Friday, 17 March 2017

Discernment, Reconciling the Science and Art of a Developing Consciousness OR Voyage of Discovery


In the late 1960's, I migrated to Australia. In many respects, the whole episode was a disaster, my dream of creating a new life proving just that - a dream. True, I had been told a pack of half-truths at Australia House that misled me into thinking I was making the right decision. True also, that I was in such a panic about getting my life on track that I could not even begin to see any wood (real or proverbial) for its trees.

At the time, my deafness had not been identified. Self-esteem was not high, since I constantly seemed to be misconstruing (for mishearing) people and facts. I knew I wasn’t stupid so covered for my mistakes with a sense of humour that got me out of scrape after scrape but with which I was fast losing patience.  Having acknowledged - to myself at least - at the age of 14 (1959) that I am gay hadn’t exactly boosted my flagging self-confidence since same sex relationships were a criminal offence at the time. In short, I was a mess and if I’d had anyone to confide in who would have listened to me instead of judging me, they would certainly have advised me to face facts and get on with my life. Instead, I ran away from it all. Ironically, this cleared my head and proved to be my salvation.

If returning to the UK was seen by family and friends as an admission of failure, it was one I found able to take on board without feeling a failure.  I had discovered a new self-confidence which, along with a bent for positive thinking would see me through the rest of my life. Oh, it would be no easy ride (whose life is?)  but I was now equipped with an emotional capacity for looking on the bright side of life, no matter what; this would come to my aid in physical and emotional crisis after crisis, not least the death of loved ones, a severe nervous breakdown and more recently a bad fall during which I sustained a badly fractured ankle which left me housebound for months.

It may sound trite but is true nevertheless that sometimes we have to run away from ourselves to come full circle and find ourselves again, presenting to the world an invented self that was, in fact, there all the time but needing to be coaxed out of its customised shell, not led by the nose through various hoops provided by our so-called ‘betters’ to illustrate invention’s nemesis - convention. For the first time, I began to believe in myself.  The year I was 25, I became a student teacher, fell at the first hurdle (teaching practice) on account of my hearing…and compensated by getting a university education instead. Later, I would do a postgraduate course at Library School and spend the rest of my working life as a professional librarian. Oh, life has been no less a rollercoaster for all that, but if I haven’t always enjoyed the ride, at least I live to tell the tale. At 71, I have been living with prostate cancer (treated with hormone therapy for six years and despite mobility problems since my accident, remain a Happy Bunny…Well, most of the time.

I will probably never return to Australia but it will always occupy a special place in my heart,. Australia and Australians gave me what I had lacked since early childhood…faith in myself as I am not as certain others would have me be. (Yes, I learned the hard way, but is there an easy one…?)

DISCERNMENT, RECONCILING THE SCIENCE AND ART OF A DEVELOPING CONSCIOUSNESS or VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY

I sailed away to a place
in a dream,
only it wasn’t a dream
but a get-away,
running (scared) from a reality
I couldn’t bear

Water, water, everywhere,
co-conspirator
of a loneliness closing in
on me, secret fears
demanding open confrontation,
no hiding place

Sea, sky, and wind
(day after day)
expressing an affinity
with the chaos
of mind-body-spirit seeking
a reconciliation

Cloud faces wherever
I look, masks
that have intimidated me
all my life, needing
to be ripped away, exposing
secrets and lies

Each landfall, a thought
for the day;
revisiting native hosts,
naming them,
raging so at some for having
led me on

I try befriending people.
failing miserably,
probably down to having less
to say for myself
than a child’s comic book hero
making pillow talk

Ah, but isn’t that exactly
how it had been,
an inarticulate desperation
to do something other
than dance some light fandango
at a masque haunt?

A dawning comprehension,
landfall of a kind
likely to grow on us for integrating
with ‘live’ art forms
not incompatible with the science
of human evolution


Copyright R. N. Taber 1969; 2017

[Note: Most of this poem was written this year, but is reflected in lines I scribbled aboard the ship that took me to Australia in 1969 (The Southern Cross) and which I recently discovered folded between the pages of a novel I hadn’t read for years.]


