Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Braveheart OR The Making of Us

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

Some parents are bullies, even those who genuinely think they have their child’s best interests at heart. Children should be allowed to follow their own paths in life, not those mapped out for them by parents who see a chance of their own frustrated aspirations being realised in their children. ‘Bullies’ is no exaggeration. Until children reach an age when they are credited with a mind of their own by certain adults who always think they know best, they are pawns in a very nasty game, unable to establish their own rules of play.

Thankfully, many of these young people rebel in later years. I’ve heard many a parent complaining about an ‘ungrateful’ child.

My father was a psychological bully. I was less embarrassed about coming out as gay in my teens as plain scared that the atmosphere at home whenever he was around would get a lot worse. I believe you should not have children so they can be ‘grateful’ to you, but for the pleasure of nurturing them and seeing them grow into their own person, not a carbon copy of a disillusioned or misguided parent.

We don’t ask to be born on the back of our parents' sexual satisfaction and shared ego trip. So why should we be grateful and feel guilty when we resist the kind of emotional blackmail from parents who cry crocodile tears if we don’t fall in with their plans?

Good parents don’t have to ask or connive; we willingly give what we can because we love them. As I look around at contemporary UK society, it strikes me that there are too few good parents around these days. Many only want children because their religion does not take over population into account and/or so they can go on benefit and become eligible for subsidised social housing and/or so they can call on them as they might an ‘insurance’ policy to cushion their old age.

Good parents everywhere deserve a BIG HUG, and more.

BRAVEHEART or THE MAKING OF US

Cowering in corners of the mind
like a child besieged
by gremlins in an encroaching dark;
captive of human nature,
dragging on the chains of well-meant
parental expectations,
sum of their worst felt failures
and haunting imitations

Who confronts their limitations
finds the strength of Samson
if only to risk locks cut to the quick
by a well-meaning ambition
that’s not mine so (can no one see?)
unfit for purpose

Finally, breaking free!

May those thinking they know
what’s best for me
reason why (and how) I fought
to be the person I am now

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2011

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, (January) 2001; 2nd ed. in preparation NB New eds. of my collections will not be available until after 2015, Meanwhile, signed first editions are vailable at a generous blog discount; contact rogertab@aol.com with 'Blog Reader' in the subject field..]

Friday, 15 July 2011

An Affair To Remember

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

The hormone therapy is doing an excellent job of controlling my prostate cancer, but tiring me out this week, not least because I have to keep getting up during the night to visit the toilet!

Incidentally, many thanks to the reader who contacted me in response to my fiction blog:

http://rogertaberfiction.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile...

Yesterday was the 2nd anniversary of my poetry reading on the 4th plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, July 14th 2009 between 8.00 pm -9.00 pm GMT. I have to confess I forgot the date (never the experience) until a friend reminded me.

It seems like only yesterday that I felt privileged to be able to make a contribution to Antony Gormley’s One & Other ‘living sculpture’ project; 2,400 ordinary people from various backgrounds and parts of the UK were given global coverage for one hour 24/7 for 100 days. The entire web stream is now archived at the British Library, and you may care to access my contribution at:

http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223121732/oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T   [This link needs Adobe Flash Player 10 but will sometimes play without; ignore any error message and give it a minute or so to start up. The video lasts an hour.] RT Nov 2017

I was very nervous about including LGBT-interest poems, especially as there had been a wave of serious attacks in the London are in recent times (a disquieting trait that continues to haunt gay men) but was delighted to receive emails, phone calls and letters of support from gay and straight people alike from the UK and overseas. More importantly, it was good to know that some people appreciate me as a poet with many interests and needing to tackle many themes, among which gay issues are, yes, important to me as a gay man, but no more or less so as a poet than love, nature, spirituality, peace; in what’s going on across the world just as much as what’s happening around me. Poetry is not just about pretty verses or playing clever mind games with language.

Moreover, what has sexuality to do with any aspect of the arts?

I see myself as a poet who happens to be gay rather than a gay poet; there is a subtle difference. At the same time, of course I am not going to ignore gay identity, certainly not because a selection of bigots or learned critics say I should because I am not important enough and some readers might be offended! [Oh, yes, they do.] Besides, if I am not important enough, why should anyone give a damn anyway?

Whatever, my hour on the 4th plinth on a global web-stream did wonders for my self-confidence and self-esteem at a time when I was seriously considering abandoning writing altogether. It also gave me the kind of inner strength that is helping me through treatment for prostate cancer and taking a lot of the fear and worry away (not all, by any means!) about whether or not I have made the right decision to have hormone therapy after changing my mind about radiotherapy.

So, yes, I am greatly indebted to those who gave me the opportunity to perform on the 4th plinth two years ago.

