Friday, 31 August 2012

Death Of A Princess

Today is the 15th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales who was tragically killed in a car ‘accident’ in Paris on August 31st 1997.

Many readers who appear to have difficulty accessing You Tube direct for one reason or another have asked me to repeat the video of the memorial in Hyde Park and poems Graham and I uploaded to my You Tube channel, and I have posted it below; those of you who can access You Tube, and wish to access the poems I read as well, may wish to go to the link below, click on ‘videos’ and scroll down until you come to Living Water, Living Spirit [The poems I read over the video are posted on You Tube in the description that relates to it or you will find them in the blog.]

Meanwhile, here is a new poem written in memory of a remarkable woman; a devoted mother whose beauty, charm, and capacity for compassion won hearts and minds wherever she went.

She wasn’t without flaws, you might say, so tell me then...who is?


Brought to its knees
the day she died, the world
asked questions,
demanded answers,  cried
itself to sleep

Media loved to play
the blame game, but no one
(quite) convinced
by speculation compromising
its integrity

Crowds played out
the performance of a lifetime
at the palace gates
while its key players left
them to it

Hysteria over a flag
left flying high and crying out
for half-mast
lent tunnel vision an air
of plausibility

Elsewhere, a family
resolved to protect its own
devising new ways
of doing the walk and talking
the talk

Diana, on an island
of dreams, inviting royalty
and ordinary people
to rise above tears like petals
between showers

Brought to its knees
the day she died, the world
still asks questions,
demands answers,  cries
itself to sleep

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Storm Birds

Today’s post appears on both my general and gay-interest blogs.

I am dedicating today's poem to disabled people everywhere, especially at this particular moment in time as later this week we will be celebrating, supporting and enjoying the London 2012 Paralympic Games. 

There are, of course, disabled gay men and women worldwide too; among them, those determined to follow their dreams in various areas of achievement, including sport. All, like everyone else, can do no more or less than get on with the daunting task of daily life; only, for many if not most, that is likely to prove even more daunting.

As someone who has suffered significant hearing loss all my life (much improved now with digital hearing aids) I often have balance problems. Given, too, that deafness is an invisible disability, with which many hearing people quickly lose patience, it is perhaps not surprising that I have always felt a considerable affinity with disabled people who are frequently - intentionally or otherwise - put down by the less enlightened among the able-bodied majority.

Disabled people are an inspiration, but few see themselves in that light, just wanting to be treated much like anyone else. Is that so much to ask?

So here's wishing Team GB Paralympians good luck, and the same to everyone else taking part in The Games. Let's be sure to support them in the same spirit of sportsmanship we recently cheered on their Olympian counterparts.  

This poem is a villanelle. 


Where able bodied folks go
in a brave new world
the less able, too, dare follow

Nor must we ever fail to show
respect for the D-word
where able bodied folks go

Find inspiration’s brilliant glow
in a storm bird;
the less able, too, dare follow

Love challenges all in the know
(Theatre of the Absurd)
where able bodied folks go

For dreams hid under a rainbow,
hope deferred,
the less able, too, dare follow

Life-force (now ally, now foe)
at best a gift shared...
Where able bodied folks go,
the less able, too, dare follow

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Echoes Of Spring

It looks as though summer has paid a flying visit to the UK this year and autumn is already on it way. A neighbour remarked only yesterday that ‘Before we know it, winter will be here. It’s all so defeating.’

I beg to differ...


I walked among trees today,
watched leaves falling, heard autumn

I crossed green fields today
saw a swallow fly my way, wasn’t ready
for turning

I strolled into a feisty twilight,
its soft summer light like altar candles

I sensed the sky wasn’t done
with me yet, moon on the world’s lovers

I listened out, and sure enough
autumn calling, faintly, for a nightingale

I felt earth and sky embrace me
reassuringly though (surely) a lonely night

Ah, summer, resisting first breaths
of a north wind, never loath to give hope
an airing

I sensed Earth Mother wasn’t done
with me yet, leafy moon on we parted lovers

I took heart from all nature today,
heard summer rallying its children, echoes
of spring

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Monday, 20 August 2012

Who Talks For The Trees?

Enjoying my summer break, but first...

A reader has been in touch to say she enjoyed yesterday’s poem and how her daughter had recently suffered a similar fate.

Movingly, the same reader adds that she herself would never travel on the London Underground again following the tragic events of July 7th 2005 in which she lost a close friend. Similarly, she would never visit the USA because ‘ it has to be a high profile target for terrorists.’ .

While I can understand and sympathise with how she feels, terrorists can strike anywhere at any time. We can but remain hopeful that we will leave our homes for work or whatever and return safely. Besides, if we give in to our fear of terrorists and their misguided belief that they are entitled, for whatever reason, to force their views on others by means that confirm the existence of evil in the world… they have won.

