Thoughts and observations by English poet Roger N. Taber, a retired librarian & poet-novelist.- "Colour, creed, sex, sexuality... these are but part of a whole. It is the whole that counts." RNT [NB While I have no wish to create a social network, I will always reply to emails. Contact: email@example.com].
I once remarked to a friend that people can be are such a puzzle, to which he promptly replied that it probably was because we are such a puzzle to ourselves.
Sometimes we find it hard to express ourselves in words; if we are fortunate enough to be painters or musicians, we can often express ourselves better through those genres, certainly our deeper feelings.
At other times, we may express ourselves perfectly yet still be misunderstood because those with whom we wish to communicate choose to put their own interpretation on what we say rather than try and understand what we mean.
But what do we mean and do we ever mean quite what we say? Oh, but how often do we wish we had expressed ourselves differently!
Our use of weeds, paint, music, whatever...these all open up pathways to meaning that all parties concerned are free to follow; sometimes we are fortunate enough to follow the same path, and meaning is established. Yet, even where meaning is not fully established, the chances are our relationship with the other party will have entered a new dimension; one we are likely to explore whether consciously or subconsciously, and in so doing discover more about each other than before the dialogue began...even if we are not quite sure what, exactly.
If I’d said this, or that,
said - what?
If I’d done this, or that,
done - what?
Tortured souls crying out
their guilt, left
hanging in some limbo
to - rot?
What good purpose, that?
We cannot (ever) change
bring back loved ones
long - gone?
No, but here in the heart,
willing us to live again,
Nothing, said or done then
would - what?
Have eased whose pain,
Choices, rarely plain, but
will take us here, there,
No one to blame having
chosen - wrong?
Who’s to say, play judge
Enough, surely, to be…
[From:A Feeling For The Quickness Of Timeby R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]
I well remember how, as a child, I would wake some mornings, sun shining on my window where Jack Frost had painted all manner of shapes and scenario; these would fill me with such a sense of wonder and delight that I was sure to be thinking positively by the time I jumped out of bed, game to take on a new day. Nothing has changed except I am 60+ years older...
FROST ON THE GLASS Snow leopard pacing its territory; Eagle circling its prey; Wolf howling to others across eternity; Avalanche stirring, poised to destroy – even as we watch, listen, wait for winter’s cruelty to abate; Each to our own pillow, eyes on a window... Too cold for snow and whatever happened to that universal love someone once promised us for Christmas? Never too late, even for we frosty leftovers... Copyright R, N. Taber 2009
A BIG thank you also goes to those of you who have expressed pleasure at the videos my friend Graham and I have uploaded to YouTube; we probably would not have continued without so much encouragement. Oh, the hits are relatively small compared to videos uploaded by others, but, yet again, surprising for poetry videos. I only hope you have enjoyed the poems as much as Graham’s photography: We only have time to publish a few each year but be sure there are more in the pipeline.
To those of you who are enjoying the fiction blog , I hope you will continue to enjoy the story lines I plan to serialise during the years ahead; there will be a mixture of gay-interest and general titles since, as with poetry, I don’t see them as separate genres within a genre. [It is always particularly rewarding when heterosexual readers get in touch to say they have enjoyed a gay-interest story like Dog Roses or a poem like Three Little Words]:
Now, regular readers will know that I love the villanelle poetic form almost as much as I love robins...
Once, when I woke on Christmas Day and was feeling sorry for myself as I’d be spending the first Christmas on my own since my partner died, I heard the sweetest sound. When I pulled back the curtains, it was to find a fat robin singing its heart out on my windowsill, its red breast bursting with a pride and joy that touched me as no other birdsong has before or since. Unperturbed by my presence behind the glass, the bird I still think of as ‘my’ robin did not instantly fly off, but stayed as if to treat me to the performance of a lifetime.
We had only a few years together, my partner and I, but I can look back on them with pride and joy rather than despair for never having found anyone with whom I wanted to share my life ever again. [Not for want of looking.] It could have been so different but for ‘my’ robin not only reminding me that life goes on even during wintry days, but also there is beauty to be had there too and not to be missed.
Today’s poem has not appeared on the blog since 2008. Given the results of the latest European summit during which President Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany appear to have succeeded in marginalising Britain from the rest of Europe, at least in the short term, its title may seem appropriate.
It is important that Britain should not be sidelined while fiscal discussions on the survival of the Eurozone take place. It is all very well for Sarkozy, Merkel and other countries to argue that Britain cannot have its cake and eat it, but they are glad enough of our huge monetary as well as political contribution to the EEC which, as I understand it, will continue anyway.
The Eurozone is a mess, and that isn’t Britain’s fault. David Cameron’s demands to protect the City of London from those who are to blame were not unreasonable. If ever the Politics of Cain was given its head, it appears to be now.
I love Europe, but cannot say the same for its various Governments. Mind you, I am not a political animal, and that often goes for my own Government too. My support for David Cameron in this instance is not an endorsement for British politics as a whole.