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Poetry Live

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

[Update) March 22, 2017: Well, the poetry evening is done and dusted. Not a lot of people came but we enjoyed ourselves. (There's nothing quite like live poetry.) Everyone seemed to appreciate my choice of poems and we all got on well during the break which was really nice as some people had only just met for the first time. The arts are meant firstly to entertain and secondly to offer food for thought. Feedback suggests the evening was a success on both counts.

For me, personally, it was hard work but a labour of love so I'm glad I went ahead with it despite being a bag of nerves...which, thankfully, steadied once I got started. This year marks sixty years of getting my poetry into print, given that my first published poem appeared in my school magazine summer 1957. I have also been living with prostate cancer for six years (treated with hormone therapy).

If you enjoy my poems on the blog/s and live in the UK, please help if you possibly can. My page will remain open until the end of this week; every little helps its team in supporting men with prostate cancer - and their families - across the UK:


March, by the way, is Cancer Awareness Month here in the UK.

I have recorded last night's poetry reading on my voice recorder although I daresay some editing of the resulting voice file will be necessary.  (I hate the sound of my own voice so will leave that to my friend Graham who shoots and edits the videos on my You Tube channel.) Hopefully, blog readers will eventually be able to link to it.]


I did not have the confidence to read in public for years. However, after a few years of occasionally performing Open Mics at Farrago Poetry evenings in London, I found the self-confidence to accept invitations to give readings around the UK (2003-2014). Only weeks after a reading in 2014, I had a bad fall and have spent much of the last two years learning to walk again. I can get out and about quite well now with the aid of a walking stick, for which I am truly thankful as my left ankle had sustained a complicated fracture and I was warned I might never walk again. Oh, but I love walking and am stubborn enough to defy any harbingers of doom. Even so, I did not expect to give another poetry reading.

Now, this first poem appeared in Visions of the Mind, Spotlight Poets (Forward Press) in 1998 and subsequently in my first collection,  Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001. It is an early piece, written in the summer of 1976 during which I gave an impromptu reading of it in Trafalgar Square to a friend (and several appreciative passers-by who paused to listen.) 

POETRY LIVE

Words

to music, out of words
let the sun rise
in the eyes of that ragged-eared mongrel
curled on George’s doorstep
tongue lolling stupidly
nostrils a-smoke

Words

to music, out of words
let carnival hot dogs
substitute for garden scents,
make easier the stink
of slop-outs in
the gutter

Words

out of choc-smeared mouths
in Bank Holiday sunshine;
kids in glad rags spilling
on the streets like bin bags;
shirtsleeves copper
getting chatty

Poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 1998; 2017

I never dreamt that 30+ years on I would be reading a selection of my poems there, this time to a global audience via web stream as my contribution to Sir Antony Gormley’s ‘live’ sculpture project, One and Other (2009) sponsored by Sky Arts. To view, click on:

https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223131109/http://www.oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T    [NB. Ignore any error message and give it a minute or so to start up; the whole clip lasts an hour.]

Now, as regular readers will know, I remain very positive about my prostate cancer (being treated with hormone therapy) and included it in my reading last night. Sadly, it later transpired that a friend in the audience is having tests for prostate cancer. Hopefully, this will not prove to be the case. In any event, it is a worrying time for him. Whatever the outcome, I like to think the poem will help him to stay positive.

ENGAGING WITH NATURE or LIVING WITH PROSTATE CANCER, SEIZING THE DAY

Gripped by fear,
I could but direct it elsewhere,
yet it keeps returning,
this awful cancer stalking me
like a predator

Away, dark fear,
and let me get on with my life.
Go, feed elsewhere.
I’m only human, but no easy
prey for a predator

Seized by doubt,
I can but trust positive thinking
will yet prevent
this awful cancer turning me
inside out

Away, negativity,
always on hand to undermine me
wherever I lend an ear 
to voices arguing the wisdom
of my choices

Let me not resist a need
for comfort food and fiercer hugs
than ever before
to restore poor self-confidence,
give love its head

Come, Earth Mother,
and never let go of my free hand
as with the other I’ll sign
to mind, body, spirit, and world,
we’re not done

Yes, I will survive
whatever this cancer throws at me,
instincts insisting I embrace
all a feisty spirituality has to give
in its place

Let nature have its way;
together, we will no more concede
any disease its V-Day
than see human beings put down
just for being gay



Copyright R. N. Taber 2011






Sunday, 5 February 2017

An Aversion to Pear Shapes


Many people seem to take friendships - including family relationships - for granted, always expecting the other person to keep in touch. As I grow old, I find I have less patience with this attitude. (I will be 72 this year.) 

