer living near his house, has taken care of him since he became single.
“After that time, I have to stay day by day, killing loneliness by listening to the radio, composing poems, and recently I joined the bamboo basket weaving group,” he said.
“Thank you,” he replied when a visitor expressed happiness for his newfound for luck in having a good brother, poem fan club and friends in the basket house.
His 26-year-old daughter now is a worker Thailand’s eastern seaboard, nearly 1,000 kilometers away. His 20-year-old son has settled his family in Mae Hong Son.
“I think she may not love me anymore,” he recited the poem he wrote after his divorce. “I was not sad also when I heard she had a new life.” Insorn said she is married now to her fifth husband. He was her first.
He recited the poem he wrote after his divorce.
“You are an underground worm/because of my love sacrifice./I picked you up and stuck wings on you so you could fly/but you didn’t realize the value of those wings/an easy lover like you/I have to let you go underground as you were.”
Suddenly he remembered the rest of deforestation poem and told it in its full version.