Monday, 7 April 2014

Parnassus, Rites of Way OR Mortality, a Poem for All Seasons

I am often asked why I write poetry.

While I think of myself as a poet who happens to be gay rather than a gay poet, the gay input to my poetry is especially important to me. Hopefully, gay readers will enjoy relating to it, if only in part, while the heterosexual reader is invited to put aside any outdated, misleading, and often offensive stereotypes that continue to attach themselves to the whole gay ethic in the minds of the less enlightened.  

Now, although I enjoy socializing, I am also a very private person. I have never kept a journal because I hate the idea of anyone accessing details of my private life and thoughts when I am no longer around to qualify what I wrote. At the same time, my poems are journal pages of a kind; few are strictly autobiographical, but each and every one turns on the kind of person I am, warts ‘n’ all.

Many of my poems have been inspired by conversations with all sorts of people - men and women, gay and straight alike - who have told me about themselves as this bar, that bus queue…wherever. The subsequent poem is as much their story as mine. At the same time, how I chose to write the poem illustrates my train of thought upon hearing and often relating to what they had to say and mulling it over for hours, weeks, months, and even years.

Writing poetry, like any creative process, exercises the inner eye in seeing even what is sometimes considered (by whom?) best overlooked. We all need to see and feel in order to try and understand; every artist wants to share his or her insight, feelings, and subsequent understanding - flawed though it may well be - with others.

Oh, and, by the way, I was born on a sloping dead-end street.


When this life ceases to be,
my spirit left to feed on eternity,
what will they think of me
who drank my wine at table,
doubted I was even able
to write at all or, at least, as well
as one might who always
kept Mount Parnassus in sight,
despite the English climate?

Oh, I dare say they were right,
but I’ve so enjoyed being a poet,
lapping up all criticism, praise,
scepticism, quips about simplicity,
a serious lack of intellectuality,
how gay-interest poetry undermines
a proud genre’s finer integrity,
compromises the very aesthetic
of its history and spirituality

I've heard it’s a cardinal sin
to lower the tone, let anyone in
on a poem, its place in the arts
intended to impress, access
only partly allowed or its mystery
all but solved, and that way
(surely?) anarchy lies. Whatever,
a poet will always have the edge
on Mr, Mrs, and Ms Average

Although but mortal, the mind and body
expect more of the spirit, and its poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2012

[Note: This poem was mistakenly published under a provisional title (Requiem for a Poet) in 1st eds. of A Feeling for the Quickness Of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005; 2nd (revised) e-edition in preparation.]

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