Friday, 19 May 2017

A Thorn in whose Side...? or G-A-Y, on Catholic Guilt


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. 

Religious leaders interpreting and imposing a religious dogma that undermines the integrity of LGBT relationships have no real understanding of the very message of peace and love it is sending out to followers worldwide.

The poem is a villanelle.

A THORN IN WHOSE SIDE…? or G-A-Y, ON CATHOLIC GUILT

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

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

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010
  
[Note: During the four years this poem was 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. Indeed,  the unattached, hot-blooded gay person may well go looking for sex…while the unattached heterosexual person does not?]

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Extracts from a Poet's Diary OR An Alternative Freedom (No Straight Route)

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

This is not a new post but one I deleted from my general blog after receiving several troll-type emails. I usually ignore these, but friends advised me to post it on my gay-interest blog instead while continuing to link to it from to it from my Google + site as previously. Then I though, why should I? So I have re-posted it on my general blog. At the same time, friends are probably right in suggesting it will be of more interest to gay readers...

Now, we talk about 'blind' instinct, but there is a native instinct that know us better than we know ourselves, and it is anything but blind; it has a clearer sense of what to do in situations where any brooding, thinking self hasn't a clue.

In February 1969, I sailed for Australia (as a would-be migrant) on the SS Southern Cross from Liverpool. While it was a huge mistake in many ways, it was also one of my better decisions.

In short, I was running away from the UK - and a family that had no idea of how much of a psychological mess I was in or of share their of blame for it - rather than going to Australia. Gay relationships ‘between consenting adults’ had been decriminalised in 1967  but it would be many years before society as a whole began to accept us, if grudgingly. I had left school five years earlier but saw myself as having no career prospects and was still a long way from becoming truly reconciled with my sexual identity. Apart from a growing sense of isolation, I felt hurt and angry. Significant though sexual identity may be, it is but a part of a greater whole. (Why should the greater part of me be made to feel it needs to apologise for what, after all, is no one else's damn business?)

While I will always have a great affection for Australia and the people I met there, I arrived with neither enough money nor qualifications to fulfil my dream, even in the longer term. During the six-weeks crossing, however, I’d had plenty of time to think and reflect on my motives. I found myself homing in on home truths that appalled me. Was I really such a coward?

So, yes, on the face of it, Australia was a disaster but I returned to the UK not (quite) with tail between legs but as different person, more self-confident than I had ever felt before and determined to shape my life in a positive way. In spite of a severe nervous breakdown in my 30’s, I like to think that, in general, I have succeeded.  (I have battled with depression all my life but any gay angst has only ever been part of the emotional equation albeit a vital one.)

It is up to all of us - gay or straight - to make the best of things, not the worst, and be positive about ourselves, each other and life in general even when the immediate future may be looking on the bleak side. That’s when the human condition comes into its own, now a pussycat, now a roaring lion. Mind you, everyone has lapses of self-confidence in self and in humanity from time to time, including me.

If the journey to Australia nearly 50 years ago was a nightmare, my stay there was an epiphany. My return to the UK marked the kind of new beginning the poet in me had been yearning for without any real sense of either the what or the how, only the why. Moreover, I no longer felt that gay-interest poetry is something for which I should feel any need to apologise; a poem is a poem is a poem just as a person is a person is a person...regardless of sexuality. A long way to go to find myself, true, but well worth it...

EXTRACTS FROM A POET’S DIARY or  AN ALTERNATIVE FREEDOM (NO STRAIGHT ROUTE) 

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering
why it should attack now,
this animal lust
for freedom, open spaces
far, far, away from city faces
and grubby streets

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left wondering why
it should strike now,
this hunger for adventure,
need to prove something
although what or to whom
remains to be seen

Mouth gone dry, sweat
soaking the brow;
I am left feeling excited
if scared of a caving in
rather than a pressing ahead
with some heady fiction 
well aware its return thread
so easily broken

Looking to play the hero
or merely wishing
to please myself for once
instead of always
putting head before heart,
doing the ‘right thing’
(but right for whom after
all's said and done?)

