Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Time On Haworth Moor


Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights has to be one of the greatest novels of all time. It is a firm favourite of mine, even though I confess to have been partially corrupted by the (original) screen version.

On the few occasions I have been able to visit Haworth, it has been a magical experience. Once I have closed my eyes to the commercialisation of its Bronte connections, I am transported into another world. I cannot quite confess to another century as Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier are welcome intruders. [In my view, the original screen version of Wuthering Heights - and its splendid soundtrack - is far superior to any subsequent remakes]. The village is pretty enough but the moor is magnificent, in all its moods. Who cannot hear a brooding Heathcliff calling to his Cathy on the wind?

Well, yes, I am an incurable romantic.

Of course, Wuthering Heights is no cosy romance. It takes a (very) perceptive look at the darker side of love and passion...no mean feat for any writer, let alone a 19th century parson’s daughter leading a sheltered life.

Richer than riches is the gift of imagination, especially when combined with a natural talent for creativity and a keen observation of human nature and society. The Bronte sisters had all these, and we should be thankful they chose to give expression to all three in novels and poems that must rank among the finest contributions of the 19th century to the written word.


Sun on the moor
as lovers kiss, stir a music
of hearts
words cannot contain;
Mist on the moor
as lovers tryst, seal the lyric
to an old magic, snails
under stones

Wind on the moor
as love’s moods give the lie
to that old dare - stones
shall not weep;
Rain on the moor
as lovers fret at separate
windows - seeking words,
world shut out

Snow on the moor
a lover’s grave stirs
a lonely passion
no words could save;
Sun on the moor
mocks us all, we thralls
of Time - gives
a snail heart

[From: Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001]

Monday, 26 November 2012

Requiem For A Skylark/ Nature Trail (Two short poems)


Enjoying nature has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Here in the UK, as elsewhere in the world, it is down to each and every one of us to save as many of its green and pleasant places and wildlife habitats as possible for future generations...or they will not easily forgive us, if ever.


On tuneful wing, our seasons
scanning, circles and dips
anxiously a covenant
with Earth's poetry, where
once a nesting tree
grew tall

Now, a shopping


Follow leafy trails
into red and orange,
silver, green;
let the dew of life
wash clean our
dirty hands;
be still, antic winds
till nothing's heard
but an egg-bird;
a tear in the eye,
all our yesterdays
on standby

[From: First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002]

Friday, 23 November 2012

Hope Is A Woman


Every so often readers ask me for a CD recording of my informal poetry reading on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square back in July 2009 as my contribution to Antony Gormley’s One and Other ‘live sculpture’ project.  Sky Arts typically refused to oblige those of us who participated with a CD so I can only repeat the link for anyone interested. [The entire web stream - all 2400 hours of it - is now archived in the British Library.]

Be warned, though. The entire clip lasts an hour:

http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223121732/oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T ([For now, at least, this link needs the latest Adobe Flash Player  and works best in Firefox; the archives website cannot run Flash but changes scheduled for later this year may well mean the link will open without it. Ignore any error message and give it a minute or so to start up. The video lasts an hour. ] RT 3/18


The vanity of human beings is such that we like to think we are in control of our lives and nature has to play second fiddle to our intentions as well as in our affections.

I wonder about that sometimes…

Some people look to God as the ultimate male ego. The Ancient Greeks cherished Elpis, Spirit of Hope. Me, I prefer to look to Earth Mother for an inner strength of a quality that can only be female; therein lies the key to survival.

(Photo: Elpis, Spirit of Hope (copied from the web)


To Mother Nature we bared all
before we were even born
and since then, for good or ill,
her colours worn;
Green, the grass defying acid rain;
Blue, clear skies turning
a blind eye to our obsession
with temporal gain;
Red, streaks of blood across a sky
like the throat of a fox
as the first hound’s claw digs in
and darkness falls;
Yellow, the sun’s weeping wounds
over drought and famine,
and an outing of inhumanity
on prime time television;
Black, stumps where once we stood
listening to a pretty wood
but did not hear a word it said
and now…all but dead;
Grey, the tearful faces of a next
generation looking down,
baring terror, blaming us even
before they are born

If humankind its lessons learn before
too late, to Earth Mother dare we turn
that, even at Armageddon, she might
stay an old enemy's execution, give us
time to make reparation?

