Thursday, 19 October 2017

Further Extracts from a (gay) Poet's Diary

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

Maybe it was the aspiring poet in me or simply because I have always been partially dead, but even as a child I was easily contented with my own company, especially with my head in a book or communing with nature. While my mother was OK with this, my father was critical of what he considered to be unbecoming for a boy. Thankfully, my brother was more ‘masculine’ so that took the heat off me a bit. Needless to say, my relationship with my father was never a good one; there was no father-son bonding, probably due his being a product of a generation scarred both by war and even more misguided stereotypes than my own would see. Children, of course, only come to understand such things in time. Meanwhile they can but rely on adults to point them in the right direction; what is right for them, that is, not, the mentoring adult. Fortunately, my mother was cut from a very different cloth to my father and I survive to tell the tale.

I grew up with very mixed feelings about how I should approach the world, family life and (not least) myself. Perhaps that is why I love everything about the natural world; for all its unpredictability, it exudes relatively less than its human counterpart. On the whole, nature  also suggests a greater sense - for me, anyway - of being on one’s side ; at least, not against anyone simply because he or she has a mind-body-spirit of their own that may not be in sync with some socio-cultural-spiritual ‘norm’. Having been raised to think being gay was terrible because it was ‘different’ I was never more glad of the sense of spirituality nature has always inspired in me. While my mother could not have cared less, the same could not be said for the rest of my immediate family or even some I looked upon as friends.

As a gay man In my 70’s now, I am SO glad attitudes towards homosexuality continue to change for the better in many countries and even among some intrinsically homophobic cultures. Even so, there is no room for complacency; more education is needed about how - whatever our colour, creed, sex or sexuality - we are all part of a common humanity and all, each in our own way…different.

Legislation to re-enforce Equal Opportunities and Political Correctness may well be steps in the right direction, but you cannot legislate for bad attitude which, in turn, invariably stems from ignorance of the issues involved (making the case for education) and/or a point-blank refusal to enter into any points of view other than one’s own.

As for my scepticism, that remains part of who I am, too, and most likely always will. At the same time, I am also a very positive thinking person; a contradiction, some will say, but then what’s one more contradiction in a world whose elected (or self-appointed) spokespersons contradict themselves for much if not most of the time…?

FURTHER EXTRACTS FROM A (GAY)POET'S DIARY

I’ve heard folks say I should get real,
and I do, as needs must…)

Yet, I love to talk to flowers,
let them know I am here for them
and care whether they live
or die, much as I would have someone
care for me, watch out for me
as I make my way through passages
of time and space among crowds
jostling to be first in line for whatever
best is yet to come as rumoured
by those assumed to be in the know
if only because it would appear
they have the ear of Someone said
to really count for something
in a greater scheme of things high
on promise, short on detail,
scarcely a mention of any Plan B
as a better option if likely to adversely
affect profits

I’ve heard folks say I should man up,
and I do, as needs must..)

Yet, I love to spread wings, fly
among (all) birds over cities, towns,
and dreary suburbs top heavy
with killer-by-stealth pollution,
escape to the countryside,
take off with ducks, swans and the like
on its waterways, nature’s answer
to frantic airport runways…
comment on city carbuncles, enthuse
about country cottages, get angry
about global warming, especially where
powers-that-be in denial refusing
to put it on various agendas just in case
they lose votes (or face) among any
who couldn’t really care less so long as
they don’t miss out on rewards of a (very)
pecuniary nature

I’ve heard folks call me a born sceptic
and they could well be right

Yet, I’ll believe a sunset’s promise
of sunny or stormy days in the wings
before I’ll trust a politician’s word
that the shape of things to come is safe
if not (quite) secure in party hands,
preferring to take my cue from such cloud
and bird formations as nature inspires
from time to time by way of suggesting
we make appropriate preparation, less need
for reparation as the powers-that-be
might well have us make for what turns out
to be their (only human) mistakes
and ours for listening to what we’d prefer
to hear rather than what any mind-spirit
might undermine for being less out of step
with the commoner (if only human) failings
of contemporary society

Let folks say of me what they will,
it is to Earth Mother I’ll answer

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Monday, 9 October 2017

De Profundis, a Tribute to Oscar Wilde

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

[Update, Oct. 2017]: This poet was on my general blog for a long time but I finally got fed up with homophobic trolls emailing me about it! Many thanks, though, to all readers who have contacted me to say you enjoyed the poem and/ or browsing sections of Tracking the Torchbearer.  Over the years, I have made a number of significant revisions to various (published and unpublished) poems and novels. Eventually all my print books will hopefully have been converted to revised editions in e-format but this will take some time. As I am in my 70's now, I may need to depend on someone else. Publishers - other than anthology publishers and poetry magazine editors - have never shown any interest in my poetry because I have always insisted on insist on including a gay-interest section so I have mostly self-published. Consequently, my collections have only been available in the UK. While costly, I have always more than broken even with sales, and more importantly been very encouraged by feedback from gay and straight readers alike.] RNT

Find below, a dedication poem to Oscar Wilde from my last (and final) print collection collection, Tracking the Torchbearer . I read it on You Tube beside a wonderful sculplture - 'A Conversation with Oscar Wilde'  by Maggi Hambling - that can be found in the Charing Cross area of central London.