Dare I suggest that Earth Mother, too, should be on her guard against those set n destroying the environment? (I may be in my late 60s now but I will always be an eco-warrior at heart.)


Two so-splendid trees
stood tall at the edge of a wood,
conspiring with song
and laughter, symphony and poetry
to run the gamut of serendipity;
all loves, hates, jealousies, captured
in shades of evergreen
on the costliest canvas seen
among the sweetest,
finest blessings of Nature,
redefined by Man
in its own flawed image,
redesigned to suit
an ailing humanity along lines
of a well-meaning insanity
coursing the soul; would-be giants
grown tall, sentinels
of a civilization protective of its own
for want of a wisdom of ages
(found in history’s bloody pages?)
conspiring with song and laughter,
symphony and poetry
to stand tall among giant trees,
denying that Nature
knows best, mankind least,
for all its Grand Imagination
touching on salvation
to defend a dereliction of duty
to save the woodlands
for next generations, rather give trees
up to property developers
for the sake of tax gatherers
giving them the eye
and even if the risen Jesus pause by
they’ll not look up and see us,
hear a leafy wind whisper the names
of all those fallen in youth or prime
to flames risen from flickering embers,
across the world, and will always, no matter
the day or month or year

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2005

[Note: This poem has been slightly revised (2012) from the original version that  appears in  A Feeling For The Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Tea Bags On The Central Line

London is experiencing a mini heat wave at the moment and I had to travel on the Underground yesterday!  The carriage was crowded and I felt like a sardine in a sauna! Today’s poem came to mind that I published on the blog in 2010 during a similar period of what is (for the UK) freak weather; it first appeared in a Poetry Now (Forward Press) anthology in 2003, and subsequently in my collection two years later.


Forget sardines

Packed on the Tube like tea leaves
in a bag - without perforations;
kettle on, steam coming out
of everyone's ears;
dying for a brew. Instead, brewed up
for railway bosses…
to sip over their bonuses,
with digestives, one side chocolate,
(yummy) from the fridge - so not
dripping like some commuter dummy
mopping face, hands, neck,
wondering how the heck did I
get myself into this fine mess,
why don't I quit my job and go home,
rest up in the shade, treat myself
to a long, cold beer instead of being
brewed up here like a bad TV ad
meant to boost sales of tea, not
swap bags like me for the real thing,
high on the agenda for News at Ten
in the absence of fallout from
the political PR Machine and what
about those raking in the harvest?
(No, not the slave labourer but this
spin doctor and fat cat and what are we
supposed to make of that?)

I'll never be able to look a tea bag
in the eye again, even if a semblance
of normality should ever reconvene

Forget sardines

[From: A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Please note: All my poetry titles are still in print, but only on sale in the UK. There will be no further print runs of my poetry titles except perhaps for the latest, Tracking the Torchbeare. I hope to upload kindle e-editions to amazon at a later date, hopefully starting this year or next; these will contain revisions of some poems and will be instead of 2nd (rev.) print editions. Readers who have bought my collections and/or follow my blogs will realise t this constitutes a change of mind on my part. Book sales are generally  in decline (not just mine) and I have yet to decide whether a final volume - Diary of a Time Traveller - planned for publication in 2015 will appear in print form or only as an e-edition.

Meanwhile, signed copies of 1st eds. can be obtained from me at a generous blogger discount; this applies to overseas as well as UK readers. 

Contact: for details with 'Blog Reader' or Poetry Collection' in the subject field .

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Zen of Sadomasochism

This post appears on both blogs today.

As regular readers well know, I am always up for a poetry ‘challenge’ and although I am taking a break at the moment it is always good to hear from people.  Two emails arrived on the same day recently, the first from a straight couple, ‘Alain and Michelle’.

The second email was from gay guys ‘Niall and Jeff’ who have been together for 50 years today.  Wow, congratulations, to you both!

Both couples express disappointment that I rarely write about sadomasochism.  I confess it isn’t something that appeals to me although I have known a number of great people over the years who have spoken eloquently to me about its attraction for them and at such great length that I felt qualified to write the poem.

Many poems, of course, require a degree of role-play on the part of the poet. I an only hope any readers into sadomasochism won’t be disappointed that it may not be as ‘graphic’ as they might like. But there are sites enough for that, and I wanted to get across the sadomasochistic experience as waxed lyrical by many of its enthusiasts for centuries.


