I have generally found nature poetry uninspiring. Baha'u'llah writes that nature is the embodiment of the name of God. It is "God's Will and is its expression." Nature can also be seen as a metaphor for an underlying spiritual reality.
It was not until I was at least 50 years of age that my appreciation of nature seemed to flower by insensible degrees. In the first five decades of my life I was too busy: growing up, marrying and raising a family, earning a living, just trying to survive in this dark heart of an age of transition. In the last several years of my working life(age: 50-55) and in the early years of my retirement(55-63)I began to enjoy nature's beauties as if for the first time. This poetry also explores other aspects of the world of nature which 'Abdu'l-Baha says "is the world of darkness...the origin of a thousand depravities." (TDP, p.60) The "nature" of life and the "nature" of this phenomenal world also finds centre-stage in this poetry.
Pioneering Over Four Epochs: Section VII Poetry
AN OLD WORLD ROSE
Our house here in George Town northern Tasmania was built in 1974 with a wooden fence along the front. 1974 was the year I moved to Tasmania. In those 30 years I, too, have become an old fence. The fence is now 31 years old and I am 61. The fence may be older for I know virtually nothing about the origins of the fence. I may be older than 61; I often feel older. In the centre of this fence, growing up over the top, is a white rose. It is known as an Old World Rose. It is not my intention here to go into the interesting history of the rose which goes back some two to three thousand years, if not longer. But I would like to briefly explore some of the metaphorical implications of this rose, this fence and this garden. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, November 27th 2005
They hug the old fence in gay profusion
climbing up and up and up and right over.
They have their place: centre-back stage,
perhaps a prop, perhaps centre front stage,
embellishment to the main act: the garden.
The gardener tells me this is an old-fashioned
climbing rose. There’s a cherry plumb tree
ascending skyward above and behind the roses
in a world of blue. But these are earth-bound,
these white beauties, five-petalled, yellow-
centred, green leafed back-up, support,
friends, who bring out the best in their
A fig tree stands like a silent sentinel
watching over this green-and-white cluster
from a distance. He gives her ample berth.
They all do, all the members of this little
Kingdom in my front yard in George Town
in northern Tasmania at the southern end
of an axis endowed with exceptional
spiritual potency. The efflorescence
has been gradual in the 30 years this house
has been here. The gardener has helped
it along with her tender care as he has helped
the efflorescence of this other mystic Garden-
Order for well-nigh a century to hasten and ensure
its ultimate fruition in the garden of existence.1
1 Shoghi Effendi, Letters to Australia and New Zealand, p.140.
November 27th 2005
LEMON TREE VERY PRETTY
From September 1999 to November 2005 I have had a lemon tree outside my study where for eight hours a day, on average, I read and write. The lemon tree is one of the most prolific in this small town of about 5000 in northern Tasmania, the g-spot I sometimes think of this beautiful island state. A neighbour across our street---Reece Street as it is called after the farmer who owned the property some forty years ago--- whom I visited expressed her jealousy of our tree. As I sat in her lounge-room chatting with her and her husband, she has been trying to grow a lemon tree for some time and unsuccessfully. I have enjoyed these 74 months of lemon-gazing, taking in at the same time: the variously coloured sky, my wife’s little garden, the telephone pole, the birds on the wires, the branches, the flowers and grass, the occasional sound of a car or truck, or child or passer-by.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, November 26th 2005.
Day after day as I sit and ponder and---
write about the various exigencies
of the times, there also sits, firmly
rooted in the soil of this ancient land,
a fine lemon tree. Just outside the
window of my study, perhaps five feet
from the glass and screens, its branches
reaching over the garden path up as high
as the books and files in my study here
just a few feet away with their own bitter-
sweet contents. Regularly pollinated by bees
the flowers turn into hard, green lemons and
then bright yellow globes with juice for all
who want to squeeze out their gifts.
Yes, a few feet away ideas drop, pollinated
by the bees of desire, memory, imagination
and, perhaps, those mysterious dispensations
of Providence. There is a brightness there too
and a bitterness of taste which brings out the best
in life’s sweetness. For not everything can be sweet,
not all the juices and wines of our days can have
a pleasing taste on the buds and blossoms of the
mind and heart which register the meaning,
the import, the facticity of it all.
I can not eat of this tree, not because it is the tree
of knowledge which began with Adam,
but because it cannot satisfy or appease the hunger.
Like death, though, this tree has a sweetness
that derives from life, its tests and trials,
its tribulations, the breaking of hearts,
the very groans I utter. Yes, these vicissitudes
of fortune, these bright globes on the green
tree which grows in the land of knowledge
are at the very centre of reality—yet I desire
them not. How strange! How pitiful!
November 26th 2005
A DAZZLING DESTINATION
This prose-poem could very well be a diary or journal entry for the three days, 14:00-23/11/’05-14:00-26/11/’05. I will summarize these three days in this prose-poetic-preamble insofar as one can summarize the experience of three days in such a short space. I will then reflect on the contents of these days in some tangential fashion in the poem which follows, a tangential fashion that takes these three days and widens the perspective as wide as I can to encompass my life and eternity.