As far as I can see, there is not one giant on the British political scene to whom the electorate can point and say, ‘Yes! That person has my vote (regardless of their Party) because I feel I can trust him or her and they know what they are doing,’
The Germans are fortunate to have Chancellor Merkel at the helm; I may not agree with her, but she has a strong sense of political direction and integrity, and sticks to her guns. It is also clear that she is one of the few European leaders who has not only her country's best interests at heart in resolving the present crisis in Europe, but Europe's too. The rest rely (far) too much on rhetoric.
I admire Angela Merkel, while I cannot say the same for the leaders of France and Italy. As for the rest, especially Greece, well...Enough said.
And is the rest of the world in any position to judge?
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Chains dragging on hands and feet,
a shabby grey vine under a three line whip
demanding satisfaction in the best
interests of the nation, a well-paid-for
Casualties of demonstrations against
the best intentions of well-heeled maestros
better schooled (indeed) to take a lead
ostensibly for a common good,knocking
Let the punishment fit the crime
else a whiff of success go to the head,
win a prime TV slot, make capital
out of it (if only a reprieve) and shoot
up the stock market
Gold stars for a job well done, no liberties
taken, whistle blowers exposed, co-operation
(the key, surely?) sparing us anarchy
and mass destruction, not to mention
Call out the dogs, round up any strays;
keep a weather eye on rebels for lost causes
in case they get it right, turn one-to-one
into three times three, altogether re-invent
Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2011
[Note: An earlier bversion of this poem appears in 1st eds. of he Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; 2nd ed. in preparation.]
Today’s post is duplicated on both my general and gay-interest blogs. Oh, and what has winter sunshine to do with being gay? Nothing whatever. Nature is happy to embrace us all so long as we are happy to let it. So let's be happy, yeah? Sadness may well overcome us sometimes, even grief, but we can make it back to happiness if we try, and life is too short not to.
Now, I live in London, and we have been enjoying unseasonably mild and sunny weather across the UK, especially in the south-east. It didn’t last, of course, and the weather is now awful in Scotland and parts of the North of England. It’s sunny but cold here in my part of London (Kentish Town) in London, and a good day to take a stroll on nearby Hampstead Heath. Even if we have a terrible winter at least it will be a relatively short one.
Meanwhile, in the winter sunshine, it is GOOD to see a smile, if only a flicker of one, on the faces of even the most dour among us.
This poem has been requested by ‘Bradley’ for his mother, Helen ‘...for no other reason than I like it and it makes me think of spring.’ Bradley adds that he only discovered the blog recently after a friend gave him On the Battlefields of Love for a birthday present, and ‘...I now read a poem or two most days.’ Welcome to the blog, Bradley! Oh, and here’s wishing you a belated Happy Birthday too.
Bradley adds, ‘I never thought of myself as a poetry person and used to think it was an elitist genre, but am beginning to see what I have missed.’ Now, that made my day. Bringing just one person to poetry for the first time has to be every poet’s dream. I only hope Bradley stays with us when he discovers what my critics insist is an anachronistic passion for rhyme.
Winter Sun, Lavacourt by Claude Monet
Could be forgiven for thinking
it’s already spring
Blue skies, a kindly sun smiling
on huddled streets
Children playing, their laughter
tugging at the heart
A funeral procession demanding
we show respect
Glossy carbuncles confounding
Second thoughts setting us up
for more mind games
Could be forgiven for thinking
it’s already spring
Copyright R. N. Taber 2007
[From: On the Battlefields Of Love, by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010]
Whenever I skip a day or two of writing up the blog, I receive a flood of emails telling me they miss it! Well, many thanks for that, and okay, you win. I’ll do my best, but cannot promise a post every day. I will continue to post new poems when I can.
Relatively few readers dip into both general and gay-interest blogs, but no surprises there since there is still a social divide in many parts of the world, even in the West, between heterosexual and gay people. By including both general and gay-interest poems in my collections, those readers who feel obliged to be discreet, for whatever reason, are free to be seen reading them without anyone knowing whether it is for the general or gay material or both.
Now, I appreciate that many of you do not have the time to browse the blog archives for poems, especially those of you who are unable to access a computer at home. I am delighted with and very grateful for your continuing encouragement and support. I can but hope some of this might express itself in book sales, especially regarding my new collection - Tracking The Torchbearer - in the spring. In the past, I have always sold enough copies to cover printing costs and contribute to new print runs/publications. However, I have grave doubts about even recovering costs for Torchbearer given the tough financial climate in which we are living.
A poetry publisher once implied they might be interested if I left out my gay-interest poems. Oh, but no way! [There is a literary if not moral principle involved here.] Readers will always be able to access the blogs, of course, although a good few get in touch to tell me how they enjoy accessing the various sections of my poetry collections on the bus or train, while grabbing a few minutes of peace and quiet in a favourite arm chair or even in bed.
We shall see what we shall see. I will be letting everyone know when I can start taking orders for signed copies nearer the publication of Tracking The Torchbearer.
Now, some gay friends don’t like the world ‘homosexual’ whereas I have no problem with it. Others are at perfectly ease with ’Queer’ whereas I never will be comfortable with it due to its association, for me personally, with verbal and physical abuse towards gay people years ago.
