Tuesday, 25 April 2017

T-I-M-E, Hands on a Millennium Clock OR L-I-F-E, Echoes of Sound and Fury


‘Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing...’ – Shakespeare (Macbeth)

Provoked by a classmate, I fought with him in the school playground some 60+ years ago. We were both given detention, and I missed a favourite TV programme as well as having to explain to my mother why I was late home. I protested that it wasn’t my fault, to which she replied, ‘It’s never Anyone’s fault, dear, which is why No one gets anywhere fast because Everyone is too busy blaming Someone Else to actually get to the bottom of things.’ This meant nothing to me at the time, of course, but continues to resonate with me, making sense of a kind it has taken me the better part of a lifetime to grow into…

T-I-M-E, HANDS ON A MILLENNIUM CLOCK or L-I-F-E, ECHOES OF SOUND AND FURY 

Childhood, waved me on
to better days
when grownups take notice
of what I think,
even have the presumption
to offer an opinion

Teenage years greeted me
with false promises,
aspirations soon warned off
by my betters
as overarching my potential,
mere pipe dreams

A working life beckoned
away from schooldays
filled with angst about exams,
impressing peers,
yearning a greater freedom
of personal space

Retirement welcomed me
with a cheery wave,
promising leisure moments filled
with fun and laughter
free from work stress, more time
for family and friends

Old age has the last laugh
on me, them, us,
and a worldwide Family of Man,
exposing home truths
more sinned against than sinning
for sowing confusion?

Such are tales told by an idiot,
signifying nothing…
unless we discern and accept
some responsibility
for our world as it is, and do our bit
to change it for the better

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Back to School OR Discovering Letters on Building Bricks, Learning Tools for Grown-Ups

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

While I will always refute the notion that schooldays see us through the best years of our lives, I will always be grateful for a less than happy learning experience that has brought me to where I am now; one which, for better or worse, has more yet in store for me. For just how much longer, only time will tell; no life experience teaches us all the answers although there never was any harm in speculating and trusting that a few, at least, will filter through.

I was like a fish out of water at school for all kinds of reasons, not least because no one picked up on my partial deafness so I missed much of what was being said. Moreover, I am not a very practical person and hopeless at subjects like woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing, which, it being a Technical School, were primary subjects. I learned a lot, though, if only by way of survival skills that would see me through the rest of my life.

Although a ‘low to medium’ achiever’ at school, I had some great teachers and learned a lot; e.g. how to compensate for my deafness by developing a wacky sense of humour that would get me out of all kinds of scrapes; feeding my imagination on classic children’s poetry and literature that would soon find me devouring adult works that, in turn, would serve me well as a mature student at university;  enjoying my ups by coming through my downs with a real sense of having learned something although (of course) I hadn’t thought of it as a learning process at the time; discovering at first hand that self-pity is a waste of any potential for mind, body and spirit left waiting in the wings, demonstrating (only too well) the futility of going nowhere fast.

Oh, and last but not least, those less-than-happy-but-worth-every-minute schooldays taught me to live with myself, warts ‘n’ all. (Rarely a flattering image, but, what the heck…? Sure, escapism by whatever means is all very well, so long as we can get real - with ourselves if not always with each other - whenever needs must.)

Yes, 71 now and still discovering what letters make what words on what building bricks used to make a world...

BACK TO SCHOOL or DISCOVERING LETTERS ON BUILDING BRICKS, LEARNING TOOLS FOR GROWN-UPS

Old building,
groaning for developers
knocking it down

Empty rooms,
full of jeering ghosts
putting me down

Nightmares,
haunting my every step,
bringing me down

Old school tie,
noose around my neck,
dropping me down

Formative years,
lessons but half learned
letting me down

T-I-M-E, choices
breaking us in, schoolkids
on a joyride

L-I-F-E, a half-ruin
waiting upon developers
to reconstruct us

N-A-T-U-R-E,
kinder ghosts, ready to lend
a helping hand

L-O-V-E,
better teachers, overriding
lesser mortals

P-E-A-C-E
but graffiti on a blackboard
till we can spell

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017






Monday, 10 April 2017

First Among Equals or Nature, Powerhouse of the Spirit


We may like to think we live in an open society, yet behind closed doors thrive secrets of all kinds, not least the human kind.

Open or less open, the world’s societies, communities, and families have kept various secrets since the beginning of time where most if not all of us would happily settle for just one...