The two George Town Baha’is joined Chris and I for three hours for the 19 Day Feast of Speech, an activity which required cleaning and cooking by my wife for five hours before the Feast. It was an appropriate Feast name for speech occupied centre stage for this three day period.. A George Town lady in her 70s, June Weaver, visited for two hours; two Devonport Baha’is, the Washingtons, visited for four hours and two Queenslanders visited for six hours. Our son Daniel visited for forty hours and one of my nephews, one of my nieces and a great-niece visited for one hour. A local computer service man, Glen, spent two hours fixing our computer. At 14:00 26/11/’05 I went back to my solitary existence in these early years of late adulthood where a degree of social interaction is inevitable. Chris and I celebrated the Day of the Covenant together in the first solitary hours after this three day period. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, November 26th 2005.
The hour is here.
It is always here.
You can’t escape it
as the minutes, hours
and seconds tick by
within some iron law,
some absolutely imperative
necessity, as we gather
mysteries for our infinite
journey, tokens that we
will perhaps one day recount
in that Unknown Country.
We pause to marvel
at the sunlight on the river
and the boats heading out.
Some days we have walked through
icy wastes and on other days dust bit
into our skin as we traveled in those
semi-desert lands. For the millionth time,
on our way to that obscure oasis,
with its sweet-scented streams
afar off, we moved alone, always alone,
over great distances acquiring grace
for those oasis years ahead.
My love can ease your passage,
your journey to the waterhole
and yours mine, but the trip is one you must
make, in the end, alone even if I point the way
and companion you right to the edge of eternity.
We all hold hands, we do with our coffee
and cakes. We set off with our words, our
endless words—churning the weightless air
in this place, this mise en scene with our papers,
lounge-rooms, dining-rooms and kitchens
on the way to such a dazzling destination,
we who have such an ancient expectation.
November 26th 2005
SEAWEED, SALT AND SEX(colour)
John Dryden, an English poet(1631-1700), wrote the poem Marriage A-La-Mode and this poem was the starting point, the basis for the following derived piece. It is “difficult to isolate the essentially poetic,” wrote T.S. Eliot in his analysis of Dryden. I have found this to be so true of writing poetry that I call what I write ‘prose-poetry’ and whoever comes to my poetry will have to bring a different standard for evaluating it. Eliot wrote that we must bring different standards to each poet. Dryden, he went on, was able, among other poetic abilities, to take the trivial and make it magnificent, make it into something greater. Dryden has taken here in this poem a subject, namely marriage, and stimulated me to write on a theme I have often contemplated but not put into words, at least not quite as I have here. “And how do I know what I think until I see what I’ve said,” so goes one of the famous aphorisms many an English teacher has used. -Ron Price with thanks to T.S. Eliot, John Dryden, Roger White and the three women in my life who have taught me something about marriage: my mother and wife number one and two.
Why should a foolish marriage vow,
Which long ago was made,
Oblige us to each other now
When passion is decay'd?
That’s a good question, John,
And one also asked by millions
Who thought to themselves
As you have thought:
We lov'd and we lov'd as long as we could,
‘Til our love was lov'd out in us both:
But marriage is dead when the pleasure is fled:
And ‘twas pleasure first made it an oath.
Like you I’ve often thought love
‘'Twould be a delight with a friend
To have a fresh passion in my store,
‘'Twould be a delight and so much more.
What wrong would it be after so many years
For a man whose joys have now ended,
When such a man had no more to give?
And as you say, John:
'Tis a madness that one’s mate should be jealous,
Or that he should bar him from another:
For all we can gain is to give ourselves pain,
As we go on hindering the other.
Well, I might add and very well, too,
That what you say is so common.
But we’ve found a different pleasure
Than the one that put us in a bed.
The treasure is more than the body galore.
We’ve had our pain for these many years
Enough to tear our hair and our very spirit to pieces.
But at the end of the day a fortress has been built
Withstanding the slings and arrows of that outrageous fortune.
Although I must confess, indeed,
That some arrows got through the walls
And slung us to the bone.
But a wave of tenderness surged.
It surged onto our shores of life
Sometimes ‘twas soured with seaweed and salt.
The brew was sometimes heavy,
Yes, a hellish torment, truly.
But here we are after 30 years.
Perhaps it’s loyalty that is purely
What makes it so enduring.
August 8th 20051
1 Italics refer to Dryden’s exact words of very close appromications of his words. The initial idea behind this poem seemed like a good one when I began but the longer I spent on the poem the less happy I was with it. This does not happen with many of my pieces, but it did with this. For that reason I want to express this idea here.
If Henry David Thoreau could write about the seasons, nature and the micro-events of his life and times in 14 volumes from 1837 to 1861, and if a host of other writers can write about a massive quantity of life’s minutiae in their many published works, I feel confident that the microcosm of my own experience, associated as it is with the slow growth in the community and institutional development of a prophetic message which I believe has had and will have an enormous impact on this planet in the decades and centuries ahead, is worthy of some literary expression.
Historian Professor Marilyn Lake pointed out today why celebrations and commemorations of the slaughter of WWI become more promiment and more popular as the conflict itself grows ever more distant. She points out, too, the importance of repetition in this process, as part of the basis of tradition and history. Amidst all this remembering, are we in danger of forgetting some essential truths about war, she asks. These same comments could apply to the Baha’i community, its history, its celebrations and commemorations.-Ron Price with thanks to Marilyn Lake on “National Interest,” ABC Radio National, November 13th 2005.
20 hours of driving and chatting,
eating and drinking,
waving the Baha’i flag
and celebrating a Holy Day,
events that take place every year.