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER

A scenic path into history
(flowers on a plinth in sun and rain)
ordinary or extraordinary

Art reflecting community,
the like (quite) of which never again;
a scenic path into history

A way of seeing all humanity
(inner ear and eye driven to home in)
ordinary or extraordinary

Statues, stepped out of a gallery
celebrating a diversity of population;
a scenic path into history

Treading on dreams but gently,
persevering with the ultimate question,
ordinary or extraordinary?

A feel for comedy and tragedy
(art’s bitter-sweet affair with Creation);
a scenic path into history,
ordinary or extraordinary

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

[Note: From: On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010]

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Deconstructing Cyberia

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

[Update (August 15, 2016): It has been recently reported in the national press that Times Square in New York, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and Disneyland Park in France are among tourist attractions where mobile phones are most likely to be hacked. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Ocean Park in Hong Kong and Las Vegas's strip are the next three mostly likely places, according to research by mobile threat defence company Skycure. Among the best suggestion to prevent hacking is always to use passwords, never share them, change them from time to time, and never program them into a mobile phone. It is also available never to keep any particularly sensitive personal data on a mobile phone for long. I imagine much the same applies to laptops and tablets.]

Regular readers will know that I try to record important if necessarily selective events in my poems and subsequent collections.

Yesterday, I listened to news breaking all afternoon about Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers [not only the News of the World] allegedly resorting to the most horrific tactics in the name of investigative journalism. Blagging, hacking into the phones of a murdered teenager and armed forces personnel killed on active duty...we are being told that these are allegedly among the usual suspects targeting just about anyone in the public eye hell bent on obtaining any information that might pass for ‘news’ considered to be ‘in the public interest.’  This is not (surely?) what investigative journalism is all about.

I have never cared for people like Rupert Murdoch. Even so, like many a business magnate through the centuries, he’s probably not the only Chief who may well have paid his Indians (and other Chiefs) to do any dirty work for him.

Mind you, we should never forget that questionable practices are in a minority even in journalism. Moreover, while we may not agree with whatever News any better practices may come up with, neither should we be quick to write anything or anyone off as either offensive or immoral, especially after consenting to show an interest either by pressing a button or turning a page. Even so, we cannot help but wonder just who may be listening in to our calls and/or monitoring our emails these days.

Perhaps the title of the poem should be  Reconstructing Cyberia (for whatever purpose whomsoever may have in mind...?!)

At school, 50+ years ago, we had a great English teacher, 'Jock' Rankin, who once spent several lessons illustrating and leading class discussions on how and why we should not accept any one version of what we read in newspapers or hear on the radio or see on television as necessarily objective, but to take account of various versions and form our own opinions. I not only count this amongst the most valuable advice I’ve ever been given, but also the most worthwhile lesson (if not the only one) that I took from my schooldays and have put into practice ever since.

This poem is a villanelle and will appear in my next major collection, Tracking the Torchbearer, next spring.

DECONSTRUCTING CYBERIA

Who (now) has the faintest idea
what’s right, wrong, true, false, hearsay,
regarding goings-on in the media?

Is no one safe from the blagger,
and whose phone was hacked into today?
Who (now) has the faintest idea?

Seedy types are exploiting Cyberia,
its millions of everyday tourists led astray
regarding goings-on in the media

Can intrusion into any private arena
be justified by pushing it Joe Public's way?
Who (now) has the faintest idea?

If one malpractice leads to another,
what's the right take on what is or isn't okay
regarding goings-on in the media?

Though no person or enterprise bigger
than a Free Press left to have an honest say,
who (now) has the faintest idea
regarding goings-on in the media?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Sunflowers

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

I love sunflowers, for real and as immortalised in art.

Today’s poem was posted on the blog in April 2009 and is repeated today especially for two Danish readers, ‘Aksel and Carin’ who share a love for the paintings of Danish impressionist Preben Rasmussen; among his paintings, their favourite is one inspired by...yes, sunflowers.

Now, I confess I’d never heard of Rasmussen, and only know of (and love) Van Gogh’s incredible sunflowers but will be on the lookout for any exhibitions of his work from now on.

Oh, but I love it when readers comment that my love poems could have been written for anyone, gay, straight or transgender; my point entirely. [Incidentally, I always include and try to reach out to lesbians among my gay readers, only can’t keep qualifying what I say; no offence intended to those lesbian readers who prefer the term ‘lesbian’ to ‘gay’.]


A love poem is a love poem, for anyone and everyone, in any language.

