Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ode to Apollo OR Profile of a Life Force

I have just uploaded the second of three Stourhead videos/poems to You Tube, shot by my close friend Graham Collet and for which I wrote Ode To Apollo (see below). I am posting both here for the benefit of those readers around the world who tell me they cannot access You Tube for one reason or another. Any of you who can are welcome to go to:

Regular readers of my poetry will know that I have a strong affinity with Apollo, the sun god of Greek mythology, not least because he was reputed to be bisexual. The old gods are the stuff of mythology and legend now, but have we not replaced them with little tin gods of our own which, incidentally, have far less gravitas?

The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead stands high on a hill overlooking the gardens; it was built in 1765 by Henry Hoare as his finishing touch to the famous landscape garden. Renovation work was begun by the National Trust in 2009 before which the Trust spent months gathering historic paintings, family records, accounts, letters and visitors' diaries to find out how the monument would have originally appeared. 

The temple was designed by Henry Flitcroft and influenced by an engraving of a circular temple at Baalbec, an ancient Syrian city now part of the Lebanon, and the Temple of the Sun at Kew Gardens, which was destroyed in a gale during 1916. A favourite spot for romance, it was used as the location for a rain-drenched dramatic exchange between Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 remake of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Timber from the Stourhead estate was used to form the structure of the new dome which has been covered in sheets of lead to keep it watertight. The walls inside the temple have been re-plastered and gilded plasterwork based on a description in a letter written in 1801 by Reverend Warner, the Rector of Stourton.

Rev Warner's letter states: "The roof of the Temple spreads into a dome and has a double ceiling; in the lower is the aperture, and in the coving of the other, a splendid gilt representation of the Solar Rays, which, receiving the real light of this orb by an artful construction, throws into the Temple below a most splendid reflection when the sun is in its strength."


Hear old gods mocking us
behind passing clouds
as a defeated foe well might
for observing its enemies
counting the ever rising costs
of victory

Only Apollo (still) brokers
an enduring peace
without taking sides or even
an ulterior motive
besides a voyeur’s delight
in human behaviour

Where the world rides out
its storms over land,
sea and air, find fair Apollo
behind the scenes
busy negotiating its survival,
albeit conditional

Where time wings past us
at a tangent,
see Apollo rein in his chariot
just long enough
to shine hope in our faces,
the rest up to us

For every bitter-sweet smile,
a bitter-sweet tear
at Apollo’s call to nature
and human nature
for nurture, reconciliation,
and regeneration

Meanwhile, all life presses on
with the act of Being;
the Here and Now engaging
with us for better
or worse, ugly or beautiful,
old gods…

Or new

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

P-E-A-C-E, Sounds of Silence OR Ceasefire

The world is always turning, yet how little it has changed in real terms (i.e. those that really count) since its creation...

Recent reminders of war and fierce resistance to dictatorship in various parts of the world and hate crime on our very own doorsteps brought this poem to mind.

When will they ever learn? Oh, when will we (all) ever learn?

This poem is a villanelle.

Oh, for the sound of silence
as only heard in dreams
where no one wins or loses,
but common sense rules
on a reality check where grief
ceases firing its guns
in a deaf-blind rage against
a mind-body-spirit
down but never out if slower
to take heart

No escape from loneliness
on wings of a bird...
but in the sound of silence
before applause bursts
upon the grand Theatre of Life
for our playing a part
rather than sitting in the stalls
letting better actors
than ourselves be accomplices
to illusion

Where poverty, hunger,  pain,
crying out to be free,
find in loving one another
no small relief 
from the failings of any senses
put on hold for want
of meaning, purpose and faith
in ourselves, 
bring light to the darkness angels 
fear to tread

Oh, to let fall a safety curtain
on worldly sounds
distracting mind-body-spirit
from finding peace,
as a child chasing a butterfly
might well be
by the shouts of peers apparently
enjoying more rewards
than in a seemingly futile pursuit
of quiet wings

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2018

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears under the title 'Towards Enlightenment' in The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004.]