I have nothing in common with any surviving members of my family; there is no point in pretending otherwise and I simply don't go along with the idea that family is family, whatever it takes. On the other hand, we actively seek out, select and bond with friends so it can be hurtful when they appear to care less about us than we do about them. (Could we have been reading the wrong signals from the start? Invariably, not...)

I care about my friends and they care about me, but no significant few always wait for me to phone, email, make time to visit or suggest meeting up and/or going somewhere. A friend may be ill, and if there is any reason I cannot visit, I will always try to keep in touch and offer at least moral support if no other. Personal experience has taught me how much a phone call (especially) or text, email, a card even...just knowing someone is thinking of you and wishing you well can uplift even the worst of flagging spirits. Sometimes, though, what two people see as a potential friendship doesn't quite have what it takes, and whether it becomes lopsided (one-sided?) or simply drifts into the mists of time, we have to be philosophical about it.  A meaningful friendship, however, will always last if only because those concerned make time to communicate and iron out any problems or misunderstanding that may well arise along the way. 

Any friendship worth having is always worth trying to save, and if both parties are of the same mind, saved it will invariably be... so long, that is, as someone is prepared to make the first move.

Oh, but friends are only human, and we all live busy lives. Even so…a little thought really does go a long way. (Could it be that someone is dialling my number right now?  Oh, what the heck? Reaching for the phone...)

This poem is a kenning.

AN AVERSION TO PEAR SHAPES

I am the tear that lingers on the eye
as it peers through the mirror of its days
and cares not for all it sees,
blots out dark clouds and acid rain,
settles joy once again
on the heart gladly given to another
in happier times
freely embracing me for its sharing, 
and (like love) enduring 

I am the tear that lingers on the cheek
having expected to receive dawn’s kisses,
but left smarting instead
from a slap by the cold light of day
in return for deeds played out
with best intentions but resulting
in such livid recriminations
as give rise to altercation that defies
either logic or justification

I am the smile that lingers on the lips
after apologies gladly accepted, if rather
late in the day, but better by far
than stubbornly corroding a mind,
anxious to recover all it has lost
yet never quite appreciated…until
fingers reaching for the phone
hesitate to dial my number, and life
goes pear shaped

Wherever dawns pass and sunsets dip,
I am there for you, called Friendship

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

[Note: First published as 'No Appetite for Pears' in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Lewes, Landscape of Imagination


This poem is the direct result of a visit to the historic Sussex town of Lewes. As always, my friend Graham Collett shot and edited the video and I wrote a poem to accompany it. I have posted the video/poem on my You Tube channel:


or access direct at:


It was during the latter days of last summer that Graham  and I visited Lewes. We only had time to visit the castle and Anne of Cleves’ House, and we thought you might enjoy sharing the experience.

The town is the location of several significant historic buildings, including Lewes Castle and a sixteenth-century timber-framed Wealden hall house known as Anne of Cleves House because it was given to her as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII; although there is no historical evidence to show that she never lived there, she may well have visited from time to time.  

Both Anne of Cleves' House and the Castle are owned and maintained by the Sussex Archaeological Society.

LEWES, LANDSCAPE OF IMAGINATION

Looking for creative therapy?
Visit the landscape of imagination,
take a journey into history;
Lewes, spoils of Norman invasion,
Courtesy of William, Conqueror
to William de Warenne and spouse
on overcoming Saxon resistance,
a castle there to build on the Ouse,
dedicated to St Pancras,
in remembrance of a child martyr,
executed for his faith

Pass through the Barbican Gate,
get a feel for olde England surrounds;
a Motte and Bailey castle,
later fortified with stone, the better
to defend against invasion;
few richer spoils of time to be found,
firing the imagination,
filling inner eye and ear with sights 
and sounds of generations
ghosting a courtyard dominated
by all-seeing towers

Climb, climb, a winding stair
of stone, labour of love, chiselled
out of the history
of olde England, witness to battles
and executions,
as well as celebrations, successes
and failures of its tenants
over centuries of war and peace;
echoes of laughter and tears
haunting East Sussex surrounds
for a thousand years