SUNFLOWERS

Mad caress of fingers in the hair,
bold lips lingering on mine;
bright eyes pricking every nerve,
our breaths like party wine;
beads of sweat, rolling down
each parted thigh - like tears
on the face of a lost child
coming home;
A rhythm in us like the quickening
pulse of a late-night disco,
cyber suns flashing in the face,
making V-signs;
Fulfilment, the joy of someone
playing with a new toy...
(Even in my ecstasy, I sense, dimly,
how he’ll grow tired of me);
for now, though, joined together
like Siamese twins,
one of us destined to live out
the other’s days;
No choice. Better to die now
in a sea of passion,
than while away a lifetime
in a toyshop window;
Fill me, then, with the glorious
chaos of rebirth;
Music, like sunflowers, bursting
from the earth...!

[From: The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004]

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Unsung Heroes

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

March 31st is International Trangender Day of Visibility.

Transgender men and women are often society’s forgotten heroes. I once knew one quite well (she died some years ago) and had every admiration for her; she inspired my character, Jackie, in my novel Sacrilege, [Book 2 of my Laurence Fisher trilogy, Blasphemy-Sacrilege-Redemption.]

I read this poem among others on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square back in July 14th 2009 (see link below) as my contribution to sculptor Antony Gormley’s One & Other ‘living sculpture’ project. It was both sad and heart-warming to receive emails from transsexuals worldwide who had incredibly inspiring stories to tell and were pleased I had helped raise Transgender Awareness a notch higher by reading it to a global audience. [I should add that I also received emails criticising me for standing up for transgender people, but I get them for supporting my fellow gay men and women too so dare say it’s par for the course for anyone whose concerns for the society in which he or she lives extend beyond those in whom they have a special &/or vested interest.]

http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223121732/oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T [Sorry, this link does not always work immediately; ignore any error message and allow up to 60 seconds for the web stream to start up.] RT 12/16

The poem has appeared on the blogs before, but not for a very long time; it is repeated today especially for ‘Shirley’ who has been in touch to ask that I have more to say about transgender people on my blogs. Well, I’m sorry if you feel I neglect transgender men and women Shirley. I do my best to be as all-embracing as I can in my poems and comments, I can’t expect to please everyone.

UNSUNG HEROES

Girl meets Boy in the same body,
demands what shall we do…
pretend everything is hunky dory
or come true?

Girl pleads with Boy for priority
though she may not look the part;
Boy agrees, since it’s a certainty
he has her heart

Boy takes on the world for her sake,
appealing to truth and justice;
Girl but seeking her peace to make
with its prejudice

Boy meets Girl in the same body
after a transformation,
glad to have done right by history
and salvation

Girl thanks Boy for his selflessness
and courage under enemy fire,
leaving her free to seek a happiness
we all aspire

If the world’s humanity a democracy
worth dying for to win…
dare a sometime prison of the body
but let freedom in?

Among centuries of unsung heroes,
our transgender brothers and sisters

[From: On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010]

Friday, 1 July 2011

There and Back Again, Diary of a Depressive

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

I am regularly contacted by people who want to know how I manage (most if not all the time) to rise above regular bouts of depression. I can only tell them what works for me; every individual has to discover for him or herself what will work for them.

I have to say that I, personally, avoid counselling; counsellors can destroy what little self-esteem we have left by the time we start looking for one. However, I dare say I may have been unlucky with those from whom I have sought help in the [distant] past so it might be worth exploring that avenue.

Now, as a great fan of actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers (I loved The Tudors series on TV) I was very saddened to read that he had apparently attempted suicide. I did the same during a severe nervous breakdown some 30+ years ago. I swallowed a LOT of paracetamol tablets, washed down with a bottle of sherry. [Needless to say, I haven’t touched either since.] It was a terrible time, and I well recall the despair when I woke up after being unconscious for about 35 hours. Even so, I couldn’t stand the pain so managed to stagger half-dressed to my local surgery that was close to where I was living at the time.

Recovery took years, and I was unable to work for nearly three. Regular readers will be familiar with my poems like the one below that take depression and rising above it as a theme. I still suffer bouts of depression as I have since childhood, but I know the warning signs now and usually manage to rise above things through my writing, thereby avoiding going into free fall.

My passion for nature plays no small part in a self-taught capacity for positive thinking that, again, has its roots in a troubled childhood. I didn’t grow up in a broken home or anything as awful, but an appalling relationship with my father and a significant hearing loss that no one picked up on made life (and me) difficult, to say the least. It didn’t help when, as a teenager, I had to learn to cope alone with an awakening sexuality; same sex relationships remained a criminal offence here in the UK until 1967 by which time I was in my early 20’s.

Failure to commit suicide gave me a whole new outlook on life. So, yes, I am glad I failed although life has been an uphill struggle ever since, both emotionally and psychologically. Yet, isn’t life a challenge for most of us? I suspect the key is to take up the challenge instead of letting notions of failure mess with the mind; with the heart, too, perhaps. It isn’t easy, and there are times when the depressed person wants to run away from it all. Even so, as I have already said, learn to recognise the signs and it becomes marginally easier to prevent freefall.