They deserve a place in this vast
collection of writing, poetry, history
and autobiography as Alex Miller
put it today on Books and Writing.1
Telling your story, creating your life,
Introspecting, finding a joy, an ecstacy
that could not be found any other way
even when it deals with the mundane,
the ordinarily ordinary, humanly human.
1 Alex Miller, “Books and Writing,” ABC Radio National, 1:05-1:30 p.m., November 13th 2005.
November 13th 2005.
MY BRIDE OF DESIRE
A sense of quest pervades Canadian literature.....Often the direction is less “into” or “to” than “through”, a piercing through appearances and outward conditions into a new dimension concealed under the skin....the search for America or True North resolves itself as the quest of community....The bride of desire, the elusive dream of the union of what is creative in man with what is idyllic in his vision of nature....is both the untouched wilderness and the humane Arcadian city he hopes to shape it into.
-Jay Macpherson, The Spirit of Solitude: Conventions and Continuities in Late Romance, Yale UP, London, 1982, Epilogue.
My bride of desire, she found me
early in the morning of my life
when the dew was still fresh
on my grass and winter’s white snow
shone fiercely in the sun’s blaze.
It seems so long ago, now, when
I first tasted her sweet-scented streams
in the early morning when we read
together, my mother and I, gently.
My bride of desire, slowly won my heart,
like some concupiscible appetitite
quite beyond the bounds of reason.
I would have done anything for her
and I did, back then when my soul
was entranced, captivated by her charms
and the melody of her voice.
It had insinuated itself into the centre
of my psyche, unbeknownst at first,
so slow was her seduction,
so subtle, so sweet, her beauty.
My bride of desire took me away
or, perhaps, I took her away
in my quest, as my quest,
with my quest and we travelled
far and wide. She demanded
so much more than I thought
I could give. I was wrenched,
torn as unremembered leaves,
driven in doleful patterns the wind weaves.
The long nightwatch began early,
but she taught me humour:
oh what a gift in exchange for
fitful dreams, waken wet-lashed and you,
so often beyond the reach of my caress,
my comfort and my heart.
My bride of desire gave me,
from the sweet centre of her being,
a consecrated joy, whiter than
her whitest dress, more fragrant than
the jasmine, so much more than
I had asked for back then when
I was young and prayer was a new thing.
He had given me her to the fullest
of all my yearnings, the uttermost love,
deeper than I could ever have imagined
in all my dreams. And now I must write
these lines for my heart’s ease
and to tell of joy’s lavish-yield
and the pain, now eased:
for I was given it all
and now I pay the price.
25 January 1996
The question is not what you look at, but how you look and whether you look.
-Henry David Thoreau in`The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing and the Formation of American Culture, Lawrence Buell, Harvard UP, London, 1995, p.115.
The year I went pioneering
Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring
was published and the Wilderness Act
was passed.1 Environmentalism had emerged
full-fledged as a topic of public concern
and in its burgeoning poetry.
This was, too, the eve of the tenth
and final stage of history
and the election of the apex
of Baha’i Administration,
the nucleus and pattern
of a future world Order,
where meaning and value,
consciousness and the mythopoetic
power of the human mind,
filled the intellectual gap between my role,
my place and the pervasive placelessness,
the vast absense which filled my head
when I theorized and watched
a 400,000 strong community
unfold the grand design,
keep the ship2 on its course
through yet another epoch.
A structure of meaning and freedom
is found in this Order
and a standard of public discussion
has been slowly emerging,
as this Order has been taking
fuller shape these last several decades
in a new etiquette of expression.
The poet can appreciate the great expansion
which has occurred since the apex was put in place.
It is an Order as much aesthetic as practical,
subjective as objectively realizable,
spiritual as an exercise in number crunching:
there is a religio-aestheticism here
in which we must practice
some kind of institutional therapy
to keep the boring, routine and familiar,
fresh, spontaneous and timeless.
So, I’ve known where I’ve been working
and on what these forty-odd years,
although it has often not been easy.
The places are all on the map,
perhaps two dozen of them,
but the what is based on an evolving understanding.
I might say that my where is as follows:
Near the outer rim
of the first concentric circle
of a vast system whose centre point
is the Bab’s holy dust,
Australasia, the south-west corner
of the spiritual axis in Australia,
Western Australia, Belmont
community of metropolitan Perth
on a flat plain beside the Indian Ocean,
about fifteen minutes by car from an escarpment,
from the city-centre and
from two universities.
and my what is:
a Baha’i and member of a Local Spiritual Assembly
serving as chairman, an international pioneer,
travel-teacher, husband, father, step-father,
lecturer at a TAFE college, poet, middle-aged man,
citizen of the world, student, friend, lover, income-earner.
I have described myself in terms of
this new organic form emerging on this planet.
I am partly one of its products;
I am defined by being confined.
This form acts like some ground conductor
of emotion, belief and conviction
that will take me a lifetime to articulate,
apprehend, describe. And even when I do
99.999% of what takes place within this form
will remain outside my oral or archival history.
My home is here within this vast design
which he unfolded and which I carry ‘round
in my head, in my bones, even if they fade
beyond thought into last traces of dust,
remembered by some cold stone
on a sunlit day and star-lit night.
I carry it ‘round in the silence
of the tongues of the departed
buried all ‘round this home whose design
is carried in their heads too: for there is now
only one home, one place, one humanity.
