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Abstract:
The poetry here deals with some of my experiences with the arts and humanities as well as the print and electronic media as a backdrop to an analysis of my own poetry.
Notes:
I try to connect my own experience and society's to that of the vast world of the arts and humanities, especially as found in the print and electronic media. The relationship of the Baha'i Faith to various art forms and various media is also explored. In this discussion I also analyse the role and function of my poetry.

Film, Television, Media and Poetry:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs, Section VIII Poetry

by Ron Price

2006
Part 1:

A CONTEXT FOR INSISTENT THEMES

The most insistent theme in the corpus of Shakespeare's work is the truth about relations among human beings: that community takes precedence over the individual, that power without love is disaster, that the human being is subject to suffering and that however different we all are, we are all alike and there is an ideal social order.-Ron Price with thanks to Charles Harrison, Shakespeare's Insistent Theme, The University of the South Sewanee, Tennessee, 1985, pp.3-11.


Bahá'u'lláh's writings contain a wondrous sense of victory in that they contextualize all that we can experience on earth and all that we can know. They offer in the world of religion a theoretical starting point for the search for a context in which certain fundamental questions may be discussed1. There is in this Prophet's work a total sense that this is a "Revelation direct from God", a "mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth..." The breezes of the All-Glorious taught Him "the knowledge of all that hath been." We have, then, extensive writings laid out on all the facets of that 'insistent theme' that was Shakespeare's, now, in modern dress for all of humankind to follow.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Karl Popper,"A Tribute to Karl Popper", The Science Show, 4 July 1998, ABC Radio; and John S. Hatcher, The Ocean of His Words: A Reader's Guide to the Art of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1997, pp.14-18.


We must, therefore, be open to criticism,
as we pause to reflect on the whole picture
of this new race of men and its transformative
implications, the blending and harmonizing
of salutary truths unvitiated here in an integrity,
an ultimate foundation, an organic change
in the structure of society, slowly unfolding,
a fresh manifestation of God in history,
an outpouring of heavenly grace, nobler,
ampler signs of human achievement,
a profound change in the standard of public
discussion where dissidence is a moral,
an intellectual contradiction in a community
whose goal is unity and where etiquette
of expression must always be reborn.


Ron Price
4 July 1998

Given this contextualization of all that I experience through the collirium of Bahá'u'lláh's writings and those of His appointed Successors and elected trustees, readers will find here some of my reflections on experiences that came my way by way of the several print and electronic media.


LIGHTING UP THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS

Like Robert Nisbet I think there have been great social changes since at least the Greeks twenty-five hundred years ago. There have been, of course, periods of seismic shift going back long before the emergence of homo sapiens sapiens in 32,000 BP(ca) or in the tens of thousands of years going back to an arguable 100,000 BP. That is one of the major themes of physical and cultural anthropology.

I came to Australia in the middle of what may come to be seen as a seismic shift in Western society which took place from about 1963 to 1973. Dennis Altman, Professor of Politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, defined this shift period as the late 60s and early 70s. -Ron Price with thanks to Dennis Altman on "Rethinking Australia", ABC Radio, Sunday, 28 June 1998, 5:05-6:00 PM.


The whole period was for me
an epochal shift,
a seismic shift,
with reading spread over
more and more and more
getting ready for
an immense engorgement,
laying it all into a Bahá'í paradigm,
my Bahá'í paradigm,
hot, rich, super exhausting,
again and again and again
until I found a continual
refreshment in this poetry1:
cool, quiet, low, on the grass
with the dew, in the evening
lighting up the sky with diamonds.

1 Melton J. Bates says of Wallace Stevens that as a poet "he enjoyed the godlike prerogation of continually refashioning himself in his poetry."
-Milton J. Bates, Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1985, p.ix.

Ron Price
28 June 1998

LAOS

Part 1:

The Most Secret Place on Earth is a 2008 film by German director Marc Eberle. Eberle’s fascination grew with film grew from his teens, and many of those films have ended up serving as major sources of inspiration and enlightenment for him in his personal journey of trying to make sense of the world around him. His personal story, life-narrative, with film is an interesting one unto itself.

The film I watched last night dealt with the secret operation waged by the CIA throughout the sixties and early seventies against communist guerrillas in Laos, particularly in the city of Long Chen. I watched this film1 before going to bed. I’ve been recently altering the time when I take my medications in the evening so that I can stay-up later and not go to sleep, which is the effect of these pills from my psychiatrist. This change of time allowed me to watch this film which was on after midnight. After 30 years of conspiracy theories and myth making in relation to Laos, from the 1970s to the 2000s, this film uncovers the story of the CIA's most extensive clandestine operation in the history of modern warfare: The Secret War in Laos. This war was conducted alongside the Vietnam War from 1964 -1973.

Part 2:

There is now a u-tube piece on this war for u-tube lovers, and there is a detailed outline of the story also available in cyberspace. There is no need for me to tell you the story here; you can read that for yourself or watch the u-tube video. I will, though, simply write this prose-poetic piece as I often do, utilizing poetry’s advantage of succinctness and brevity, and its strong tendency to be written in an autobiographical mode and manner.

While the world's attention was caught by the conflict in Vietnam, the CIA built the busiest military airport in the world in neighbouring and neutral Laos. They recruited humanitarian aid personnel, Special Forces agents and civilian pilots to undertake what would become the most effective operation of counter-insurgency warfare.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC1TV, 12:30-1:30 a.m., 20/2/’13.

I remember all that talk about
the Ho Chi Minh Trail & the
bombing of Laos, sending it
back into a Stone Age that it
had never really left by 1960.

I’d been involved in my own little
known war, trying to work-out the
most effective way to deal with all
those ups-and-downs, the books, a
strong libidinal urge now and then,
words of a new religion which had
come into my life back in those early
‘60s. Laos was mixed-in with all the
high-school words, birds flying over
Akka, a little world of family-friends,
sport and fun…..It was like something
from another part of the universe, far,
far out on the periphery of that world
back then when life was beginning—
little did I know until last night on TV.

Ron Price
20/2/’13

Part 2:


THOUGHT’S QUINTESSENTIAL LINE

This poem which began this morning when I read a quotation sitting, as it had been, in a file for about nine years, was finished in the afternoon at ‘The Perth Flower and Garden Show 1999’ organized by my step-daughter, Angela Armstrong and her colleague, one Debbie-Anne. It was a warm afternoon in mid-autumn. After touring the grounds and chatting to several people I sat and wrote the following poem. It begins, as most of my poetry does, with a quotation, in this case about memory. It finishes as a contemplation on how we construct our worlds.

“Memory is not simply the property of individuals, not just a matter of psychological processes, but a complex cultural and historical phenomenon constantly subject to revision, amplification and ‘forgetting’. Memory is, therefore, a construction. Memories are actively invented and reinvented by cultural intervention.” And then there is the thought, the memory, that can not find its way into words. It precedes language, perhaps existing in some sensory-emotion matrix, and remains beyond language.-Roger Bromley, Lost Narratives: Popular Fictions, Politics and Recent History, Routledge, London, 1988, Introduction.

We have our ways
to explain and justify,
in a word,
to legitimate,
to stamp
approved or not-approved
on our worlds,
to locate ourselves
in a cosmic frame.

And so these anecdotes,
this autobiography,
our story,
is not so much
an expression of personal experience,
as an allegorical exposition
of a model
of the way we see
the world working.1

Herein, we shape the debate;
We set the agenda,
mould our consciousness,
map our framework of meaning,
construct scenarios of action,
structure our options,
our mythology of daily history,
our myth of the social order.2

For words are things
and a drop of ink
can make millions think;3
a drop of air
can make millions stare;
But these words of mine,
although defining space and time,
don’t quite capture my lifelong maze,
its endless gaze;
butterfly-like, fragile and fugitive,
my life eludes this net, this sive.

Thought in all its vestments fine
shapes my life: a taste like wine,
sometimes sour, sometimes I dine,
a fragrance, just, no words of mine
can capture its quintessential line.

Ron Price
16 April 1999

1 Meaghan Morris, “Banality in Cultural Studies”, Logics of Television, editor, Patricia Mellencamp, Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1990.

2 Margaret McColl, “The Mass Media and Political Behaviour” Government, Politics and Power in Australia, p.236.

3 Byron, Don Juan, quoted in “Max Harris: Browsing”, The Australian.

BEGINNINGS

Vincent van Gogh wrote that “in the late spring the landscape of Arles gets tones of gold of various tints: green-gold, yellow-gold, pink-gold, and in the same way bronze, copper, in short starting from citron yellow all the way to a dull, dark yellow colour like a heap of threshed corn. And this combined with the blue-from the deepest royal blue of the water to the blue of the forget-me-nots, cobalt.”1 Van Gogh’s correspondence was unique; no painter has ever taken his readers through the processes of his art so thoroughly, so modestly, or with such descriptive power. Van Gogh was inventing a landscape as it invented him; in his incessant letters he catelogued and categorized his work. Much of his work, especially his work at Arles, was a rhapsodic outpouring of creative energy. Work and seriousness is the real image of Van Gogh. It is here that the critic could see the beginnings of modern art.(1)Robert Hughes, Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists, Harvill, London, 1990,143-144; and (2)p.132.

Ron Price describes the colours of a different landscape in the darkest hours of declining western civilization and an emerging global civilization; the colours of the centuries that saw the emergence of both these civilizations; and the tones and tints that he saw in the emergence of the first truely global religion. Price describes the colours of his own life from his deepest, blackest depressions to his golden, his blue, his amethyst and yellow joys; and the play of these colours, his personal subjectivity, on other sets of colours he saw reflected in his society, his culture, his religion and his world. Everyone tells their story in a different way. Here is a story, taken over three epochs: 1944 to 2000; here is a religion. Price provides his readers with a thorough account of the processes by which he works. The detail is descriptive; the tone, he likes to think, is modest. There is work, seriousness, rhapsody here in Price’s poetry and another beginning: several decades of emergence from obscurity of the newest of the world’s religions. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000.

This is a moral act;
it expresses my whole
sense of being in the world.

Striving for accuracy I must
be indifferent to the errors
of this poetic fecundity,1 for
I am not writing the history
of my age, but telling of the
uniqueness of my time
with an engine for describing
a world in metamorphosis,
with an immediacy that creates
popularity. It is unlikely that
this poetry will find a home,
a theatre of characters and events
familiar and not so familiar
in this world of burgeoning
cultural forms, for a world of
divergence,but it has found a home.

Dissociation of gaze and empathy
induced by the mass media
in a world of frenetic passivity.

1 Robert Hughes describing August Rodin in Hughes, op.cit., p.132.

Ron Price
15 January 2000

In the poetry of Roger White there is what Geoffrey Nash calls a dialectic. It is a dialectic, a dialogue, a contrast, between the ordinary self and the heroic soul, between the often dull exterior of a person and their inner greatness, between the real and/or apparent hegemony of their material condition and the potential and/or real spiritual heroism, between the pain at the heart of life and the denial of its existence. White is challenging us to move beyond our role as anti-hero, to transcend our ordinary self and its protective chrysalis. We may still possess certain vanities and cupidities. We may in the end remain anonymous. But we go through a struggle and therein lies our heroism. White calls us all to "arise and struggle."-Ron Price with thanks to Geoffrey Nash, "The Heroic Soul and the Ordinary Self," Bahá'í Studies, Vol. 10, pp. 23-31.

Was it merely coincidental
that those superheros
began to emerge in that first year
of the teaching Plans in 1937-81?

That proliferating symbol
of human, semi-human, greatness
has now wandered across
the whole earth
devoted to justice
in the most ordinary
of ordinary circumstances.

This superhero1 has a mission
to reinvent society
with a sense of history
and the future.2
He assaults the humbling summits,
makes his vertical ascents
past fault and fissure.

Through the miasmal ooze
he painfully inches
his consequential necessary way.3

1 Superman emerged in the mass media in 1938 as did the first generation of pioneers during the teaching Plans.

2 Christian L. Pyle, "The Superhero Meets the Culture Critic," Postmodern Culture, Vol.5, No.1, 1994 informs us that the superheros of the print and electronic media in the last sixty years have generally not tried to change society only battle on behalf of the status quo, with little sense of the history or the future. The Bahá'í pioneers, on the other hand, who rise beyond their ordinary self, do try to reinvent the world with a strong sense of both history and the future.

3 Roger White, "Nine Ascending," The Language of There, Canada, 1992, p.34.

Ron Price
3 August 2001

Part 3:

NOTE IN A BOTTLE

“You can’t get to the bottom,” poetry writer and editor Ed Hirsch said in an interview, “of the mysteries of creation.” It is in this inability to get to the depths of mystery, in the fact that we overlook and fail to celebrate the ordinary and in our need to bear witness, to testify to what is beyond art, to what exists in wordless places that this delicate, tender and solitary person, this soul in man, will find the root, the basis, of poetry. The political in a poem has little to do with partisan politics and much to do with bringing the everyday realities into recorded history. The metaphysical, the historical, in a poem often derives from the fact that the poet does not want to describe what he sees, he wants to produce, to construct, the facts and often only from very ordinary situations but, hopefully, with extraordinary thoughts and insights.2 The past exists in a special way through writing not as a being-within-itself.1 This is more important in our time when millions seem to be missing entirely any genuine intellectual experience born of reading, any of the enchantment of poetry, being befriended by the art of poetry, due to the powerful yet distracting effects of the mass media. Here is a poem, a vahid, on this theme. -Ron Price with thanks to Ed Hirsch, “Books and Writing,” ABC Radio National, 7:05-8:00 pm, 26 January 2001; 1 Alfonso Mendiola, “An Ambiguous Connection with the Past: Modernity,” Internet, 20 December 2000; and 2 Helen Gardner, The Metaphysical Poets, Penguin Books, 1972(1957), p. 24.

I’ve spilled over from my reading.
It just had to gush out.
These poetic receptacles
are as good as anything, better.
You can’t keep in all this sort of stuff
and so I write it down for someone,
someone I don’t know, for posterity,
for whomever finds it, like those notes
in a bottle down by the shore
sent by someone unknown, never met.

But sometimes no one ever finds them.

They just float around forever, forever
waiting for someone at the other end.

No one might ever find me, sealed,
stored forever in a bottle, unread.

Who will find this bottle by their shore,
and take it home to their evening chair,
near an open window, near no window,
but in bed with a pillow under head?

Ron Price
27 January 2001

Part 4:

QUALITY?

Beginning perhaps in the 1960s there was an explosion in the production of artists, writers, poets, indeed virtually all of the creative and performing arts. By the time I began writing this poem in 2002 there have been some four decades of mass production by creators of various artistic forms: poems, plays, novels, paintings, sculpted works, songs, et cetera. One result has been the creation of millions of pieces of homeless work. They have a home in their place of creation, but they often never find a home in an art gallery, a museum or in a published form. Another result of this excess of artistic performers is inflated reputations and wrongly ignored artists. This is inevitable in the short term. Eagles become the turkeys they really were, in time, in the long term. My own work, for example, simply can not find a home in the mass media. That is true of millions of other artists.

But it is in the nature of human beings to discriminate. Some things strike us as better than others: more articulate, more radiant with consciousness, more pleasureable. Experience teaches us to see differences in intensity, meaning, grace, beauty. But quality is not easily quantifiable and everyone has different tastes. The phenomenon of 'quality' is quite complex. Although I have found a home on the internet for much of my work, I may never know whether I was a turkey or an eagle.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Hughes, Culture of Complaint: The Freaying of America, Oxford UP, 1993, pp.193-203.

There's some of the 'telling others' here,
but mostly it's a working it out for myself,
an easy, organized, reverie, a turning
of the inward life, an understanding,
perchance others may understand, too.

Some reality I want to bring into sight,
something covered with familiarity's veil,
talking to myself, communicating
with my own being, with what is
partly felt, not quite seen, bringing
my life together, scattered across
two continents over forty years,
in so many towns and so many heads
that I need to find something called me.

Ron Price
20 January 2002

ELYSIUM

Part 1:

Elysium is a 2013 American dystopian science fiction action thriller film. It was written, directed, and co-produced by Neill Blomkamp, and starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga and Sharlto Copley. It was released on 9 August 2013, in both conventional and IMAX Digital theaters; I saw the film on TV on 9 July 2015 here in Australia. In my 16 years of retirement from a 50 year student and paid employment life, 1949 to 1999, I have found that, if I wait, the movies and DVDs that come onto the market eventually turn-up on television.

This film takes place on both a ravaged Earth, and a luxurious space habitat on a rotating wheel space station called Elysium. The space station reminded me of the one in 2001 Space Odyssey. The film explores political and sociological themes such as immigration, overpopulation, health care, exploitation, the justice system, and social class issues. Although the film's story is set in 2154, the director-producer has stated that the film is a comment on the contemporary human condition. "Everybody wants to ask me lately about my predictions for the future," the director said, "No, no, no. This isn't science fiction. This is today. This is now."

Part 2:

I leave it to readers with the interest to find the details about the plot, cast, production, critical reception, and general details. Wikipedia has an informative overview of the film. I have taken an interest in the leading science fiction authors of the last two centuries from Mary Shelley to George Lucas. In many ways these authors have predicted and, accordingly, influenced the development of scientific advancements by inspiring many readers to assist in transforming their futuristic visions into everyday reality. The stories of these two centuries of science-fiction are now told in cyberspace through: film clips, re-enactments, illustrations and interviews. Back in the 1950s I joined the Baha’i Faith which, among other things, is a religion with the very future in its bones. In my 60 years of association with this newest of the Abrahamic religions I have found it has often been criticized as far too utopian with an unrealistic picture of the future. Perhaps this is yet another reason why I have taken an interest in the genre of science fiction.

Part 3:

You’re getting older Jodi,
but there is still plenty of
bloom on the rose. Matt’s
in his element pushing his
body, his exo-skeleton, as
far as it could be pushed.

I said to myself, as I watched
this film: “this is not 2054…
this is now.” Science fiction
& fact into conversation with
one another. I tried to write
sci-fi back in the late 1980s,
but it was not for me, and
neither was novel-writing.

I settled for essay-writing,
poetry, autobiography, &
internet posting on 1000s
of topics with millions of
words. I was not a writer
of sci-fi: no Isaac Asimov,
no Robert Heinlein, nor a
Jules Verne…We all have
to find our place in space,
our skills, our abilities, our
raison d'etre for living in this
time, this climacteric of history.

Ron Price
11/7/’15.

FULL-FIGURED GALS
As I went through my teens and became an adult in 1965, there were many stunningly beautiful women who came across my television and cinema screens: Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Deborah Kerr, Jane Russell and Farrah Fawcette to name a few. This was the ninth and the first years of the tenth stage of history from a Baha’i perspective. In my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, from the 1960s through the 1990s, many more beautiful women continued to flow into and out of the mass media. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, February 27th 2005.

Symbol of an entire sexual revolution
they were, each of them in their way--
and I was only twelve, thirteen, fourteen
and I kept getting older and they kept coming.