Copyright R N. Taber 2007

[From: Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Engaging with Mirrors


It is not unusual for me to hear from readers - especially young people - torn between love of family and a respect for a culture in which the family may well have its origins, but which for them, as 21st century girls and boys, men and women living in the 21st century, has increasingly less relevance.

Nor is it only tough for gay people whose culture of origin may be intrinsically homophobic, Many more young people feel hogtied by certain traditions that are, to say the least, anachronisms in the modern world.

There are no easy answers, and I am not surprised that many young people, feeling unable to  choose between their family and the way of life they would prefer to follow, continue to pay lip service to this or that anachronism while desperately seeking a compromise. [I have often wondered why ‘compromise’ is often considered a dirty word when it is not infrequently a far better path to follow than where no one is prepared to compromise at all.]

No one should be made to feel they must choose between family and the life they want for themselves. Love sometimes means letting people go. Family members can show no greater love for their children or siblings than by trusting them to make their own way in life even if, in the light of their own upbringing, they may not quite approve.

Every generation needs to break free of family ties that bind. Invariably, by doing so, those same tied reassert themselves even more strongly than before.

We are not a world of clones (yet) so let’s all make the most of who we are and not only  encourage loved ones to do the same, but take pride in their doing so.

Yes, yes, I know I have said much the same thing more than once on the blogs and doubtless shall do so again. Regular readers may well recall that I often cite my mother’s pointing out to a young Roger T that ‘if something is worth saying, it is always worth repeating.’


Looking in my mirror, all I can see
is a tear-stained face grimacing at me,
mouthing questions I can’t ignore
though asked them many times before

A still, small voice demands of me
I walk tall, be confident in my sexuality,
forget compromise as a real choice,
but make a stand, give integrity a voice

I tell the mirror, ‘That’s all very well,
and I agree I might just as well be in hell
for this pain and fear like a fire in me,
but what will I find if I walk tall, go free?’

‘What if people choose to reject me
and I lose the love and respect of family,
friends, work colleagues, everyone…
lose face within my culture and religion?’

‘What chance of getting them to see
I didn’t choose my sexuality, it chose me,
and I’m the same person I was before
I chose truth, a refugee in lies no more?’

‘Follow your instincts,’ says the mirror,
though family, friends, creed and culture;
put love and peace to the ultimate test,
or how else can they, in you, find rest?’

‘Trust me,’ mouths the mirror, ‘A world
for whom respect seems so shallow a word
when it comes to healing its differences
will one day need to reassess its priorities.’

Dare I do as the mirror says in good faith,
knowing I so long to go its way, take a path
pointing me plainly in the right direction,
where I follow the rhetoric of deception?

Family and friends looking out for one another,
care you enough for me to see-hear my mirror?

Copyright R. N. Taber. 2012; 2013

[Note: An earlier draft (under the title 'It's Done with Mirrors') appears in Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012.]

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Addressing the Art of Being Human


On September 15th 2005, a sculpture of artist Alison Lapper by Marc Quinn was unveiled in Trafalgar Square. The sculpture is a three-and-a-half metre-high representation of disabled artist Alison Lapper when she was eight months pregnant. ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’ was chosen from a shortlist of six in March 2004 and remained on the plinth for 18 months.

“Marc Quinn has created an artwork that is a potent symbol and is a great addition to London,” said the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who endorsed and unveiled the sculpture. “It is a work about courage, beauty and defiance, which both captures and represents all that is best about our great city. Alison Lapper pregnant is a modern heroine – strong, formidable and full of hope. It is a great work of art for London and for everyone.’

Many if not most people seem to have agreed with Livingstone and the sculpture took pride of place at the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympics in September this year; like the Paralympics itself, it has no played no small part in changing attitudes towards disability for the better and totally undermining old stereotypes. We can but hope for the same from future Paralympics and a better press for disabled people worldwide.

'Alison Lapper Pregant' on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square, 2005

'Alison Lapper Pregnant' at the Paralympics opening ceremony, London 2012

This poem is a villanelle.