This vast design, my home, is not without
its complacency, smugness, simplicity,
obviousness. I reach out for an exhuberance,
wonder, freshness to recalibrate the familiar.
to perceptually recreate the universe
in a grain of sand with thoughts too deep for tears.
16 June 1996
2 Universal House of Justice, first statement, 30 April 1963.
ANOTHER CATASTROPHIC PROCESS SET IN MOTION
Rachael Carson wrote that when that intangible cycle of life has run its course it is a natural and not unhappy thing that a life comes to an end.
-In A Natural History of Nature Writing, Frank Stewart, Island press, Washington, 1995, p.186.
In the summer of ‘63,
just after They came
to office at the helm
Rachel1 came to her
cottage by the restless
Atlantic and watched
the rocky shoreline
and the wheeling seabirds
before she died.
Silent Spring had come in ‘62
and so had I to this new field,
this springtime of a new age,
a revolutionizing process, a
logical consummation, a solemn
act, a historic hour, a blissful
consummation, for the companions
of the Crimson Coloured Ark and
the onrushing influences of Their
So silent, unobtrusive, hidden,
shrouded in obscurity even then,
emotions were stirred to such depths,
but the world, mostly, did not see
as it moved toward the dark heart
of an age of transition, a grim and
calamitous chapter minged with
noble spiritual triumphs, another
catastrophic process set in motion.
21 June 1996
1Rachel Carson who wrote Silent Spring published in 1962 a major influence on creating the environmental movement.
REACHING FOR A CONTEXT
The poetry of the first century and a half of the Baha’i Era(1844-1994) shows a concern for purpose, for the pleasure of appreciation, for beauty as both means and end, for truth, for service, for morality, for freedom of expression, for responsibility to society and to the broad social and aesthetic principles of this new Faith. The whole concept of oneness, at the centre of this Faith, implies that there be no break between nature, art, poetry, science, religion and the personal in life.
The poetry that has arisen more recently, since the late 1970s, some two decades now, shows a dynamic, engaging and varied taste, an extremely heterogeneous mixture of styles, idioms, moods, states, elations without any laceration of the communal field.* We do not find poets warring in some combat zone. We find a necessary degree of egotism, one that softens and opens; we find a rediscovery of the past, a savouring of experience and its complexity and expansiveness; we find a form given to the mystic, to worship; we find signs of a rigorous discipline; we find a poetry that is difficult to sum up in a simple reading, but one that opens to patience and time. From the construction process that saw the Universal House of Justice Building emerge first in the 1970s, to the 1990s which saw the pattern of an Arc become increasingly visible, Baha’i poets also became increasingly visible. Like Mark Tobey, one of their artistic precursors, many of them asked their readers to make an effort to understand their works, if indeed these readers had any desire to be really initiated into their poetry.
-Ron Price, Two Decades of Poetry: 1976-1996.
There’s an etiquette here, amidst a hetero-
Geneous Christian morality, some judicious
exercise of the spoken word in print, some
influence of spring, of care, of moderation,
of tenderness, of the subordination of the
individual will to society’s, of spontaneity,
of self-realization as oneness with the whole,
as being a source of social good, as liberty and
vibrancy, a freedom from and to, a candour,
that avoids the moral contradiction inherent
in dissidence and engenders new perspectives,
far from arid secularism, but very deeply set in
an Order that is the very structure of a moderate
freedom for our Age. It is here we find a reaching
for nobility, for that new race of men, for a context.
11 May 1996
* Many writers have documented the collapse of modern poetry into a wild diversity , in which literary titans engage in combat, within sharp ideological frameworks, in a lacerated communal field of action of high volatility, with some sense of tragic disorder, of anarchy that mirrors the tempest that seems to have taken hold of our world at least since the second decade of this century.
-Cary Nelson, Repression and Recovery: Modern American Poetry and the Politics of cultural Memory: 1910-1945, Madison, University of Wisconson Press, 1989.
-Charles Bernstein ed., The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy, NY, Roof, 1990.
Every moment instructs and every object: for wisdom is infused into every form, as Emerson says. Or, as Baha’u’llah puts it, “I have ordained for they training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things.” Frost, in explaining the origin and development of a poem, says: “It begins in delight, inclines to the impulse and the direction of the first line laid down, runs a course of lucky events and ends in a clarification of life.” -With thanks to Robert Frost and R.W. Emerson in Frost and the Book of Nature, George Bagby, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1993, pp.43-49.
Some waiting rooms are soft
and music rests the tired form,
spacious, the eye can roam
across the room and down the hall,
always there is the beautiful woman
to stimulate the rods and cones
in one of those tight, short dresses,
where flesh presses to be exposed,
but I tire now of that old born war
of childish concupisence;
and enjoy the contours of that painting,
the wooden door, this conversation’s
inner core which dances in so many ways
that nothing can predict,
but happens from within a hundred trillion
possibilities while the walls and floors
remain the same,will be and were,
when last I came, keeping their old name.
Predictability and spontaneous serendipidy:
a balanced frame.
20 May 1996
*I wrote this poem in the afternoon after spending three hours(9:40 am to12:40 pm), from the time we parked our car until the time we left, to make an appearance with my wife in a Family Court as witnesses.
Something which one could call ruminativeness, speculation, a running commentary is going on unnoticed in us always and is the seedbed of creation...It is the lumps and trials that tell us whether we shall be known and whether our fate will be exemplary, like a star. -John Ashbery in John Ashbery: Modern Critical Reviews,, Harold Bloom, editor, Chelsea House Pub., 1985, pp.180-181.