Rage, burning, a life-long
learning in flames;
passion, a feisty yearning
to escape this caged-up 
non-life, a Here-and-Now
parody of a lion’s den
where the mouth gone dry,
sweat soaking the brow

Who is it, this other 'Me'
writing up emotions
half killing me to admit
in these early hours
where conscience seeks
respite in its humanity
as if its poetry were indeed
a match for its sword?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2017

[Note: The last stanza has since been added to the original version of this poem that first appeared under the title, ‘A Poet’s Diary’ in  The Third Eye by R. N. Taber Assembly Books, 2004; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Monday, 8 May 2017

A Hideous Blast or G-A-Y, Empathy with Brer Fox

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

I have always thought hunting with hounds is a sick sport. Maybe that’s because I have a tried and tested empathy with any animal on the run; having been the victim of homophobic attacks in the distant past, I know how it feels. Some of us get away by the skin of our teeth, of course, as I (usually) did, but not everyone escapes.

In some parts of the world (countries like Uganda and Iran, for example, to name just two) gay people have to hide their sexuality, yet are often sniffed out by bigoted forces and don't live to tell the tale. It is a tragedy that shames the civilised world. Sadly, it is as all too common a tragedy for unprotected species in the animal world as for gay people living in an intrinsically homophobic environment...or anyone else seen as fair game by those who choose to interpret this or that socio-cultural-religious take on life as justification for the unjustifiable.

[Hunters] take unbelievable pleasure in the hideous blast of the hunting horn and baying of the hounds… Erasmus (1466 - 1536)

A HIDEOUS BLAST or G-A-Y, EMPATHY WITH BRER FOX

I hear a horn,
the baying of hounds,
thundering hooves,
need to run and hide
if only I can

Closing in on me,
horn, hounds, hooves;
scarier still,
a stench of humans
laughing

I need to pause
but the only rest for me
will last forever
once laughter catches
up with me

My legs fail,
drag me to a sanctuary
of friendly bushes
but the frothing pack
sniffs me out

The lead hound
pauses, poised to leap
for my throat,
now strikes, and all
I hear is laughter

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Spring, Hymn to Life or G-A-Y, Wings of the Day


In my 70’s now, people often refer to me as being in the autumn (even early winter) of my years. Well, physically, yes, of course I am, but there is a spirit in me (as in all of us who know better) that beats its wings and sings its heart out just as if it were spring…
Gay or straight, we all get old, but never let anyone make you feel old.

SPRING, HYMN TO LIFE or G-A-Y, WINGS OF THE DAY

Bursting into spring
like a skylark into song
at the first subtle hint
of a new day’s spreading
its wings

Up, up, and away
like that beautiful kite
we flew in a breeze
on a far hilltop, spreading
news of us…
across green fields,
over chuckling streams,
busy, smoky streets,
touching base with others
like us

Demanding heads
in sand look up, take note,
spread the word
to watch out for us settling
nearby…
listen to epic tales
ever worked and reworked
by history,
world taking us to heart
as it may

Bursting into spring
like a nightingale’s lullaby
at the first subtle hint
of twilight at a day’s folding
its wings

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017







Monday, 1 May 2017

L-I-E-S, Glass Cages or G-A-Y, Deserving Better

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

I am often asked - as in an email only yesterday – to send a DVD of my poetry reading on the 4th plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square back in 2009. (My contribution to sculptor Antony Gormley's 'live' sculpture project that ran 24/7 over 2400 hours that summer.) Sky Arts refused to supply plinthers with a record of their performance on the grounds that the entire web stream is archived in the British Library. You are welcome to try the link below, but it will not always work (especially if you have a firewall) although if you ignore any error message and wait up to 60 seconds it may well start up; the whole video lasts an hour. [I have written to Sky Arts about this, but they never respond so I have given up.]


   
I always love to hear from readers so feel free to email rogertab@aol.com. [NB If you use the 'Comments' link but would like a reply, please include your email address.]

Meanwhile...

Now, it is good to pause and look back every now and then if only to remind ourselves how things were and how far we have come...so long as we don’t stop moving forward, reminding ourselves, too, that not every man and women across this sorry world of ours enjoys the freedom of speech and lifestyle they deserve.

Once a (young) closet gay man, I used to have an affinity with caged wildlife. (I am 71 now and still do.)  It was as if I were locked in a glass cage through which everyone could see although whom they saw was not me at all. I guess that’s why I hate zoos. I am a conservationist, yes, albeit one who prefers to see wildlife monitored for its own protection while remaining all but as free as nature intended.

Oh, and to all those readers who regularly email me to ask why I persist in 'harping back' to hard times when LGBT people have never had it so good, I can only say (yet again) that it all depends whether or not you live and/or work in a gay-friendly environment.

