Tuesday, 15 November 2016

N-A-T-U-R-E, Imaging Eternity OR Transcending Known Parameteres

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

It seems to me that we often overlook the simpler pleasures of life in our enthusiasm for the more exotic or whatever is most likely to impress family, peers and neighbours. A friend once commented, ‘We never know long we’ve got so all the more reason to cram in as much as we can while we can.’ I get that, but not everyone is a crammer; we all want different things from life and just because someone does not appear to have a lot to show for his or her life doesn’t mean they have not live it, in their own wat and time, to the full.

Now, every so often, someone asks me why I often write about death. Well, as a positive thinker, I try to be as positive about the inevitability of death as I do about making the most of each day as it comes, no matter what it may bring. Besides, I have been living with prostate cancer for nearly six years now so shying away from death is not an option. Not that I have any intention of letting the Grim Reaper have his way with me just yet! (Better to be positive, surely?)

It has been suggested by those who do not know me very well that I should ‘find God’ and therefore need have no fear of death. They mean well, of course, but I have never been able to relate to any religion or idea of a personified ‘God’. Nor am I am an atheist, though, but more of an agnostic in as much as I do believe in a sense of spirituality that enhances our customised vision of the world; outwardly and inwardly. However, as regular readers well know, I take that sense of spirituality from nature, not religion.

Oh, and why, too, do I have a particular fondness for robins? Well, not least because they are survivors, known to see out the worst winters if only to sing in another spring, reminding us all that, of all nature’s gifts, hope has to be among the best on offer. (And should hope die in some bleak winter of the heart? Well, as spring follows winter so, too, perhaps might we…?) 

Such is a sense of spirituality as I see it or if you prefer, the Landscape of Imagination from which so much of my poetry takes its inspiration, both mutually inclusive in my view.

N-A-T-U-R-E, IMAGING ETERNITY or TRANSCENDING KNOWN PARAMETERS

No one ever lays flowers,
comes even to rework old times,
but an old tree reads poems
that passes for a fitting eulogy,
and a robin sings

No memorial marks the spot,
none have cause to pause this way,
but shadows make a play
for life at Apollo’s pleasure,
and seeds grow

Each of four winds has a say
in how the tree needs must recite;
leafy branches acting out
rhythm, rhyme, blank verse,
(all weathers)

Mark how seasons play a part,
anticipating nature’s every mood,
overseeing a predilection
for happy-sad shades of green,
amber, red and mould

No let-up by day or night,
the tree passing on its every nuance
of sight and sound to each man,
woman and child with any feeling
for the natural world

Nature may well see us through
time’s ever-changing kaleidoscope,
yet humanity has far more say
than any leaves in what patterns
it may shape us…?

Ah, but such is human nature,
it may yet branch out on leafy whim
to make, break, let rise or fall
such passions of the human heart
as a robin sings
  
Roger N. Taber (2016)



Thursday, 3 November 2016

Nature, Poetry of Remembrance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._N._Taber

Update (May 2016): A reader has been in touch to ask for the link to an interview I recently gave a student at my old university (some 40+ years ago) about my poetry for a multi-media project on 'an interesting person'. It was fun. Moreover, it warms the cockles of this septuagenarian's heart to know people still find me interesting. Unfortunately, this reader used the Comments button, but did not include an e-mail address so I am posting it again here.]

https://r224e31251.racontr.com/index.html  (NB. Copy into your browser to access this link.)

Meanwhile…

My mother died in 1976. I once asked her what she wanted out of life. She replied, ‘All I ask is that people remember and think well of me after I’m dead. I'd so like to be more than a photo on the mantelpiece," she added almost as an afterthought. 

What more can any of us ask for, eh?

Oh, I didn't quite get it at the time. I do now. Oh, yes, especially in springtime when I go for a walk in the countryside; I can see her smile and hear her voice everywhere I look... or... when I get home and listen to Shirley Bassey, her favourite singer...or... visit an art gallery and enjoy the Turner landscapes she loved...

Art, like nature, is always with us. Nature, though, is very much a living organism in its own right while art relies on the observer (or listener) to achieve much the same. Memories, too, are always with us, especially those surrounding loved ones. Yes, art can stir memories. Nature, though, offers a more direct route, reminding us that all living things, not just people, have their seasons, pass away and come again...