Embodiments of steamy sexual desire,
smouldering sensuous beauty, lusty busty,
leggy, curves everywhere, cleavages deep
as the dark oceans, full-figured gals they were,
one and all, alluring angels, always seductive,
physical powerhouses, big-chested cutiepies,
attracted men, photographers and headlines--
didn’t they all? Princesses of pout, icons,
countesses of come hither--35-23-35 stats
and more, everywhere more, glamour galore,
tending to many marriages and troubles,
temptresses: who could resist the pulchritude?
All my life they’ve been coming,
always coming, up and out there,
flaunting themselves before my eyes--
incredible things I can only look at,
from a great distance, get turned on by,
but never, absolutely never, get near, touch.

Part of the whirlwind of the senses they were
at the other end of dull-everydayness,
its continuum of quotidian time meeting
as it did like out of some blue the psychedelic,
where tension was increased always without
resolution, catharsis or any genuine epiphany.
Sex: the last frontier, extraordinary incident,
outrageous stimulation, instinctual sources
of erotic heat, part of some basic permissiveness
where one looks longingly in this inchoate world,
diffuse, so diffuse, where a truly powerful ideology
was just opening up a new vision of life,
part of a moral repertoire to be drawn on by all
and helping me cope with these awesome sexual,
stunning beauties, traces of sand to be washed away
eventually by waves, not part of the decline
of the West but the end of civilization
and a hubris rearing its head
with its refusal to accept limits,
its sympathy for the abyss,
its rage against order,
its awareness of apocalypse.

And, for me, a substitution of instinct,
impulse and pleasure by those
essentials of restraint in my years,
my life in this post-industrial society1
looked like it was going
to take the whole of my life.

1 Daniel Bell, The Coming Of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Future Forecasting, Basic Books, NY, 1973. The birth of this society took place in the years after WW2, the second Seven Year Plan(1946-1953) just after I was born.

Ron Price
February 28th 2005

AN UNLAMENTED DEATH
Again and again he must stand back from the press of habit and convention. He must keep on recapturing solitude. -Walter de la Mare, Private View, 1953.


He was not a practical man,
not adept at gardening, painting,
cleaning, cooking, fixing the car
or door handles or shopping.

His death could hardly be lamented.

All he seemed to do was write poetry,
I mean just about endlessly.
He said he felt an excess of joy,
but did not want to talk about it.
It was too strange. He was too extreme,
impulsive, a victim of his passions.
Some he said were jealous,
but he did not like to pursue that theme.

He was a little too frank to suit some.

He seemed to prefer his own company,
a recluse, a hermit, had fallen in love
with flowers and gardens;
he’d often weep at movies
which he rarely attended.

He cried especially when he saw
the Mountain of God on video.

We were ready for his death
for he said he’d died already
many times and looked forward
to its face, its new life. Was it suicide?
We’ll never know and there’s no disgrace.

Besides, I wear his face and he was beyond
that kind of place, still in the race.

Ron Price
28 December 1995

EXPRESSING YOUR LIFE IN WORDS
After thirty years of writing music scores for movies, he still wakes up and wants to do better, to get the better sound, the right mix, to lift the audiences higher. He’s never satisfied, always working, continually being renewed by the process and the result. -Ron Price, A summary of the story of John Barry, composer, as presented on Music for Movies, ABC TV, 27 December 1995, 11:00 pm.


If I could put Your life to music
what a sound I’d make to tell
the story to the heart they’d cry
with tears of joy, clear as a bell.

If I could paint Your days on canvas
what beauty would they find,
would lift their faces and their eyes
to some Paradise so kind.

If I could sculpt Your life somehow
and carve it in these stones,
I’d place the soul of all Your days,
in the chink of people’s bones.

But I do not enjoy these skills at all;
my game is all with words
and there just is no way for me
to express Your life in surds.

But I will go on trying;
until the words do end.

Such wondrous vision down so deep
and Mount Everest to send
me to the heights of bliss,
as well as exhaustion’s pit,
to help me keep on going strong
when I’d just like to sit and quit.


Ron Price
27 December 1995

ALPHA POINTS

When you1 wrote of the next Augustan age
you had no idea in the slightest
that a fully institutionalized charisma,
a different glory,
leading from its strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried
.....

A golden age of poetry and power
of which that noonday was the beginning hour
and about to dawn in the celebration
of the Most Great Jubilee.
This was no King Arthur
presiding over a Camelot,
but a new order of the ages.

There would be no assassination here,
no glamorous fatality,
just the slow growth of a prophetic message,
unobtrusive, unbeknownst to humankind.
Yes, as Mailer said,
these were boundary-making times
of epochal significance,
not in Los Angeles2 ,
but in London and Haifa,
as the ninth stage of history,
a grand design3 unfolded.

Mailer’s words were already sounding hollow
as paeans of joy and gratitude
were raised to the throne of Baha’u’llah
for those who kept the ship on its course
and brought it safe to port4
as the tenth and final stage of history
opened its doors to the mighty task ahead
and a dream which was never written
in shorthand, never truncated, always vast
as if we were asked to reach for the stars,
a renaissance always in the making,
always it is morning
and back, then, the beginning hour,
the alpha5 point of postmodern history
joining the past with the future
in one continuous garment of light,
corridor of brightness, now,
concentric circles irradiating the globe
from the holiest spot on earth
in an alabaster sarcophagus.

1 Robert Frost wrote a panegryric poem at President John Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. These italicized lines are from that poem and are quoted in The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1995, p.228.

2 The Democratic Convention of 1960 was held in Los Angeles at the Sports Arena and Norman Mailer, a popular American writer of the time, saw this Convention as “the most important...in America’s history.” The essay in which he expressed this idea was published in 1963 in The Presidential Papers. -ibid. p.229.

3 The Universal House of Justice used this term to express Shoghi Effendi’s unfolding of the meaning of history and of the Cause in his thirty-six year ministry. -Wellspring of Guidance, p.1.

4 The Hands of the Cause in: ibid., p.2.

5 there are a wide range of ‘alpha points’ the poet could draw on in playing with this concept of beginnings. April 1963 is just one such point.

Ron Price
7 December 1996

TO IRVING LAYTON

My country, my landscape, has been an immense and strange world peopled with the breeze of mystic Heralds, long beards, birds flying dead, heads rolling into lounge rooms, chests pierced with candles, journeys, endless journeys over mountains and oceans, plans, always more plans, books with millions of words and, now, a set of wondrous buildings. This world was often thick and heavy, often joyous and intense. It lay somewhere at the back of my head even when I was at the movies, or making love. It really never went away.
Now, another world, another landscape, has been given me, a world of profound beauty, glorious to the senses, magic to the mind. I have plucked a thousand poems, more, from this immensity. I have waited confidently for them to fall like fruit into my lap to taste and treasure. I still wait; I wait now and will wait tomorrow. I’m inclined to think they will come, these infinite treasures, until my last breath. I shall wait and watch in immeasureable thankfulness.

Both these countries, worlds, landscapes, have been given to me like great oceans of nearness, gifts, that extend throughout the universe, into history and the future. They bring sweetness, sadness, a host of satisfactions. These worlds, these landscapes, are also like vapours in the desert, illusions, dry rubbish heaps, places of emptiness and travail, as meaningful as the eye of a dead ant, as the Bab once put it. All of it, its richness and its emptiness, I immortalize with a language tinged with vitality, distinction, style and passion, with praise and thanksgiving to a Source I shall never understand.-Ron Price, with thanks to Irving Layton, May 20, 1971, in The Collected Poems of Irving Layton, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1971, Foreward..


Irving, I never knew you,
in all those years I was growing up
and getting older. I never even saw
one of your books until this year,
the one you published after I left
Canada in ‘71.

I’m not into the vigor of criticism,
your biting irony, but I do try
to marry heaven and hell. You seemed
to suffer more, especially when you
were a kid. Our landscapes, our country,
are oh so different: you from Montreal
and me the Hamilton-Toronto complex.

You said things well, Irving, I grant you that.

You said it straight, light and heavy
in the right places, differently than I.
Both of us happiest when we compose poems,
easily moved to tears; talk of being mad,
the pleasures of sex and the poetic sky.
Dorothy Parker was before my time;
I’m asked to love even those rich cats
and you seemed to play-the-field
for many more years than I.

My values required marriage
back then at the start of rock-‘n-roll.
in my self-selected and protected world,
with such a strange and different landscape.

Ron Price
8 April 1996

MY MOVIE
The whole of the poet’s experience, screened in the mirror of his memory, seems in retrospect a sequence of movie moments, great scenes in which he is the leading man.-Laurence Goldstein, The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1995, p.147.

All of reality exists to end between the pages of a book.-Mallarme in idem.

For this pleasure-loving society
there would be some good stuff
in this ongoing movie of my life:
plenty of skirt followed down the street
in comfortable spectorial distance,
to satisfy libidinous tendencies
in a gospel of eroticism,
with prurient presentation,
even neurotic desire,
a sexual cornucopia,
that ever-present orgy
for the randy adolescent
in wish fulfillment,
in clean moronic gaze,
the vacant field
of the eye’s entire universe.

I try to persuade my reading audience
to gaze at this page, once empty,
before I fill it with my life,
with thickly textured phrases
infused with the urgency of personal need,
no match I know for those technicolor dreams,
master narratives for a heterogeneous society,
vast, compelling fantasies where love,
laughter and a secular aesthetic
are the leading industries,
where beauty is marketed
like a basic food
and a former cultural hegemony,1
social consensus, diffused through society,
has come apart, more than creeping leftism,
after that revolutionary year of 1967
when we entered the dark heart
of an age of transition with Bonnie And Clyde
and The Graduate, radical social movements
and proclamation.2
This page is no match, either,
for that principle assassin of public life
and community politics, the TV,
that commodity of commodities
by which a submerged suburbia views,
periscope up, sees and understands;
and an atomized, fragmented public
goes for magical, private, moments
over public time with skepticism
legitimating withdrawal
and the canons of authenticity
gone from old politics and religion.


And so I write this page
to tell the story
of a new communitarian form
of reconstruction that has the capacity
to sustain faith, a truely cosmopolitan
universalism, non-sectarian, non-denominational,
no simplistic form of ignorant emotionalism,
a basis for a world commonwealth, the New Jerusalem,
that has been growing unobtrusively
around the planet and is about to burst bonds
that have held it since its inception
in a tapestry of beauty
that is spreading its awesome wings
over Mt Carmel.

Ron Price
7 December 1996
1 this cultural hegemony, many film critics argue, broke down in the 1960s due to a wide range of factors within the film industry and outside cultural factors.

2 In 1967 the Baha’i community launched a global proclamation to celebrate the 100th anniversal of Baha’u’llah’s proclamation to the Kings.


ONE TYPE OF DREAM/VISION

By 1933 Hart Crane no longer looked to Hollywood for a redemptive transformation. He eventually took his own life, another member of that visionary company fated to end its quest with a silent gesture.-Laurence Goldstein, The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1993, p.55.


Some saw those celluloids as
refreshment for the exhausted
spirit and redemptive change,
centering, organizing our capacity
for love and joy in an anarchic world
overwhelmed by modernity’s tempest,
helping us to see history’s picture,
beauty and power as people saw their
world on cave paintings, hieroglyphs,
stained glass windows or pyramids.

Were pretty faces icons of the infinite or
part of the tyranny of mob sentimentality?
Would these madonnas of art render young
men forever dissatisfied with reality, lost in
innocent curves, wild, young, sweet eyes?
Would red, rare silks, falling from their
breasts weave magic in men’s eyes and hearts?
Would the glamour, exoticism and chic-ness
of journalistic form make things seem new?
Bring cultural coherence, consensus and order?
Make fragmentary clips into political discourse?
Do your own thing sound like sheer impulse?
Appearances fraudulent, managed, engineered?
The world: a smorgasbord, a music hall, an eider-
down of unreality where cynicism and pessimism
would grow in rich beds of trivialized gimmickry?
Ron Price
6 December 1996

SENSUAL FORMS

It is one of the defects of revolutionary thought, in this age, so far as poetry is concerned, that it is not assimilable to any great body of sensuous forms.-Allen Tate, The Poetry Reviews of Allen Tate: 1924-1944, Louisiana State UP, London, 1983, p.160.

Here is a movement with no dearth of sensuous forms around the planet: classical architecture and modern forms of breathtaking beauty set high in hills at the confluence of continents,in the middle of an ocean and great land-masses. Here are beautifully bound, sensuous, words with metaphyiscal clarity and elegance. Here, too, is a history of blood, sweat and tears, involving the senses intensely, radically. Here is the centre of the ultimate revolutionary thought of modernity. -Ron Price, Comment on the above quotation from Tate, 11 February 1996, 9:30 pm.


Long, black hair falls to his waist;
such a handsome young man;
he should be in the movies;
they make them beautiful, too,
good lookers; we’ve got them
ugly, earthy, plain: all kinds
are found here in a sensuous mix
that quite takes your breath away,
right back to the 1840s and that veil:
we deal with the erotic here, hot life.

And cool marble in tall pillars as old
as the Parthenon, like the Parthenon;
nine-sided temples, all-curves, modest,
impressive; I’ve touched them for years
in photographs, even cried at such sensual
beauty, such grace, charm, form, educative.

Always neutral print, black and white,
increasingly set in colour and photograph:
thousands of pages. You can almost touch
the martyrs, the century-and-a-half of tears,
of joy, of heart rending sorrow. You can almost
hear the laughter, the groans, the utter exhaustion.

You can taste the cup of the bitter-sweet milk
of the blues, the honey and the poison. The senses
here are turned right on to a body of sensual forms.

Here is poetry, God, danger, goodness,
sin and the most ordinary of the ordinary,
the most human of the human.

Ron Price
11 February 1996

A PARTIAL RECONSTRUCTION
For the poet, language is a structure of the external world. The poet considers words as a trap to catch a fleeing, a fleeting, reality. All language is, for him, the mirror of the world. My own poetry mirrors, grows out of, many things. Fleeting, fleeing, reality I try to catch in many forms by means of words. One thing, one reality, I deal with is reconstructed memories of actual persons, places and things. It will take the rest of my life to continue the reconstruction. -Ron Price with thanks to Thomas Francis Lombardi, Wallace Stevens and the Pennsylvania Keystone, Susquehanna UP, London, 1996, pp.12-13.


Like some getaway car, shooting fast,
slick along the highway, back, back,
to some place forever young and fresh;
it could be the future, except
I know it so well, some colours of the mind,
like the movies, only I’m director:
everything, caught for a moment
right now, sharp editing, drifting out
over the surf onto the open sea,
shining in the sun all the way to the blue sky:

where can I begin and go where the camera
can not go, where no man has ever gone before,
and boldly? Perhaps, those Eskimo kids
in the fall of ’67, when I was young and on fire
with the torch which Thou didst kindle,
with burning snow and cold day after day,
until my brain did burn with some electrical buzz,
knockout blow, and I slowly recuperated
listening to the top forty on a.m.,

counting screws in a workshop
eating cabbage frequently:
my first prayer book gone.1

1 I gave my first prayer book, a blue 1954 American edition of Baha’i Prayers, to the first Eskimo in the District of Franklin to become a Baha’i on 29 May 1968: Josephee Temotee.

Ron Price
10 January 1997

A SLOW BURNING

The poet is at the movies dreaming the film-maker’s dream but differently; the endless strips of celluloid are, for him, a fire in the dark, a fire of an unconscious enthrallment to his creative conception and a slow burning, a maturing by sensation and watchfulness. -Ron Price with thanks to John Keats, Herbert Read and Franz Kafka in Laurence Goldstein’s, The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbour, 1993, front page; and Herbert Read’s, The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry, Faber and Faber, London, 1953, p.57 and 71.


There was a revolution taking place
back then, unbeknownst to my eye
and ear, as Bob Dylan and The Beatles
took the world by storm and rock-and-
roll was born and I pioneered to the next
town and the next and the next, starting
in the summer of ’62, as the mantle of poetry
passed from Kerouac, Ginsberg and the beats
to a whole new voice and I struggled to get
through it all, through depression and some
kind of mania, bought my first record: Barry
McGuire’s ‘The Eve of Destruction’, borrowed
by Mother’s ‘The Messiah’ and went off to change
the world with those sweet-scented streams, a small
prayer book and something, just born then, we called
The Universal House of Justice.

Ron Price
22 June 1997

AMIDST THE TRIUMPH OF CONFORMITY AND THE DEATH OF INDIVIDUALISM
Although the years before my joining the Baha’i Faith were ones with a strong conformist orientation and, although individualism in the movies was moving toward its deathknell, I joined a movement which was, then, small and intense. In a deeply conservative country I took a step which was highly individualistic, but had no conception of just how individualistic my step really was. The late 1950s was a period in which the mask of Faith was being drawn aside in North American society to reveal a search for rebirth. It was a time in which there was a lack of ways to express the deepest suffering. Rock-and-roll woke us up from that dream of the way we were, without negroes or genitalia. Our dream was also one of luxury without stress.-Ron Price with thanks to D.T. Miller and M. Nowak, The Fifties: The Way We Were, Doubleday and Co., Inc., NY, 1977.

Back in ’62 it was breaking down:
a whole structure of moral convictions,
as a new world struggled to be born,
but I knew little of this as we walked
in the evenings in that spring and summer
before my world began its slow explosion
into meaning over three epochs. Of course,
it had been breaking down for some time,
perhaps all the years of my growing up.

Now I can watch it in old movies,
in fleeting encounters
with those vague longings,
part of collective nostalgia
for the way we were,
when we were the preeminent victors,
before our supremacy began to unravel
in rock-and-roll, Vietnam and in
an escapist triviality of the endless
bread and circuses of our epochs.

After forty years of mass terror,
and two centuries of vast social change
young men and women wanted to break
with the past. I made my break in ’59
when I joined this new religion.
The setting of the Dead Poet’s Society,
before self-realization had become cliche,
in a world of simple polarities,
when most people were totally unaware
of modern poetry and that we’d spent
a decade on the eve of destruction.
I was in love with baseball,
fathers were tyrannical,
individualism in the movies
a dead letter1 and all the boys
wanted to become like John Keating
(Robin Williams) in a triumph of conformity.

Ron Price
14 April 1997

1Leo Braudy, The World in a Frame, Anchor Press, NY, 1976, p. 177.


RIDING AND DRIVING

Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger, went onto celluloid in 1937. Trigger died in 1957. In that twenty year period the Bahá'í community went through the first two decades of its international teaching Plan. When Roy Rogers died in 1998 the Bahá'í community had completed six decades of international teaching in the greatest drama in the world's spiritual history. Roy Rogers and a host of other western heroes, like Gary Cooper and John Wayne, were part of that myth of the frontier as described by Frederick Turner. The international teaching Plan, which promulgated 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan(Tablets, 1917), could be seen as an extension of that myth into the Bahá'í teaching ethos, a myth that had been part of American civilization since its birth.-Ron Price with appreciation to Rollo May, The Cry for Myth, W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 1991, pp.91-100; and in commemoration of the passing of Roy Rogers, 7 July 1998 as reported on the evening news, ABC, TV, 7:00-7:30 pm. He was 86.


About the same time as we1 started riding
they2 started riding across the screen:
driving, riding and driving,on the move,
a whole culture on the move. It became
part of our breeding for our new age,
new possibilities, always some change
and our absorption in getting and spending.3
They've been riding and driving across our screens
for six decades or more, since the movies began,
since we began to spread across this continent,this world.