Triumph of spirituality,
come Earth Mother truly excelling,
transcending creativity

Magnificence of fertility;
against its critics, surely rebelling;
triumph of spirituality

An essential diversity
above any cultural-religious calling,
transcending creativity

An expression of equality,
(sexuality, disability, notwithstanding)
triumph of spirituality

An all-embracing dignity
with its human prejudices engaging,
transcending creativity

Ambassador for family,
no art of motherhood more telling;
triumph of spirituality,
transcending creativity

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Shadows In A Mist


Some of my poems appear on both blogs, but rarely at the same time. Why, though, some readers ask, do I post poems that have no particular relevance for gay people on my gay-interest blog just as I post poems on a gay theme on my general blog? Well, regular readers will know that, in my book, a poem is a poem and anyone with a feeling for poetry will not be prejudiced against one whatever subject it may take for a theme. Besides, as well as intended to give pleasure, it is not unheard of for poet and poem to offer food for thought...

I am not so much a gay poet as a poet who also happens to be gay. Like many poets, I have a passion for life, love, peace and nature that frequently makes itself felt in my poems, but I am also concerned with societies world-wide and where they are found wanting. Gay people are a part of those societies. Who am I to ignore gay issues and what it means to a gay person to be gay in what is often a gay-unfriendly environment even these days? As a gay man, I feel I have something to offer poetry in this context while it is up to the reader to judge whether poem or poet rise to the occasion.

My poem, Shadows in a Mist, is as much about having faith in ourselves as anything else. That applies to all of us, regardless of sex, ethnicity, creed or sexuality…surely?


Silver shadows all around me
keep pace with my dreams,
are there only to remind me
(if life as bad as it seems)
shades of love will surround me,
won’t fall apart at the seams
or let this dull ache in my body
swell, explode me into pieces,
food for the world’s prejudices

Silver shadows all around me
will always dry my tears,
are there only to remind me
(its heart beating my fears)
shades of love will surround me,
and save me from despair,
show me an inner spirituality,
championing a happiness,
greater than any temporal ties

Silver shadows all around me
speaking with one voice,
are there only to remind me
(fighting my enemy, choice)
shades of love will surround me,
see me right by compassion,
replacing rock and hard place
with the wisdom of centuries
defying the world’s prejudices

Silver shadows, but inspiring us
to keep faith with ourselves

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

Monday, 5 November 2012

Fallen Heroes


[Update (July 24 2016): A report recently published by the McLaren investigation offers damning evidence of State sponsored doping among Russian athletes. However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has ruled today that the entire Russian team should not be banned from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro; any decision should be taken by individual Sports Federations. World opinion is divided as to whether or not this was a good decision. Is the IOC simply passing the buck? Whatever, one cannot help but have huge sympathy for the many ‘clean’ members of the Russian team who will have trained hard over the past four years; they may well win events, but given the extensive publicity given to the report worldwide, there will be those who will wonder if that success is only down due to four years of hard training or…. No one doubts that Russia is not the only nation whose sports authorities - even at Government level - are inclined to encourage or turn a blind eye to certain athletes doping to win events on the world stage. It is SO unfair on those who would never take performance enhancing drugs. Sadly, though, that is the kind of world we live in; it is always the innocent who suffer, one way or another, while the guilty all too often appear to get away with ...whatever.]RT

Now, every generation has its share of fallen heroes; they come in all shapes and both sexes. It is invariably a very human tragedy for everyone, not least those directly concerned.

Only recently, a definitive report has upheld allegations that seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs.

Here in the UK, admirers of the late Sir Jimmy Savile, a popular DJ with millions and much admired for his charity work, are having to deal with the appalling fact that his jovial mask appears to have concealed a serial paedophile; it is all the more horrific that allegations by his victims span several decades. The BBC and other organisations closely associated with Savile clearly have many questions to answer.

This poem is a villanelle.


Among those we place on pedestals
(custom made saints and heroes)
too few prove worthy role models

Children, especially, create portals
where the willing acolyte goes
among those we place on pedestals

Among adults, too, where little rivals
a need to rise above their fellows,
too few prove worthy role models

No fine aspiration immune to perils
(the heart vulnerable to blows)
among those we place on pedestals

Though we mortals create new idols
(where a media halo glows)
too few prove worthy role models

Sad to say, but true, when a hero falls
hindsight quickly follows
among those we place on pedestals.
too few prove worthy role models

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012

Saturday, 3 November 2012

River of Dreams, Rhythm of Life


Today’s poem has not appeared on this blog since 2009. I am airing it today especially for ‘George’ whose wife died earlier this year after 50+ years of marriage. George got in touch to say, ‘I am not gay, but love the poem as it makes me feel close to my dear, late wife.’ He adds, ‘In matters of the heart, I don’t suppose it matters who you are or whether you are gay or straight…’

Ah, George, I’m glad you like the poem, and am so sorry for your loss, but have to say that last sentence is music to my ears. [Yes, life is better for many gay people than it used to be, but it depends where you live in the world and whether or not you are growing up in a gay-friendly home/school environment. Better for many,  yes, but as tough as ever for others.]


