Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Lewes, Landscape of Imagination


This poem is the direct result of a visit to the historic Sussex town of Lewes. As always, my friend Graham Collett shot and edited the video and I wrote a poem to accompany it. I have posted the video/poem on my You Tube channel:


or access direct at:


It was during the latter days of last summer that Graham  and I visited Lewes. We only had time to visit the castle and Anne of Cleves’ House, and we thought you might enjoy sharing the experience.

The town is the location of several significant historic buildings, including Lewes Castle and a sixteenth-century timber-framed Wealden hall house known as Anne of Cleves House because it was given to her as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII; although there is no historical evidence to show that she never lived there, she may well have visited from time to time.  

Both Anne of Cleves' House and the Castle are owned and maintained by the Sussex Archaeological Society.

LEWES, LANDSCAPE OF IMAGINATION

Looking for creative therapy?
Visit the landscape of imagination,
take a journey into history;
Lewes, spoils of Norman invasion,
Courtesy of William, Conqueror
to William de Warenne and spouse
on overcoming Saxon resistance,
a castle there to build on the Ouse,
dedicated to St Pancras,
in remembrance of a child martyr,
executed for his faith

Pass through the Barbican Gate,
get a feel for olde England surrounds;
a Motte and Bailey castle,
later fortified with stone, the better
to defend against invasion;
few richer spoils of time to be found,
firing the imagination,
filling inner eye and ear with sights 
and sounds of generations
ghosting a courtyard dominated
by all-seeing towers

Climb, climb, a winding stair
of stone, labour of love, chiselled
out of the history
of olde England, witness to battles
and executions,
as well as celebrations, successes
and failures of its tenants
over centuries of war and peace;
echoes of laughter and tears
haunting East Sussex surrounds
for a thousand years

Lewes, meeting its past head-on,
where Anne of Cleves, and entourage
loyal to a discarded queen
may well have sought out the peace
of Tudor England’s green
but troubled land, under a fickle king
so desperate for a son
he wed unwisely (six times, no less)
letting ego-led lust have its head,
while Anne kept hers, even acquired
a house in Lewes

Time, though, will wait for nothing
and no one, least of all a poem passing
through its eternal passages
of fame and fortune, secrets and lies,
honourable deaths, executions
history may well attempt to justify
and scholars make excuses
while poets love to visit time and again,
bring to the landscapes
of imagination, inner eye and ear,
open to whatever…

Day done, history’s curtain drawn
across the windows of minds anxious
to chew on history’s bones,
reach their own conclusions as to how
past into present excavations
of various ruins and other testaments
to history’s own, for better or worse,
invest ghosts the ilk of Anne of Cleves
and such tenants as its castle
once let live, love, make merry and die,
with a singular peace…

Lewes

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

Note: I had problems uploading the video to You Tube so you may need to watch it again if your first attempt resulted in any distorted images.


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Darkness, the Poetry of Mixed Feelings OR The Scenic Route to Daylight

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

A friend who (like me) has not had a good year confided that he almost dreads the year  drawing to a close because he fears what next year may bring. He is 80, and (for years now) inclined to think every Christmas will be his last. In my book, that’s as as good as saying he’s afraid to wake up and face a new day in case it is worse than the day before. Oh, I get it, I really do, but negative thinking never got anyone anywhere they would prefer to be.

Me? As regular readers know, I try to take my cue from Monty Python, always looking on the bright side of life, no matter what, even when the view is a wee murky.

Besides, where some people take inspiration and comfort from religion, I take mine from nature…and doesn’t spring always follow winter?

DARKNESS, THE POETRY OF MIXED FEELINGS or THE SCENIC ROUTE TO DAYLIGHT

In the absence of light,
not a soul in sight, nor star or moon,
yet whisperings
in a passing breeze urge calm
as kind ghosts return
to fill a lonely heart with love
and urge us all
to seek peace of mind, be at ease
with ourselves

Does the heart play deaf
for fear of pain returning to haunt
a mind hosting
too many regrets that so relish
any prompting
to haunt, taunt us, make us
feel small
where no shadows even
to take our side?

Oh, but listen, listen, listen
to what friendly ghosts have to say
about seizing the day,
the better to let sweeter dreams
drive the Bogeyman
far away, unwilling to return,
risk further humiliation
where happy hauntings sure
to drive him out

Though a mind be as restless
as a wintry sea on some lonely shore,
let the heart say its piece,
hear it out, let it ease  body’s aches
and pains, inspire
the human spirit to picture moon
and stars looking down
on us with a twinkle in each eye,
anticipating a new day

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016




Sunday, 18 December 2016

Christmas, Food for Thought

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

For years now I have written a general and gay-interest Poem for Christmas and sent it to everyone on my contact list instead of a Christmas card, not least because (as other poems on the blog may well illustrate) I am not a particularly Christmassy person.  It is my pleasure to share this one with you; the other will appear on my gay blog and both will appear on my Google Plus site. (Although I have a gay and general poetry site, as far as I am concerned, a poem is a poem is a poem, regardless of content which is why I am pleased to post both on Google Plus.)