Twenty years ago I passed along these roads:
dried out and free from old entanglements.*
These same fields ran to the horizon on and on,
on and on with the Nine Year Plan just ended
and fences shaping everything in sight
along this road to Gundagai in early spring,
as the sun warmed my cheek
like a piece of bread in a toaster,
with blue sky for a ceiling
under the roof of the universe, silent.
The hum and chatter of the wheels,
music of this sphere, backdrop,
as I gazed at her shiny brown hair and soft hand-
touching my eyes like rain on this dry endless road,
going home past these fields of cows and sheep
which keep doing what nature has trained them to do
and I do what empathy and distance reinforce,
a balancing of unresolved and conflicting elements
which threaten to tear me apart, but which I know,
from experience, I will resolve sufficiently and
which I will find relief from, from restraint,
in a process known as writing.
10 September 1995
* first marriage had just ended.
LUSCIOUS FIELDS OF GRAIN
I had already reached the conclusion that we are in no wise free in the presence of a work of art; that we do not create it as we please but that it preexists in us and we are compelled, as though it were by a law of nature, to discover it because it is at once hidden from us and necessary. -Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Passed, trans. by C.K. Scott Moncrieff.
Several of Roger White’s poems I have taken and reworked the themes. I felt a little like Proust. I felt I was somehow finishing off the sculpting process, tidying up the edges, expanding on White’s pithy language. I was discovering something else in the form which was hidden and waiting to come out. Here is one that came out.
-Ron Price, 9:00 am, 29/12/95, Rivervale, Western Australia. See Roger White, “It is an Easy Thing to Love the Dead”, The Witness of Pebbles, p.58.
I have loved the dead for years,
have talked to them in prayer
with occasional answering tears.
It is not difficult to love these souls
who can not wound or tell a lie.
They seem to satisfy some need
as we are told they can perform a deed,
a deed of miraculous force from their
special place right near the Source.
They are like some fruit beyond the seed
which small and dry would never yield-
we thought-such a full and luscious field
of grain to help us here, to help us gain.
Now who would argue with a rose?
Who’d expect a tree to turn up its nose?
Both were grown, so long, so free,
with quiet charm for all to see.
Do not tell of pain and dung
of tortured sap and spirit wrung.
29 December 1995
Here are the early stages of a civilization that will create and experience beauty, that will rise above the cacophony in which the world now seems to be drowning. As TS Eliot looks back to the Greeks, the Renaissance, the creative peaks of the past, Price looks ahead with a vision implicit in the architectural configurations on Mt Carmel.
-In appreciation to Alan Shucard, Fred Moramarco and William Sullivan, Modern American Poetry, G.K. Hall and Co., Boston, 1989, p.101.
Perhaps ‘the modern’ could go back to
Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase(1912)
the symbol of the international exhibit of art
in New York, the root of the manifestation
of ‘the modern’ in America(1913)
and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s 239 days in the West.
The big guns had come and changed the world:
Darwin, Marx,1 Freud, Einstein and
the broidered Robe of Light hearing
the wondrous accent of the Voice
that cometh from the Inaccessible
to our urban, industrial, democratic,
fragmented, scientific jungle of
motion, speed, urbanity, machinery
and human beings.
Here was the nest of the modern in poetry,
where intellectual and emotional complexes
were presented in an instant in time:
containers for ideas and feelings,
poetic sensuousness, hard and clear,
a firey intensity, prose poems, awakening,
some Hellenic turning,
some nature turning,
some turning, twisting, revolving,
evolving trying to describe our world:
bewildered, agonized, helpless, invaded
by some wind into the remotest and fairest
places and wasting as it germinated.
Poetry created aesthetic objects
out of words, reassembling language,
detached and leading anywhere, everywhere:
hymns to possibility, not just gibberish,
idiosyncratic flux, slangy informality,
surprising peculiarity of things.
Eliot advised writers to develop an historical sense,
the entire western intellectual tradition,
my relation to the dead and the unborn:
to escape from the subjective into system, order.
And so I did TS, so I did, a system just being born
back then: 1912, 1919, 1922--goodness, you were
right there, then, at the start with J. Alfred Prufrock:
Let us go then, you and I
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go..(*).
That meaninglessness was being replaced,
paralysis, confusion, social falsity, anxiety
and we see the mermaids singing each to each.
...I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us and we drown.(*)
And we drown, dreaming figures, as in a dance.
Silently adoring, embalmed in awe
and pentilekon marble, released to marvel
the magic Dust that noone ever sees.
23 June 1995
1 See John Huddleston,“Marxism: A Baha’I Perspective,” Circle of Unity, Kalimat Press, 1984, pp.191-234.
(*) TS Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, in TS Eliot: Selected Poems, Faber and Faber, London, 1954, pp.11-16.
It is vain to write on the seasons unless the seasons are in you. If they are not the words will have a paralysis in their tails. The poet wants to express thoughts and feelings as things physical. The body and the senses must conspire with the mind. Expression is the act of the whole man; it grows out of the person’s whole life, out of his sensuous involvement with and cultivation of life. The poet’s creation is his life; it is what he becomes through his work-not the poem, the artifact. Aim to produce what is as true, inevitable and deep as a hillside. The impetus for writing is not so much the overflowing of life but life’s subsidence. -Victor Carl Friesen,The Spirit of the Huckleberry: Sensuousness in Henry Thoreau, University of Alberta Press, 1984.