FIRST AMONG EQUALS or NATURE, POWERHOUSE OF THE SPIRIT

I have heard a spring rain
challenge trees to open up to us
and share their secrets

I have heard leafy sunshine
serenade flowers with summers
overflowing with secrets

I have seen autumn’s glow
fair reassure the world’s lovers
of keeping their secrets

I have seen wintry clouds
express every intention to betray
all the world’s secrets

Between womb and tomb,
peace of mind, first among equals
in this world of secrets

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 2 April 2017

On Taking Responsibility OR In Pieces


Regular readers will be aware that I suffered a severe nervous breakdown in 1979. As I began to recover, so I started writing again as much by way of creative therapy as any natural love for the art form. Following an indescribable struggle with mind, body and spirit, I finally regained a sense of ‘normality’ and was fortunate enough to dig myself out of that Black Hole, unemployment, and return to work a few years later. In 2005, I began publishing poems, self-publishing the only option open to me as no literary agents or publishers wanted my gay-interest material and I refused to leave it out.

This poem (a villanelle) has been significantly revised since I published in 2005, itself a (lesser) revision of a (handwritten) version written during the 1990’s. Not one of my better poems, perhaps, although its place in the history of my poetry of no small significance. 

For years now, I have been striving to (a) reach out to readers, (b) share an inner learning curve, and (c) reconcile form and content in my poetry in a way that does some justice to its art form; it has been a long journey, and not over yet. To critics who suggest I should not poet poems until I and they are ‘ready’ I can only say that, having sowed various seeds, I am never quite clear how they might grow until they flower; sometimes they remain but seeds or may sprout shoots that refuse to flower or may flower in ways that are true to a picture on the seed packet.

One way or another, we have to take responsibility for ourselves; playing the blame game never got anybody anywhere hast unless it’s a Black Hole like the one I crawled out of years ago into a self-awareness that insisted I stop playing Jack-in-a Box about being gay and learned to take responsibility for and a pride in a better, kinder self than any which life experience had all but succeeded in moulding me into hitherto.

I’m 71 now, and still learning…

ON TAKING RESPONSIBILITY or IN PIECES

We broke the pot,
(Earth Mother cried)
up to us to mend it…

Birthdays forgot,
(the old beggar died)
we broke the pot

Loyalty split,
(so our ‘Betters’ lied?)
up to us to mend it

Peace, it could not
get the better of pride;
we broke the pot

To each our lot;
though humanity divide,
up to us to mend it

Marking the spot
where hope all but died;
we broke the pot,
up to us to mend it…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2017

[Note: A version of this poem first appeared in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 31 March 2017

Ode to a Sunny Day


A reader, Helen, has kindly written in to say she and her family enjoy my poetry and she thinks I deserve more hits. Well, thanks a lot, Helen, encouragement is always welcome. Poetry, though, is not everyone’s cup of tea and I am just happy that the blogs are still going strong after six years. Besides, I have set the statistics so Google does not count my own views; this gives me a clearer picture of readership. I am not interested in competing with anyone.

Now, today’s little poem was written in 1979. Sadly, it strikes me as being even more relevant now than it was then. A neighbour had been complaining to me about retirement, saying how he missed ‘the buzz of real life’ because all there was for the likes of retired people was a second hand existence by courtesy of television and cinema. I suggested keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…pleasures for which we often have little or no time when working full-time and/or bringing up a family…? (Mind you, we need to make time.) He simply shrugged and went indoors to watch an afternoon soap opera.

No, I’m not knocking TV, but now I am retired myself, I discover I have little time to watch it…for keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…simple pleasures for which it was often hard making time for when working.

Following a bad fall in summer 2014, I was housebound for months and spent a good year or so learning to walk again. I live alone so TV was a great comfort and companionship (of sorts) in between writing up the blogs, three sessions of (ten) physiotherapy exercises a day and chatting to friends who were kind enough to drop by and help out on a regular basis all the while I could barely walk. I missed getting out and about and do so now as much as I can; even though walking is still quite painful, I have a sturdy oak walking stick, and it is always worth making the effort.

So when I talk to young people rushing home to spend hours on social media, I can’t help feeling they are missing out…

No, I am not knocking on-line social networking, either, but there can be no substitute for real-life, face to face companionship and banter among friends, not to mention getting out and about in the sunshine…can there? Now I am older (71) and less mobile, it is harder to get out and about and meet people, but (still) always worth making the effort.

Social media. the world wide web, TV...all have a place in our lives, of course they do, but no one's life balance should be tipped in their favour...surely?

ODE TO A SUNNY DAY 

Little birds singing on the garden wall

I’ll not write you up
you’re, too sentimental
for the Age, they say

As one to another you brightly call

I’ll shut the window;
a new soap opera's about
to start on TV  

Bright sunlight distorting everything

screen-lined faces
like grotesque cartoons
in a Hall of Mirrors

Let's close the curtains, better already

now we can see
on what's really going on,
and enjoy our crisps

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2016


[Note: This poem has been slightly revised since it first appeared under the title 'To A Sunny Day' in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

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 25, 2017: Well, the poetry evening is well 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 a while longer; every little helps its team in supporting men with prostate cancer - and their families - across the UK:



I have recorded the  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.

RIPOSTE, TO THE DARKER SIDE OF 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