Technology taking us and everything else, everywhere---
the great burgeoning. Proteus is rising from the sea
and old Triton is blowing his wreathed horn:
pioneers, drive and fly to the farthest corners

of the earth, exploring the new Order.

Ron Price
8 July 1998
1 The international teaching Plan began in 1937 and the Bahá'ís started moving around the world with greater frequency.

2 Heroes in Westerns
3 William Wordsworth, The World is Too Much With Us.


HE CLOTHED OUR MYTHS IN MEANING
Our literature is the richest source of the presentation of human beings' self-interpretation down through history. So often the reader finds an author who admits to being in selva oscura, in the dark world of sin and ignorance. Dante is such an author in The Divine Comedy. We each have our private hell that must be confronted. We must face our own selves, our responsibilities and accept our limitations, our guilt, our weakness. The western intellectual tradition offers a deep and profound source of insight for our understanding. Part of that source are the new revelations of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh.-Ron Price with thanks to Rollo May, The Cry for Myth, W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 1991.


We'd finished discovering our land
by the time you1 came on the scene:
hunters and trappers and pioneers
and you gave us visions and frontiers
and myths for many generations of
Lone Rangers and Clint Eastwoods,
Buffalo Bills and Daniel Boones to
soar to the apex of uncharted heavens
with our restless energy and exuberance
to double and redouble our magnanimity.

We could, then, minister to our transient moods,
pluck from our memory lifting joy and rooted
sorrows, the written troubles of our brain and
clear our breasts of all those perilous appendages
which weigh, too, upon our heart and soul.2
You clothed our myths in meaning, enough for
us to find invisible choirs of the immortal dead,
our heroes, our myths of action, our community
where we belong, so that we could take our journey
into hell and, in despair, find out who we were on
this long, tortuous and stoney path to peace and glory.


Ron Price
8 July 1998
1 Shoghi Effendi in 1921
2 Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 3

THE SENSE OF EXPECTATION
The Prophets enjoyed the gift of interpreting the mind of God even though they were essentially men of the world, practical men. They also had a sense of expectation and of history. For several hundred years the Hebrew prophets maintained a virtually continuous sense of high expectation and salvation.-Ron Price with thanks to Isidore Epstein, Judaism, Pelican,1959,pp.55-64

You grew up in a time when Teheran,
Shiraz and Hamadan were just words
on the periphery of everything(still are!),
like grandparents, Antarctica and Australia.

The bad guys were Indians and Communists.

You could see the former at the movies and
the latter were unseen like bedbugs, bacteria,
amoebas and atoms and you could never be
sure why it was exactly they were really bad.

            .......Later, you lived above a restaurant
and later still in a big apartment building right across
from a whisky distillery which had a smell that would
give urine and faeces a run for their money. Here, in
Canada’s most southerly city, you met with the Arctic
Branch of the National Teaching Committee many times
and learned about the Tablets of the Divine Plan, the
military metaphor and pioneering north, but not to Alaska,
to places you’d never heard of like Pangnirtung and Cape Dorset.

It was about this time, too, that your sense of urgency,

begun in ’62 when we got as close as we could get

to a nuclear exchange,matured with talks about being
a precisioned instrument of the Universal House of Justice,
with listening to Nancy Campbell talk
about hair’s-breadth deviations
and with a climate we now call the sixties.

Thirty-six years later it just takes a different form

as expectation is as high as ever.

I remember reading how Old Testament prophets
kept the Jews in a state of expectation for several hundred years.

We too? How long?
How long? We too?
Ron Price
13 January 1998

INUNDATION
This poem exists as part of my need, the need to assert the poetic enterprise against the cinematic one, the entire electric aesthetic of the electronic media, the entertainment industry and its staggering proportions with an attached fantasy life ranging from the sublime to the grotesque and a consumer's paradise of legitimate and forbidden pleasures. Poetry must clear the ground for its particular pleasures and not attempt to compete with the eternal beings on the screen who are like the Greek gods of old and are like us, but so much larger than life, filling in a meaning where often little exists in empty lives. Our culture is dominantly visual and the ground for poetry is, it would seem, a small patch.
-Ron Price with thanks to Laurence Goldstein, The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor,1995, p.173.


Film took off1 after the Sun set
and TV2 with the beginning of
our International Teaching Plan
leaving poetry with the small place
in the sun which it had long enjoyed,
a bright spot right here: like a garden
of roses, pearls in an ocean, leaves on
a tree, rays of one sun, endless bounties
of inner significance and delicate wines
of the spirit.3 In this snow-white spot
where poetry is read, in silence, where
eternity sweeps around me like a sea
lapping me with sounds, I am left with
an inundation. It came from The Sea.

1 film began as a genre in 1895, three years after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh.

2 many dates are found for the beginning of TV but 1939 is suggested as the "takeoff point." (ibid.,p.251)
3 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.30.

Ron Price
4 November 1998

                                                                                    TELLING THE STORY
Most of us, without particularly meaning to, have accumulated--from commercials, from ads in magazines, from picture books, from movies--a mental archive of images of the West, a personal West-in-the-Mind’s eye in which we see an eternal pastoral, very beautiful but usually unpeopled. These potent images, pelting us decade after decade, finally implant notions about how the West was explored and developed, in a word, won that are unrealistic. Photography has helped to redress the balance little by little with its rich but disordered resource. Over the last seventy years studies of various kinds and the occasional autobiography, like We Pointed Them North(1939), have helped to alter the picture that is engraved on all our brains from TV and the movies: Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, the Lone Ranger, Butch Cassidy, et al.

BLACK HOLES


One hundred years ago today the first lights flickered in the first movie house. Cinema had begun.             -ABC Radio, 8:15 am, 28 December 1995.


Film has basically snuck up on religion and kind of taken mythology. It’s the main area where we play out mythology now, in the cinema. I think that’s what its secret function is. -George Miller, film-maker, talking about his film Babe, 28 October 1995 in The West Magazine, 23 December 1995, p.13.


It has been suggested that if we could go inside a black hole, it might be possible to emerge either into a different universe or into a different part of our own universe.

            -Patrick Moore, The Unfolding Universe, Book Club Associates, London, 1982, p.184.



I’ve watched you come out of those dark holes
splendidly magnificent, like new worlds,
taking us away, billions of us now,
to scintillating lights and crackling sound,
so perfect, full and unimaginably glorious.

You are so much more than a poem;
you seem to cancel speculation,
your fragrance private, for a public place.

For a time you are supreme
like some Egyptian pyramid we only look at once,
or more times if hooked on your not so subtle
magnificence. You multiply my astonishment,
so succulent; you embrace me, absorb me
in your seemingly incandescent beauty,
but only fleetingly: I return to the world
as quickly as I left in your celluloid safety.


I disappear, and thankfully;
while the predictable wonder
of my ordinary life,
unscripted, flawed and plausible,
also disappears. I never emerge
in that celluloid safety
with my life nicely edited
so as to possess only that toothpaste smile.


I am eagerly gullible
to your technicolour manipulation,
your convoluted intrigue,
the syncapated chase and the final fall,
like dandruff, of the villans or, now, the hero.

Like my poems you can last forever:
commentary on the time and humankind.

A thousand mythologies cross your path.

I leave your black hole and enter another.


Ron Price
28 December 1995
WHITE BUILDINGS
A LOVE POEM TO HART CRANE

Hart Crane’s mind, grown strong, sought a poetic principle to integrate the exuberant flood of his impressions...The poems of Hart Crane are facets of a single vision; they refer to a central imagination, a single evaluating power, which is at once the motive of the poetry and the form of its realization...the poet must create order from the chaos with which his associative genius overwhelms him.....necessity, day after tomorrow, will drive men to think personally, poetically, cosmically in order that their survival may have meaning....when that time comes, the message of The Bridge will be taken for granted. -Waldo Frank, Introduction to Hart Crane’s Poem: The Bridge, 1932.


Not many read your poem now, Hart.

Was that why you threw yourself into the sea?
Or was it your organic unity with life?
You already were one with the sea anyway.


As Waldo said: traditional images,
civilization, symbols, were gone
and you, as mystic, were out on
uncharted waters back then in the ‘20s.

As you wrote White Buildings and
The Bridge a new symbol system,
myth, cosmology, was being born
and defined in a new order, just
getting fine tuned before the global
launch, before your global launch
before noon in those warm waters
when you became one with death.


If you could have seen it Hart!
This is the bridge that will carry
us into the new age beyond with
white buildings, oh so white and new
and shining on a hill: the Greeks
would have loved it Hart, the apotheosis
of the whole western tradition with
a vision to take us there, to take us
where we’re going.


This is not about cinemas, bridges,
subways, girders, traffic lights,
but some immaculate sigh of stars,
condensing eternity and lifting night
into our arms.We’re bringing back
more than Cathay this time;
this time the world, this time
the Sun in all its splendour.
Another Genoa and a new world
waiting for dawn to clear
this new frontier and the drama
of a spiritual conquest not ever yet seen.


It seems the fire’s been modulated, thusfar;
the pearls whisper in our hands and gold
silently accumulates in the coffers
as the land is slowly being cleared
for the long war. Burning blue, the sky,
calls the whiteness and the green
to dance below and gleam
like some team with sapphire streams.


We can see the shore more clearly now;
it beckons but with such complexity
and we have tried these pearl-promising waves
before and we guess their wet danger
in the kingdoms there and in our naked heart
where the tongue of fire has burnt me,
it seems nearly to my death.


For I’ve been on the pioneer side of things
these many years, since before they put
the apex in where the countenance of
the Ancient of Days hath turned towards
His holy seat. How many times I’ve turned
back spent to the sun-warmed sand. Anguished,
alone, burnt-out, needing to rebuild, I could not
see those white buildings or the bridge quite as
clearly, nor could you, Hart, nor could you.



Ron Price
26 September 1995
MORE SUBTLE THAN BOND

In Casino Royale there are already the elements for the building of a machine that functions basically on a set of precise units governed by rigorous combinational rules, play situations and side issues. The pleasure lies in watching the trained virtuosity with which the final moment is deferred, how foregone conclusions are reconfirmed by ingenious deviations and how various trickeries make rings around the opponents. The greatest pleasure arises not from excitement but from relief.-Ron Price with thanks to Umberto Eco, "Narrative Structures in Fleming", Gender, Language and Myth: Essays on Popular Narrative, Glenwood Irons, editor, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1992, pp. 157-182.


In the several genres of Pioneering Over Three Epochs Price describes his experience with a system, an order, a framework, a structure at once precise and vast, articulated in an aesthetic form of great beauty, but immensely various in its application from place to place and situation to situation; indeed often it appeared absurd, impossible of achievement. Some of the goals of both the system and individual life were always far off; some were achieveable, short term entities. Pleasures arose in the most surprising places, partly because of the heterogeneity of the groups, partly because of the changes in experience from decade to decade and because of the relief from the tension that so often arose from place to place. -Ron Price, Comment on Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript.


Casino Royale1 came out in 1953
and James Bond has been with us ever since.
That same year saw the beginning of
the Kingdom of God on Earth
and the beginning of the ninth stage
of history for this embryonic community.
Both build an Order, fight for truth,
justice and the rules of the game----
just a different set of rules, a different
fight, a different plan, defeat the
right and left wings of the hosts of
the world with romance, drama,
the greatest in the world's spiritual history.


But one, thusfar, so subtle, so elusive,
so capable of a far different cinematic
description, far different than the James Bonds
of yesteryear and all their ingenious virtuosity
and trickery and bold eroticism.

Ron Price
16 October 1998

1 the first James Bond novel by Ian Fleming
            THERE WAS A NEW WIND BLOWING WITH YOUR LAUGHS, JACK

Jack Lemon died today. He was a famous actor of the twentieth century. He was born in 1925. The year I pioneered in 1962 he played in Days of Wine and Roses. He came into prominence during the Ten Year Crusade and was active in the film industry for over half a century in more than one film per year. The persona he developed was of a humorous character usually with some weakness or fault. Like so many of the actors and actresses in the first eighty years of the Formative Age, Jack Lemon served as part of the backdrop, for Bahá'ís who liked watching films, of the texture of the Formative Age.

Lemon was part of a system that projected a world, through thematic and social conventions, values and institutions, that seemed natural and self-evident. That world habituted its audiences to accept the basic premises of the social order and its ideology. But, beginning in the 1950s/1960s, the social consensus both in society and in film began to 'come apart.' Jack Lemon and his films were part of this questioning of society's dominant myths and values.1 -Ron Price with thanks to "The Jim Leher Hour," SBS TV, 5-6 pm, 29 June 2001; and 1 M. Ryan and D. Kellner, Camera Politica: The Politics of Contemporary Hollywood Film, Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1990, p.3.


People began to question,
if they had not already,
the dominant ways of doing things
during those Ten Year Crusade years.


That most wonderful
and thrilling motion
which appeared in the world,
that inception of the Kingdom
of God on earth1
was blowing onto cinema screens
and transforming our world,
little did we know.


Your work, Jack, back then,
back when I had just taken-off
into my pioneering world,
your Days of Wine and Roses,2
was more than part of some
creeping leftism.3
It was part of a permeation
of light to the entire planet.1

1 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.351.

2 Frankly portrayed alcoholism in 1962.

3 one critic's characterization of films in the early to mid-sixties.


Ron Price
29 June 2001
ON THE LOOK OUT

Raymond Carver was an American short story writer who died at the age of fifty in 1988. He had been a compulsive smoker, drinker, alcoholic, depressive, wife basher(in his first marriage) and winner of many awards for his writing. To do your best and to work hard, Carver argued, is often simply not good enough in life. He was always on the look out for a story and would piece together painstakingly a narrative from the most unlikely constituents. Carver said that he was more interested in the characters in his stories than he was in those who were his reading audience.

I enjoyed reading about Carver, whom I had never heard of until yesterday, when his life and work were surveyed on ABC Radio National, “Radio Eye,” 2:00-3:00 pm November 22nd. Carver wrote about ordinary people and his characters were in many ways the centre of his writing life. Much of his writing was autobiographical. And, being so often a loser, his characters and his writing appeal to losers. The following poem is a celebration of Carver and his work and it is dedicated to John F. Kennedy who was assassinated forty years ago yesterday in Dallas Texas when I was just twenty-one. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 23 November 2003.


The world seems to me
to be drowning in stories
with enough narrative
to line, wall-to-wall,
floor-to-ceiling, across
the surface of the earth
and out into space
with the plots, scenarios,
the characters, events,
the space and time
of a myriad pieces of
intricate and moving
stories of mice and men.


Some tell their winning stories
in cinema, in music, in words
on paper and in books,
in a multitude of mise-en-scenes,
stage plays choreographed
for millions to be entertained,
informed, stimulated, educated--
like some immense, Gargantuan
Guide to the Perplexed.


Ron Price
23 November 2003

PS Carver moves from experience to autobiographical story and I move from experience to autobiography. And I take as much interest in my characters as Carver seems to in his. We are both on the look out for a story, a way of conveying our experience in narrative.
A
A CORUSCANT ENERGY1

Once ranked number six on Playboy’s 100 sexiest women of the twentieth century and also named the most beautiful woman in the world, Sophia Loren has been acting in movies all my Baha’i life. In the year my mother first had contact with the Baha’i Faith, 1953/4, Loren acted in four films. She had just started her acting career in the early fifties. In the year I joined this Faith, 1959/60, Loren acted in six films; in the year my pioneering life began, 1962/3, she acted in another six. One of these latter films(1962) was Boccaccio where she stared with Anita Eckberg. She won the first Oscar for a foreign language film in 1961. Some regard Loren as the most celebrated actress of the last fifty years(1953-2003). This month Loren turned 70. Both she and I are getting old. -Ron Price with thanks to “The Official Sophia Loren Website,” September, 2004.


1 With appreciation to Roger White for this title from “Death of the Greengrocer,” Whitewash, Haifa, 1982, p.22.


This icon of the cinema
during my pioneering life,
this woman of grace, elegance,
beauty and charm, unpretentious,
as sexy, as seductive, as they get,
she came out of the woodwork
and blazed across the screen
and blew me away, yet again,
one of thousands of beauties
that played in the background
of my life, all my life really,
right from my first memories
when I was only three or four,
before breasts bud, before groins
fill out, jostle and strain toward
their imperative destinations.


And they still blaze and dance,
still jostle and strain keeping
the concupiscible appetite on heat,
always wanting more than I can get
or should get or would get or could get.

What’s the big idea anyway?
Is it some kind of cosmic joke:
sticking this incredible pulchritude
in front of my nose and saying:
you are only supposed to look.

Don’t touch; it’s only for show!
It’s to reproduce the species;
that’s why there’s such awesome
force here. I’ll give you a taste,
but don’t ask for more than your lot,
your share of this coruscant energy
that pops and glitters, spurts and tangles
to achieve life’s unthwarted, fecund purpose.

                  -Ron Price, September 25, 2004


ALWAYS THERE ARE CONDITIONS

Even though I have tried in the first five years of retirement to distance myself from community, from people, in order to write and recuperate from forty years of intense interactions and the conversational patter that is part of people in groups: given the social nature of the religion I have been associated with for half a century, people still play a large part of my life. In the last 30 days, for example, I have: had a friend/visitor for two days in the house; entertained a married couple, old friends, from Queensland and another couple from Western Australia each for a day; had a good-bye cup-of-coffee with a Canadian chap who had been living in George Town for a few months; put up 70 posters in 70 shops in town and held two Devotional Meetings; attended a workshop to arrange a display of my writing and discuss the arts for one day involving in the process a 90 minute drive; attended a talk in Launceston given by an international speaker; attended a Feast in the home of a local Bahá'í couple; attended two holy day celebrations in my own home; taught four one hour classes in creative writing/philosophy to four students; had the inevitable chats and social intercourse with my wife and son with whom I share this home; and written many communications, postings, on the internet at forums, sites and centres.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, May 6, 2004.


So far this hermitage is peopled
and my life is peopled
far more than my proclivities
would entertain in this first stage
of withdrawal from a peripatetic
existence and its endless words
which had produced a tedium vitae,
a need for solitude and a praise
which is the practice of this art.1

But this is no rest haven.

The war goes on,
the battle-ground has changed
its mise-en-scene as I try to attack
the armies of the world,
the right and left wings
and carry my attack
to the very centre
of the powers of the earth.2

No one would guess, of course,
in this domestication of warfare
that I may gain shining diadems
and brilliant jewels in the Kingdom:
of course there is no guarantee,
for there are always conditions.


1 William Blake expressed this idea about art in Poetry and Fiction Essays, Howard Nemerov, Rutgers UP, New Brunswick, 1963, p.vii. 2 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 48. ---Ron Price 6 May 2004.

CINEMATIC COMMENTARY

The Ken Kesey(1935-2001) novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was published in 1962. The book was written in 1959, the year I became a Baha’i. This was the year I went pioneering and the year, I can see now in retrospect, that I first experienced the signs of bi-polar disorder. By the time the film version came out in 1975 my first severe bi-polar episodes had come and gone. Dejected institutional submission, one of the main problems faced by the patients in this film/book, was certainly not a problem I faced in the five months I was institutionalized in four hospitals from June to November 1968 for my manic-depressive or schizo-affective disorder as it was also called. The film consistently ranks in the top 15 of the greatest American films. Although I was critical of the film, as was Kesey, for the image it presented of mental hospitals, I did feel the book and the film was a relevant companion piece, a strangely cinematic commentary on my own experience, of the mental illness I faced in the sixties and seventies.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, December 21, 2004.