The mist is rising
and I am going in. Called in
past an endless wild beauty,
past those mysterious blackboys,
the kangaroo-paws stunning,
the dancing spider orchids,
the banksia, queen of the bush,
the jacaranda, I saw on the road,
on my way to angels, a rank, radiant
as light, joyous confusion, lifting:
was this the point of entry, marked
by richness almost gold, taste-seen
in the whispering of branches up there
so high, an evanescent grace....
hummingbirds and butterflies forever?
It all subsides, quiet, softly at the edges,
astonishment leaves at the door
as I unpack my books and peel the spuds.
Gazing down the black drain hole
nature’s beauty and the intricacies
of existentialism slip on the peelings.
The sense of eternity, the reaching
for immortality dull-thuds, competes
with the ordinarily ordinary and loses,
goes back into the sky, past those grey clouds,
as I make meat, spuds and two veg
and washing dishes forever.
16 June 1995
If gentleness is the quality of civility, acceptance of choice in the judge and allowance of choice in the judged is Shakespeare’s ultimate measure of civility.-W.G. Zeeveld, The Temper of Shakespeare’s Thought, Yale UP, London, 1974, p.257.
Listen to the silence of this garden
in the early morning where the sun
touches everything with its tint of gold.
Birds fly high into the blue sky and their
notes of song dance over this golden-green
here before my eyes in nature’s theatre.
Where are we here? Some garden of Eden
where the tree of knowledge has brought
endless fruits beyond my dreaming? Some
fruits of communion in these green gardens
which grow in the land of knowledge
bring a deep down peace, a joy of the flashing
light in the Centre of Realities.
I am lifted to a plane where I soar
with those birds in the air even as I am
rooted as these trees in this brown earth.
But even with this upligting beauty,
even with this golden tint of joy as deep
as the very rock of ages Precambrian
I can not, yet, take leave of self,
nor reach that ocean of nearness
just down the road and across the sands,
nor can I drink the peerless wine from
goblets just within my reach. I have yet
many valleys to cross and the long journey
has seemingly endless roads.
Meanwhile, birds will sing in this garden
and golden lights will delight my eyes
in the morning in this green garden
near a great, immeasureable ocean.
8 October 1995
*Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, Introduction.
OUR NEW HOME
We have here a centre of gravity, some ideal of the rounded fullness of life in all its variety, a normality, a natural condition in which men can feel easy and at home. There is something trusted and familiar here, an inner battle but not a man divided against himself, or against others, or against nature. There is skepticism here, deep and pervasive, necessary, a collirium. There is a single doctrine, a coherent conceptual schema which explains life and offers solutions to the human condition in all its staggering complexity. We have here a high idealism. We have a new, richer, deeper form of collective self-knowledge of what men are and can be. It is a branching out in a new direction, tidy in some ways, messy in others, still hesitant. It is not random, haphazard or chaotic, but there is tragedy here and a solemnity beneath the joy. There are many burning issues, but within a framework of conception, of definition, of order, of choice. There is something complete and cogent, growing and illuminated by a half-light, formidable and massive, yet unobtrusive and a symptom of a basic sanity in our time. -Ron Price with apprecation to Roger Hausheer for his Introduction to Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas-Isaiah Berlin, Hogarth Press, London, 1979, pp.13-53.
Here is a vision so novel,
so complex; here am I
spellbound in its grip,
in its constellation of forces,
in its richly suggestive doors
of perception, engendering
a perspective for what is
distinctive here, re-examining
the bases of modernity and
an underlying philosophy.
How can one sharply, succinctly,
say what is distinctive here?
Reason and revelation in an embrace
the like of which the world has never seen.
A vision of the world, unique, sublime,
relative to our age, in the words of
an incomparable, brilliant writer
now witnessing the triumph of civility
and we watch good men being made,
albeit slowly, in institutions, at last,
blessed, in a modern oasis
amidst a sea of aridity, imprecision,
suspicion, technical virtuosity, conformity,
monotony, military-industrial complexes,
bureaucracy and a craving
for a new Gemeinschaft.
The crooked timber of humanity
is being made straight before our eyes
in an amazingly complex process
while the heavy weight of recent
centuries of nationalism at last
is loosened while we find a true
international friend in our home.
1 December 1995
CENTURY OF LIGHT
Here in the oceans and seas we have burning water and seas turning into fire.
-David Attenborough, “Wildscreen”, ABC, TV, 8:00 pm, 26 October 1995.
The poem is like nature’s neons at ocean depths which hardly anyone has seen and whose brilliance is only now being discovered.
-Ron Price with thanks to David Attenborough.
Deep water luminescence, nature’s neons,
burning water, seas of fire in the ocean
darkness for a hundred thousand miles:
fire-fly squid, jelly-fish and beetles in all
their glorious bio-luminescence. Light,
light at last in these cavernous blacknesses
which noone has ever seen---until now
in this wondrous century of light that has
taken us into the microscopic and the
macroscopic, from infinite time to
infinite space and blown our minds
into a new age that we scacely understand,
but which we gaze at in wonder and awe.
The fireworks, now, is everywhere.
26 October 1995
Let the dreaming, lovely drowned
who loll and bob in bubbled wonder
tell us why, returning,
weeping, without sound,
we stand, wistful and incredulous,
along the shore.