Take me to the limits
of endurance, take me to the edge
of your world;
take me to that place
where pain lets the human spirit
feel its whiplash
and metaphor crashes
into a graffiti wall of silence
that even poetry
cannot pretend is anything
but a surrender of sexual integrity
to self-gratification
for lending all the parts
comprising a customised identity
to another self

Learn to shape our selves
at their will and pleasure to whatever
intention may be
(and, oh, so nebulous motivation)
since we both know there are desires
to be hauled out of closets
that cannot be exposed
to any human heart, yet need to be aired
now and then
at the limits of endurance
taken to the very edge of your world
and mine, where pain
lets us feel its whiplash,
freeing a dark spirit that lies within
to leap into overdrive
Oh, but sure to crash
into the lonely silence of crude guilt
for which even poetry
has no expression,
and only a surrender of sexual integrity
for its own gratification
can start a healing process
likely to mend a broken body on a wheel,
restore its spirit,
return man or woman
to a gate in The Silence where we slaves
know the password is pain
and poetry comes
into its own again for acknowledging
an existential purity

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Monday, 13 August 2012

Going For Gold

Having enjoyed watching the Olympic Games, if only from the comfort of my armchair, I feel compelled to express my thanks to and admiration for everyone involved; those who won medals, those who missed out on medals, and those whose contribution in organising the London 2012 Olympics  made it such a roaring success.  

Oh, and let’s not forget those fantastic crowds that certainly made The Games a literally roaring event.

Now we have the Paralympics to enjoy which if anything is likely to be even more inspiring than the Olympics. The very fact that across the world men, women and children rise above their disabilities to live as full a life as they can is an incredible achievement. How so many people defy varying degrees of disability to become outstanding in sport or whatever field is nothing less that awesome; simply getting on with everyday life is an achievement of which they can be so proud. 

Hopefully, the crowds will continue to swell and roar once the Paralympics get underway. 

We can all go for gold, but relatively few of us will achieve that. Whatever, we should never feel a failure (or let anyone else make us feel that way) if things don't work out quite as we'd hoped; each and every one of us deserves a medal just for giving it our best shot. (No one can do more.)

This poem is a villanelle.


Where its every dreamer goes,
agony and ecstasy,
in life’s weepy highs and lows

A brave going for gold shows
true grit humanity,
where its every dreamer goes

Oh, but every dreamer knows
a bitter-sweet reality,
in life’s weepy highs and lows

Missing any home goals throws
us but temporarily...
where its every dreamer goes

No finer inspiration than follows
shades of immortality,
in life’s weepy highs and lows

However modest our aspiration,
the human spirit grows
where its every dreamer goes,
in life’s weepy highs and lows

London: August 12th 2012

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Monday, 6 August 2012

Love's Take On Multiculturalism

Today’s post appears on both blogs.

I received the oddest email yesterday. A reader had some kind words for my poems but asks, ‘What is the point unless you can be counted among the great poets?’

This reader has answered his or her own question.  There is every point in writing poems if even just one person enjoys reading them.

So I am not a ‘great’ poet.  Do I care?  It is more than enough for me that both poetry blogs have reached nearly 20,000 page views since Google started keeping stats in May 2010.

My thanks go to everyone for such encouraging feedback.

Since I’m here, I might as well post a new poem that has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of poetry magazine published by Scars Publishing in the USA.

Too many cultures persist with a taboo on mixed-culture relationships. This is especially hard on those people, especially young people, living in a modern multicultural society.  Love has no time for such taboos and only asks that we respect its global identity.

It is no betrayal of culture, family or whatever to fall in love. Love brings shame on no one, and I include gay relationships. Those who see it as some kind of shameful betrayal are not only out of step with love, but out of step with their culture for interpreting it by book rather than by heart; parents and other family members need to remind themselves that where any cultural responsibilities appear to override their love for children and siblings, the potential for shame lies not within that culture but within themselves.   


As I put my lips to yours
they part to let my flame enter you,
its heat moulding us
into a live love-sculpture portraying
the true meaning of life

As the flame goes to work
on firing a peace offering to all those
who reject our love,
the raw scars of suffering peel away
like layers of an onion

As we dive and swim freely
where waters of the womb have risen
to offer us sanctuary
from wildfires threatening extinction,
we head for infinity

We reach a sandy shore,
our healing selves embraced by palms
whose leaves caress
where cruel hands would not long since 
have denied us a hearth

Oh, heaven, this splendid place;
if a dream, as real and far more likely 
to inspire angel choirs
than conflict among opposite numbers
in temporal divisions

Sadly, we must rise and leave
to make our way in this 'modern' world,
still a slave to its past
for all its fine rhetoric about fair play
in a free society

Yet, we have found a place
where no socio-cultural-religious spite
can keep us apart
though it snatch us up and spit us out
for breaking its rules

Find us among arts and streets,
recreating love’s custom made models,
nor a finer take on life
than sex, sexuality, colour, age or creed
reworking its humanity

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tracking The Torchbearer - Introduction

Hi folks,

I am just dropping by as I may well do so again before the blog kicks off again with some new poems in October. Oh, and this post is duplicated on both blogs today. 