KUBRICK: A TOUCH OF THE INEFFABLE

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999) began directing films the year my family first had its contact with the Baha’i Faith, 1953. I was nine at the time. Kubrick died one week after the release of his last film on March 1st 1999. I was in my last month of my life as a full-time teacher before my retirement at the age of 55. I write this poem because of Kubrick’s qualities as a film maker in the ninth and early decades of the tenth stage of history, the second half of the first century of the history of film: 1895-1995. He was a man obsessed by film. He pushed himself and those he worked with to the limit. He had a passion, an intensity, which turned his perceptions of the world and what was wrong with it into art. His films and my life followed each other in my adolescence and my adulthood. With this television, this documentary, series on Kubrick, I caught a new appreciation of the man and his work. -Ron Price with thanks to SBS TV, “Masterpiece: Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures-Part 3,” 10:00-10:55 pm, June 22, 2004.

What was that force within you, Stanley?
An impressionability?
An obedience to inspiration?
a force majeure?
A conversation with eternal wisdom?

What produced the heart, the core
of your experience with cinema?
What gave it its existence
As you created yourself
like a high-tension wire
discharging images1
for half a century?

You created the world anew,
Stanley, from silence, memory
and some menacing external vacuity,
some otherness, some temporality
gushing onto the screen
with everything you touched
relieving your overburdened mind2
giving everything a touch of the ineffable.


1 Novalis in The Bow and the Lyre, Octavio Paz, University of Texas, Austin, 1956, p.154.

2 Howard Nemerov in The Seamless Web, Stanley Burnshaw, Penguin Press, 1970, p.179.


Ron Price
June 24, 2004
THE PARADOXICAL REALITIES OF '59

After watching the Peter Weir film Dead Poets Society I read a review by Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times (9/6/89) and a second review in a journal, the Australian Journal of Communication, Vol. 18(1991). Both reviews were highly critical of this film which I had enjoyed. In retrospect, it seems to me that the reviews confirmed my premise of film study; namely, that art can be explained by life and "rationality arises as an elaboration of feeling."1 To be able to convert the substance and riches of a film to one's own use, to draw forth its choicest flowers and with the bee turn all of its cinematic delights into the honey of understanding, that is film study. -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Susanne Langer, Problems of Art, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1957, p.124.


A whole structure of moral convictions
had begun to come tumbling down-in '59.

That was a very big year
for it all happened in
Dead Poets Society in '59,
that same year I became a Bahá'í.


A closed and narrow world
and its authority of tradition
was getting thrust aside for
a pop-psyche cliche--
self-realization--and in '59
this idea was still subversive.


And liberation did come
as it had been coming since
a French King lost his head,
or since a mother-church
became a queendom-divided.


For freedom in the sixties,
in my adolescence, became impulse.

Celebrity and personality
became the marrow of the bone
while authority became anathema.

The suicide of civilization
became part of a slough of despond
while a paradoxical reality continued
its emergence from obscurity
for the redemption of humankind.1

1 The Universal House of Justice, May 24, 2001.


Ron Price
April 17 2004.

VALENTINE’S DAY--ICONS

On this Valentine’s Day it is appropriate that I write of Charlie Chaplin one of the most loved figures of the twentieth century. Chaplin began to fit comfortably into Baha’i history in the last decade of the Heroic Age, 1911-1921. Chaplin was making them laugh back then and after sixty years of the Formative Age, 1921-1981, a statue of him was erected near that of Shakespeare in London. In 1936, as the American Baha’is began conceiving and devising their first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944), Chaplin produced one of his more famous films Modern Times. It was a comment on the machine age and the limitations of technology. Over more than half a century, 1914 to 1966, the years of his first and last films, Chaplin became an icon. It was an icon that was constructed down to the finest detail. This icon was constructed in a process that expanded and penetrated more and more with the years. At the core of this Chaplinesque iconography was an anti-establishment little fellow who was always in trouble: The Tramp. -Ron Price with thanks to Internet Sites on Charlie Chaplin, February 14th 2005.

There’s icons and icons, eh Charlie?
I’ve been helping construct one
for over half a century, too, Charlie.

No technicolour manipulation,
cinematography, no digital, DVD,
four-speaker, blow them out of the
ball-park stuff here, Charlie,
although I guess I must confess
in recent years, Charlie, say
since about ’63 when the apex
was finally placed on this new
Order, this nucleus and pattern
of a new System, that technology
has been coming on-line, well---
its everywhere, eh Charlie, at least
in the rich part of the world.


Yes, icons are everywhere now
and we’ve got ours all over the world,
too. But still Charlie, we can’t edit
our lives so as to emerge in celluloid
safety with that toothpaste-ad smile finish.
You can only take an icon so far, Charlie:
mothers still go crazy, husbands and wives
they still split-up, millions still die in wars
no matter how smooth the image,
eh Charlie, eh?1

1 Chaplin became a very rich man, but there was much sadness in his private life. A recent series on ABC TV( February 6th & 13th, 5:00-5:50 pm, 2005) touched lightly upon the private aspects of Chaplin’s life.


Ron Price February 14th 2005
WONDROUS AND THRILLING MOTION

In the 1920s and 1930s, while the American Baha’i community was evolving from an informal network of small groups into a national unit of a world society;1 while it developed from small pockets of ingrown and amorphous communities into a vastly enlarged and well-organized religion with a national consciousness ready to launch itself onto the international stage, as it did in 1937, Greta Garbo’s film career ran its course. There was one film to come after 1939: Two Faced Woman(1941). It was a flop and Garbo retired into a secluded life in New York. Her glamour and her popularity, her indifference to public opinion and her great cinematic instincts made her career unique in the history of cinema.2 -Ron Price with thanks to Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Some Aspects of the Development of the Baha’i Administrative Order in America, 1922-1936,” Studies in Bahá'í and Baha’i History, Vol.1, M. Momen, Kalimat Press, 1984, p. 255. and Greta Garbo, “Britannica Online,” Internet, 2005.


You were long gone from the movies
by the time I went to the Roxy Theatre
on Saturday afternoons in Burlington
back in about ’53 when that wonderful
and thrilling motion appeared
on the banks of Lake Michigan
and began unobtrusively permeating
all parts of the world in a subtle
and pervasive planetization.


You, too, had a wonderful and
thrilling motion, were a different
point of light, a glamorous beauty,
a seductive charm when you came
online just as this Order came online--
a means to channel our will & energy
as millions channelled theirs your way
in our culturally-determined, shape-
shifting world of love and romance.


And in your last years before death
took you in 1990--as I was heading
into the middle of my middle age--
you were mostly alone with thoughts
and you said you liked it that way1
and me too: with my metanarrative
and that Order which helps me
canalize my energies ‘til time
steals its long progress to eternity
with so much that memory will
never be able to contain nor want
to in that Undiscovered Country.


1 “Loving Greta Garbo,” ABC TV, 10:40-11:40 p.m., April 24th 2005.

---Ron Price April 25th 2005
-Ron Price with thanks to Larry McMurtry, “High Noon”, a review of The New Encyclopedia of the Amercan West, editor Howard R. Lamar, Yale UP, in The Australian Review of Books, December 1998, pp.17-19.

The enterprise began, perhaps as early as 1894 when the first Baha’is landed in America from the Middle East, or even when the Letters of the Living travelled throughout Iran in 1844 and thereafter. The twenty-five years from 1894 to 1919 was a precursor to the year 1919 when the Tablets of the Divine Plan were read and a pioneering program began that is now eighty years old. It is a program that is immensely diverse and operates at local, regional, national and international levels. It is important, as the Baha’i community comes to describe this vast and complex story, that it avoids a tendency to an affinity with the reverential writers of medieval England, to endless edification and to what is called hagiography. There is a need to emotionally individualize stories so that readers will not have to piously wade through hundreds of pages of lifeless prose.-Ron Price with thanks to Edward Morrison,”When the Saints Come Marching In: The Art of Baha’i Biography”, Dialogue, Vol.1 No.1, Winter 1986,pp.32-5.

Defining character,
determining worth,
touching on the personal,
bringing people out of
verbal concrete,
through understanding.

Needing an eye
for telling detail,
a certain dramatic power,
analysis and interpretation,
with incisiveness and conviction,
with no doubt about its being true,
a willingness to deal with the unpleasant,
for we need more than a glimpse.

We need the story of the saintliness
in all its unsaintliness.

It is as difficult to write
a good life as to live one.

We want to know we are not alone:
for the community is its own ritual,
the greatest drama in the world of existence,
something forever new and unforeseen,
devoid, in writing, of appearances and pretentions,
a mysterious development, this writing, of many values,
conveying to the reading public
insight and a knowing who they are
into their lives.

Ron Price
1 February 1999

THE CITY
Australia is a country built on the city: the city first and then the country. In America it was the other way around. While living in Australia’d cities I found many delightful parks and gardens to walk in. I will try and summarize the ones I became a little familiar with: King’s Park, the paths along the Swan and Canning Rivers in Perth, Wattle Park and the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, the Botanic Gardens in Ballarat and Hobart, the Cataract Gorge and West Tamar River walking trail in Launceston as well as several lovely spots at some of Australia’s universities: the University of Western Australia, the University of Melbourne and of Adelaide. There are, of course, many other places, but this is all I remember and/or experienced. The world offers the traveller many beautiful places that are green within the city limits.

            -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.

For millions
it’s the buzz of city life
they remember,
the coming and going,
the cafes in the evening,
out for dinner
at your favorite restaurant,
the choice of movies,
so much to do:
museums, libraries, displays.

And then…
there are the homeless,
the millions
who live on the street
who never find
the delightful walks
that I find,
who never get loved
by a son
by a wife
the way I have,
who never make any sense
of their world
as it crashed around them
with its ton of whiskey,
freezing cold air and fire.


Ron Price
4 September 1999

THE NEW WAR
Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) has only been a recognized disorder in psychiatric literature since 1980. I came across it professionally while teaching Human Services and talking to Viet Nam Veterans in the early 1990s. Toward the end of my teaching career(1997-99), which spanned nearly thirty years and which included nearly twenty years of struggling with bi-polar disorder, I began to explore some of the symptoms that were making me want to leave teaching somewhat prematurely at the age of 55.

I found that some of them were similar to PTSD. In the last two years of my work as a teacher I felt what is called a ‘numbing of responsiveness’ in PTSD literature. I lost satisfaction in what had normally given me pleasure: teaching in classrooms, attending Baha’i functions. I became less involved in social interactions, felt as if I was just going through the motions, and often felt withdrawn and isolated. I also felt in a state of being constantly alert, a condition which was useful in some ways, because it allowed me to do an immense amount of reading and writing
and whenever there was the least threatening or conflict arousing situation I responded to it like a boy scout. In some situations, although not many, I began to overreact, feel threatened or be threatening. Again, these were all part of the symptomotology of PTSD.
-Ron Price with thanks to Kolk, Hart and Burbridge, Approaches to the Treatment of PTSD, pp. 1-20, Internet.

I don’t have post-traumatic stress disorder
like the veterans from other wars,
the ones we know,
the ones we’ve seen on TV
and in the movies.

But I have some other disorder
from a new kind of war,
fought in rooms
where all people do is
talk, walk around and sit.

I got out before it took away
all that was my life.

It dried me out
and bleached my heart
and made me seek aloneness
and the company of nature,
sucked out whatever there was
of joy and life’s rapturous dance,
made me go in and in and in
and now I’m coming back
from the war with prayer,
meditation, love and a few
friends in community.

Ron Price
26 October 1999

A PRODUCT
Woody Allen, in an interview with Michael Parkinson, talked about his movie making experience. He said that, except for a few of his movies, he had developed a distaste for most of his final movie products. He found that, after working on each of his movies for a year of more, he enjoyed them less and less; he found many of them, in the end, distasteful.

There are some aspects of life and of the Baha’i experience which, like Allen’s movie making activity, are in the end not enjoyable, not pleasureable, but you go on doing them: for the reward, for the pleasureable features of the task, putting up with the unpleaseable features along the way, out of a sense of duty or out of necessity or, like Allen, because it has become a habit that occupies your time, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes unpleasantly.

-Ron Price with thanks to Woody Allen in Interview on Parkinson, ABC TV, 5 February 2000, 9:30-10:30 pm.
You get your holidays;
you rest your spirit somewhere:
in Switzerland,
sleeping on a loved one’s shoulder,
in prayer,
having a swim or a walk.

But always it returns:
the weight, the work,
the test, the battle.

It finds you in the corners
of your life, in the deepest
recesses of your being and
it turns the screw and
you must deal with it,
each time differently,
with actions and with
acquiescence. Yes, there
is radiance, but not every
inch of the way. It’s a product.

Ron Price
6 February 2000

NOT EDITED IN CELLULOID SAFETY
A poetic point of view is caught from the poets one lives with and the literary influences which have a poetic manner, a style and voice that resonates in one’s life. Through perpetually studying and enjoying certain writers one acquires a sense of their application of ideas to life in verse. While I have caught a poetic point of view from White and Dickenson, Wordsworth and Dawe; while historians like Toynbee and Gibbon and sociologists like Nisbet and Mills have played their part in some individual flower that has sprung up from within me; while philosophers like Russell and Nietzsche, among others; and psychologists like Rollo May and Erik Erikson have all helped me find and articulate a voice, I would also have to acknowledge a range of other influences that make me want to sing, to talk, from my very inmost soul in the highest seriousness, free from simple verbiage and utterance of the ordinary kind.

-Ron Price with thanks to Matthew Arnold, “The Study of Poetry,” Gateway to the Great Books, William Benton, 1963, pp. 38-9.


I don’t want to be an actor
who finds himself, extends
his sense of who he is,
on stage or in the movies.

Some seem to find their soul,
their language, their voice,
on screen in its technicolour
manipulation and perfect sound.

I don’t want to put myself
imaginatively into Bonanzaland
or play the role of a perennial
outsider with a predictable victory
in choiceless invulnerability.

The final torrid clinch
with several along the way
with a compliant, mysterious blonde
sounds superficially attractive.

The predictable wonder of
my ordinary life: unscripted,
flawed and plausible,
my undeclared guilts
and my poetry,
which like the Greeks,
is one with my religion,
will not emerge, edited,
in celluloid safety.

Ron Price
16 November 2000

COMING TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU
Neil Gabler, author of the book Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, discussed in an interview on ABC Radio this morning how movies and film have come to define the presentation of self in everyday life, the way people are seeing their lives as a script, a narrative, one long plot in a multitude of settings, indeed, their whole of life as a movie: sub-text and text. After a century of celluloid, after the decline of religion and ideology in this century in the West, the movies have come to provide millions of people with background material, with the metaphor, with the entertainment mix, to help them be the directors, producers, choreographers, writers, editors and, finally, the performers, in the most important movie of them all: the movie of their own life. Gabler says this theatre, or ‘movie metaphor,’ fits in with the emphasis on celebrity in our culture, on performance in politics and on individualism in our philosophy of life. -Ron Price with thanks to “Arts Today”, ABC Radio National, 10:05-10:30 am, 21 March 2000.

I have drawn on at least three of sociology’s many theoretical frameworks from time to time in writing my own autobiography: phenomenological, ethnomethodological and reflexive sociology. All of these frameworks draw on what is often called ‘the social construction of reality.’ Life is seen as one big drama, one dramaturgical reality, a world of images, images we incorporate, process and subjectively give ‘truth’ to. Gabler’s ‘movie metaphor’ fit in nicely here. Part of the overall thrust of my poetic autobiography is based on these theoretical frameworks and can easily incorporate the ideas of Gabler and his ‘the movie metaphor.’ -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000.

It’s a tiresome old phrase:
all the world’s a stage and
all the men and women merely players.
You run your ears and eyes over the words
so often as you scamper up the ladder of your days
that the words just roll on into oblivion, get caught
in the bin before you listen to the news, or shave,
or have your lunch: have you emptied the bin yet, dear?
But there is something useful here, mate;
there is, there is. Something to fit all the
glory, the boredom and the chouder into
one easy framework. Mind you, mind you,
have you ever tried writing a movie script?
Can you edit your life so as to always emerge
in celluloid safety? And how about that
toothpaste ad smile? I’m okay as long as
my false teeth are in and my wife is not sick.

Are you sensible enough to keep commitment right out?
What? Now this does require discussion. Too much!
God, get that out, write it out, scrub it. This is my movie!
The predictable wonder of my ordinary life:
unscripted, flawed, plausible: a movie? are you kiddin’?
The in-flight thriller tells likeable lies.

Expansive with airborne wellbeing
we lossen our belts and suspend disbelief
eagerly gullible to the technicolour manipulation
content with the violence, the predictable victory,
the lovers’ final torrid clinch. You’d have to scrub
the screen of the colossal lie. Is it a lie? Surely not?
To make my movie, mate. How can it be done?
I know! I know!
Come and see my two million words
of the most ordinarily ordinary,
the most humanly human,
enough script to make a dozen movies,
one soon to be screened at a theatre near you:
I think about, what, 2153 AD?
Ron Price
21 March 2000

COMMUNION
J. Hillis Miller, in his analysis of the writings of novelist Joseph Conrad, informs us that Conrad saw the habit of profound reflection as, ultimately, pernicious in its effects because it led to passivity and death, to the dark side of a somber pessimism and to the view of his own personality as ridiculous and an aimless masquerade of something hopelessly unknowable. -Ron Price with thanks to J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality, Belknap Press, 1965, pp.33-34.

The desire, as I see it, Mr. Miller,
is to obtain His bounty and tender,
so tender, mercy; to be a recipient
of a leaven that will leaven
the world of my being,
furnish it with writing power
and to be given the honour of His nearness.

The dark side of existence, indeed,
my corrupt inclination
is due to my failure
to achieve this communion.

It is a hopelessly appauling process,
Mr. Miller,
quite beyond the profoundest reflection.

1 This poem draws on a prayer of the Bab in Baha’i Prayers, p.151.

Ron Price
20 June 2000
RISING TO REALITY
This poem was written while waiting to see the film Mission Impossible II, playing in Perth at the Greater Union Theatre in Innaloo. It was also playing in Haifa at one of the six theatres in the city while we were on pilgrimage. I went with my wife, my son and my step-daughter as the winter solstice was approaching in the southern hemisphere. It was probably the last movie we would see in Perth.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 20 June 2000.

To devote oneself to writing, however, is to engage in the most unreal action of all. This was how Joseph Conrad felt, echoing the poet Baudelaire, who also saw the process as possessing an unreality. Both writers had a sense of intellectual doubt of the ground on which writing stood. When writing was difficult, this sense of doubt entered their very arteries and penetrated their bones. It gave them a feeling of the emptiness, the nothingness of the writing process.-Ron Price with thanks to J. Hillis Miller, Poets of Reality: Six Twentieth Century Writers, The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, Cambridge Mass., 1965, p.36.


I think you’re partly right, Joseph,
but the sense of unreality is no more
than in any other activity
when one is tired, depressed,
warn to a frazzle or engaged
in the more unpleasant side of life,
when sadness and despondency
touch our brow. Vanity, emptiness
and the mere semblance of reality
are part of life’s many currents
that make up the river of our days.