Straight friends have been known to suggest I am over-sensitive regarding various terms for gay men and women, but I guess it depends on the way in which they are expressed; even 'Queer' is acceptable to me if said with a cheeky grin and a wink. Humour may well touch a nerve, but if we can't laugh at ourselves, we might as well be dead. Even so, what a friend can usually get away with is often inappropriate coming from someone else.
It is all very well for people to say we must move with the times, and I am all for it, but some emotional and psychological as well as physical scars from times past are slow to fade; some never do.
Arguably, the ‘legitimacy’ of a word, phrase or sentence depends on the spirit in which it is delivered, not its place in some reputable dictionary and subsequent ‘definition’.
AN ELEMENTARY TAKE ON EXPRESSIONISM
Gay, homosexual, queer;
these are words we are likely
to hear anywhere
because that’s where you’ll find us
though I (personally) have to say
I prefer to have it said
of me I’m ‘gay’ because it’s how
I see my sexual identity
‘Homosexual’ makes me feel
like a test tube specimen on some
research laboratory table
exploration into an explanation
for cause, even cure
where genetics (and nature)
are only too happy
to explain away the vocabulary
of sexual identity
‘Queer’ conjures bleak memories;
dark closet days and society’s misuse
of the word,
a closed-minded world of abuse
towards those of us
seeking (and finding) love
among our own sex
where small minds unfit for purpose
anxious to vilify us
Times change, its words passing
from meaning to meaning like bees
to flowers, children
to adulthood, attitudes maturing
(I’d like to say)
a peace and love enduring,
abuses of language
(people too) discovering the poetry
of sexual identity
Let the poetry natural to all of us
have its way, no matter what its critics
may have to say
about our use of rhyme, none at all
or socio-cultural expectancy...
Each poem and person to their time
and a spirit of creativity
that is no more a ‘sin’ or ‘crime’
than sexual identity
‘Karin and Tomas’ have asked me to repeat 'my video links'. They do not say which one/s so here is the link to my You Tube channel and the link to my (very informal) poetry reading on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square as my contribution to Antony Gormley's One and Other 'live sculpture' project in 2009. [The You Tube clips are only a few minutes, but the One and Other video lasts an hour.] I hope you will enjoy them, and will be able to watch in an Internet cafe since you appear not to have a home computer
Many gay-friendly heterosexuals I know seem to think I am exaggerating when I tell them that gay men and women world-wide still feel threatened; even here in the West. Perhaps they should take more of an interest in their fellow human beings. Mind you, that isn’t easy when the media all but ignore gay issues except when occasions like World AIDS Day demand they pay some token attention.
I recently received an email from the US based All Out organisation regarding recent anti-gay activities in Russia and Nigeria. I am posting part to emphasise (if emphasis were needed!) that there will be gay people from all countries and of all religious persuasions that will have little to celebrate this Christmas or during any of the world’s religious festivals.
Last week, pressure on the Russian government prevented a vote on its anti-gay bill from taking place. All Out members around the world amplified the voice of Russian activists, forcing world leaders to speak out against this law that justifies hate and discrimination. Russia’s gat men and women remain hopeful, but the fight is far from over; the bill may still come back.
Unfortunately there's no time to celebrate. The Nigerian Senate has just followed Russia's bad example, passing a bill this week which would make it illegal to publicly support LGBT rights. Simply showing up to a gay bar could land you in jail for 14 years, regardless of your sexuality.
Nigeria is already an incredibly dangerous place to be lesbian, gay, bi sexual or transsexual. This piece of legislation will only further push the Nigerian LGBT community deep underground.
Here’s a BIG HUG from me for gay people world-wide unable to openly stand up for their sexuality for whatever reason.
Now, Christmas is looming fast. As regular readers will know only too well, I do not subscribe to any religion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support gay people world-wide to whom religion plays a very important part in their lives. Besides, all religious celebrations are times when people, especially families and friends, come together in peace and love. Well, that is how it is supposed to be although it has been my personal experience that peace and love are sometimes in short supply.
And what of those who spend Christmas alone? Well, I personally can honestly say I have spent many a wonderful Christmas alone; yet, never alone because I am surrounded by the ghosts of Christmases and other ‘together’ times past who never fail to invite me to spend a happy, peaceful if reflective time with them. Moreover, I consider myself a son of Earth Mother, and she is never far away.
FOOTPRINTS IN THE SNOW
I woke one morning to find
snow in the ground;
where my garden used to be,
a vast, white sea,
waves whipped up by the wind
like a frozen Tsunami threatening an island
of woebegone leaves
Footprints across this icy sea
soon I was following them out
of the garden gate,
where once chirpy fields were,
to winter’s unfeeling whims now laid bare,
trees, like icebergs
The footprints halted suddenly
where daises used to be
you’d made into a chain for me,
each flower a memory,
and we’d promised that spring day
our love would last forever, always find a way
to bring us together
Distant bells ringing joyously,
a snowman smiling at me,
fair Apollo’s coming out to smile
on lovers going that last mile
for one another even in bleakest winter,
all confirming the daisies are with Earth Mother