Sunday, 2 August 2015

Brush Strokes OR Catcher in the Eye done Good

Years ago, I saw a painting in an art gallery that has made me reflect on the beauty of memory, capturing and preserving a precious moment in time. Yes, a photograph can do much the same, but a painting is so much more than a photograph; it reads aloud to the inner ear, thus inviting the inner eye to appreciate its every deliberate brush stroke in much the same sense and sensibility as one might appreciate iambic meter in a poem. As with all creative endeavor, the art lies in its artlessness, artist rewarding observer with an insight to a process that requires we tap into reserves of feeling of which the chances are we are not consciously aware.

Memory may fade, but the art-poem remains a part of us and will be sure to manifest itself in our approach to life, love, nature and human nature…; indeed, to  just about everything.

‘Oh,’ I hear some people say, ‘but that’s only if you have the imagination…’ Bollocks, to that! Imagination can and does work on our consciousness, yes, but it also works on the subconscious, possibly to even greater effect. So never let anyone lead you to believe you have no imagination; the human condition is better than that even where, sometimes, human nature fails us. 

Imagination is that Catcher in the Eye of which we may or may not be well aware but which, in any case, remains one of the sweeter mysteries of the human condition. 


Young girl with daisies
in the hair darts across a greeny field;
though brooding sheep
keep a sidelong watch on playful lambs,
the merry scene
attracts a frisky foal, prancing
at a boundary fence


Young girl with daisies
in the hair glimpses a pretty butterfly,
gives laughing chase;
one tangent wing at a finger's tip,
angel face glowing
hope’s pink blushes, elusive happiness
caught on canvas

Copyright R. N. Taber 1974; 2001

Monday, 27 July 2015

Darkness and Light OR Never Trust a Ghost Writer to Get it Right

Now and then, readers get in touch to say they will be visiting London and ask to meet up for a chat over a coffee, beer, or perhaps a meal. I have met people from all over the world, male and female, gay and straight, and it has always been a delightful experience. 

It is not only very encouraging but also fulfilling for a poet to meet his readers, and I hope more of you will feel free to meet up with me. Oh, and fear not, I appreciate plain speaking and don’t expect everyone to like or even agree with everything I write. Needless to say, I always enjoy a friendly argument…

Feel free to email me any time:


On wintry days (not necessarily of the seasonal variety) it can sometimes seem as if darkness must inevitably get the better of us, such is the nature of things, that we human beings will never shrug off its nightmares for long and any light of day revisited but a cold one.

Ah, but never, never, say ‘never’ or underestimate the capacity of the human spirit for love in all its shapes and forms…or the enduring power of either.

This poem is a villanelle.


Though death’s dark canopy,
our lives may obscure,
to light, the final victory

Along thorny paths of history
let us tread with care,
though death’s dark canopy

If few life choices made easy,
consciences left clear,
to light, the final victory

Among triumphs over misery,
to light, the greater share,
though death’s dark canopy

Where shades of inhumanity
feed on hate and fear,
to light, the final victory

Let self, its own worst enemy,
love’s true colours wear;
though death’s dark canopy,
to light, the final victory 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem first appeared in Expressions from London and Home Counties, Anchor Books [Forward Press] 2004 and subsequently in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; revised ed. of the latter (in e-format) in preparation.]

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Only Human OR Underwriting Humanity

Today’s poem first appeared in Poetry Monthly International in 2009. Sadly, the magazine has since closed after a very successful run for some years as Poetry Monthly. The poem subsequently appeared in my collection the following year. [I often add alternative titles to blog entries to help facilitate searches.]

Whatever our socio-cultural-religious, political or even sexual persuasion, our lives will be found sorely wanting unless we allow for and respect certain points of view and aspects of Belief  (or non-Belief) that are different from, even hostile to our own.

Yes, we should condemn criminal/terrorist violence and any that seek to force others to adopt a twisted ideology tailored to their own distorted view of raison d’être, but there is a world of difference between engaging with and relating to raison d’être in (many) different ways and upholding a distorted view of it.

As I have said before on my blogs, our differences do not make us different, only human, and to be human is to understand and act upon a sense of compassion; nor should compassion (ever) be mistaken for being patronizing or showing pity, a form of weakness or some unwelcome intruder bent on having sport with us…but needs to be acknowledged and accepted for what it is, a life force that requires nurturing since, without it, humankind loses much if not all of its humanity.

Oh, and how to nurture? Well, could it be perhaps that where there’s a common socio-cultural-religious- political will, there really is a way? Fat chance, I dare say, but if enough people make enough ripples…one day, who knows?

This poem is a kenning, or 'Who am I?' poem as kennings are often called.