Incidentally, some of you may be interested to know that I am giving a sponsored poetry reading for Prostate Cancer UK on World Poetry Day, May 21, 2017. I will not only be celebrating having seen my poetry in print for 60 years (my first poem appeared in my school magazine, 1957) but also living with prostate cancer for 6+ years. Not everyone who wants to come will want to donate, of course, but do come along if you can. More details at:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Roger-Taber

As I am not a religious person, Christmas means nothing to me in that sense. While I can appreciate and respect the fact that religious festivals are important to those who wish to celebrate their religion, it often seems to me that any messages of love, peace and goodwill to everyone are little more than empty words. 

Religions are only closed shops, though, if their followers choose to make them so; many if not most (but not all, thank goodness) have closed hearts, open only to those who follow its dogma to the letter. (Heaven forbid, anyone should ‘deviate’ even in the name of humanity). Any inhumanity is easily put aside for a Heaven that’s any sheep’s reward for not having the temerity to stray from the dogmatic fold as preached by ‘betters’ who would appear to have His (or Her?) ear. 

Some readers may think my Christmas poems disrespectful, but I can assure you that it is not towards religion that I am so minded but towards those who - in my experience - pay little more than lip service to the major lessons (any) religion professes to preach; e.g. peace,  love, equality, respect and fairness among a common humanity…
Thank you for reading my blog/s, hope you have found plenty to enjoy, and here’s wishing you all a VERY Happy Christmas. 

CHRISTMAS, FOOD FOR THOUGHT

A pet is not just
for Christmas
nor should December
have a monopoly
on spreading peace 
and goodwill

Love is not just
for Christmas
nor should celebrating
any religion
mean shutting one
up or out

Caring is not just
for Christmas
nor can token gestures
of goodies
repay neglecting
the real thing

Mind, body, spirit,
have no need 
of fairy lights on trees,
decorations,
or even and being seen 
going to prayers

Let’s celebrate
the heart
that’s open all seasons
and all hours,
no one turned away,
no excuses 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2016

[Note: More ‘Christmas’ poems can be found (on both my general and gay-interest blogs) by entering ‘Christmas’ in the appropriate search field.]

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

Rhetoric of Mortality, Poetry of Life

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.’

What more can any of us ask for, eh?

RHETORIC OF MORTALITY, POETRY OF LIFE

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

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

W-A-R, an Epilogue OR Living on the Shadow Line


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 in Ydrasil (2009) and Poetry Monthly International (2010) [without an alternative title] before I included it in my collection. 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…’

This poem is a villanelle.

W-A-R, AN EPILOGUE or LIVING ON THE SHADOW LINE

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.]

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Read the Hand, Write us Up OR The Diarist


By now readers will know the so-called Arab Spring has left those countries involved no better if not worse off than before. Well, that's world politics for you...]

Civil war has all but broken out in Libya yet People Power continues to make its voice heard across North Africa and the Middle East, ordinary men and women desperate for democratic reform and risking their lives for it.  The human spirit is strong if vulnerable, proving time and time again that it can and will rise above tragedy.  Perhaps, though, if more Western politicians even half understood Middle East politics and neither side did not always assume they know best...

As for Earth Mother, she is a fickle mistress. Nature gives and nature takes away. Perhaps, though, if we were a sight less inclined to bite its hand that feeds us, we might yet find ourselves in better shape to prevent humankind going to the dogs of war that have haunted its every step since the beginning of time.

The poem first appeared in Poetry Monthly International (2010) and subsequently in my collection.

READ THE HAND, WRITE US UP or THE DIARIST

There’s a hand that caresses the first buds of spring
and bids them grow;
it moves among summer corn in time for harvesting
by courtesy of Apollo

Where autumn’s leaves making ready for its turning,
it bestows a blessing;
when winter brings us to our knees, of life despairing,
it beckons us to spring

Where we run the gamut of love, hate, peace and war,
find, too, Earth Mother;
let Her fair hand caress and smooth the troubled brow
or we destroy each other

The question arises, dare we bite the hand that feeds us
and face the consequences
or do we accept it in a spirit of goodwill to all humanity,
put aside our differences?

Beware, or the hand that rocks the cradle may let it drop,
our world break up,
needs must, we learn to read the hand that’s writing us up
or else…Armageddon

Back to school

Copyright R. N. Taber 200; 2016

Note: This poem was first published (without alternative title) in Poetry Monthly International, February 2010 and subsequently Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012.]