Sunday, 9 October 2016

Pictures in an Exhibition

A reader from Switzerland has emailed me to ask - as people often do - why a poet writes fiction. Well, there is poetry of a kind in fiction too. I needed to try my hand at writing novels, partly because I knew I would enjoy it (as I did) and partly because i suspected it would bring me closer to an understanding of human it has; as, indeed, do all the arts, each in their own way. Take fiction; it is not all about plot, but creating characters, good and bad. The writer needs to explore the various interrelationships of mind, body and spirit. Hopefully, this has also made me a better poet... but that, of course, is up to you, my readers, to decide.

Most of my novels - published and unpublished - remain in serial form on my fiction blog. Each serial is preceded by a separate synopsis post. It wa my original intention that as each complete novel  would be published to Google Play in e-format and removed from the blog. but a number of readers have emailed to say they cannot access Google Play. For this reason, I will be publishing my gay-interest crime novel 'Blasphemy' to the blog again while continuing to make it available on Google Play. All my novels on the blog are listed at: 

It seemed a good idea to publish today's poem here (see below) at the same time as answering a number of queries about publishing my novels (and poetry collections) as e-books to Google Play over the next few years, thereby, making those that have only ever been on sale in the UK available to readers worldwide. UK sales were not too discouraging; first (and only) print runs sold quite well. Even so, I am definitely more of a poet than a novelist, although I enjoy writing fiction, and sheer enjoyment has to be as good a motivation as any.  [Few publishers have shown much interest in my fiction and not all those serialised on the blog have been published in print form; copyright to each, though, remains exclusively mine.]

A librarian in public libraries most of my working life, it would both amuse and sadden me to see hot-blooded heterosexual readers hovering  near the counter until no one else was waiting before presenting any gay-interest items (a novel,  DVD, biography of a gay icon etc.) to be issued or discharged. Many libraries have now installed issue/discharge machines that will spare them any such embarrassment. Yet, why be embarrassed?  Imagination is an Open House. I can only put it down to human nature’s preoccupation with a ‘guilt by association’ ethos and habitual inclination to jump to conclusions.

I wrote this poem while thinking about writing my first novel, ‘Dog Roses; a Gay Man’s Rites of Passage.’ The book was never published except on the blog. No publishers were interested, but that did not matter. By the time I had finished writing it, I realised why I had so needed to write it in the first place. Putting aside aspirations of fame and fortune (just as well) I needed to stop thinking about exploring human nature through fiction as with poetry, and just get on with it, give it my best shot. I have no regrets; it provided no less as rewarding an experience as poetry but via different routes and from different angles. (As for so much as a hint of talent, well, that’s something else altogether…and up to you to form your own opinions.)

I used to regret not being able to paint, draw, compose or play music... until it came home to me how all the arts share a common source; the writer, composer, painter, whatever. needs must get as close to human nature as any gardener or farmer to the very soil we feed and which, in turn, feeds us. How far the analogy can be carried, of course, depend as much on the nature of the soil or genre as that of any of us reaping its rewards; reader, listener, observer, all have no less a part to play than whomsoever's hands planting whatsoever seeds.

This poem is a villanelle.


Exploring the human condition,
its good, bad and ugly
life forces stranger than fiction

Any flaws demanding attention,
(for all a subtle simplicity)
exploring the human condition

Nature, its greater contribution
side-lined by humanity;
life forces stranger than fiction

Exposed, a common retribution
(reasoning a moral propriety)
exploring the human condition

Satirised, a political observation
of this life’s tragicomedy;
life forces stranger than fiction

Society, pictures in an exhibition
for whomsoever cares to see;
exploring the human condition,
life forces stranger than fiction

Copyright R. N. Taber 1997; 2016

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