Now, some readers have been in touch to ask if Tracking the Torchbearer is a collection of poems about sport.  Well, no. As with the poem from which the collection takes its title (search blog archives under title) it simply attempts to convey the spirit of sportsmanship, especially as exhibited by nations of the world coming together for major events like during the Olympic Games. (There will always be the occasional exception, but that’s life...)

My Introduction to the collection may give you some idea of what to expect.


Here in the UK this year, we are celebrating the Olympic Games coming to London and Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  On a more personal note, I am celebrating my twentieth year of getting poetry into print. 
I first began submitting poems for publication in 1993, since when some 600+ poems have appeared in various poetry publications world-wide (excluding any that only appear in my collections); if I include titles that have appeared in more than one publication, the total rises to 650+. Needless to say, I thrilled; it’s not a bad tally for someone a work colleague once wryly described as ‘a nobody with literary pretensions’ simply because I get very little media attention.  [Do I care?]
Some readers may judge that a disproportionate number of villanelles and kennings appear in this volume. I will usually choose the villanelle form to record significant national and world events; also places I have visited where, instead of a camera, I record my impressions in a poem. My kennings give expression to a more philosophical bent. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that the discipline ‘form’ poetry imposes on the poet summons a less blurred picture to mind, and prevents emotive waffle. Purists are welcome to take issue with my frequent use of ‘hidden’ rhyme.
Some of my critics argue that rhyme and form constitutes ‘old hat’ poetry. Yet, if variety is the spice of life, the same goes for poetry surely? Besides, readers seem to like it and it’s you, the reader, not the critic who really matters.
Why do I write poetry? Well, because I enjoy it and because it helps me focus on surviving the various slings and arrows of everyday life.  As someone prone to bouts of depression, I fear I would otherwise lose the plot altogether. It is also very gratifying to receive feedback, positive or otherwise. Many UK public libraries stock some or even all my titles while the number of readers world-wide who dip into my poetry blogs from time to time continues to rise significantly.
As a librarian all my professional life, I am  thrilled that the British Library has decided to include my poetry blogs in a project archiving certain websites. This, in addition to my poetry reading on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square for Antony Gormley’s One & Other ‘live sculpture’ project; the entire web stream of 2,400 people doing their own thing for one hour 24/7 over 100 days July-October 2009 is now archived in the British Library.
Another new project has been uploading readings of some of my poems to You Tube with my close friend Graham Collett acting as cameraman; he also edits all our videos before we upload them. He is also responsible for production and/or design of some of my book covers, including this one. It has been great fun, and if results are not always ideal, we hope readers will enjoy what is very much a team effort. While we have done our best, we haven’t taken it too seriously, not least because any art form, including poetry should, above all else, entertain. (I fear critics are frequently inclined to overlook this essential feature of the arts.)
While my gay-interest poems have met with some hostility, most feedback has been very positive, so much so that by the time I came to publish On the Battlefields of Love in 2010, I felt that few readers would disapprove of my including even more gay material. Tracking The Torchbearer, like On The Battlefields Of Love, not only has a central gay section but also includes gay-interest material in other sections. [Regular readers of my blogs will know I do not consider poetry on a gay theme as something separate from mainstream poetry, nor a genre-within-a genre as some critics would have it.]
Why was I cautious, even defensive in earlier collections? Well, contrary to general opinion, gay material is (still) not seen as a good commercial proposition by most editors and publishers. I think it is significant that few poems of mine on a gay theme have been published outside my collections. 
I get so fed up with hearing that ‘gays have never had it so good.’  This may well be true in some parts of the western world but not all, especially where multiculturalism continues to impose certain historical restrictions and taboos; among these, same sex relationships. In some parts of the world, of course, gay people, can be imprisoned, even executed for their sexuality. In Uganda, for example, in  2010, a newspaper article published the names of known homosexuals and called for them to be hanged!
It is high time the world’s pockets of socio-cultural-religious bigotry came into the 21st century and got real.
Like it or not, gay people exist worldwide and should be accorded the same courtesies and Human Rights as any other responsible members of society. It may be true that much of the northern hemisphere has pro-gay legislation and political correctness, but many people simply pay lip service to these; the latter especially  has much to answer for in merely driving  homophobia underground.
The public face of Equal Rights often masks the private face of an enduring socio-cultural-religious bigotry.
Of course, our sexuality is only a part of who we are. Sexual identity is important, but isn’t and shouldn’t be the last word in life, love and human relationships. I tackle a variety of themes and events that matter to the world today. Yes, from a personal perspective, but while trying to give the reader space to move within a poem and make his or her  own way through its form and content. [Simple, some of my poems may be, but never simplistic.]
A final collection - Diary of a Time Traveller - will coincide with the year of my 70th birthday in 2015. I am  working  on it already; should my prostate cancer catch up with me before then, my executor has instructions to go ahead and publish it under the Assembly Books imprint. - RNT © 2012