And so, Joseph, one must not deny
that the glimmering, superficial
and ephemeral surface of life
we will always have with us,
as we strive to rise above
the words and letters,
the syllables and sounds of His Word
and especially as we watch movies
like the one I am about to watch.

Ron Price
20 June 2000

DEATH MIGHT BE LIKE THIS
This poem, written after returning to Australia from my nine-day pilgrimage, was a reflection in overview on the experience.

            -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Cotteslow, Perth, 18 June 2000.

Pilgrims are given detailed maps of the major places that will form their itinerary. Maps have several roles, one of which is to symbolize relations between places, places that are themselves silent but speak to their readers symbolically. Maps become out of date quickly, whether in the physical world or in the imagination. But the pilgrim needs a map, as up-to-date as it can be, for he moves around a great deal during the nine days.
The pilgrim also needs that map of the imagination, in some ways more important than the physical map. It is a map in his mind and heart and is the basis for the meaning he finds in his pilgrimage. The poems in this collection come from the mind and heart; they show part of the territory that is the Baha’i Faith as it exists in my own inner life. Much of that territory remains unexplored, only partly mapped and far from understood.

-Ron Price with thanks to P.R. Eaden and F.H. Mares, Mapped But Not Known: The Australian Landscape of the Imagination, Wakefield Press, 1985, p.4.

Here I am back on Australian soil
after flying around the world
and fitting in a nine day pilgrimage
amidst all the coming and going,
all the inflight meals and movies,
all the Israeli fulafal and walks,
all the steps on Haifa’s mountainside
and all the heat of an Israeli summer.

It already seems like a dream,
a time that has slipped away
into my own personal history,
something that has come
with great expectation and gone,
something experienced in a flurry,
in a rush, in a torrent of time
and has now become the past,
an event to reflect on,
a back then,
a some time ago.

Death might be like this:
a reflection on a rush job,
and its torrent of time,
a wondering what it all meant,
a pondering on life’s beauty,
on its endless paraphrenalia,
on that Face, that Man,
all that was belief,
the closeness, the distance
to that Point of Adoration
that you saw and felt
in that inner room,
in that summer heat,
a feeling that any awe
had atrophied long ago
in all that conversation,
all those words,
those endless words.

Ron Price
18 June 2000

ONE FATAL TENDENCY
A poem is a primary product of the creative imagination. The experience that led to the poem can not be easily or directly communicated; that experience must be transformed in such a way as to contain some of the poet’s visionary experience; only then can it be apprehended by the reader. The poem is, in a specific sense, a substitute for the vision; it is a new combination of words or, as Shakespeare put it, “imagination bodies forth/The form of things unknown....(and) Turns them to shapes.” He goes on to say that imagination “gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name.”             -Ron Price with appreciation to William Shakespeare in The Poetry of Shakespeare’s Plays, E.F. Halliday, Gerald Duckworth and Co., London, 1964(1954), p.18.

One tries to attach words to that imagination,
to some airy nothing in one’s head,
some grey intangibility north of
the corpus callosum,
to some thing in the world,
some complex sequence of
sound and sight,
a peculiar atmosphere.

One fatal tendency in imagination’s gambit
is to identify all of one’s self
with one interest, object, passion
or habit of mind as it swims in the ocean
trying to survive amidst the leviathans
of the deep and the great wild waves.1
1 This is part of the heart of tragedy’s fundamental trait. See A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, MacMillan, 1971(1904), p.13.

Ron Price
13 May 2000

THE GREATEST POEM
The Baha’is, who come from virtually all the nations of the earth, have an immense poetical potential. The Baha’i community itself, its history and its future, is, from my own perspective anyway, essentially the greatest poem. The Baha’i Faith is a genuine universalism based on a genuine individualism. As one analyst of ethnicity wrote, we live in a post-ethnic, post-Christian, world and an authentic universalism requires new wine bottles. It also requires people with the capacity and will to believe in them. The gap between the Gospel and the power of positive thingking is as wide as that between genuine religious faith and what passes for such in the old religions and their old institutional wine bottles. -Ron Price with appreciation to ‘a writer on ethnicity’ whose name I did not record in my notes from a course toward a Graduate Diploma in Multi-Cultural Education at the Armidale College of Advanced Educ., Aust.,c.1985.

The immense poetic potential here is epic.
It developed gradually with the years,
as naturally as breathing
in that prelude phase, that delay,
those days of carefree enjoyment,
from that turning point in Baha’i history,
the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth,
the time of world peril, little did I know, then.1
Pioneering’s historic hour arrived,
its significance partially lifted,
an infinitessimal glimmer
of the effulgence of His Countenance.

That blissful consummation2
about to begin, rapt as I was
in my studies and the confusion
of those academic years.3
They were days that called
for heroic deeds, again,
little did I really know.4
A protagonist in the greatest drama
in human history: destiny’s epic
had begun to unfold in my life
amidst that old convulsing storm
of human life taking us all into
its dark heart5 from which
we have as yet to free ourselves.

1 1953, a turning point for Baha’i history when my family first learned of the Cause.

2 See Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.151; re: April 1963.

3 Difficult, confusing and testing pioneering years: 1962-1967.

4 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p.80.

5 October 1967. The expression “the dark heart of this age of transition” was first used in a letter of the House of Justice. Ron Price 17 October 2000

THE SECRET AGENT MAN
In life and in the arts there are old formula which weave their magic again and again in our lives. One such formula had its birth or perhaps its most significant and popular and modern incarnation in 1953. That was a very big year for the Baha’i community—the completion of the mother-temple of the west in Chicago and the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth. Of course, Ian Fleming, the creator of what has become the world’s most famous secret agent and superhero, James Bond 007, had no idea what that year meant to a global community of some 200,000 Baha’is. It is quite probably that he had never heard of the Baha’i Faith at all back in 1953. But in 1953 his first book Casino Royale appeared and it was followed by 13 more books. In 1962, the first 007 film Dr. No starred Sean Connery. I pioneered for or perhaps in the Canadian Baha’i community that year. I moved to a nearby town in Canada, Dundas, at the far western end of Lake Ontario. My Baha’i life and my pioneering life follow the time trajectory of 007.

James Bond films are an outrageously popular fantasy genre with a secret agent man who is handsome and well-known wherever he goes—and who attracts stunningly beautiful women. Real secret agent men, of course, are just the opposite that is, secret types who try to blend in and don’t do things that attract attention. Fleming’s hero is a globe trotter who goes again and again to exotic locations and slugs it out with the bad guys. These stories are tales of leisure which are adventures, scenes of life and death. They are anything but leisure holidays. They are modern fairy tales with 007 as the knight, the villain as the dragon and lots of beautiful women as the maidens.1-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, May 28th 2005; and 1Christopher Lindner, editor, The James Bond Phenomenon: A Critical Reader, Manchester UP, 2003.

It’s outrageous really to call
007 a spy, a secret agent man.
He’s the antithesis of such
an individual. But, of course,
these books and movies are not
about reality are they, Mr. Jones?
They’re about mass entertainment;
no one is kidding anyone here
about these fantasy productions.

And no one is kidding anyone
when I call myself a secret agent
man too, a spy, who came in
out of Canada’s cold down to Australia.

I was a man who often felt like a spy
Without those pretty girls, but who
represented a political worldview,
a global cosmology, a coming zeitgeist,
the spirit of the age that the world
was about to enter. I was someone
on the outside who had a message
for the inside, for all the powers
of the world did they but know it—
but they didn’t; it was a secret and,
just about always, I was the only one
who knew it, who was at all privy to it—
wherever I went during these epochs.

Ron Price
May 28th 2005

MYSTERIOUS DISPENSATIONS OF PROVIDENCE
On Tuesday April 29th 1980, three days before I went into the psychiatric clinic of the Launceston General Hospital, Alfred Hitchcock died.1 He was 80 years old. I was about to experience, at least for about the next ten days, what was for me the last days of real terror in my life. Terror inflicted on the unknowing was one of the themes in Hitchcock movies. Fear was also part of his recipe for movie success. I would have fear many times in life again, but terror was part of my bi-polar illness and on Tuesday I was on the edge of the throes of my last major hypomanic episode.
I had first come to hear of and to see Alfred Hitchcock in October 1955 on TV in my family’s lounge room in Burlington Ontario. Hitchcock’s ten year long series of what are now ‘classic’ programs had just begun. Mystery, crime, horror and the supernatural, invariably with a twist in the tale came on week after week for a decade and we have now had forty years of reruns. In October 1955 a premeditated campaign of terror was in process in Iran against the Baha’i community. It was a campaign which Shoghi Effendi had characterized as an ordeal “in pursuance of the mysterious dispensations of Providence.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 “Internet Site on Alfred Hitchcock,” and 2Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, p.139.
While terror was entertaining
TV’s lounge-room troops
thanks to the clever fantasizing
of famous Alfred Hitchcock
then about to enter the last decade
of his meteroic career as a director,
before his slow and unhappy slide
to death in the first fifteen years
of my adult life(1965 to 1980)......

the Iranian Baha’i community
was entertaining its own terror:
not a devastating flood, but
a gentle rain on a green pasture;
not a calamity but God’s providence
a wick and oil unto the lamp of Faith.

And, Alfred, as your years went on
and you garnered in all that success,
the ship of this Faith sailed safely
into port well beyond the terrors
of the sea which could have taken
this Cause right off its course-----
the full understanding of the meaning
of this is beyond our generation.1
But with that terror overcome,
we can now hold nothing back.

1 Century of Light, p. 92.

Ron Price
January 8th 2005.


THE NEW WORLD OF CELEBRITIES
The year I went pioneering, 1962, Richard Burton had just begun a relationship, the epic romance of the century, with Elizabeth Taylor. Each would eventually divorce their spouses and in 1964 marry. By August 1962 when my pioneering life began, the film Cleopatra had been in the making for more than a year. Taylor and Burton were the first celebrities to have the paparazzi following them wherever they went. At least that was the way English actor-director Guy Masterson put it in an interview on ABC Radio National.
Film-makers in 1962-1963 were struggling to get a handle on the epic as an art form. During this struggle they tried Cleopatra, a film first screened in June 1963. Despite its many gargantuan flaws the film remains a compelling story of tremendous spectacle and power. The film went for four hours after being cut from six. It won four oscars. The film delivers visual spectacle on a scale few pictures can rival. By today’s standards the 44 million it cost 20th Century Fox to produce would be $400 million. Seven weeks before Cleopatra was first released in New York, the Universal House of Justice was elected. -Ron Price with thanks to Margaret Throsby, ABC Radio National, October 19th, 2004, 10:00-11:00 am and to the Movie Review Querie Engine(MRQE).

There was back then a romance
which was promised me with wonder.

I lived in hope that it would fulfill
the promptings of angels
and the voice in the thunder.

It had a beauty quite astounding,
one of the rarest in its day.

Men followed it to catch a glimpse
for it was a story that would pay.

I, too, followed it, for it was
a beauty that would live forever.

Mine was not that romance
they put in magazines
and epic films in
technicolour manipulation.

Mine was, rather, so exquisite
the media never tapped it.

It was not about the tribes of war
or wealth or indoor plumbing.

It had to do with man’s dear soul,
a nectar and a honeyed-tongue,
desert sand and mountain climb,
streaking across a firmament
of an indifferent and sleeping world
with my compass set for madness,
for orient lights, resplendent tokens
in always unreached and unseen heights.

Ron Price
October 27 2004

IMAGES OF INDIFFERENCE
1953 was a big year for the international Baha’i community. The superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab was completed and the Mother Temple of the West in Chicago was also finished or inaugurated as Shoghi Effendi termed its completion. One of the key works, arguably, in the history of the cinema, at least according to the authors of a slim volume in the BFI Film Classics Series was also released that year, Shane. In the movie Shane the great enemy is indifference and, certainly, over a lifetime of pioneering this is also the case. -Ron Price with thanks to Edward Countryman and Evonne von Heussen-Countryman, Shane, London, British Film Institute, 1999. Reviewed in Film-Philosophy, Vol.4 No.24, October 2000.

It was a year for totemic images,
for simplicity and power.

What did these images mean?
What was their deeply resonant
message and simple narrative?
I really had no idea back then
when I was in grade four
at East Burlington Public School
and westerns came on TV
in the evening and at the movies
on Saturday matinees amidst
the popcorn and older kids
necking in the back rows.

So when Alan Ladd rode out
of the mountains in Wyoming
to that valley farmstead
I did not see individuals
buffeted by historic forces,
the scramble for land and
a massive indifference.1
So when the Baha’is built
their temples and shrines
in Israel and America
I did not see a community,
a most wonderful and thrilling
motion appearing in the world.2
If there was a Christ-figure
in any of this, just about
everyone missed Him/It.
But noone could miss the beauty
in the frontier austerity of Wyoming,
in the golden-tipped pinnacles on Mt. Carmel
or the temple of light down by Lake Michigan.

Their architects knew exactly
what they wanted to do
and were dedicated
with a thoroughness
bordering on the obsessive.

They all believed, too,
in the need for communal
belief and action
in the face of evil.

1 Bob Sitton sees indifference as the greatest enemy or ‘heavy’ in the film.

2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha in God Passes by, p. 351.

Ron Price
16 January 2004

THE ANCHORMAN
Walter Cronkite began his journalist work in the American midwest in 1937. This was right at the start of the Baha’i teaching Plan, the Seven Year Plan of 1937-1944. His soothing voice became one of the most familiar sounds on television, first in the 1950s and then beginning in April 1962 when he became the anchorman for the CBS Evening News until 1981, the year of his retirement. Fortunately for readers, since his retirement he has been able to extend his career in journalism and combine it with a lifetime of sailing adventures. The result is his new book which he so generously shares with us two decades after that retirement: Around America: A Tour of Our Magnificent Coastline, Author Norton, 2001. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 2004.

You’d just become the CBS anchorman
when I took another anchor to the next town
in my first pioneering move in what seem now
like the halcyon years of the Ten Year Crusade.

My anchor, lifted from time to time, and I was off
on a great sailing adventure, on an unknown sea
in a tempest difficult to define and understand,
of unprecedented, unpredictable magnitude.

We pressed on, you and I,
you in the public eye.

Life, reported on or lived,
is a dangerous bridegroom
and to survive we need to see
each day as if going out to war
and, at the same time, give ourselves
up to intense enjoyment.

We must travel light,
keep our spirit up,
find some philosophy, some method,
some attitude of humorous kindness
and affection, feel some reverence,
some resolute persistence
with a chart to sail through the stormy seas.

Ron Price
June 25, 2004.


THE BANQUET TABLE OF THE LORD OF HOSTS

This poem was written after seeing the story of the arrival of Solzhenitsyn in Moscow on 21 July 1994 after twenty years living in Vermont, after his expulsion from the USSR in 1974.             -”The Homecoming: Alexander Solzhenitsyn”, BBC, 1995 on ABC Television, 8:30 pm, 5 October 1995.


It’s a new ball game now, eh Alexander?
You settle for hope now,
the residue of optimism,
enough to keep on going.

Memory, like the clickety-clack
of the wheels of a train, spin you
and us back through all those years
and here you are now in Moscow,
swept along by the ongoing gales
of destiny and a society in chaos:
maybe it always was in a crazy
twentieth century of Gulags
on the way to Light.


I remember your leaving Russia
back in 1974 and your annoyance
with reporters bent on a story
and bent on democracy run riot
as it seems it will whereever it takes root,
for it is as soulless as communism--
as you know.


You arrive in Moscow
two days before my fiftieth birthday
to a fan-fare of publicity
much the same as you’d get in New York.

Sorokin always said the two systems
were more like each other than different,
that was long before you left.
You don’t really think that reason
and the senses can pull it off do you?
The Greeks never made it.

Nor did the Hebrews and their progeny,
perhaps enough for those old days, then.


But not for now, not for this blazing new age,
its immensity, its accelerating forces,
its dazzling prospects, its long, slippery
and tortuous road and the treachery
worked in men’s hearts.
We all must find the context within which
to examine the profound questions of the hour.
We must find the vehicle for our Age,
the correct perspectives, the structure for freedom,
the pattern for institutional and individual behaviour,
the profound change
in the standard of public discussion,
an etiquette of expression; indeed,
there is a silver lining to the dark picture.
What is at the core of this new
paradigm of opportunity?

Such a vaccuum out there.

Such a cry of anquish.

Are you too old, Alexander?
Will the face of despair and its melancholy,
the fortunes of this deranged world
keep you away from the banquet table
of the Lord of Hosts? 6/10/95.
NEW GOLD

When the life of the streets perplexed me long ago I attempted to find an answer to it for myself by going literally into the wilderness, where I was so lost to friends and everyone that not five people crossed my threshold in as many years. I came back to do my days work in its day none the wiser. -Robert Frost(1913) in Robert Frost On Writing, Elaine Barry, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1973, p.86.


Why I know some people, Robert,
who are not able to enjoy their own company
for more than a fleeting moment;
some actually get quite disturbed
by the silence of their own thought
or its absence and, eventually,
by the television.


They’re the sort of people who could not
sit on a middan and dream stars*,
if you know what I mean.


It’s not so much solitude, privacy, some need,
as the time and opportunity to sink their teeth
into some harmonious silence of the spheres,
some momentary sense of transcendence,
some replenishing philosophy, some new life,
a sense of the miracle of being alive,
some simplicity, humility, peace,
an awareness of their oneness,
an indissoluble bond, oceanic:
they seem denied this gift, this station.


And others still in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,**

I may feel like this upon a midnight
when I my labours done and some,
I call it, chemical exhaustion sets in,
but now in these last of middle years
I’ve found new gold to take me to
the final track where I will lay my head
one day in some celestial company.


Ron Price
20 December 1995

* Joseph Campbell tells the story of meeting a man on a desolate waste of bogs and he said to the man, “It’s rather dull here.” The man said, “Faith, ye can sit on a middan and dream stars.” ** John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale.”
DRY GRASS AND THE KINGDOM

Poetry can communicate the actual quality of experience with a subtlety and precision approachable by no other means. -F.R. Leavis, New Bearings in English Poetry.


If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it; accuse yourself, tell yourself you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, since for the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place. -R.M. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 17 February 1903.



I can remember those days when I was young,
dry grass under a tree where we sat in summer
and wondered what to do on long hot days:
you could only play so much baseball
and it was too early to go swimming.

We all sat there: George, Benny, Ken Pizer.

Life had hardly started yet--1953--
the beginning of an age, a Kingdom,
celebrated with Monopoly, Sorry,
swimming and endless sittings under this tree.

We were not troubled by war, women or
the wickedness of the world.

Scientific discoveries interested us not,
as long as we could watch our television
programs at the end of the day and
our parents didn’t argue.

Secret disquietudes, inner lonelinesses,
the tensions of a society on the edge of
self-destruction did not touch us
on this dry grass under the tree.


Ron Price
November 2001
MY GOLDEN GOWN

Love does not give at first the frescoed room
richly arrased, low fire at the grate,
sumptuous carpets from some fabled loom,
-Roger White, “Shelter”, The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, p.49.