I recall one long lovely summer
when we‘d stroll beside a river
discovering more about each other
than we ever knew before

I recall how we lay in long grass,
shared our first shy, gay kiss,
soaking us with more happiness
than we ever knew before

I recall how our naked bodies
mingled with butterflies,
a more glorious heat embracing us
than we ever knew before

In your arms, my cheek against
your bare chest…
in nature’s hands more blessed
than we ever knew before

Before we dressed, another kiss
could but let the grass
play a sweeter song on our bodies
than we ever knew before

We walked hand in hand along
the river bank, its love song
ours to keep, righting any wrong
others had done us before

Years on, we stroll by a river,
chatting with each other,
your ghost and I, as much together
as we ever were before

[From: Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012]

Friday, 2 November 2012

Never Call Me Names


I left school many years ago feeling a failure, and that feeling stayed with me for years.

One night, a complete stranger and I were chatting at a bar. He was a successful businessman staying at a local hotel. ‘It makes me mad,’ he said, ‘when people talk about success and failure. Some people seem to get what they want in life and others don’t. For a start, though, appearances are often deceptive. Besides, it isn’t what we think we want in life that counts, but what we know we have. If what we have makes us happy, that’s success.’

‘The trouble is,’ he went on, ‘ so many people don’t realize what they have because they are too busy wishing things different. Take me, for example. I’ve done well in my career and worked hard for it, but I’m looking for another job because I’ve finally woken up to the fact that I hardly see my wife and kids for weeks at a time. When I think of my family, that’s when I feel successful, not when I am checking my bank statement. I’ve been too busy trying to give them everything they need that I forgot they need me too, just as I need them.’

‘Look at what you need to make you happy, man, and go for it. Everyone’s needs are different so it follows that everyone’s measure of so-called success or failure will be different too, right?’

I could only nod and think on…

This poem is a kenning.


I wear no medals for battles won
nor will I ever walk on a red carpet
while everyone around me
applauds, begs me pause and lend
my signature to whatever
association with fame and fortune
may haunt and taunt us
at every turn, poor companion
to self-deception

It’s unlikely I will journey into space,
walk on the moon, find water on Mars
or even help repair a space station,
cross from pole to pole, raise the flag
on a mountain, pose with royalty,
leave my mark on the century - but
for getting older, growing closer
to nature, letting its finer spirituality
define my sexuality

What care I if no one speaks of me
in the same breath as classic writers
musicians, dancers, inventors,
founders of religions before they lost
their way, politicians suing
for peace where all around them
confounded by lies? I care not,
only that none should speak my name
in fear, pain or shame

Out of sheer spite, some call me Failure
that live among those who know better

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Good Companions OR The Best Things In Life


Now, spring may seem light years away here in the UK, but where love is concerned - for anyone anywhere - it is always a springtime of the heart.


The earth, it smelled of spring and daffodils
as we wandered country lanes, you and I;
Sunshine, clouds and a blackbird’s cheery trills,
our good companions to let live, let die

We paused to watch a rich harvest gathered,
let raucous laughter lift heart, mind and soul
till - with our good companions - we soared
over land and sea, Avalon our goal

Gentle island mist in view, such fragrance!
Descending now on a bed of flowers;
No palace chamber such magnificence
or fine city its heavenly towers

Sun, clouds, blackbird gone. Now just you and I,
dearest companions to let live, let die…

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

[Please Note: My collections are only on sale in the UK but anyone can order (signed) copies from me at a generous blogger discount. For details, contact rogertab@aol.com  with ‘Blog reader’ or Poetry collection’ in the subject field. Oh, and I am taking orders from today for anyone considering buying a collection for someone's Christmas.]