Some readers say they often have a problem with playing clips from You Tube  so I am posting it here today as well. [The video is silent for most of the time except where I am reading the poem. Find details about the sculpture, in the description accompanying the video on You Tube]

If you have a problem playing the video below, it may be worth trying to access it directly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxcbIozftcE

Alternatively, to access my YouTube channel, go to:  http://www.youtube.com/rogerNtaber and search there.
  
The poem was written 30+ years ago as I began the long haul of recovery from a severe nervous breakdown; I have made few revisions to the original version.

DEDICATION

A TRIBUTE TO OSCAR WILDE
(1854-1900)

DE PROFUNDIS

I lay floating in an ocean of misery,
willing myself to drown
while dolphins kept me company
and Apollo lingered on

Sharks, they kept a hungry distance,
an albatross winged by,
while waves lent a gentle cadence
to twilight’s lullaby

Went into freefall to the ocean floor
and would have stayed,
but Apollo demanded of me more
while the dolphins cried

I let them have their way if reluctantly,
screaming for their motivation,
peering into a misty-eyed mortality,
without rhyme or reason

No one answered my question though
I strained to hear,
then twilight let a cloud pass through
and I found a poem there

Body of straw in that ocean of misery,
willing myself to drown,
I read an ode to life, love and a history
of peace after wars hard won

It told how little in life ever comes easy
including death…
such is the fickle nature of humanity
and ways of godmother Earth

I felt a poet’s passion take hold of me,
heard its voice in a seagull’s cry,
swimming me across an ocean of misery
to walk kinder shores, head high

I woke in tears still drenching my pillow,
began (slowly) to recover;
at chinks in the blinds, winks from Apollo
assuring me the worst was over

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

Tragically of course, for Wilde, the worst was far from over. 







Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Sense of Arcadia

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

I am recovering well from my operation; so far, so good.

Meanwhile…

Just when I don’t think I have another poem in me…

A SENSE OF ARCADIA

As I walked in a wood
at twilight, a nightingale sang 
to me of days gone by,
and I found myself recalling
that first time I told the world 
I’m gay, and that’s how it is,
accept or reject me, your choice,
my life

The nightingale sang on,
about the good times and bad
such as everyone gets
to know (be they gay or straight)
so why the big deal
with sexuality? No harm done,
and bigotry doesn’t get to control
my life

Trees began a chorale
of love and peace as a sunset
pinked the sky,
and I found myself recalling
with a heavy heart
how we let prejudice and dogma
have their way with us, promising
a ‘better’ life

An audience of stars
watched as I wound my way
through the wood,
siding with me as I took my past
to task for a present
that only (ever) left me needing 
to feel there had to be a kinder way
of life

An owl flew overhead,
hooting its applause, all nature
(or so it seemed)
thrilled for my having turned away
narrow thoughts
and judgemental jibes, consented
to the sum of my selves demanding
a life

Darkness fell, and silence
no less bitter-sweet than a sense
of being alone
in a magical world where positives
cast long shadows
and negatives are as moonlight
on leaves of grass
creating illusions easily read as signs
of life

Footsteps. Who’s there? Oh, it’s you,
my life…

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017



Sunday, 3 September 2017

G-A-Y, at Home and Abroad


As regular readers well know, I belong to a generation raised in an era that saw gay relationships as a criminal offence; homosexuality was a dirty word and gay-bashing more prevalent a hate crime than even racist motivated attacks. In some parts of the world, times have changed for the better although, as most if not all of us have discovered the hard way, there is no legislating for human nature's being accountable to itself.

Yes, there are now many gay people of both sexes whose families and friends have no problem with their sexuality, but there are also many others who - by whatever means, for whatever reasons – are made to feel they have no choice but to say nothing; a choice all the more tragic for being made not out of any real sense of shame for their sexuality but real love for those unable or unwilling to accept it. Like it or not, those socio-cultural-religious bigots who persist in that denigrating gay relationships need to accept that they always have been and always will be integral to any society' social history worldwide.