L-I-E-S, GLASS CAGES or  G-A-Y, DESERVING BETTER

As a youth, I dreamed
I was happy, set free
from a sad, lonely cage,
killing me softly

As a youth, I dreamed
of a world living free,
of any cultural prejudices
treating me harshly

As a youth, I dreamed
of a day I’d run free,
finding another gay man
to kiss life into me

As a youth I dreamed
a world on my side,
glad (for all its bigotry)
I hadn’t yet died

Older now, I still dream
we all may be free
to fly cages like the one
that almost killed me

Copyright R. N. Taber 1973; 2017

[Note: Written summer 1973; rediscovered and revised, 2009; 2017.]

Friday, 28 April 2017

Ghosts, Breathing Life into Pinocchios or G-A-Y, Giving Bad Attitude as Good as it Gets


Regular readers will know that I did not come out to the world (only a select few) until my late 30’s, not least for having been raised in a gay-unfriendly home and school environment.

A boy at my school who had been surrendering to a desire to kiss other boys, albeit on the cheek, was made to undergo electric shock treatment to ‘cure’ him of any ‘homosexual tendencies’’ this, alone, was enough to keep me in the closet! Among crowds, I felt like a ghost, walking unseen with an increasing sense of other ‘ghosts’ all around me. They visited me in my dreams, these ghosts, and I sought them out in my spare time, discovering old haunts where we would meet and comfort each other emotionally and sexually. In this way I discovered how to ‘cruise’ along with the best.

It took a bad nervous breakdown in my late 30’s to (eventually) remove the blinkers I had been made to wear all life and get real about my sexuality.

Gay-unfriendly legislation in some parts of the world and various socio-cultural-religious obsessions a with the heterosexual ethos means that there will probably always be closet ghosts: I sense them wherever I go, make eye contact with some and we exchange signals of recognition and wishful thinking, much the same as men and women do when attracted to each other, albeit  invariably but passing glances because, once out, no gay man or woman wants to share their life with some ghost in a closet; been there, done that, got the emotiona scars to prove it.

In my 70’s now, I still walk with ghosts, but none of the closet variety.  Any hauntings now are of an inspirational nature, voices in my ear across centuries of their being abused and misunderstood simply because the less initiated prefer to home in on one aspect of a person’s identity - his or her sexuality - failing altogether to appreciate the whole person. Words of wisdom in my ear, indeed, prompting me to look the world in the eye, unashamedly gay, and that’s my business, no one else’s; not an employer’s and certainly not a cleric’s. (The prevailing notion in some circles that being gay effectively undermines our ability to do a good job or any - related or unrelated - sense of spirituality is absurd; it always was, of course, but especially in a so-called ‘progressive’ twenty-first century.

GHOSTS, BREATHING LIFE INTO PINOCCHIOS or G-A-Y GIVING BAD ATTITUDE AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Walking out
where few had walked before,
talked with those
with whom few had talked before,
shared secrets
few ever get to share in a lifetime
of repression

Treading dreams
where many had dreamed before,
fed nightmares
no psychiatrist ever quite understood
because they know
only the theory, nothing of living
in fear of shadows

Ghost, a scrapbook
of would-be memories, fictions
I’ve sought to act out
in closets with doors I’d leave ajar
for light enough
to read minds by, assess potential
friends and enemies

Loneliness,
gamut run, nor safety in numbers
or (quite) free to talk
as we walk (as we do anyway) given 
public opinion
inclined to portray the same profile
hanging us out to dry

Returning
to places that defy any returning,
in memory
of exorcising demons once hell bent
on destroying me,
but I resisted, fought back, live
to tell the tale


Copyright R. N. Taber 2017



Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Poetry Live

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

[Update) March 25, 2017: Not everyone who visits the blog also visits my Google Plus page where I post links to posts/poems from both blogs on a daily basis. A reader has  emailed to say he had heard about the poetry reading but had no details. Sorry about that! He also said he would still like to make a donation to Prostate Cancer UK as his late father had prostate cancer, and he is having tests for it himself. Sadly, cancer does not discriminate! Good luck, Ian, and stay positive! Oh, and feel to email me any time. It is not too late to donate as my JustGiving page will remain open for a while yet:


If there is anyone else out there who enjoys my poems on the blog/s, please help if you possibly can. My page will remain a while longer; every little helps its team in supporting men with prostate cancer, gay and straight alike - and their families - across the UK

Well, the poetry evening is well done and dusted. Only about a dozen people came, but we enjoyed ourselves. (There's nothing quite like live poetry.) Everyone seemed to appreciate my choice of poems and we all got on well during a 30 mins refreshment break which was really nice as some people had only just met for the first time. If the arts are meant firstly to entertain and secondly to offer food for thought, feedback suggests the evening was a success on both counts.