Lewes, meeting its past head-on,
where Anne of Cleves, and entourage
loyal to a discarded queen
may well have sought out the peace
of Tudor England’s green
but troubled land, under a fickle king
so desperate for a son
he wed unwisely (six times, no less)
letting ego-led lust have its head,
while Anne kept hers, even acquired
a house in Lewes

Time, though, will wait for nothing
and no one, least of all a poem passing
through its eternal passages
of fame and fortune, secrets and lies,
honourable deaths, executions
history may well attempt to justify
and scholars make excuses
while poets love to visit time and again,
bring to the landscapes
of imagination, inner eye and ear,
open to whatever…

Day done, history’s curtain drawn
across the windows of minds anxious
to chew on history’s bones,
reach their own conclusions as to how
past into present excavations
of various ruins and other testaments
to history’s own, for better or worse,
invest ghosts the ilk of Anne of Cleves
and such tenants as its castle
once let live, love, make merry and die,
with a singular peace…

Lewes

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Note: I had problems uploading the video to You Tube so you may need to watch it again if your first attempt resulted in any distorted images.



Saturday, 24 December 2016

Darkness, the Poetry of Mixed Feelings OR The Scenic Route to Daylight

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

A friend who (like me) has not had a good year confided that he almost dreads the year  drawing to a close because he fears what next year may bring. He is 80, and (for years now) inclined to think every Christmas will be his last. In my book, that’s as as good as saying he’s afraid to wake up and face a new day in case it is worse than the day before. Oh, I get it, I really do, but negative thinking never got anyone anywhere they would prefer to be.

Me? As regular readers know, I try to take my cue from Monty Python, always looking on the bright side of life, no matter what, even when the view is a wee murky.

Besides, where some people take inspiration and comfort from religion, I take mine from nature…and doesn’t spring always follow winter?

DARKNESS, THE POETRY OF MIXED FEELINGS or THE SCENIC ROUTE TO DAYLIGHT

In the absence of light,
not a soul in sight, nor star or moon,
yet whisperings
in a passing breeze urge calm
as kind ghosts return
to fill a lonely heart with love
and urge us all
to seek peace of mind, be at ease
with ourselves

Does the heart play deaf
for fear of pain returning to haunt
a mind hosting
too many regrets that so relish
any prompting
to haunt, taunt us, make us
feel small
where no shadows even
to take our side?

Oh, but listen, listen, listen
to what friendly ghosts have to say
about seizing the day,
the better to let sweeter dreams
drive the Bogeyman
far away, unwilling to return,
risk further humiliation
where happy hauntings sure
to drive him out

Though a mind be as restless
as a wintry sea on some lonely shore,
let the heart say its piece,
hear it out, let it ease  body’s aches
and pains, inspire
the human spirit to picture moon
and stars looking down
on us with a twinkle in each eye,
anticipating a new day

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016




Sunday, 18 December 2016

Christmas, Food for Thought

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

For years now I have written a general and gay-interest Poem for Christmas and sent it to everyone on my contact list instead of a Christmas card, not least because (as other poems on the blog may well illustrate) I am not a particularly Christmassy person.  It is my pleasure to share this one with you; the other will appear on my gay blog and both will appear on my Google Plus site. (Although I have a gay and general poetry site, as far as I am concerned, a poem is a poem is a poem, regardless of content which is why I am pleased to post both on Google Plus.)

Incidentally, some of you may be interested to know that I am giving a sponsored poetry reading for Prostate Cancer UK on World Poetry Day, May 21, 2017. I will not only be celebrating having seen my poetry in print for 60 years (my first poem appeared in my school magazine, 1957) but also living with prostate cancer for 6+ years. Not everyone who wants to come will want to donate, of course, but do come along if you can. More details at:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Roger-Taber

As I am not a religious person, Christmas means nothing to me in that sense. While I can appreciate and respect the fact that religious festivals are important to those who wish to celebrate their religion, it often seems to me that any messages of love, peace and goodwill to everyone are little more than empty words. 