After a million instant friendships
and a billion deep and meaningful
conversations and a very satisfying
companionship with my wife and son
that may get even better with the years,
I have grown not to want friends any
more. I’ve tried this friendship business
and it always seems to mean yet more
conversations, endless conversations,
and I’ve already had a hundred billion
of them filling my years with faces, with
pleasure and joy and, always, tomorrow’s
words, more questions and more words,
more churning of the weightless air.

Their anguish can not hold me. I turn
from their doubts and their towers to
flowers and silent concerns. You do not
find me at the meeting. My yearning quietly
calls amidst the patience and solemnity of the
trees. My form of service is not the puzzle it
once was, and it once was. I do not know of
boredom or the perils of triviality. I people my
aloneness with a banquet ready-spread, with
brimming cup and lute song, with frescoed room
richly arrased, low fire at the grate, sensuous pillows,
silver bowl of fruit-heaped plate: a world richer than
television and all in the mind. Faith’s bricks and
planks and rusted nails that wound I’ve had in many
houses, walls and window frames. Fragile shelter
once was mine and faint-hearted dread walked with
me many years. Now royal lover’s caravan, gold
laden, has come to town. I’ve seen it unpacking on the
mountain side: my golden gown, my golden gown, oh,
at last, my golden gown.


Ron Price
11 January 1998
BASEBALL AND THE BAHA’I FAITH


When a series of programs about baseball, a series called The Big Picture, began to unfold on television, I quickly came to realize the remarkable similarity between the story of baseball and the story of the Baha’i Faith, both of which grew up in the modern age. Indeed, there are many organizations, activities, interests which were born and developed in this modern age, say, since the French and the American revolutions. The points of comparison and contrast between the great charismatic Force which gave birth to the Baha’i Faith and its progressive institutionalization on the one hand, and the origin and development of other movements and organizations on the other, is interesting to observe. -Ron Price with thanks to Ken Burns, “Baseball: Part Two,” ABC TV, 18 February 1999.


They both grew through
forces and processes,
events and realities
in the late eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries:
baseball and the Baha’i Faith
grew along their stoney and tortuous paths,
the latter out of the Shaykhi School
of the Ithna’Ashariyyih Sect of Shi’ah Islam.
And it would be many years
before the Baha’i Faith would climb
to the heights of popularity
that baseball had achieved
quite early in its history.
Baseball was a game whose time had come,
a hybrid invention,
a growth out of diverse roots,
the fields and sandlots of America,
as American as apple pie.
And the Baha’i Faith was an idea
whose time had come, would come,
slowly, it would seem, quite slowly
in the fields, the lounge rooms,
the minds and hearts
of a burgeoning humanity
caught, as it was,
in the tentacles of a tempest
that threatened to blow it apart.


Ron Price
17 February 1999
COLOSSUS

In October 1962 Peter Orr interviewed Sylvia Plath on BBC television. I had just gone pioneering with my family to the next town a few weeks before at the age of 18. Sylvia committed suicide four months later. She had achieved by the age of thirty a fine artistic virtuosity in her poetry. Her poems arose from a number of sources: a sensuous and emotional experience, a lust for study, an ability to control and manipulate experience, a process of self-communion, a confessional orientation, a peculiar awareness of the burden of her sensibility, an ability to reconstruct how people feel at crucial points in their life, a brooding and tentative mood, verbal precision of a high order, forceful narrative skill and the ebb and surge of passion.

-Ron Price with thanks to Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems, editor Ted Hughes, Faber and Faber, London, 1981; Critical Essays on Sylvia Plath, Leonard Sanazaro, editor, 1983; and Alicia Ostriker, The Americanization of Sylvia, 1968.


I’ve been piecing you together1
for more than half a century,
never quite making it,
losing the plot in passion,
little indecipherable steps,
inch by inch, piece by piece:
I wonder how I am going.


I have laboured and believed
for more than forty years,
often crawled like an ant
in mourning, black, dead.

Rose, too, to heights
I’d never thought possible.


Where are you now, my friend,
after all these years and talk?
Are your hands soiled?
Is your heart defiled with desire?
How far are you
from that sacred realm.2

Your hours are married to shadow.

There is always some anrchy on the horizon
and at night you squat in the cornucopia
of your left ear, out of the wind,
and listen to the sad music of your heart
and mind recounting, yet again, your losses.


1 the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ in this poem is, in fact, myself. See Plath’s poem Colossus.

2 Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Persian, 68.


Ron Price
12 November 2000
THE GREATEST POEM

The Baha’is, who come from virtually all the nations of the earth, have an immense poetical potential. The Baha’i community itself, its history and its future, is, from my own perspective anyway, essentially the greatest poem. The Baha’i Faith is a genuine universalism based on a genuine individualism. As one analyst of ethnicity wrote, we live in a post-ethnic, post-Christian, world and an authentic universalism requires new wine bottles. It also requires people with the capacity and will to believe in them. The gap between the Gospel and the power of positive thingking is as wide as that between genuine religious faith and what passes for such in the old religions and their old institutional wine bottles. -Ron Price with appreciation to ‘a writer on ethnicity’ whose name I did not record in my notes from a course toward a Graduate Diploma in Multi-Cultural Education at the Armidale College of Advanced Educ., Aust.,c.1985.


The immense poetic potential here is epic.
It developed gradually with the years,
as naturally as breathing
in that prelude phase, that delay,
those days of carefree enjoyment,
from that turning point in Baha’i history,
the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth,
the time of world peril, little did I know, then.1

Pioneering’s historic hour arrived,
its significance partially lifted,
an infinitessimal glimmer
of the effulgence of His Countenance.

That blissful consummation2
about to begin, rapt as I was
in my studies and the confusion
of those academic years.3

They were days that called
for heroic deeds, again,
little did I really know.4
A protagonist in the greatest drama
in human history: destiny’s epic
had begun to unfold in my life
amidst that old convulsing storm
of human life taking us all into
its dark heart5 from which
we have as yet to free ourselves.


1 1953, a turning point for Baha’i history when my family first learned of the Cause.

2 See Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.151; re: April 1963.

3 Difficult, confusing and testing pioneering years: 1962-1967.

4 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p.80.

5 October 1967. The expression “the dark heart of this age of transition” was first used in a letter of the House of Justice.                                     Ron Price 17 October 2000

SOMETHING BIGGER

Price is trying to deepen the Baha’i experience, make it more articulate so to speak, endow it with a meaning and a significance that he sees many to have lost or, indeed, perhaps never to have found. His view of life has a one-sidedness which is both a strength and a weakness. His identification of himself with his Faith is so close that he must write like one whose whole being is part of the process that is its history. Price’s poetry is woven not by instinct, as in the case of Lawrence; not by character or nature, as say, the poetry of Wordsworth or Keats might have been; nor by the events of the day, as the war poets or any one of many moderns might have centred their poetry, but by a certain mysticism, a mysticism Judith Wright defined as the purpose of poetry as early as 1963 in a television interview given that year: poets try to get beyond the events of day-to-day experience into something bigger, something beyond themselves, to find a sudden illumination, an illumination which is like a gift from another world, a gift of meaning, of light, of emotion, in the creative act of language, an act which also involves the rediscovery of the self.

-Ron Price with thanks to Sunday Arts, ABC TV, 7 May 2000.


A flood of images produced
the world of pop art by the time
I entered the field back in ’62.1
The empire of signs was all over,
exploding on an epic landscape,
that had been epic for a hundred
years;1 as indeed it had, in another
landscape, in another land, half-way
around the world. And I’d caught
those images by the time I was 18:
for I was not into soup cans as metaphor,
pretty ladies in the movies, or silk
screening fame and ordinary stuff.


There was a fascination with death
I shared with Warhole, but different.

It was a specific facet of history.

It was martyrdom, tragedy and
heroism, across the sombre sky
of Persia, far removed from the
death that was consumer culture.

1 The beginning of my pioneering life.

2 This was how Robert Hughes had characterized, in part, abstract impressionist art in the late 1940s and 1950s, and pop art in the 1960s.


Ron Price
7 May 2000
SYNCHRONIZATION

Between the first regular television programming in England, in 1936, and the first in the USA in 1939, the first Seven Year Plan began in North America in 1937. Radio programs had begun at about the time the Tablets of the Divine Plan had been unveiled in America, in 1919. The promotion, the teaching, the proclamation of the Baha’i Cause was able to be done through radio and television broadcasting when this Cause had developed, had spread, had evolved, to the point that it was able to use them. The timetable of the Cause of God and developments on the planet seemed to be remarkably well-synchronized.

                  -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 1 October 2000.


They1 were ready to take it global
from 1919 when along came
radio and television
for the two billion people
who had come to inhabit
the first threads of the web
of embryonic planetary civilization
that Arnold Toynbee
was describing in his
Study of History
which he took forty years
to write in eleven volumes.2

Why, I even went pioneering
when the National Space Agency
launched the Telstar 1 satellite;
and the first live global
communications were channeled
through outer space3 while
the Universal House of Justice
was elected for the first time.


1 The Baha’is
2 Arnold Toynbee began writing his Study of History in 1921 and completed his
eleventh voilume in 1961.

3 July 10th 1962 lauching of satellite; first commercial programming over satellite in 1965 after the apex of the Baha’i administrative system, the Universal House of Justice was eleected in 1963.


Ron Price
1 October 2000
                                                                                                THE HURRICANE

The Violent Planet, a television series on the various forms of violence in nature and climate on the earth, presented an analysis of ‘the hurricane.’ The hurricane is like a milder form of the tsunami that rocked southeast Asia this week. Most of us will never experience a tsunami but we will all have severe tests in our personal life. The poem below compares the hurricane, the tsunami, to such a test in our life and my life as an international pioneer over the last three epochs. One of my tests was a divorce. Inevitably, each of us, each pioneer, experiences tests differently, but there are, equally inevitably, general principles, common features to all tests. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000.


Born in a far-off place and time,
it develops so slowly
you can’t see it coming.1
Then, with disarming speed,
it starts to suck the heat out
of your life. You freeze right
to the marrow of your bones.

You yield your head, but some root
feeds insatiably in the heart’s thin soil.2
And so you live to see another day.


A silence comes and tell-tale signs
of hell-on-the-horizon. Joy is no more
and then—chaos reigns. The spin
of the roulette-wheel brings devastation
to all that is your life. Huge investments
are written off in a day, a few hours, minutes.
Your stock market crashes and you analyse it
for years, decades, after. ‘What exactly happened
in ‘73?’ you ask again and again.
You could write a book about it. And you do.


You start again from scratch
in a new town at the end of the earth,
a lovely place where desperation fills your soul.
The disaster fades and dies and new life begins.
Mother-nature shrugs-off the great pain
and it becomes a memory. Opportunity
unfolds for sweet new life.

I’ve only seen one hurricane in my life-
Hazel-when was it, back in ’57?3
But there have been more disasters on TV
since I was 13 than I can count and this one--
this tsunami is one of the worst.


Ron Price
30 December 2004

1 the divorce from my first wife in 1973-5 after seven years of marriage.

2 Roger White, “Notes on Erosion,” The Witness of Pebbles, p.71.

3 In April 1957, about the same time as hurricane Hazel, although I can not recall precisely after all these years, the Guardian said we were “hovering on the brink of self-destruction.” One divorce is enough in a life, like one hurricane. It was frightening. And the tsunami, compared to that hurricane, is enough to melt your bones.

                                                                                                                        THE BAGGAGE

Last night on television that rare phenomenon in programming occurred: a twenty-five minute piece Writers On Writing. I wrote down some of the ideas of various authors that were pertinent to my own writing project. They will serve as an introduction to my poem this morning. Truth is a mobile army of words that attempts to transform the ordinary; it is a wonderful feeling knowing you’ve said it the way you want, that you’ve got it right, that it has worked, that it is the way you want to hear it; autobiography is the bringing together of many voices and experiences into one voice, one unifying statement, however long, that puts it the way you want it put; you have to please yourself when you write, but it doesn’t hurt occasionally to look over your shoulder at the reader; the whole writing exercise begins with a feeling, or an idea, and the rest is an effort, a journey, to put it down on paper with all the baggage that goes with it, that collects, along the way. The following poem is as irregular as the essay. I use the irregular poetic form, my nineteen line vahid.

-Ron Price with thanks to “Writers On Writing,” ABC TV, 10:35-11:00 pm., 5 December 2000.


A few days ago,
on borrowing a book
from the library on essays,1
I felt like writing one
but, instead, I think
I’ll just put down a thought
or two here on Montaigne,
Hazlitt, Bacon or Lamb
to answer the question
What do I know? Do I know who I am?
in this equally irregular form.2

Keeping close to the weave
and texture of my experience,
using this unkillable poetic,
and, hopefully, with this
glowing commonplace,
I shall convey the essence
of these days with twenty-
five days left in the millennium.



1 John Gross, The Oxford Book of Essays, Oxford UP, 1991.

2 Dr. Johnson saw the essay as an irregular writing form. The poem is the same.


Ron Price
6 December 2000
                                                                                                      TWO POEMS ON NEW YORK

The fourth of a five part television series on the history of New York focussed on the rise of skyscrapers and working conditions, especially of women, at the turn of the century in New York. The following two poems arose out of watching this program.

-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 11 September 2000.

                                                                                   
                                                                                                            MARTYRS FOR A CAUSE

Between ‘Abdu’l-Baha laying
the Bab’s sacred remains
in the Shrine on Mt. Carmel
and His departure
on His western tour,
the General Strike of 1909/10 took place
and the great fire in the women’s shirt
and waist factory in New York
burnt 150 women alive,
giving the women’s movement
and unionism the biggest
shot-in-the-arm in their history
and inspired the view that
politics was here to help people.

A lot happened in those twenty-nine
months after ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s release.


1 Between 21 March 1909 and 11 August 1911.


Ron Price
11 September 2000
                                                                                                MINARETS OF THE WEST

In the last years of Baha’u’llah’s life and during the ministry of ‘Abdul-Baha, years which saw the initial publication of Baha’i books, the initial spread of the Cause beyond Iran and Iraq, high rise buildings, skyscrapers of various heights, made their appearance in the world’s great cities. It was, arguably, the greatest shift in architecture since the Gothic cathedrals.

           
Gigantic, daring, colossal,
enormous energy,
an architectural shift,
biggest since the Middle Ages,
cutting edge of a global civilization,
leap into modernity,
poetry for democracy,
a magic cauldron:
where did it all come from,
this apparition from the future,
this new minaret?                                                 ......Ron Price 11 September 2000
                                                                                    THE UNDER-DOCUMENTED LABYRINTH

We live in over-documented times and many contemporary biographies sink under the weight of their research. For these are days of information overload. But the lives of ordinary Baha’is, at these crucial stages in the development of the Cause, the three epochs I am concerned with in this autobiographical poetry, are certainly not being documented in anything like the detail that will be necessary for any useful biography in decades and centuries to come. Such future biography, if it is to be successful, must satisfy several needs of readers, at least according to a needs-gratification perspective: cognitive, affective, personal integration, social integration and tension release, that is, escape and diversion. To do this with biography in future decades and centuries will require much more material, information, than will, in all likelihood be available in these future times, except for Baha’is with a very high profile in the community at the present time. The story of your ordinary Baha’i will never make it to the shelves, or the Web Pages, in that future century, except in a similar way that the ordinary person has come into the light of secular history in the last several decades.1 Perhaps, though, with the continuing incredible advances in technology, biography will not have to rely on print-texts as much as it has in the past.

-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000; and 1

There is no question:
I’ve been a social explorer
out in society investigating
and solving problems.
But, I’ve been no Maverick,
no Lone Ranger, no Roy Rogers
riding into town, dealing with
some locale problematique,
then heading off into the sunset.
After two dozen towns
a little bit of my soul
has been spread around
two continents and its:
spectacular, bizarre,
enigmatic, urban, rural,
metal-testing loses, wins,
and web of social relations
where the empire of the habitual
became the matrix
of my mental and social life,
its labyrinthine phantasamagoria1
and its ordinarily ordinary.


1See “The Ontology of Everyday Distraction: The Freeway, The Mall and The Television,” Margaret Moore, in Logics of Television: Essays in Cultural Criticism, Patricia Mellen, 1990.


Ron Price
15 February 2000
                                                                                                                        HAUNTED

Lee Marvin, an American actor who died in 1987 at the age of 43, never really recovered from his war experience. It haunted him all his life according to a recent television documentary.1 In the 1962 film "People Need People" Marvin plays the role of a psychotic. This gave him the opportunity to try to work out some of his anxieties, some of the post traumatic syndrome, perhaps, that he was still experiencing. He was a spiritual warrior, so said someone who knew him well, who could only share his war experience with someone who had also been in the war. In 1962 I was at the very outset of what was to become, six years later, a psychotic experience. I, too, have often felt like a spiritual warrior who has been haunted by his experience of psychological warfare, a frightening psychosis. I rarely can talk about the experience. It has become part of that area of life one rarely or never shares.
-Ron Price with thanks to "Lee Marvin," ABC TV, 11:10-12:10 pm, 10/11 June 2001.


Do you ever understand yourself, Lee?
Do you live with the battle-scars
until they put you in your coffin?

You were a clever dude, Lee,
famous and rich throughout
the first quarter-century
of this tenth stage of history.


While I was trying to get it together,
while I was recovering from
that great crack in my psyche
and working out my life's moves
pioneering for this new Faith,
you were pulling in the big bucks
in movie after movie on the world stage.


No one ever called me a spiritual warrior.

It is a battle waged in silence,
with no big bucks,
no fame, no wealth, no rank,
only a spectre of solidities
whose substances are sand,
but a taste of sweet-scented streams
from which I drink by hand.


Ron Price
11 June 2001
                                                                                    ME OH MY AND MY OH ME

Telling stories about people's experience in Australia has just begun in film and television, said Graham Thorburn who teaches drama and directing at the Australian Film and Television School. His remarks were about the history of Australian drama. He could very well have been talking about the stories of western Bahá'ís in recent decades. Of course, the Bahá'ís have lots of stories from their fascinating history and they talk to each other about their private, their individual, stories. In the last ten and, perhaps, twenty years Bahá'ís have also begun to tell their own stories in a more public, a more publicized, way, their stories over the last four epochs going back to the 1950s. What I try to do in my poetry is to write about 'the group story.' I also tell my own, my personal, story. There is, I think, a powerful narrative at the base of what has now become an extensive poetic of nearly 6000 poems and some two million words. There is, too, a nice balance in my poetry and essays between the group, the Bahá'í community in history and the individual, my own, life and the lives of various individuals I have known over four epochs.

-Ron Price with thanks to Graham Thorburn on "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 22 October 2001.


The first stories I heard
were about birds flying over Akka,
candles stuck in a martyr's flesh
and always there was a prison somewhere.


Then, I got older, and heard
different stories. There was:
Bill Carr up in Greenland,
a new crop of stories about
'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shofhi Effendi.

There always seemed to be
new stories about the Central
Figures of this Faith of mine.


And I got even older
and heard stories about:
some ordinary people
and not-so-ordinary ones,
like Mirza Haydar Ali,
who travelled here and there,
for there always seemed to be
travelling in there somewhere.


They all kept you going, though,
through thick and thin,
the ups-and-downs of life.

And then a new crop began,
I don't know, perhaps about 1980.

Pretty good stuff, really inspirational.

Do you remember the one about
Muriel Sweetbun Udder?