-Roger White, “Lines for a New Believer”, The Witness of Pebbles, p.94.
Yes, this is no tea party, no sightseeing exercise;
it’s not an art gallery of marvels,
nor nature’s ninth wonder of the world.
Don’t think you can just come along
for a casual stroll, or collect
these enticing shells for free.
Nice fellows like you
do not get called lightly;
the game is serious.
He’s a bit of a joker,
a bit of a heavy dude.
I mean, just look at his record.
He’s a straight shooter, no denying that.
But you’ve got to figure out what he’s shootin’
and that’s not easy. He keeps his cards tight,
doesn’t let out too many of his secrets.
Sort of keeps you guessing,
if you know what I mean.
I’ve known grown men, seasoned veterans,
to go home broken tryin’ to take him on.
He’s really more clever than you’d think;
doesn’t let you know what he’s thinking,
a very enigmatic fellow.
Some he lets win, but by God
they’ve had to earn it;
he has a generous spirit,
some call it mercy.
If the dead could speak,
they’d tell you about the time
when he’d shot them quick and clean
after giving them so many opportunities
to play it honest and straight,
to play it true and blue, right down the line.
But life was complex then, you could hear them say;
the west was wild, you could not trust your neighbour.
There was an incoherent confusion to it all, then.
They’d say: “We went the way it was
for everyone and now we lie here.”
Some played it straight and went on
to win great victories; some lost the bundle.
You can hear them crying, even now,
standing wistfully at some table,
still waiting for that lost opportunity.
28 December 1995
I AM YOUR MYSTERY
Such consciousness seemed but accidents
Relapses from the one interior life
Which is in all things, from that unity
In which all beings live with God, are lost
In god and nature, in one mighty whole.
-William Wordsworth, “Prelude”, 1798-99, 206-7.
If all of what my senses report
trembled into thought it would
overwhelm my mind with one sweep
of an intellectual breeze too vast.
This world comes in like
a strain of music on my soul, or
some foulest breath and darkness
which weighs so heavy, heavy:
all shadowy and fleeting
some with a wise passiveness,
some with activity directed, direct,
but always in, in, in, in, endlessly in.
And a strange intensity makes of all
that I see a schoolhouse of oneness,
with the Master of Love guiding my steps
with the faintest sense of the holy,
a holy calm with sight playing
the track of a dream for my mind
to gaze upon and godlike senses
giving short impulses of life,
forms and images that float along
as if from some interior life,
some God within, Mighty,
Powerful and Self-subsistent
was trying to tell me:
I am here.
I am your mystery;
you are mine.
3 July 1995
PIPELINES AND QUIBBLES
All that one relinquishes of the past is not so consciously shed as the events of imperious yesterday which cut through our enjoyment of the present and which we simply call ‘forgetting.’ -With thanks for an idea to Roger White, Notes Postmarked the Mountain of God, 1992, p.7.
If I didn’t think our mistakes
were the source of our best learning
I’d be irredeemably saddened
by some of my bitterest lessons:
........like the woman I once loved
whom I drove away with my intense vision
which I wanted her to wear
and by an anger which seemed to grow
like some weed in my garden
shutting out the glow in her golden hair.
.......like the woman I once knew
called my mother whom I sacrificed
on the anvil of my own petard
and whose loneliness I did not see,
so blind was I to her very need;
I did not hear her cry, so caught up
was I in my own brave and lonely deed.
Do not mock the wine; it is bitter
only because it is my life! Rumi
once said. But so, too, is it sweet:
the cup of pure and limpid water*
this is the final honey of life,
a certain indifference: for one brings
one’s past into the present and finds
providence revealed in calamity,
even the one in today’s pipeline,
for there’s always a new pipeline.
And then there is the inevitable quibble,
some inner dissenting voice
for one knows that God’s will
has not entirely appropriated his.
With quiet elation he turns to his book,
his garden view and his silence.
The fan blows a breeze relentlessly,
effortlessly, like the past
which is never relinguished,
consciously shed, as easily as this wind
which blows in his face,
or those branches in the garden
which give all their beauty
and form to nature’s zephyrs, forever.
28 December 1995
* ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p.239.
JOY AND PITILESS RAVENS
From Nature and her overflowing soul
He had received so much that all his thoughts
Were steeped in feeling....in all things
He saw one life, and felt that it was joy.
One song they sang, and it was audible,
Most audible then when the fleshy ear
-William Wordsworth, Pedlar, lines 204-222.
..While I see that there is nothing wrong in what one does, I see there is something wrong in what one becomes. It is well to have learned that. -Oscar Wilde
Looking inward as You asked
I see something of what I am
defined in memory, in some
original impression of delight
or sorrow, or simply nostalgia’s
warm bank of images, a quality
of excitation, a pulse of sentiment
that beats within in all shades and
colours controlled at whim or simply
drifts across my screen from unknown
places in my brain. And I see, too,
through perception’s mirror judgements
made both good and bad and to-be-made
by an ebbing and a flowing mind reminding
me what I have done and might yet do
and hence the possibilities of what I am
and might become: so beautiful, so bright,
so reverent in mystery which cannot die,
and which can be felt so close, so near,
a greatness still revolving, infinite...
but also defiled can be, in infernal fire,
thornlike fetters, imprisoned in the talons
of owls with pitiless ravens lieing in wait.