Monday, 21 July 2014

Testing Times

Losing a loved one is hard enough, but losing someone in an accident or with such suddenness that we have no time even to say goodbye has to be about as hard as it gets…

This poem was written some time ago, but in the light of the recent air tragedy in Ukraine our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims on board flight MH17, apparently shot down by a surface-to-air missile while crossing a war zone. Our hearts go out, too, to those killed during the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I am left wondering just what kind of sick world we are living in, and is there really the socio-cultural-religious-political will among its leaders to nurse it back to health?  I guess we can but play our part in our own little corner, and trust the ripples spread...


You left this world
without a word, no time
to say goodbye

You left my world
cold and dark, its comforts

You left this world
before your time, its tears
making headlines

You left my world
your body, mind and spirit
to keep it sane

You left this world
its anger and grief, playing
blame games

You left my world
on the wings of a heartbeat
forever ours

We gave this world
benefit of our worst doubts
in return for…this?

Testing times, indeed
for lovers in a world subject
to the vagaries of time

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Balancing Act Extraordinaire

Life, death, it’s an eternal balancing act...for nature as well as for humankind.

Oh, we like to think it’s down to us to maintain a reasonable balance, but let’s not underestimate the power of the natural world in compensating - in part, at least - for its darker forces;  while we like to think we do a better job of compensating for its as well as our own...


On the crest of waves like surfers poised to head
for home in a swirl of raging sea

Nature re-birthing us, milk at the breast, feeding
the best traditions of human spirit

Dark forces, expecting Everyman to take a fall
against all evidence to the contrary

Everyman going it alone on a lion’s back asking
humanity to find it in itself to follow

Survival, greeting applause (hearts and minds)
if only for a sublime moment in time

History, inclined to lose its footing and leave it up
to the arts to restore a balance off sorts

Humankind, surfing a primeval wisdom, drafting
and redrafting pacts with its nemeses

Copyright R. N. Taber 2003; 2017

[Note: An earlier version of this poem first appeared under the title 'Balancing Act' in an anthology, Watch the Dawn, Poetry Now (Forward Press) 2003 and subsequently in 1st eds. of The Third Eye by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.] 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Eyeless in Gaza (Revisited)

Today’s poem as written five years ago; tragically, little or nothing has changed unless for the worse.

Surely, it is high time leaders on both sides looked to their consciences instead of their politics and worked together for a peaceful solution to this sick war?

Playing the blame game will only cost more lives. 

This poem is a villanelle.  


Blind carnage in Gaza
(world calling for a ceasefire)
a crime against nature

Child calls for its mother
(dead before she can get there)
blind carnage in Gaza

Each side blaming the other
(but who pays the dogs of war?)
a crime against nature

Dispute dragging on forever
Its roots in geography and culture;
blind carnage in Gaza

Ordinary people fear
the rest of the world doesn’t care;
a crime against nature

Diplomacy holds the answer
(were politics but see its way clear);
blind carnage in Gaza,
a crime against nature

[London, January 8th 2009]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009

[From: On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 18 July 2014

Shadowlands, Where Fools Rush In

Like most of the poems I write in the first person and this is not an autobiographical poem. It is, however, a tragically true story of someone who passed a recreational drug to a friend who subsequently died. People who use drugs forget that everyone’s body chemistry is different. What gives someone a high can kill someone else.

There is something almost (and horribly) socially acceptable about taking drugs in the UK these days, rather like drink-driving. Drug abuse (including alcohol) can destroy not only the user but whole families.

Some celebrities set an appalling example.

It isn’t being a wimp or wet blanket to say 'no' to drugs when friends are trying to persuade you to give it a go. It is showing good sense and a maturity far beyond their years.

I am thrilled that feedback suggests a growing number of young people read my blogs. To them especially I say, YES, celebrate. YES, party. YES, have fun… But (at any time of year) say, NO, to drugs…if only because there is a lot of rubbish out there these days, rubbish that can kill.

If you can't say no, get help.


Dark shadows asked me…

I said “No!” Yet, they followed,
sweet talked me,
broke my will – so I bought
the damn pill

Dark shadows begged me…

I said “No!” Yet, they followed,
sweet talked me,
broke my will – so I gave  him
the damn pill

Dark shadows threatened me…

I said “No!” Yet, they followed
bad mouthed me,
broke my will - and I still went
to his funeral

Dark shadows everywhere,
bending the ear…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2014

[Note: An earlier version of this poem - under the title ‘Shadows’ appears in 1st eds. of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002; revised e-edition in preparation.]