Many people insist ‘blood is thicker than water’. While I have good reason to dispute that, I prefer, in any case, to believe that true love, if not always the stronger, is by far the better and worthier match for hate any time and the more enduring. A favourite quote of mine, all the more profound for its simplicity, springs to mind:

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ - Martin Luther King, Jr. [A Testament of Hope: the Essential Writings and Speeches]

G-A-Y,  AT HOME AND ABROAD

At home, G-A-Y
was a dirty word (or worse);
at school, G-A-Y
was fuel for bullies and bigots,
scapegoat…
for home truths in dark closets;
at work, GA-Y
was something best left hanging 
on staff room gossip

Slowly, but surely,
political correctness entered
the arena,
pro-LGBT legislation, a warning
to any among  
socio-cultural-religious forums
bent on feeding
a feeling for hate crime like milk
to a new-born

Slowly, but surely,
G-A-Y began winning hearts
and minds…
if only among those dismissive
of formative years
teaching poor regard for a common
humanity under cover
of shaping socio-cultural-religious
nemeses to order

At home, G-A-Y
becomes no less of a dirty word
for being ignored;
at school, G-A-Y might well be OK
with (some) parents
but only so long as it stays well clear
of the curriculum;
at work, G-A-Y making the best
of good intentions

On the street, G-A-Y
starting to coming out, get a life,
despite the bullies
and bigots hogging headlines meant
to expose flaws
in any social history while (invariably)
perpetuating stereotypes...
for all Stonewall’s (still) chipping away
at tablets of stone

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Monday, 19 June 2017

G-A-Y, News from Bulgaria

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

I have met people from all over the world in London, one of many reasons why I love living here even if is overcrowded and the air pollution is killing people. A few years ago I met a young man from Bulgaria who expressed open amazement at ‘how easy it is to be gay in London.’

“Is, Bulgaria very gay-unfriendly then?” I asked.  “Not openly no”, he told me, “and it is not illegal to be gay in my country. Even so,” he sighed, “It is not easy to be gay in my country either.”

Is it easy to be gay, anywhere, I wonder? Easier here, perhaps, or easier there…but easy…? 

More often than not, gay men and women worldwide invariably find themselves swimming against this or that socio-cultural-religious tide even in so-called ‘liberal’ societies while those that are less liberal turn a blind eye to homophobia or find ways to encourage it without appearing to abuse our human rights to extremes. Some societies, of course, are still living in the Dark Ages and make us out to be enemies of the people…especially where that particular epithet belongs to those in positions of influence and power who just love to work the moral high ground, especially when it pays off so well.

National Theatre, Sofia (Bulgaria)
[Photo taken from the Internet]

This poem is a kenning.

G-A-Y, NEWS FROM BULGARIA 

I dare anyone to suggest
I discriminate against this person
or that, yet am brazenly
(if diplomatically) selective
about whom I serve
when push comes to shove
on such occasions
as there are reputations to me made
or all but broken

I dare, indeed, well able
to run rings around any opponent
whose first language
is not mine, for none so effective
as the rhetoric of reason,
designed to conceal motivation
while worthy enough
at face value to be well researched
for future reference

I defy anyone to find fault
with how I do my job, taking care
to keep within boundaries
obvious even to less moral citizens
found strutting our streets
as if they were foreign investors
taking us for a ride,
there are a variety of ways
to skin a cat

You know me, always on the case,
appearing to side with justice…


Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Answering Back

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

Regular readers know full well that I do not subscribe to any religion. I consider myself an agnostic, preferring to take a (strong) sense of spirituality from nature in whose life forces I do not discount the work of a greater power. At the same time, I respect all religions, even though few (if any) respect neither my being (actively) gay nor my agnosticism. We are all free to make our own choices in life and should not be so quick to condemn any into which we cannot enter ourselves…for whatever reason. (It has been my experience that many people who insist they are not judgmental, prove by way of word and deed to be among the most judgmental. We are all different and it is our human right to be different.

I have met gay people from various socio-cultural-religious backgrounds who remain in the closet regarding their sexuality for fear of offending religious leaders who cannot reconcile sex and sexuality with religious. My understanding f God is that no God would want these people to suffer as they do, some terribly, from a sense of guilt no God worthy of the name would impose upon anyone.

More than once it has been put to me that I should put aside my gay ways and reconcile myself to a way of life likely to find favour with God as laid down in Holy Books; in my case, the Holy Bible. God, though, did not write any Holy Books, humankind did, and who’s to say how much was lost in translation and/or shaped in such a way as most likely to appeal to select writer/s and readers alike.