Religions are only closed shops, though, if their followers choose to make them so; many if not most (but not all, thank goodness) have closed hearts, open only to those who follow its dogma to the letter. (Heaven forbid, anyone should ‘deviate’ even in the name of humanity). Any inhumanity is easily put aside for a Heaven that’s any sheep’s reward for not having the temerity to stray from the dogmatic fold as preached by ‘betters’ who would appear to have His (or Her?) ear. 

Some readers may think my Christmas poems disrespectful, but I can assure you that it is not towards religion that I am so minded but towards those who - in my experience - pay little more than lip service to the major lessons (any) religion professes to preach; e.g. peace,  love, equality, respect and fairness among a common humanity…
Thank you for reading my blog/s, hope you have found plenty to enjoy, and here’s wishing you all a VERY Happy Christmas. 

CHRISTMAS, FOOD FOR THOUGHT

A pet is not just
for Christmas
nor should December
have a monopoly
on spreading peace 
and goodwill

Love is not just
for Christmas
nor should celebrating
any religion
mean shutting one
up or out

Caring is not just
for Christmas
nor can token gestures
of goodies
repay neglecting
the real thing

Mind, body, spirit,
have no need 
of fairy lights on trees,
decorations,
or even and being seen 
going to prayers

Let’s celebrate
the heart
that’s open all seasons
and all hours,
no one turned away,
no excuses 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

[Note: More ‘Christmas’ poems can be found (on both my general and gay-interest blogs) by entering ‘Christmas’ in the appropriate search field.]

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

N-A-T-U-R-E, Imaging Eternity OR Transcending Known Parameteres

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

It seems to me that we often overlook the simpler pleasures of life in our enthusiasm for the more exotic or whatever is most likely to impress family, peers and neighbours. A friend once commented, ‘We never know long we’ve got so all the more reason to cram in as much as we can while we can.’ I get that, but not everyone is a crammer; we all want different things from life and just because someone does not appear to have a lot to show for his or her life doesn’t mean they have not live it, in their own wat and time, to the full.

Now, every so often, someone asks me why I often write about death. Well, as a positive thinker, I try to be as positive about the inevitability of death as I do about making the most of each day as it comes, no matter what it may bring. Besides, I have been living with prostate cancer for nearly six years now so shying away from death is not an option. Not that I have any intention of letting the Grim Reaper have his way with me just yet! (Better to be positive, surely?)

It has been suggested by those who do not know me very well that I should ‘find God’ and therefore need have no fear of death. They mean well, of course, but I have never been able to relate to any religion or idea of a personified ‘God’. Nor am I am an atheist, though, but more of an agnostic in as much as I do believe in a sense of spirituality that enhances our customised vision of the world; outwardly and inwardly. However, as regular readers well know, I take that sense of spirituality from nature, not religion.

Oh, and why, too, do I have a particular fondness for robins? Well, not least because they are survivors, known to see out the worst winters if only to sing in another spring, reminding us all that, of all nature’s gifts, hope has to be among the best on offer. (And should hope die in some bleak winter of the heart? Well, as spring follows winter so, too, perhaps might we…?) 

Such is a sense of spirituality as I see it or if you prefer, the Landscape of Imagination from which so much of my poetry takes its inspiration, both mutually inclusive in my view.

N-A-T-U-R-E, IMAGING ETERNITY or TRANSCENDING KNOWN PARAMETERS

No one ever lays flowers,
comes even to rework old times,
but an old tree reads poems
that passes for a fitting eulogy,
and a robin sings

No memorial marks the spot,
none have cause to pause this way,
but shadows make a play
for life at Apollo’s pleasure,
and seeds grow

Each of four winds has a say
in how the tree needs must recite;
leafy branches acting out
rhythm, rhyme, blank verse,
(all weathers)

Mark how seasons play a part,
anticipating nature’s every mood,
overseeing a predilection
for happy-sad shades of green,
amber, red and mould

No let-up by day or night,
the tree passing on its every nuance
of sight and sound to each man,
woman and child with any feeling
for the natural world

Nature may well see us through
time’s ever-changing kaleidoscope,
yet humanity has far more say
than any leaves in what patterns
it may shape us…?

Ah, but such is human nature,
it may yet branch out on leafy whim
to make, break, let rise or fall
such passions of the human heart
as a robin sings
  
Roger N. Taber (2016)