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Sunset on a Country Churchyard

Today’s poem is a recent revision of an early piece, written in 1972, first published in Reach (issue 6) poetry magazine in 1997 and subsequently in my first collection.

Whenever I read early poems, I am often prompted to make revisions; sometimes major, sometimes minor, but always significant. Oh, but if only we could look back on our lives and do the same…


A subtle blush
haunts the sky like a shy ghost
stroking the fair-haggard visage
of a long day’s dying

Owl, flying the killing fields;
confetti, where hearses
passed for wedding cars, answer
to a mother's prayers;
a clapping like bats' wings
for fraternity's sake
in the womb-tomb of our history
at this, my wake;
fireflies, frantically obscuring 
photographs of us, like the tears 
dancing on every eye 

A full moon's up,
Rabbit starts, darts for cover;
Owl knows better (even than us)
how soon it's all over

Copyright R. N. Taber 1997; 2001; 2014

[Note: An early version of this poem appears in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Book, 2001.]

Monday, 14 July 2014

Letting Go, a Song of Twilight

Regular readers will know that Hampstead Heath is not far from where I live. Read about it at:

...and see-hear read one of my Heath poems - the very first one - (On Hampstead Heath) on my YouTube channel:

Now, I have often said on my blogs that letting go of the past and moving on does not necessarily mean leaving anyone or anything behind.

In my experience, the moment of letting go and placing it in the time capsule we call Memory is invariably as intense as it is exquisite; intense, because it is so personal and so exquisite for being so highly charged with the bitter-sweet smells and tastes of recollection, the inner eye selecting the best of the best while tactfully (or conveniently) skipping the worst.

This poem is a villanelle.


On Parliament Hill, I let go of a kite
and watched it drift over London
till just a speck of summer twilight

I felt humbled by the glorious sight
as if I were sailing heavens;
on Parliament Hill I let go of a kite

Fair, copycat bird in graceful flight
filled me with awe and inspiration
till just a speck of summer twilight

The faintest star, harbinger of night,
tracking me down Memory Lane,
on Parliament Hill, I let go of a kite

Empathising with passing daylight,
gripped by a sense of hanging on
till just a speck of summer twilight

Putting wrongs aside (if not right),
time enough for celebration..
On Parliament Hill, I let go of a kite
till just a speck of summer twilight

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010; 2014

[Note: A slightly different version of this poem appears under the title 'Letting Go' in 1st eds. of On the Battlefields of Love by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2010; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Notes on the Sociology of Imagination

As we grow up, we like to think we embrace the world and its greater wisdom. Yet, we grow old and look at a divided humanity across the world, wondering…whatever happened to wisdom?

Thank goodness for imagination: inspiration, escapism, and the sense of a better, kinder world never entirely out of reach.


Child in Glass
chasing a white rabbit,
relishing the thrill
of discovering places
nobody knows
so nobody goes, and secrets
mean safety

Youth in Glass
scornful of white rabbits,
relishing the thrill
of reworking everyday
if only to nurture new ideas,
keep them safe

Mature in Glass
mindful of a feisty rabbit
relishing the thrill
of discovering places
nobody knows
so nobody goes, and secrets
mean power

Grey in Glass
conjuring up a reflection
of once-was,
struggling to make sense
of now-is,
asking whatever happened
to will-be…?

Rabbit droppings, proof of life
in a Hall of Mirrors

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Anatomy of Illusion

It often seems to me that everyday life is all about reading between lines, exposing rhetoric, making choices based on hunches…and hoping for the best.


World keeps turning;
life choices
like everyday heroes
exposing tricks of light
for shadows

World keeps turning;
its worst divisions
hosting jaded heroes
performing tricks of light
among shadows

World keeps turning
open minds,
its comic strip heroes
chasing Job’s comforters
into shadows

World keeps turning;
room at the top
for air brushed heroes
blaming the worst selfies
on shadows

World keeps turning;
Earth Mother
inciting its heroes
to challenge illusions cast
by shadows

Shadows, infiltrating
a world turning
on everyday heroes
tripping the light fantastic
into chaos

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

Friday, 11 July 2014

Lines on the Extraordinary Nature of Ordinariness

‘I’d love to write poetry, but…how do I find something to write about?’ people often ask.