Invariably, I am tested to tears
where fear, resentment, blame, even hate
would have me take on the persona
of some dark angel, turning its back on all
it holds dear, clawing its way
under the skin of whom it holds responsible
for those self-same tears
shed for a love meaning more, far more
than any free fall horror

Invariably, I am all but torn apart
where a native sense of right and wrong
weigh down the scales of justice
on a side I would much prefer not to be,
taking the human heart to places
it would much prefer not to go, carried
in spite of itself by a relentless
undertow of fiercely conflicting emotions
preventing rescue

Invariably, I reach out for hands
stretching from a shadowy shore so near
yet, oh, so far…and it comforts me
in my distress to know there is goodness
and hope where the human heart
beats with a will to overcome its worst,
demanding we do our best, despite
a tearful mist blurring the sight, sure threat
even to love’s lasting light

Survivor where conscience spares no one,
I, Compassion, and only human

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2015

[Note: this poem has been slightly revised from the original that appears in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 20 July 2015

Love: Getting the Better of Rock and Hard Place

It often strikes me as one of life's more bitter-sweet ironies that it's the heart in winter that focuses most on spring...

Me, I have never been as happy as the too few years I shared with my late partner a long time ago. Even so, I learned to be happy again. Oh, I have never met anyone else with whom I wanted to share my life, but I have made some good friends, found a curious peace, comfort and joy in my poetry as well as being blessed with a natural optimism to see me through. I may not be a very successful writer, but success has never meant as much to me as enjoying life in my own way.  [Yes, I have prostate cancer, but have all I need to see me through that too.]

Love comes to each and every one of us in all shapes and forms; its effect on us never (quite) fades even though sometimes it may be but a visitor, passing through. The past, too, is a part of us and never forgotten, whether or not it needs to be tempered by forgiveness, nor should it ever be where it has made us happy. Ah, but it's building on that happiness, making the most of the present, each of us in our own way, and looking forward to the future that counts…no matter what.


I walked in a wood one winter
as I had with my true love one spring,
promising ourselves to each other;
the trees were bare, yet so splendid,
whose leaves happy enough to perform
the music of life just for us

Heavens, near empty and grey,
whose wings of light once, our spring,
gaily affirmed Earth Mother’s love;
world, a spread of snow where flowers
(all kinds and colours) created an ocean
of brave dreams just for us

I let my heart fall to the ground
where you lay your raincoat one spring,
our first lovemaking blessed;
yet, my heart refused to stay long,
but spread wings (just as it had before)
meant to survive all weathers

I’ll not let it grieve me that nature
should liken its life force to a graveyard,
and we among the fallen;
life goes on, poor humanity caught
between its rocks and hard places save
for the enduring power of love

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2015

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Opening Up to Life OR Getting the Better of Self-Destruct

As regular readers know only too well, I have suffered with depression all my life and still take 25mg of a (fairly) mild anti-depressant. Prozac helped me through a very bad time once, but (like another strong anti-depressant I tried) left me feeling exhausted all the time so I switched to the (far milder) one I take now.

It is important to find an anti-depressant that suits you and always read the information leaflet for possible side-effects. Even so, never rely on anti-depressants to see you through. A positive attitude and any form of creative therapy you enjoy remain a must-have and must-do. (Creative therapy can be anything from gardening, walking, writing, pottery... anything in which success is measured by the enjoyment achieved by simply doing it, not results.) Creative therapy is no quick fix and requires a huge effort if always an effort worth making. Always easier said than done, never try and do it all on your own. 

I suffered from depression even as a child although depression in children was not recognized in those days. For years, I would go on anti-depressants until I started to feel better and then come off them. This, I now realize was a mistake. I was scared of becoming dependent on them so it was music to my ears when a GP suggested that patients prone to depression should stay on an appropriate anti-depressant and dosage all the time. I suspect my life would have taken a hugely significant turn for the better had I been given this advice a long, long, time ago. 

A friend who suffers from depression has paid a lot to visit counsellors but they don’t help everyone and it all depends who you see and how good (or bad) they are. I think it is important to get feedback from a counsellor; too many just sit back and let you talk, which is not a bad thing, but I personally would need positive feedback to feel it was worth parting with my money.

My friend says she hasn’t the self-confidence to do anything new whether it's meeting new people, studying a subject in which she is genuinely interested etc. She says she 'cannot' do anything new until she gets her self-confidence back. I sympathize, but take the opposite view. I believe we only get our self-confidence back by doing things, setting ourselves realistic targets etc. These need not be too ambitious to start with, and if they don’t work out quite as we hoped we should not see it as a failure but give ourselves a pat on the back for giving it a go…and try something else.

