This article will hopefully encourage other budding poets and writers who are finding it hard to get published to at least consider self-publishing. Yes, it goes some way towards promoting my own work but only because I have managed to establish myself as a poet even though the arts media mostly ignore me and, hopefully, readers will feel encouraged to weather the multiple slings and arrows of self-publishing, not to mention the credit crunch. Self-publishing may be ‘respectable’ these days but it is also expensive so the writer needs to develop a strategy to recover costs.
An English poet based in London UK, I write on a wide range of themes, including gay issues and relationships. However, rather than publish my poems on a gay theme separately, I include them in general collections. While some 200+ poems had already appeared in various poetry publications worldwide by 2000 (although few on a gay theme) no poetry publishers were willing to consider a general collection that includes gay material. So I created my own imprint (Assembly Books) in 2000 and published Love And Human Remains, volume one of my quartet of the same name: Love And Human Remains (2001); First Person Plural (2002); The Third Eye (2004); A Feeling For The Quickness Of Time (2005). As these titles proved popular with readers, I felt encouraged to publish a supplementary collection - Accomplices To Illusion - in 2007. Book sales and fees for poetry readings around the UK funded a further collection On the Battlefields Of Love in 2010.
My books are major collections, containing some 150+ poems and I am often criticised for this. However, they are divided into loosely themed sections and readers seem to like having what one email correspondent recently described as ‘a number of little poetry books in one cover.’ Moreover, they are substantial enough to stand on library/bookstore shelves where many slim volumes that most poetry publishers prefer literally get ‘lost’.
The Internet is a wonderful marketing resource. Many of my poems appear on my blogs. I have a general blog that - among (many) other issues - promotes Gay Awareness and a gay blog where I regularly post what I refer to as ‘gay-interest’ poems from my books as well as new pieces that will appear in future publications. By gay-interest, I mean of special but not exclusive interest to gay readers. Poetry is, after all, for everyone. [Keyword: ‘Roger Taber poet’ or ‘R. N. Taber’ to access my blogs + more information about me and some poems].
I try to write with an immediacy, relevance and sensitivity to which readers can instantly relate. At the same time, they (hopefully) both entertain and provoke serious thought without being in the least didactic. I also write in various poetic forms; sonnets, kennings and villanelles as well as free and blank verse. Although there are many poems on the same subject - e.g. love poems - variations of theme and form avoid tiresome repetition. Readers often comment that many of my love poems could refer to either gay or straight couples… and why not? Love is universal.
I am always trying to extend the range of my poetry, especially in relation to human interest themes. Many years ago, I had a bad nervous breakdown and often draw on my experience to encourage others to find their way back to the real world and motivate themselves to ‘get a life’.
Although, I do not subscribe to any religion, I like to think I have a strong sense of spirituality that motivates and inspires me. I try to convey this many of my poems. This applies to my gay-interest poems as well. One poem ‘A Gay Dad’s Story’ writes about an older gay man who originally married and had children before he acknowledged his sexuality. Another poem ‘Going To Meet The Man’ was written in response to an email from a young Catholic man dying of cancer and being threatened with hell and damnation by the local priest for his ‘evil’ gay ways. While my ‘coming out’ poems attempt to convey its pain as well as rewards, I never condemn those who - for whatever reason - feel obliged to stay in the closet. Moreover, while many of my gay-interest poems address gay men, others embrace the whole lgbt community.
I enjoy the discipline imposed by classic forms as well as their directness; e.g. villanelles require an ‘a-b-a’ rime scheme in six stanzas where the first and last lines are repeated throughout and come together in a couplet at the end. I am often criticised for my grammar, especially the absence of full-stops (periods) at the end of stanzas. This is not laziness. I am simply not a full-stop poet (or person). In my view, they interrupt a poem’s flow and distract the reader.
My gay-interest poems are meant - among other things - to provide positive and reassuring reading for gay readers who feel excluded from their culture or religion where either or both remain essentially hostile to gay relationships. In a kenning - Let The Music Play - I suggest that sexuality has to be in the genes. What other explanation can there be for gay men and women worldwide? [I probably receive as many emails on the subject from friends and relatives of gay men and women as gay readers themselves].
Some 600+ of my poems have now appeared in poetry publications worldwide. Significantly, few of these are on a gay theme. It would appear that most editors and publishers remain wary of ‘gay poetry’, especially general collections that include gay material. Even so, my books continue to pay their own way and I have recovered costs. I am not trying to write great poetry, simply bring pleasure and encourage people to open their minds to major issues. As well as encouraging gay men and women to feel positive about their sexuality, I also like to think I am helping to dispel the many misleading, outdated and often offensive stereotypes that continue to attach themselves to gay men and women in the minds of the less enlightened heterosexual reader.
Although my collections are only on sale in the UK, anyone interested can purchase (signed) copies on the Internet - at a discount - by contacting me at rogertab.aol.com with ‘Poetry Books’ or ‘Blog Reader’ in the subject field.