For me, personally, it was hard work involving weeks of preparation but a labour of love so I'm glad I went ahead with it despite being a bag of nerves...which, thankfully, steadied once I got started. This year marks sixty years of getting my poetry into print, given that my first published poem appeared in my school magazine summer 1957. I have also been living with prostate cancer for six years (treated with hormone therapy).

I've recorded the poetry reading although I daresay some editing of the resulting voice file will be necessary.  (I hate the sound of my own voice so will leave that to my friend Graham who shoots and edits the videos on my You Tube channel.) Hopefully, blog readers will (eventually) be able to link to it.]

.....................................................

I did not have the confidence to read in public for years. However, after a few years of occasionally performing Open Mics at Farrago Poetry evenings in London, I found the self-confidence to accept invitations to give readings around the UK (2003-2014). Only weeks after a reading in 2014, I had a bad fall and have spent much of the last two years learning to walk again. I can get out and about quite well now with the aid of a walking stick, for which I am truly thankful as my left ankle had sustained a complicated fracture and I was warned I might never walk again. Oh, but I love walking and am stubborn enough to defy any harbingers of doom. Even so, I did not expect to give another poetry reading.

Now, this first poem appeared in Visions of the Mind, Spotlight Poets (Forward Press) in 1998 and subsequently in my first collection,  Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001. It is an early piece, written in the summer of 1976 during which I gave an impromptu reading of it in Trafalgar Square to a friend (and several appreciative passers-by who paused to listen.)

POETRY LIVE

Words

to music, out of words
let the sun rise
in the eyes of that ragged-eared mongrel
curled on George’s doorstep
tongue lolling stupidly
nostrils a-smoke

Words

to music, out of words
let carnival hot dogs
substitute for garden scents,
make easier the stink
of slop-outs in
the gutter

Words

out of choc-smeared mouths
in Bank Holiday sunshine;
kids in glad rags spilling
on the streets like bin bags;
shirtsleeves copper
getting chatty

Poetry

Copyright R. N. Taber 1998; 2017

I never dreamt that 30+ years on I would be reading a selection of my poems there, this time to a global audience via web stream as my contribution to Sir Antony Gormley’s ‘live’ sculpture project, One and Other (2009) sponsored by Sky Arts. To view, click on:

http://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20100223121732/oneandother.co.uk/participants/Roger_T     [NB. This link does not always work now. Ignore any error message and allow up to 60 secs for the video to start up (if it is going to at all); the whole web stream clip lasts an hour.]

Now, as regular readers will know, I remain very positive about my prostate cancer (being treated with hormone therapy) and included it in my reading last night. Sadly, it later transpired that a friend in the audience is having tests for prostate cancer. Hopefully, this will not prove to be the case. In any event, it is a worrying time for him. Whatever the outcome, I like to think the poem will help him to stay positive.

RIPOSTE, TO THE DARKER SIDE OF NATURE or LIVING WITH PROSTATE CANCER, SEIZING THE DAY

Gripped by fear,
I could but direct it elsewhere,
yet it keeps returning,
this awful cancer stalking me
like a predator

Away, dark fear,
and let me get on with my life.
Go, feed elsewhere.
I’m only human, but no easy
prey for a predator

Seized by doubt,
I can but trust positive thinking
will yet prevent
this awful cancer turning me
inside out

Away, negativity,
always on hand to undermine me
wherever I lend an ear
to voices arguing the wisdom
of my choices

Let me not resist a need
for comfort food and fiercer hugs
than ever before
to restore poor self-confidence,
give love its head

Come, Earth Mother,
and never let go of my free hand
as with the other I’ll sign
to mind, body, spirit, and world,
we’re not done

Yes, I will survive
whatever this cancer throws at me,
instincts insisting I embrace
all a feisty spirituality has to give
in its place

Let nature have its way;
together, we will no more concede
any disease its V-Day
than see human beings put down
just for being gay

Copyright R. N. Taber 2011