Many people think I am a strong person because (most of the time) I manage to beat depression. Believe me, though, when I say I am not strong. It is (very) heavy going. I make the effort because the alternative is even worse to contemplate. 

True, it isn’t always easy to find someone to listen; certain family members and friends won’t recognize the danger signs and will fail to appreciate a depressed person’s depths of personal crisis, handing out well-meaning platitudes like a plate of biscuits to make matters (much) worse. Even so, never give up; there is invariably someone who can help if we let them and are honest with them about how we feel. Talking to a pet can help, too, if only because the worst seems so much less bad once we give it a voice.

There is no shame in feeling less able to cope. Putting on a brave face is never a good idea. (No one can read minds.)


Envelopes unopened;
scared to look, acknowledge even;
feelings like flowers left
at a grave if only to give the dead
a raison d’être

Profiles of the Great
interrogating me wherever I go
about my response to the cost
of living, voices chanting dark spells
at every checkout

Fear, clammy hands
on matchstick arms, humanity
strutting its hour on stage
(art of least resistance) chalking up
mock victories

Words, like mandarins
in white coats supervising a trainee
working from a manual
on staying bottom of the class without
really trying 

Envelopes, daring me…
Fingertips fumbling with terror
(Can I really do this?)
No stigma in old wounds ruling out


Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2015

[Note: An earlier version of this poem – under the title ‘Prozac Nation’ - appears in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

L-I-F-E, And All That Jazz...

Once, years ago, when feeling low, I overheard a conversation in a bar:

MAN (despairingly and a little drunk) I don’t know where I’m going any more or who the hell I am even…

WOMAN (wearily) Oh, sure, and all that jazz…

MAN: Huh, I don’t even like jazz…

WOMAN: You don’t like jazz? Then you don’t have much of a liking for life, man, and it sure as hell won’t take much of a liking to you either….

After a sober pause, both burst out laughing and joined several other couples swinging to a lively number on the dance floor like saplings in a summer breeze. I went home feeling more upbeat than I had in ages although not sure why…and that feeling has lasted - through thick and thin - ever since.

L-I-F-E, AND ALL THAT JAZZ…ooking back

Looking back
at angry shadows waving 
madly at me,
but not in a friendly fashion,
clearly blaming me
for doing what I should not
have done,
being where I should not
have been,
saying what I should never
have said

Looking ahead
at more shadows waving
madly at me,
and can’t even tell if friends
or enemies
urging I do what I want
to do,
be where I feel meant
to be,
say what (too long) needs
to be said

Swinging round
like a scarecrow in the wind
at what’s behind
making my heart skip beats
out of fear
for all the mistakes I’ve made
and half made,
put right and half put right,
left uncertain,
no idea which way
to turn

Standing quite still,
listening out for something
(or Someone?)
to point me in the direction
I need to go;
right fork, left, fork, or give up
and turn back…
till sounds of bright music
pointing me at trees
making the kind of mad  jazz
that’s a life force 

Turning my back 
on fear, galvanised by nature
to chase after life
as a child might a butterfly
if only because
it, oh, so beats doing nothing,
going nowhere,
being no one, feeling sorry
for the child self
that never caught a butterfly
or listened to jazz

Copyright R. N. Taber 2015

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Rebel OR Whose Future Is It Anyway?

I will be 70 years-old on the winter solstice. I have mobility problems following a serious fall last year and have been living with prostate cancer since 2011. Oh, well, c’est la vie.

As I grow older and (increasingly) more tired, so my admiration for the boundless energy, passionate idealism and fertile imagination of youth increases, along with no small regret for a certain subduing of rage in me against a world still divided by various socio-cultural-religious and economic factors threatening its societies; threats I suspect many politicians and religious leaders would and could do more to temper with plain common sense and a visible sense of justice and humanity...but for their politics and religion.

I sincerely hope I never become either complacent about or resigned to the status quo in a world that has the potential to be a far kinder, safer, better place.

This poem is a kenning


I penetrate lies,
exposing home truths brushed aside
by those who would keep me
in a cage custom-built by generations
in remembrance of the worst
of times past, likely to catch up with us
where I thirst for a progress
that puts peace, liberty and equality
above self-interest

I conspire with reason
to drive paths through chaos to places
my peers can gather,
sound out those who would prefer
the world’s changes
ring to bring hearts and minds
to their senses
rather than impress judges in some
rigged reality show

I yell to make myself heard
above a clamour of insidious ambition
and darker emotions
driving mortality to prove itself
while it still can
if missing those greater aspirations
to which we are born,
keys to a common world with respect
for its differences

Rebel, put down for my take on truth;
vulnerable to its flaws, call me Youth

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011