ANSWERING BACK

Being gay is no sin
a priest told a gathering
of gay men, women,
and gay-friendly souls;
the sin, it lies
in practising (gay) rites
of sex, even worse
for taking such pleasure
in them as cannot
(ever) be justified in the eyes
of any God
according to any religion
whose dogma
needs must be respected
by all followers,
no exceptions made for a select
minority of gays

Being gay is a life force
in me, spoke up someone
among the audience,
just as that blessed sense
of spirituality
I have (always) taken not only
from my religion
but also such life forces
all around us…
as in nature’s predilection
for renewal…
nor less so in a common humanity
whose needs,
(spiritual as well as temporal )
deserve common respect,
no exceptions made  for a select
minority of clerics

The priest begged
to differ, quoting passages
from Holy Books
that rang hollow for being taken out
of context and century,
even dogma, given its intention
to underwrite  
a sense of peace and love taken
from life forces
common to mind- body- spirit,
bent on reinforcing
a spiritual well-being independent
of any religious dogma,
audience reserving a human
right of reply,
likely to fall on many a deaf ear
in Church arenas

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Friday, 19 May 2017

Only Human

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

A friend of mine is afraid to be openly gay because he is a Catholic. He deserves better from a religion to which he is devoted.

While Pope Francis is a BIG improvement on his predecessors, and a welcome one, the Catholic Church (among others) still has a long way to go as far as relating to LGBT people. For any socio-cultural-religious authority to suggest being gay is OK so long as we are not having sex is not only absurd, but also offensive.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, too, is among those who have made this unrealistic comment about same sex relationships; as an attempt to portray Christianity as showing a more enlightened attitude towards LGBT communities worldwide, it fails miserably. (Whatever else Jesus of Nazareth may or may not have been, he was no bigot. On the contrary, he was an open-minded, openhearted humanitarian from whom we could all learn a thing or two, regardless of colour, creed, sex or sexuality.)

I am not disrespectful of religion although I subscribe to no religion myself. However, is it not high time all the world’s religious leaders got real about the kind of world we live in and imposed less hypocrisy and guilt on followers struggling to reconcile their faith and sense of spirituality with how they live their everyday lives? Homosexuality has long been a thorn in the side of world religions, not least, I suspect, because it forces them to confront an intrinsic hypocrisy. 

Millions of gay men and women among active Christians and other religious-minded people around the world still feel they must remain in the closet, are made to suffer a lifetime of guilt imposed on them by a blinkered religion that cannot relate to a native sexuality and its natural need to freely express itself. Various closed-shop religions proceed to pass judgement on us; many have our blood on their hands.

Thankfully an increasing number of religious-minded people, gay and heterosexual alike, understand that having little or no vision beyond narrow boundaries that pass for dogma does humanity no favours. Religion should be an open door for anyone to enter (or not) as they choose; for those who choose to enter, it deserves better than to be transformed by its so-called 'betters' into an open prison.  

Some years ago, I asked a gay-friendly Catholic priest why he did not feel the same antipathy towards actively gay people as many of his fellow priests. He looked me in the eye and said, “Belief is a life force for good. Some people mistake believing in Belief for Belief itself, and then it becomes dead wood if not a liability.”

What about people like me who subscribe to no Belief?” I could not resist asking.

He shrugged and said, “All part of a bigger picture on the same canvas,” before adding, ‘Whatever, it is people who count, and by people I mean as individuals because we are all different. Lose sight of that, and no Belief is worth whatever Holy Books you may have thought you found it in. People deserve better…, he paused, “…and so does religion.”

Now, there was a priest I could look up to respect even if I could not share his Belief.

Sadly, many if not most religious leaders interpreting and imposing a religious dogma that undermines the integrity of LGBT relationships still have no real understanding of the very message of peace and love it is sending out to followers worldwide. We are all of us (they, included) only human.

ONLY HUMAN 

Who will praise His Holiness,
above Earth Mother’s cries of protest
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS?

Let hypocrites gather en masse,
(keen to put their faith to a litmus test)
who will praise His Holiness

Will the Bishop of Rome confess
any blame for a kinder acolyte’s unrest
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS?

In the papacy, he’ll surely press
the devout to place unquestioning trust
who will praise His Holiness

Oh, but among the lapsed, no less
anxiety to have consciences put to rest
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS

Among the lasting parables of Jesus,
a Good Samaritan puts compassion first;
who will praise His Holiness
among gay victims of HIV-AIDS?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010
  
[Note: While this poem was also posted on my general blog, I received a number of abusive emails, but am delighted to say that these were considerably outnumbered by emails from gay (and straight) men and women who feel their religion lets itself down by failing to acknowledge the integrity (including sexual integrity) of LGBT people worldwide.]