And I got older still,
passed the magic fifty
and well-nigh unto sixty
and decided it was time
to tell my own story
and the story of how I saw it.


I wonder if anyone will read
this story from, let's see,
1953 to 2003?
Me oh my and my oh me!

Ron Price
22 October 2001
THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF THE REAL WORLD

In 1959 The National Institute of Dramatic Art(NIDA) began in Sydney Australia. It has trained actors and a range of specialists for the theatre, film and television industry in Australia and the world for more than forty years. In 1959 I became a Bahá'í in Canada. I, too, have had over forty years of training for a different industry, education, but one which has taught me assertiveness skills, helped me acquire a strong sense of identity, an appreciation of literature, the arts and the cultural attainments of the mind. The combination of a profession and a religion which gave me a value, belief and attitude base, has been more than an equivalent to what students got an NIDA.

-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 16 August 2001.


They've been churning them out
for more than forty years:
some of the best actors
and actresses in the world,
giving them three years training
in how to do it, how to be, how to act.


My training didn't make me famous
or rich: those Feasts, firesides,
deepenings, all those towns,
pioneering over four epochs
and all those years of teaching:
learning how to do it, how to be,
how to act in the real world
at the IIRW: The International
Institute of the Real World.



Ron Price
16 August 2001
                                                            NARRATIVE THOUGHT TO THE RESCUE
The visual imagery of the mind appears to be both more complex and less systematic than the visual imagery of cinema. Images viewed through conscious effort are more often indistinct and elusive. Even the faces of loved ones are often difficult to recall. They sidestep the mind’s gaze if their images are actively pursued. Long familiarity renders such objects too complex and heterogeneous for a single image to suffice. Such faces become, in our mind, multidimensional, ambiguous and possessed of a breadth and complexity that photography and film condense and strip away. This is also true of sensory experience in general.

Because of the elusiveness of sensory experience a mode of thinking comes into acton, into play, called narrative thought.1 Narrative governs the disposal of objects and actions in time without which memory and language would be impossible. Most of our experience can be assigned a place in our narrative history or at least its potential, although some of our life is clearly and inevitably incoherent.

            -Ron Price with thanks to David MacDougall, “Films of Memory”, Visualizing Theory: Selected Essays from Visual Anthropology Review:1990-1994, editor, Lucien Taylor, Routledge, NY, 1994, p.266.


Just as film and documentary makers
are often uneasy about their narratives,
so are the autobiographers among us
as we try and reconstruct our lives, our
narratives, our stories. Some, of course,
seem less troubled. Often a celebratory
stance is adopted towards one’s memory,
masking uncertainty, an emptiness at the
heart of such authorship, a fundamental lack
of conviction; reminiscence is usually treated
as fragmentary, rarely as omniscience which
is presumed arrogance. The richness inside
people’s memories is often unattainable and
is supplanted with endless illustrative material,
with physical experience, primary stimuli and
photographic iconography. These usually
do not serve to integrate society,
encapsulate ideology or create social order;
rather they give us the unalterable record
of appearance and place
and a more profound place in our memory.

I would like to think that this story will
allow more than the record of appearance
and place and will contribute in a rich way
to that ultimate integration of society.

Ron Price
11 April 2000

                                                                                                                  THE PRELUDE
According to the Bahá'í Writings, 1953 marked the beginning of a most wonderful and thrilling motion in the world of existence. The spirit of teaching, spreading the Cause of God and promoting the teaching of God, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote, would permeate to all parts of the world. 1953 marked, in fact, the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth.1 1953 will also be remembered as the year 20th Century-Fox introduced Cinema-Scope, the widescreen process. Another technical innovation reached its peak in 1953,3-D. Another kind of movie emerged in 1953, the lunatic, goof-ball movie categorized as "psychotronic."2-Ron Price with thanks to 1Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p.351; and 2 "The Club Havana Secret History of Cinema, 1953," Media Zone, Tripod Website, 14 october 2001.

While people were getting transported
in the new wide-screens,
taken off to a world of fantasy
their forefathers, their ancestors,
would never have dreamed of,
I was turning nine, in grade four,
and starting my long baseball career
at third base in a hot Canadian summer.

The Guardian was telling
the American Bahá'ís
they were at a turning point,
trying to finish the superstructure
of the Bab's Seculcher on Mt. Carmel.

They were also at the beginning
of what he called the prelude,
a process which would
precede mass conversion
and would revolutionize
the fortunes, the material power
and the spiritual authority
of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.1                         1 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.117. 15/10/01.


                                                                                                                              SUSPENSE
Film director Alfred Hitchcock produced his film The Birds in 1963.1 The essential element in Hitchcock's films is suspense and it operates on deeper psychological and moral levels than in simple 'who-dun-its.' This suspense was, it seems to me, an appropriate emotion for the year 1963. The hundred year period, 1913-2013, was and would be a traumatic one for humanity. 1963 was the mid-point of this period filled with convulsions precipitated in the world by "the waywardness of a godless and materialistic age."2 One of Hitchcock's most important contributions to cinema was his recognition of the spectator's tendency to identify with the characters on the screen. When The Birds was first screened in 1963, I was just starting out on my pioneering life and I was being asked to "gird (myself) for heroism."3
-Ron Price with thanks to 1Tippy Hedren on "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 8 January 2002 and 2The Universal House of Justice,Wellspring of Guidance, Wilmette, 1969, p.27 and 3p.60.

Little did I know, then,
and little did his audiences see
the metaphorical significance
of all those birds
attacking and screeching
just after the House was elected,
trustee of that global undertaking
set in motion a century before.

In the intimate and private parts
of our lives, on that long, stony,
tortuous road he'd told us about,
that path of the dawnbreakers
of a previous age,
that catastrophe
of undreamed of dimensions,
that fire, that consternation,
that terror which would come
to exist in the hearts of men
had indeed come.

And still we wondered why
the darkness, the world confusion.

In our own lives the birds of our hearts
too often did not sing,
caught-up in the dust-heap
of this mortal world:
many a talon claweth
at this thrush of the eternal garden.
Pitiless ravens do lie in wait
for this bird of the heavens of God....1
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.41.
-------Ron Price 8 January 2002

ON THE LOOK OUT
Raymond Carver was an American short story writer who died at the age of fifty in 1988. He had been a compulsive smoker, drinker, alcoholic, depressive, wife basher(in his first marriage) and winner of many awards for his writing. To do your best and to work hard, Carver argued, is often simply not good enough in life. He was always on the look out for a story and would piece together painstakingly a narrative from the most unlikely constituents. Carver said that he was more interested in the characters in his stories than he was in those who were his reading audience.
I enjoyed reading about Carver, whom I had never heard of until yesterday, when his life and work were surveyed on ABC Radio National, “Radio Eye,” 2:00-3:00 pm November 22nd. Carver wrote about ordinary people and his characters were in many ways the centre of his writing life. Much of his writing was autobiographical. And, being so often a loser, his characters and his writing appeal to losers. The following poem is a celebration of Carver and his work and it is dedicated to John F. Kennedy who was assassinated forty years ago yesterday in Dallas Texas when I was just twenty-one. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 23 November 2003.

The world seems to me
to be drowning in stories
with enough narrative
to line, wall-to-wall,
floor-to-ceiling, across
the surface of the earth
and out into space
with the plots, scenarios,
the characters, events,
the space and time
of a myriad pieces of
intricate and moving
stories of mice and men.

Some tell their winning stories
in cinema, in music, in words
on paper and in books,
in a multitude of mise-en-scenes,
stage plays choreographed
for millions to be entertained,
informed, stimulated, educated--
like some immense, Gargantuan
Guide to the Perplexed.

Ron Price
23 November 2003
PS Carver moves from experience to autobiographical story and I move from experience to autobiography. And I take as much interest in my characters as Carver seems to in his. We are both on the look out for a story, a way of conveying our experience in narrative.

                                                                                                            THESE THEORETICAL PROJECTIONS                  
Does it make sense to theorize the present when it seems to be changing so fast? It is a gamble. If subsequent developments prove the theoretical projections in this poetic, this narrative account, to be correct, I win. But, if the developments in the wide world of religion and society go in a different direction than the one suggested by this present analysis, this present picture that my words are painting, this does not mean that I automatically lose. Rather, the analysis presented here will become a record of possibilities which were heretofore not realized, a record of the horizon which was visible to me and my coreligionists today but later became unimaginable or necessary to postpone, defer, revise or reconsider.-Ron Price with thanks to Lev Manovich, "Cinema as a Cultural Interface," Internet, 16 June 2003.

You've really got to get
your frameworks right,
get your sites set
as spot on as you can;
got to try your best
to get it right, but....


always be willing
to throw away the lot,
a lot of what you thought
because the whole thing
is bigger than you can imagine
and more impossibly complex
than you ever can take in.

But still....while I deal with
this impossible dream
I will use the colloquial,
trapped as I am,
as we all are,
in the ready-made,
the day-to-day,
the conventional
which fills our minds,
divorces us from reality
and brings me near,
paradoxically,
to my own idiosyncratic
form of poetry
in this dark-heart of an age
of transition.

Ron Price
18 June 2003

                                                                                                                  A BATTLE FAR PROLONGED
Just as I began my pioneering life in mid-1962 at the age of eighteen, John Frankenheimer's film The Birdman of Alcatraz was released into the cinemas. There is a despair in the film that runs through to the end but there is also, as the film progresses, an evolution of the main character, Robert Stroud, from sour to soulful, violent to sensitive, brutish misanthrope to sweet-hearted intellectual. It is a story that begins in 1912 and ends in 1959 as Robert Stroud leaves Alcatraz, clearly a transformed man, for a more humane prison institution. 1959 was the year I became a Bahá'í in southern Ontario. The film ends on a strong note of redemption and with a life-affirming message. -Ron Price with thanks to Dan Jardine, "Review of The Birdman of Alcatraz," Apollo Review Guide On-Line, 23 April 2004.

I loved my mother, too, Robert,
although we disagreed to the core
even unto the end. Was it those birds
that changed your life? Or some
underlying curiosity aroused at last?
We all have our prisons, eh Robert,
from which we must struggle
to give meaning to our days?
Yours was just ending back in '59
and into those anarchous sixties
and mine was just beginning
in those pre-pioneering-pioneering
years when I was young, fresh
and hardly taken my first steps
into the battlefield of life.

There has been an enchantment
to the intransigence and cunning
of that consummate foe, life,
sometimes an aphrodisiac,
sometimes there was fear
and exhausting fatigue
from a battle far prolonged.

Sometimes the camp was in ruins,
always the beachhead beckoned
and there were auguries of triumph
even in my campfire's dwindling plumes,
and always the engagement resumed.1
1 Roger White, "Lines from a Battlefield," Another Song Another Season, 1979, pp.111-112.

Ron Price
April 23 2004

                                                                                                                                          HOMO LUDENS
There are thirty systems in the brain involved in the breakdown and reconstruction of the world. They are all interacting with and orchestrating, integrating and synthesizing perception, imagination and memory. They do this in one grand, mysterious, largely unconscious as well as conscious process.
            -Dr. Oliver Sacks at the Centre for the Mind, ANU, Canberra: on The Science Show, ABC Radio, 6 August 1997, 12:40-1:30 pm.

And so this poem is a creature
of its own, a playful product of
an incredible process where the
mind seizes things after they have
been dancing around the presence
chambers of my brain-homo ludens-
forever putting down, orchestrating,
reconstructing my world with a delight
that is my own, but which I share with
billions, creating the grandest show on
earth, new and wonderful configurations
deriving from wisdom and the power of thought.1
Ron Price
6 August 1997
1 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, USA, 1970(1957), p.1.


                                                                                                                  FAR FROM VIETNAM
John Glenn has been untouched by scandal over these thirty-five years and has remained married for fifty-three years. -Alister Cook, Message From America, ABC Radio National, 7:15 pm, 2 March 1997.

You had Huston to guide you for those
few circuits, keeping you on track in
those hazardous trips around the globe.

I had Haifa and when the apex of that
new Order was installed a fully fledged,
institutionalized, charisma rose
before my eyes, fixing my gaze and all of creation,
bestowing upon me a bounty, quickening my soul
through the vitalizing fragrance of Thy Day
and the thrilling voice of Thy Pen.1
Then you turned to politics and remained untouched
by scandal as the junior senator from Ohio.
I turned to a greater intensity of service, was tarnished
by my deeds and got burned out
far removed from Viet-Nam
and the heat of western scandal.

Ron Price
2 March 1997
1 Baha’u’llah, Tablet of Carmel.


                                                                                                            I DIE LISTENING
In the most general terms there are two kinds of poetry: poetry to be read and poetry to be spoken. Sometimes the two meet. With music, poetry often becomes more accessible; much of modern ‘top 40’ folk and rock-‘n-roll is poetry of this ilk. Those who do a performance poetry, sometimes called the spoken word or social poetry, are often reacting to the obscurities of modernist and post-modernist poetry. Hence their poetry is often in the vernacular. The beats were some of the first modern poets in this vein. In Australia, the Adelaide Festival beginning in 1960 and American influences from the 1950s helped to foster the beginnings of performance poetry.

            -Ron Price with thanks to “Writers and Writing”, ABC Radio National, 12 October, 7:30-8:15 pm.

There is a magic in reading quietly
to yourself with no sound. This is
the home of my poetry. I’d go public,
but I find when I do--I enjoy it--but
I’m not inclined to repeat it, unless
I’m pressed of course. But I’m never
pressed and I’m happy not to be. Those
poetry readings where everyone and their
dog gets a shot at the action are so tolerant
of people’s incapacity to read that the open
stage becomes an incredible bore—like all
the times His1 Writings, His art, is mangled to
death by people who can’t pronounce, have
no idea of stress and tone and I die listening.

Ron Price
12 October 1997
1 Baha’u’llah’s, especially at Feasts. These are some of the multitude of situations in life where we must learn to acquire a sin-covering eye.

                                                                                                                                                            AT LAST
From Sappho to Dickinson, Rossetti, and the nightingales, death has been an imaginative obsession for many women poets-an obsession resumed in the twentieth century by poets like Millay, Mina Loy and Laura Riding...Smith and Plath.1 This pleased me because, since 1980 death has both haunted and attracted me. Somehow it did not seem right and yet, in another sense, it seemed the most natural of obsessions.

            -Ron Price with thanks to 1Jahan Ramazani,Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1994, p.291.


These words, these prayers, so many deeds,
so many years have helped dissolve those walls
which thankfully separate us from them:
you wouldn’t want to go around hallucinating,
would you? Enmeshed as we are in each other’s
lives and will be, through these words,
this unpopular art which can’t be hung
for all to see or done
like that stone statue over there,
or turned into fine sound over time,
but will remain on paper
after the dilapidation of dilapidations,
after the night wind wimpers,
the leaves are all gone
and we come forth and on
with fragrances just beyond
and we slowly emerge,
exposed to our essential life,
world, at last.


Having grappled so long, so long,
with bits of paper
and what they all were saying,
a clearness fell over the river,
so smooth with a thousand diamonds
sun-studding: you could see them
as you drove along the river,
even in the night, a thousand eyes
but one mind, at last, at last,
even if the heart aches
for one has been there
so many times before.


Somewhere in the stale familiarity,
half-dead, weary-sings
something tastes of home,
just around the corner,
beyond that cloud
where the sun is breaking,
strong and clear:
at last.                                                                               --Ron Price 2 July 1995
MEDITATION ON BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE

...............my voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
...............to the external World
Is fitted.

            -William Wordsworth, “The Recluse”, William Wordsworth: Selected Poems, Walford Davies, editor, Dent, 1975, p.132.


Here I behold a mind that
feeds upon infinity, a mind
sustained by direct transcendent
power and holds converse with
a spiritual world of past, present
and to come: epoch to epoch,
past recorded time.


Here I see days gone by
returning from those first
glimmerings at the dawn of this Age,
enshrined now: the spirit of the Past
for our future’s restoration.

The characters are, now, fresh and visible
in this spot of time with its distinct pre-eminence
and its renovating virtue whereby
our minds are nourished and
invisibly repaired.


Here are those efficacious spirits
who have profoundest knowledge
of leavening of being and
of the workings of One Mind,
the character of this Great Apocalypse
and the types and symbols of eternity,
gathered, as they are, among solitudes sublime.


Here we find our better selves,
from whom we have been long departed,
and assume a character of quiet
more profound than so many of
the pathless wastes where we have
long walked, too long, its roads.


Here, too, I hear at last my song which
with its star-like virtue shines to
shed benignant influence,
make a better time,
more wise desires and
simpler and humbler manners.

Perhaps some trace of purity may
come with me and guide and cheer me
with Thy unfailing love
which I forget.


Ron Price
19 June 1995
                                                                                                                                                                        DOWN HERE WE ONLY START

The sense of inner security by no means proves that the product will be stable enough to withstand the disturbing or hostile influence of the environment...More than once everything one has built will fall to pieces under the impact of reality. -C.G. Jung, in The Survival Papers: Applied Jungian Psychology, Daryl Sharp, Quantum, London, 1989, p.145.


The heart does not break-aortic-
right through the ventricle.

It slowly hardens here and there
with holes for fatigue and fear.

This magic place gets encrusted
by a thousand lashes, whip keeps
coming down, while singing.

The stone and the heart it slowly dies.


Shame coats the heart in glory.

The universe stands still
to hear the little story
of this heart who’s last its golden fill.


But redemption does come slowly.

All things are found in part.

Unity within the heart is joy
and here-down here-we only start.


Ron Price
10 September 1995

                                                                                                                                                      THE WORLD WAITS FOR ITS POET

For the experience of each new age requires a new confession and the world seems always waiting for its poet.

-Emerson in What Can I Say?, p.119.


There are more of us these days, Ralph Waldo,
more of everything, yes, a new confession
and about time, as you could see over
a hundred years ago.
The world still waits for its Poet,
with a capital ‘P’, Whose myriad mystic tongues
find utterance in every line and
the world, ripe to overflowing, waits
until the Poet’s words, clad with wings, are
carried fast and far irrecoverably into
the hearts of humankind. Perhaps,
the lesser poet, scarce deserving a mention,
should set himself a key so low
that even the most common things should
delight and the fragrance in the air
that some men breath, should
come through rich and perfumed.



Ron Price
10 September 1995
                                                                                                      THE FLOWERING OF SEEDS


In 1909 William Carlos Williams started with writing poetry like Keats and the body of the Bab was placed in a marble sarcophagus in Haifa Israel. So began a fascinating journey of a quintessential American poet and so ended another of risks and perils to enshrine a precious Trust in Its home in the Holy Land. -ABC, Sunday Afternoon: WCW, 25 June 1995 and Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp.274-275.



You gave us something new:
a new poetry for everyman,
for what he did, words-
these were the units, real, concrete,
anything felt, anything amusing
makes poetry, you said.

You celebrated the new,
(logical for a pediatrition)
contemplated your loneliness,
your world and ours.


And you did all this just
as a new Order was breaking
onto the world, unbeknownst
to most, perhaps symbolized
when He came to America
in 1912 as you were starting
to run from the Old to a new voice,
as another new Voice was breaking out
unobtrusively in the mid-most heart
of a new world, Chicago.


And now in the midst of that other
Old world, the Voice reposes
on the Isle of Faithfulness,
having been carried ever so
surreptitiously to that Mount
where mystic influence now radiates
for our handiwork and wisdom to adore.