Well, try looking all around and letting your senses loose on sight and/or hearing and/or smell and/or touch and/or taste...

[e.g. See also: 'Puddles' ]

The chances are the inner self will respond, and that response is called inspiration.

As for a choice of genre into which to channel inspiration, whether it is writing, music, art...just go for what appeals to you most and never be afraid of someone trying to put you down for a poor result (there will always be someone) because there is no such thing as a poor result where someone has put their inner self on the line by creating something. Success is relative, and a bonus; it is finding inspiration and learning to use it as a creative tool that counts. 

My personal experience, as someone who has suffered serious bouts of depression since early childhood, is that making this particular journey is also very therapeutic.


Clouds, magic carpet rides
away from it all…

Birdsong, calling to mind
 bath time rituals
for potential divas to woo
an audience, willing captives
of imagination  

Grass, littered with daisies,
sunspots of memory…

Trees, leafy arms signing,
telling us off for things
we’ve done, forgotten, never
meant to happen

A broken fence, urging us to
repair old friendships…

An empty chair, in memory
of someone who’ll never
sit there any more, words in
the air left unsaid

Crisp, clean pillowcases, all
to ourselves…

Watching a damp patch on
the ceiling spread,
fill the eye like a weepy sky
passing judgement

Ordinariness, the extraordinary
nature of poetry...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2005; 2014

[Note: This poem has been revised (2014) since its first appearance in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Artist Unknown

As a child, I was fascinated by a tramp who always sat on the same bench blowing various shaped smoke rings. People would often pause to watch, and then go on their way without even a kind word for the poor man although a flat cap at his feet would fill with a significant number of coins (various denominations, even the occasional note) as the day progressed.  One day, I asked him why he just sat there blowing smoke rings. ‘Because I can,’ he said. But why, a 9 year-old Roger T wanted to know, did people give him money?  ‘Because they can’t,’ he said. Besides, he added with a wry smile, 'They either like or don't like what they see, but pay me anyway.'

It meant nothing to me...then.


Every day for years…
a tramp sat on a wooden bench
on the edge of town, no party to its life,
of smoke and mirrors

Passers-by were privy
to glimpses of have-a-go heroes
for peace and love, war and hate, chasing
smoke and mirrors

Audiences would gather,
see-feel wrong moves and right,
failures and successes, catching them out
in smoke and mirrors 

Smiles and laughter
(public fronts for private truths)
last seen grabbing at defence mechanisms,
all smoke and mirrors 

Every day for years…
Tramp on Bench, a live sculpture
shaping tell-tale coughs and dragging feet
in Smoke and Mirrors

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

[Note: This poem has since been significantly revised since first appearing in the January-June ed.'of CC & D magazine published by Scars (US) 2014. See for the CCand D web page; the poem's original title was 'The Artist' and I am encouraged that feedback suggests some readers l have enjoyed both versions.]

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Love, Where Time Stands Still

A human being is a human being is a human being, whatever his or her colour, creed, sex or sexuality. 

Love is a live poem. 

Just as a poem is a poem is a poem whatever its structure or theme, so, too, love is love is love…in whatever shape or form.

Those who rage against the world's lovers on grounds of  colour, creed, sex or sexuality, rage against humanity.

I look at various socio-cultural-religious factions dead set on imposing their ideas and ideals on anyone who does not share theirs…and…thank goodness for the enduring power of love above all else.  


Today is all we have;
yesterday left long, long, ago
where tomorrow plays host
to a sandman waiting to say,

Tonight is all we have;
tomorrow left long, long, ago,
and yesterday never was
until you came by and said,

This life is all we have;
its ghosts left long, long, ago
on fleeting wings of time
to inspire a sandman’s lively

This love is all we have
to be sure, ourselves, to know
in that personal space
forever sounding out our first

Where time a Bridge of Sighs,
love dares cross, no goodbyes

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014