For me, it is this sense of spirituality that nature offers which transcends precious memories into a life-force in a way no religion ever could, and gives the poem its title.

NATURE, POETRY OF REMEMBRANCE 

Come a time I’ll close my eyes forever,
never again observe a waking day,
think of me with love as a new sun rises,
and weep not, but look for me there

Come a time I’ll close my ears forever.
hear dawn’s sweet chorus no more,
think of me as heavens make glad music,
and weep not, but listen for me there

Come a time my senses fail me forever,
never again smell a rain-kissed earth,
think of me as flowers open their petals,
and weep not, but walk with me there

Come a time we’ll have run life’s gamut,
may the dream that was ours never fade,
but merge into Earth Mother’s natural art
created for all our sakes and we for it


Copyright R. N. Taber 2007; 2016

[Note: This poem first appeared under the title, 'Rhetoric of Mortality, Poetry of Life' in Accomplices to Illusion: poems by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Invictus


[Update: Oct 6, 2017]: The 2nd Invictus Games, created by Prince Harry, and the only international multi-sporting event for  wounded, injured and sick service men and women, have been a great success, not only - and most importantly - in helping the participants to rise above any disability and all the emotional baggage that goes with it, but also in helping able-bodied audiences around the world to appreciate their efforts; disabled people are far too often stereotyped, even all but written off because the less enlightened see only the disability, not the person. More yet needs to be done for war veterans worldwide to encourage those who feel undermined and undervalued by virtue of this or other disability to give them a shared purpose in life, restore self-esteem, let them feel appreciated for who they are and for their self-sacrifice on our behalf without any sense of being patronised. Three Cheers for Prince Harry for having the sensibility and insight to found the event; his mother would have been very proud of him for it.]

November 11, Armistice Day, will see the commemoration of an armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compi├Ęgne, an agreement that ended the fighting on the Western Fron that went into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918. While it marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, it was not a formal surrender; although the armistice ended all actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude a peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles.

Today’s poem first appeared under the title, Epilogue in the on-line poetry journal, Ydrasil (2009) and Poetry Monthly International (2010)before I changed the title yet again for my collection. (It sometimes takes a good while for me to feel 'right' about a title.) I wrote it soon after a former soldier I’d met in a bar had been telling me about a friend and former comrade who was in prison. The friend has been found guilty of attacking an ‘innocent’ party who had been goading him about looking better in uniform than in a suit. Apparently, he was on probation at the time. My companion commented, ‘It’s hard. You go to a war zone a whole person but each time you come back it’s like something more of that person is missing. Part of you dies out there or goes AWOL at the very least. I guess how much so is different for everyone…’

Many ex-service personnel (anyone, anywhere) need help to adjust to everyday life once they are home again either on leave or after being discharged. While it is important to help the injured and support the bereaved, there are also men and women who carry no visible signs of having been to war, but are just as much in need of our support and understanding as well as (in some cases) professional counselling. 

The man in the bar told me something else. ‘You have to be tough to fight, really tough. Show any weakness, and if the enemy doesn’t get you, your own side will. Back home, it can often feel like there’s a total stranger living in your skin and the chances are you don’t like that person at all. It's like the old self is all but dead. Sometimes the best part of that old self will make its way back, sometimes not. I dare say it’s the same for both sides in any war…’

All disabled people - regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality - are an inspiration, of course, heroes of battles they face daily; win some, lose some, but never losing the will or resolve to get the better of both disability and the misleading stereotypes it so often attracts.

This poem is a villanelle.

INVICTUS

I so look up to you with love and pride
for all the best qualities you nurture
where a light in you has all but died…

That first time you went to war, I cried
while you but longed for adventure;
I so look up to you with love and pride

In Iraq, your worst fears chose to hide
behind a ‘true grit’ human nature
where a light in you has all but died…

In Afghanistan, you fought side by side
with the bravest, a born again warrior;
I so look up to you with love and pride

You saw friends killed or injured, tried
to see hell as part of a bigger picture
where a light in you has all but died…

You seemed to take it all in your stride,
even carrying coffins on your shoulder;
I so look up to you with love and pride,
where a light in you has all but died…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2012; 2016

[Note: This poem appears under the title 'Missing, Believed Killed' in 1st eds. of Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Book, 2012; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]