A new loveliness seemed to burst out
over the arts, raining down, raining down
as an old world died with blood pouring
out in buckets, as if history was expiring
her last breath, perhaps at Verdun and the Somme.


Now a beauty, only just seen, can be starred at,
leaned on, from above, below, kissed
on those ever-sleeping lips, hidden now
beneath a Dust of magic Light.

A beauty, crystal-concentrate, light
in an old spiritual place--you can’t miss it,
no one misses it who goes there.

Has a grace so contained as to pose no threat.

Has a touch of Marxism, a little of the green,
a flavour of the liberal and a cup of tradition:
something in it for everyone,
two-bob each way, some might say.

The Age has not figured Her out, perhaps,
deserves Her not, but needs Her in these
troublesome days of plague-swept streets,
chilled hearts and utter unbelieveable complexity.



Ron Price
25 June 1995
                                                                                                                                                                  STATE ART


If poetry is an intellectual/intuitive act it is not a random indeterminate process, but is governed by a previsioned end....there must be a ruling conception by which it knows its quarry: some foresight of the work to be done, some seminal idea. -James McAuley, Meanjin, Summer, 1953, Vol. xii, No.4, p.433.


Don’t tell me about this extravagance!
Do you think it some kind of
embarrassing afterthought, a decoration?
A propensity for unnecessary embellishment?
This is no bedecking of some pretentious woman
with precious stones, Pericles-like, back then
in the name of an Athenian nationalism.

Or did he just want them to love Athens more?
Certainly an unusual and audacious exercise
by an unusual and audacious man who was
both powerful and unassuming as the earth.


Yes, you could call it ‘state art’
for a new Order whose first stirrings
of world-shaking significance
seem a long way off. This is no
saviour-in-a hurry like that Pericles
of old, Augustus or one of a host
of modern isms that are gradually
and not-so-gradually burning
themselves up in the fires of a
disintegrating, a moribund world.


This is not like those marble eccentricities
of old--big enough to be called vulgar--no way.

Big enough to be a vehicle for conveying
the powerful prestige of a spiritual message;
and small enough to be no threat,
to be the integral part of a future,
a world civilization, to preserve a beauty
as old as our civilization,
and a religious message as far back
as Adam. No false starts here, no long delays
like some of those ancient temples.*
The effect here is as public as it was
in Greece and Rome, only we’re talking
small beginnings for the opening millennium
and well beyond. We’re talking silent teachers,
quiet messages, getting in quietly
like Augustus only straight, up-front
to anyone who will listen and no absolutism
embellished with some artificial divine afflatus:
this is democratic theocracy at its finest.

Ron Price
25 December 1995

*The Temple of Artemis at Sardis took 700 years to complete and was never really completed. It looked like a building site for most of this time. This fact would have helped make the Baha’is in Chicago more comfortable about their long-standing, 40 year, exercise building the Mother Temple of the West.

                                                                                                                        PLEASING MYSELF                                                                                                

The basis for the following reflection is the article about Mark Toby in Mark Tobey/Art and Belief by Arthur Dahl, pp.1-12.



Satisfied with the making of poetry,
I find praise and criticism a complex
bonus beyond what is excellent and
lasting here amidst this continuous
production. Pleasing the marketplace
seems to be quite irrelevant: larger
canvasses, small shows like some
public artist; pleasing myself seems
to be at the core: settled life and
emotions to record the activity of my
teeming brain, the stimulating effects
of life and the orgy of acquisitiveness
in my inner life, inspired by the dynamic
of some profound impulse energizing the
world to some unapproachable degree.1

Ron Price
28 September 1996

1 Shoghi Effendi said in God Passes By(USA, 1957, p.244) that the soul of Baha’u’llah “could henceforth energize the whole world to a degree unapproached” in His lifetime.

THE LIMITS OF SELF

...all Art lies in limit...the artist must always try those limits to the utmost...Freedom is a very great reality. But it means, above all things, freedom from lies. It is, first, freedom from myself; from the lie of my all-importance.

            -W.D. Snodgrass, Critical Essays and Lectures In Radical Pursuit, Harper and Row, NY, 1975, pp. 126-140.


We all live our lives somewhere near the limits
of this rule and that, always trying, testing those
limits. Rules were meant to be broken, I hear
you say. Then there is the choice wine unsealed
with the fingers of might and power. The days
of limits have come, a key word, part of the new
paradigm, our new age. It will take us into the
future with safety along with that freedom from
the prison of self, the greatest prison, for the ‘I’
is not important: I, me and mine must occupy
some lesser place; perhaps we will not hear
these words spoken much in future epochs.

One tires of self, living with it as one does everyday,
even the poet who in some places is the
custodian of the word tires of his lower nature
and all impurities which destroy me.

THE LIMITS OF SELF

...all Art lies in limit...the artist must always try those limits to the utmost...Freedom is a very great reality. But it means, above all things, freedom from lies. It is, first, freedom from myself; from the lie of my all-importance.

            -W.D. Snodgrass, Critical Essays and Lectures In Radical Pursuit, Harper and Row, NY, 1975, pp. 126-140.


We all live our lives somewhere near the limits
of this rule and that, always trying, testing those
limits. Rules were meant to be broken, I hear
you say. Then there is the choice wine unsealed
with the fingers of might and power. The days
of limits have come, a key word, part of the new
paradigm, our new age. It will take us into the
future with safety along with that freedom from
the prison of self, the greatest prison, for the ‘I’
is not important: I, me and mine must occupy
some lesser place; perhaps we will not hear
these words spoken much in future epochs.

One tires of self, living with it as one does everyday,
even the poet who in some places is the
custodian of the word tires of his lower nature
and all impurities which destroy me.


                                                                                    THIS MONUMENT OF DUST

.......................Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rime,
While he insults o’re dull and speechless tribes;
            And thou in this shalt find thy monument
            When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

            -William Shakespeare, Sonnets, Number 107.


Here are the tokens and fruits of communion
on a beaten path, having come out of nothingness,
one of the victims of his fetters in this dust-heap,
catching a fragrance from the everlasting garden,
far beyond tinsel and base metal, attempting some
faithful orbit around the great-living and dead-and
heightened artistic sensibility, amidst secret wisdoms,
enigmas, inter-relationships, rules that govern all, the
prison we carry around and the blind pit we dig again.


Ron Price
3 October 1996
                                                                                                                                                      MY TRIBUTARY


Each artist thus keeps in his heart of hearts a single stream which, so long as he is alive, feeds what he is and what he says. When that streams runs dry, you see his work gradually shrivel up and start to crack. -Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks, editor, Philip Thody, Penguin, London, 1970, p.18.



There’s been a stream, scented,
I’ve been drinking from since
before I came of age. The waters
have been sweet and deep, with
periodic wastelands when the bed ran dry
and the blackest soil filled my soul
with fear, disorder and dessication.

My own tributary of this stream
only began to run in my middle years.

Inspiration has run with a force
that I barely understand, nor can withstand
its roving eye and hand like an interwoven
carpet or some meteor travelling through the dark.


Will this tributary shrivel after I have expressed
my life and all it means at a deeper, more intense,
more clear-sighted level than anything I can achieve
in the daily round? I think not; for it is a tributary
of a great and thundering river whose waters will
flow on forever into the sweet streams of eternity:

as long as I have the will that will’s this eternal flow;
I know many who have not
the will that will not will belief.

The mood will not strike them here below:
I know not why?

Ron Price
12 January 1996

AUGUSTUS

After watching the two part series “Augustus” on SBS TV(17 and 24 June 2008--11:40 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.) in the last two weeks as another academic year was coming to an end in school systems across the northern hemisphere; after teaching Roman history at a post-secondary technical college in Western Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s; after studying Roman history in high school as part of the grade eleven curriculum in Ontario in 1960-1961 and in the first year of my liberal arts degree in university in 1963-1964 forty-five years ago; after taking an interest in the field of classical studies since those 1960s, albeit a peripheral one among the many subjects that were part of the general and interdisciplinary studies I taught and the general studies in the social sciences and humanities that I read—after all this, in the early evening of my life, as the years of my late adulthood crept along incrementally more quickly, it seemed, with every passing year, I felt like writing this prose-poem. I wanted to try to fit Augustus, Octavian as he was also known, the first Roman Emperor, into a historical context relevant to today, at least relevant to how I had come to see the comparisons and contrasts between Augustus and his time as well as my time, my age and my life. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 27 June 2008.

Rome had conquered the world,
well, a big chunk of it in the middle
East, north Africa and what is now
Europe, in the quarter millennium
from 250 BC to the time of Christ.

Was it a set-up? Setting the world
up for the periodic intervention of
the divine into human affairs, giving
a stage for the spread of the message
that would and did change that mise
en scene forever. And are we being
set up again, in our age and time in
the midst, now, of this greatest of
spiritual dramas in the world’s history,
so very unbeknownst to the generality
of men, creeping, as it now is, along
the edges of society as that message
did 2000 years ago before it captured
western civilization for a 1000 years?

The most precious Being ever to appear
in the world of creation appears from time
to time and the light of the Unseen shines
above the horizon of celestial might only
to be denied, opposed and disputed with
in vain words to try to invalidate His claim.1

1 Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, Wilmette, 1950(1931), p.5.

Ron Price
27 June 2008
THE FIRST FLOWER

In the last months of my career as a full-time teacher, the last months of my part-time and casual teaching as well as into the early years of my full retirement from virtually all volunteer work,1 news was reported of the discovery in northeast China of the earliest flowering plants more than 124 MYA. The print and electronic media, first in scholarly journals and the popular press and then on TV,2 told us about what they called the first flower among the world’s flowering plants. Flowering plants are the dominant vegetation on the planet and they include: flowers, trees and many life sustaining crops. The field of study in which this knowledge, this specialized expertise, can be found is called palaeobotany and palaeobotany is a child, one of the multitude of children, of the Enlightenment. Its founding father was Gasper Maria von Sternberg(1761-1838).3 -Ron Price with thanks to 2the journal Science in 27 November 1998; the National Geographic News, 3 May 2002 and SBS TV, 8:30-9:30 p.m. 17 February 2008; as well as 2 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

1 Except for my work with the International Baha’i community

Yes, you can learn all about this
in the world of palaeobotany, or
in a newspaper or on TV—all to
the level of your capacity and
interest. If, as it is often said,
people prefer entertainment to
edification and put a premium
on personality at the expense of
issues, they can get a quick TV-
hit of that first flower and tree
back in the cretaceous period--
Cainozoic era in their fragmentary
forms: leaves, stems and branches,
stems, trunks, pollen, spores, seeds--
all old ancestors in the evolutionary
story of flowers back to dinosaur times.

But now, growing in this new age, a new
flower has begun to bloom compared to
which all other flowers are but thorns;
and, yes, a tree is now growing in the
world of existence: its boughs and its
branches, its stems and its offshoots,
its leaves and its trunk will endure as
long as those most august attributes
and most excellent titles will last,1
attributes and titles of that essence
which the wisdom of the wise and
the learning of the learned can not
comprehend--will never understand.

1 Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, Wilmette, 1985, p.233.

Ron Price
16 April 2008
After watching the first part of a four part series on the history of boxing I was moved to write the following prose-poem. This first part was entitled The Fight: The Rules of the Ring and was screened in Australia on SBS TV on 29 July from 1 to 2 a.m. The series was seen on four consecutive nights at this late hour from 29/7/’08 to 1/8/’08. I wrote this prose-poem to try and capture the personal relevance of this boxing story. I trust readers at this site will enjoy this personalized account even if they do not share all my personal values and beliefs.
-Ron Price, Tasmania, Australia.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

KNOCKING THEM OUT

Jack Dempsey(1895-1983) was an American boxer who was boxing history’s 9th world heavyweight champion. He held the title from 1919 to 1926. Dempsey's aggressive style and punching power made him one of the most popular in boxing history. On his way to the title Dempsey won nine straight fights in 1917 and 21 out of 22 in 1918, 11 of these by first-round knockouts. In 1919 he won five bouts in a row by knockouts in the first round on the way to fight for the title on 4 July 1919 against Jess Willard.

Few gave Dempsey a chance against Willard, a big man 50 lbs. heaver and six inches taller. Many called the fight a modern David and Goliath story. Minutes before the fight Dempsey’s fight manager, Jack Kearns, informed Dempsey that he had wagered Dempsey's share of the purse. He had bet his share of the purse on Dempsey winning with a first round knockout. As a result, the first round of the fight was one of the most brutal in boxing history. Dempsey dealt Willard a terrible beating and knocked him down seven times in the first round. Willard had a broken cheekbone, broken jaw, several teeth knocked out, partial hearing loss in one ear and broken ribs.

Some of the most intense minutes in boxing history are found in the fights of Jack Dempsey from 1919 to 1926. On September 23, 1926, at Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, the largest crowd ever, 120,757, saw the 31-year-old Jack Dempsey lose his title to Gene Tunney in a 10 round decision on points. Explaining his battered face to his wife Estelle, Dempsey said--in one of boxing’s most famous lines: "honey, I forgot to duck."

I have taken a special interest in these seven years of boxing history for three reasons. Firstly, I have always had an interest in boxing since my father and I watched fights on TV from 1954 to 1962. In March 1962 Kid Peret was killed in the ring by Emile Griffith and my dad and I watched no more fights. Our shared interest in boxing perhaps began with Rocky Marciano’s sixth-round knockout of Rex Layne at Madison Square Garden on 12 July 1951 or with the September 29th 1952 fight between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott the then heavyweight boxing champion. This fight was what boxing experts have considered to be Marciano's defining moment.       But my father and I had to wait until 1954 to watch our first boxing match since those first two famous fights in my young life were not televised. The first fights we watched took place over 50 years ago and my memory of them is naturally somewhat rusty. From about 1954 until 1962, when Kid Peret died from his fight with Griffith and on the eve of my pioneering life for the Canadian Baha’i community, my dad and I watched the big championship fights and many Friday night fights on TV sponsored by the Gillett Company.

The second reason that I took a special interest in boxing was that just last night1 my interest was reawakened. I saw the first part of a four part television series on the history of the greatest fighters in boxing. The series was entitled 1The Fight: The Rules of the Ring1 and was being televised on SBS TV on four consecutive Tuesdays from 1:00 to 2:00 a.m. beginning 29 July 2008. Thirdly, I found an interesting correlation between the history of the religion I have been associated with for 55 years(1953-2008) and boxing history during those seven years(1919-1926).2 This prose-poem explores that correlation, its comparisons and contrasts. -Ron Price with appreciation to Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration,” in Studies in Babi & Baha’i History: Volume 1, editor Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1982, pp.255-300.

While Dempsey was knocking them out
and heading for the title, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
was knocking out His Tablets, getting
them ready for their great unveiling in
1919 just before Dempsey got the title.

They both kept knocking them out1 in
the ring and on paper--slowly--not so
slowly. While Dempsey defended his
title this movement connected loosely
became fully organized building blocks
of a future world government at local
and national levels, united in doctrinal
matters and focussed on teaching as its
main aim in all that it did and tried to do.

The fight was on and a national
consciousness was emerging for
the war with those right and left
wings of the hosts of the world
and a carrying of the attack to
the very centre of the powers
of the earth by God’s Hosts in
a fight that would keep humanity
busy for, perhaps, several centuries.2

1 Some 100 tablets were revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha for the American Baha’is. See H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Baha: The Centre of the Covenant, George Ronald, Oxford, 1971, p. 434.
2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, Wilmette, 1977(1919), p. 48.

Ron Price
29 July 2008
I was not quite sure where to post this prose-poetic reflection after listening to this Dean of Architecture being interviewed on the radio.-Ron Price, Tasmania
------------------------
The Dean of Architecture, Planning and Conservation at Columbia University, Bernard Tumey, was talking this morning about his identification with cities and apartment blocks. He has lived most of his life in Paris and New York and he identifies with these cities much more than the countries in which they exist. Listening to this radio interview made me think about the equivalent sources of my own identity. Apartment blocks have been and are now quite peripheral to my sense of identity and place. I have lived for perhaps two years of my 65 years of life in apartment blocks, bocks in three cities. The vast bulk of my life has been spent in houses and large complexes of buildings associated with my places of work.

As I scan my memory horizon and collect about myself the accoutrements of my sense of spacial identity: perhaps four dozen houses, some two dozen schools and other places of employment, an equal number of towns and cities, two countries and this planet earth occupy the solid ground of my spacial identity. The pilgrimage, the journey, that is my life dwells in this physical architecture, in these physical places. The religion I have espoused is, architecturally speaking, one that speaks much of origins and destinations but, more than these aspects of life and history, one that speaks of journeys, paths, roads, valleys, processes. At least that is how I have come to identify with the system of meaning at the centre of my life--my religion--with its way of constructing reality by means of words. -Ron Price with thanks to "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 3 January 2002; and John Gillis, A World of Their Own Making: A History of Myth and Ritual in Family Life, Oxford UP, NY, 1997, p.62.

There is something about the
entire universe that seems so
humanly significant. This is not
audacious; it's just some natural
falling into place, a natural part
of that Oneness which is at the
centre of my journey, the one
I travel in my head in what often
seems an ephemeral, fragmentary
existence with its convoys of people
with whom I have shared my life.

And yet, yet, this journey has brought
sacred and resplendent tokens which
have attracted me to some mysterious
place, some road of holiness, nearness
and beauty(1) which seems to have no

connection with all of the landmarks of
my life, in these towns, cities, houses
where I have lived my days, my hours
and millions of minutes gazing at the
surfaces of buildings with some blank
and empty visual field burning into my
optic nerve and that acqueous humour.

(1) Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.3.

Ron Price
3 January 2002
THE DECLARATION OF 1844

I immensely enjoyed the docudrama about the history of the waltz and the father-and-son composers most famous for it.1 Each person watching this piece of musical history, this articulation of the past within media culture, this historical-narrative documentary, will take away their own particular emphasis of the interpretation of events in the story. Narrative has become one of the two or three most difficult words in the English language, say some theorists, and historical narrative is necessarily a mixture of adequately and inadequately explained events, a congeries of established and inferred facts, a representation and an interpretation that passes for an explanation for the main components of a whole series of events. Something happens on the way to the screen from the books, journals, the variety of historical-print resources . -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC1 TV, 11:00-12:00, “The Waltz King,” 29 June 2008( BBC Wales, 2005)

This evocation of the past
through powerful images,
moving words, colourful
characters, in a closed,
single, linear world with
verifiability and truth like
some esoterically mysterious
religion and commentators on
some sacred texts, performers
of rituals for a populace little
interested in nuances, little need
for scholarly, scientific, measured
webs of history found in the books.

And so we all take away from these
histories as cinematography where
being aloof, distanced and critical
seem impossible, where we are for
a time prisoners of history at twenty-
four frames a second. I see 15/10/44
in the Dommayer’s Casino at Hietzing,
Vienna where Johann Strauss II made
his declaration of independence, his debut,
and six months before--the Báb made His
declaration and so commenced the most
turbulent period of the Heroic Age of the
Baha’i Era and the opening of the most
glorious epoch in the greatest cycle which
the spiritual history of the human race has
yet witnessed on this vast and tortured planet.

Ron Price
30 June 2008
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