For an actor, writer or any creative person, being something of a perfectionist is a mixed blessing. The perfectionist is never satisfied with his or her performance and this alone can lead us to the cliff edge of despair. One of the hardest lessons a creative person has to learn is to enjoy the creative process for its own sake, and while trying our best, not cave in to a mistaken sense of failure should our achievements fall short of expectation. Someone once said to me that she could not do anything creative until she recovered her self-esteem. In my experience, that is putting the cart before the horse. Until we try something, we will never know whether or not we can succeed at it; if we don’t succeed, we should give ourselves a pat on the back for trying and try something else until we discover our forte, something that gives us satisfaction and a boost to self-esteem that can only grow if duly nurtured.

Never feel a failure. Invariably, we do so in relation to someone else. There are times in life when other people don’t matter in the sense that we will only continue to feel close to freefall all the while we insist on comparing ourselves with those whom we most admire for whatever reason. At such times, we need to put ourselves first and refuse to let others put us down for who and what we are.

We can only make the best of what talents we have, and if these are insufficient to give us a sense of fulfilment then we should look elsewhere for the tools we need to help us feel a more complete person. Love and friendship offer fulfilment if we are prepared to work at them and not take either for granted. A talent for love and friendship is as creative an inspiration as we are ever likely to find in life; they come in all shapes and sizes and, again, we should not compare what we seek with others who have different needs and expectations.

I have said before on the blogs, we are all different and should not be in any hurry to measure ourselves by other people’s achievements.

I doubt whether Jonathan Rhys Myers reads my blog, but to him and all people driven to psychological and emotional free fall for whatever reason, I say, take heart, think well of yourself, and time may not heal all our hurts, but it will do a damn good job on most of them if only we are prepared work at it. There are no quick fixes and time can seem (very) frustratingly slow, but trying out new steps each day will produce positive results in the end if not always at a time we need them most.

A depressed person deserves a medal just for going through the motions of getting on with daily life. Believe me, I have been there, and my heart goes out to all those who suffer the worst depression can throw at us. Even once it has taken what seems like an eternity to lift, it will hover, and then go to wait in the wings until the next time it will try to take centre-stage; it is up to us to try and make sure it doesn’t. Oh, it will probably always insist on being a bit player in our lives, but that becomes just about bearable. People who suffer from depression are very fortunate indeed if it doesn’t make at least the occasional appearance. [The trick is to see it coming, and keep it from doing too much damage.]

To their loved ones and friends, I urge patience and understanding. Depression is NOT the same as feeling low or fed-up; it is light years beyond. At the same time, there is no need to let a depressed person’s mood swings take you to the edge as well. Speak up. Don’t let anyone walk all over you, whether they are depressed or not. But do so with kindness rather than in anger. Keep faith with love and friendship; it is at such times when depression or other hardships strike and test all of us that both truly come into their own.

Oh, but life can be so complicated, and rarely gives us a clear run all the way. Yet, for all its ups and downs, it is the only life we have so let’s make the best, not the worst of it, yeah? [Did I say it was easy?]

THERE AND BACK AGAIN, DIARY OF A DEPRESSIVE

A shadow came to squat by my side,
its features obscured,
took my hand, claimed to be a guide,
said I should not be afraid;
a voice as silky as a child’s brow
persuaded me to my feet,
vaguely familiar voices calling, ‘No!’
distant echoes in my heart

If reassuring, the voice kept insisting
this was no time to be fanciful,
its silk at my ears faintly brushing
like lips behind a veil;
I let myself be led into my own garden
where I’d plant flowers,
prune its fruit trees and mow the lawn
during golden hours

Yet, even as the trellis gate swung open
to let us enter there,
I was gripped by an awful premonition
and sickening fear;
the silky voice took on a mocking tone
as the veil fell away
to a pecking at my flesh to the very bone
like a bird of prey

In a panic, I called the garden to my aid
only to see…
its trees were dying, its flowers dead,
the lawn but a spread of algae;
desperate to escape being eaten alive,
I tore myself free,
begging of that cold, dark, watery grave
a last sanctuary

I dropped as sure as a stone into the slime
and lay on its bed,
watching the algae, like veils of time,
expose half truths over my head;
hands reached down to pull me to a surface
I instantly recognised,
where fruit trees, flowers and green grass
have endured

Between the lines of Earth Mother’s smile
I read how survival is but half the battle...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009


[Note: I will include this poem in my next major collection, Tracking the Torchbearer, scheduled for publication in spring 2012.]