3 July 1995
INCREASING IN NUMBERS
What is ‘real’ has to do with what we believe and experience, not necessarily with what ‘is’. -L.P. Turco, Visions and Revisions of American Poetry, University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 1986, p.154.
The snowgeese, wild voices of the Arctic, have been increasing in numbers since the 1950s. -David Attenborough, Wildscreen, Channel 2, Perth, Western Australia, 14 September 1995, 8:30 pm.
They’ve been increasing in numbers
in a big way since the ‘50s,
a vivid reminder that there’s power
in natural cycles.
Ever since Jamieson Bond went north
beyond the Arctic Circle,
these wild voices of this northern clime
have been flooding south more than ever.
Snowgeese, you were never part of The Plan.
Was there a new spirit in the north,
calling you, calling you by the thousands?
Or was it instinct, nature, some specific
environmental process that led your
dazzling floods of whiteness to travel
three thousand miles across a continent?
What took me, not much later, across
two continents as the numbers increased?
I was part of The Plan, part of the
dazzling floods of the beauty of the rose,
bent on rising above water and clay, and
flying with the nightingale unfolding
inner mysteries high above the earth,
close to that Voice from on high,
beyond the blue-white sky.
14 September 1995
SPECTATOR AND SPECULATOR
There can be no limits set to the interests that attached to a great poet thus going forth, like a spirit, from the heart of a powerful and impassioned people, to range among the objects and events to them most pregnant with passion, who is, as it were, the representative of our most exalted intellect...The consciousness that he is so considered by a great people, must give a kingly power and confidence to a poet. He feels himself entitled, and, as it were, elected to survey the phenomena of the times, and to report them in poetry. He is the speculator of the passing might and greatness of his generation. -John Wilson, Review of Childe Harold IV, Blackwood’s, June 1818.
This powerful people of unearthly sovereignity
has but one heart and one mind
but pregnant in a million upon million ways
with passion, prejudice and the power of One.
There are, though, John, many representatives
of its most exalted intellect in this day
of the great burgeoning:
a thousand voices of a thousand writers,
speakers, teachers, artists and a thousand poets,
each with his own voice
going out to a billion upon billion.
Fed by a teeming present of thought fragments,
wresting illuminations from the past
like some pearl diver,
the teeming luminescence
of nature’s deep sea neons,
this poet prys loose a rich
and strange burning world
and carries it to the surface
in crystalline wonder,
spectator and speculator
of the predictable and ordinary,
unscripted, flawed and plausible,
editor of the life of a generation
roused to love and pain and death,
behind the sleep-fast windows
of a dozing world.
28 October 1995
INCOMPREHENSIBLE POEMS IN ANTHOLOGIES
Poetry shifts, moves, wanders, locates itself in many gatherings, terrains of discourse, fluid divisions of subject matter: One type of categorization or typology might look like this--(a) the social sciences: (I) history and religion, (II) the self and other and (III) psychology and sociology; (b) the physical and biological sciences: (I) nature and landscape, (II) themes from astronomy, astrophysics, chemistry, geology, etc. and (c) the humanities: (I) language, reading and writing, (II) voice, genre, performance, dialogue, personae and (III) philosophy, aesthetics, meaning, purpose. -Ron Price, yet another attempt to place my poetry into some overall framework, system or order.
So much of the poetry—and philosophy--I read
completely mystifies me. I hope to God my stuff
can fall on the eyes of readers and slip into their brains
without some metaphysical exercise of gargantuan proportions,
without readers throwing their hands up in disgust
after several lines saying: I don’t understand any of this.
I find, though, no matter how hard I try, I get readers
who simply can’t fathom my words. You can’t win them all,
is all I can say. It is like that anthology of 1100 pages
I picked up tonight.* There were dozens of poems I had
no idea what these poets were saying, stuff from the ‘60s
to the ‘90s. Perhaps one day the Baha’is will have
anthologies of poetry that great numbers of readers
can’t understand either. I hope my poetry is not there.
I mean what is the point of writing stuff that people
Just don’t understand. I wonder if Baha’u’llah cared?
And the Guardian, surely he could have simplied his language?
You write to please yourself and hope to God there will
be someone out there who shares your sensibility, eh?
3 April 1996
* From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990, editor, Douglas Messerli, Sun and Moon Press, Los Angeles, 1994, 1136 pages, one of several anthologies appearing during the third and fourth epochs: 1963-1996.
A LA DAVID ANTIN
David Antin creates a theatrical persona for himself....engaged in conversation while actually speaking uninterruptedly in the somewhat artificial style of a text. Speech and writing remain intertwined for Antin....the breakdown of genres in literature and philosophy has left a conscientious writer like Antin with a highly idiosyncratic and lonely stance on the boundary between poetry, criticism, philosophy where it all becomes a single activity. His work is very improvisational with no stiff conventions that prescribe a method, a style, appropriate quotations from books. Here in an eclectic jungle which sounds like someone talking to himself and anyone else who will listen. Here we have: ethics, divinity studies, humour, mimicry, anecdotes, jokes, philosophy, poetry. Antin endeavours to produce a seamless discourse. For some people he succeeds. -Ron Price with appreciation to Stephen Fredman, Poet’s Prose: The Crisis in American Verse, Cambridge UP, NY, 1983, pp. 135-140.
How does one talk about these structures, these gardens.....I’ve tried
in a dozen different ways....but what does a humble poet do when his
heart is so filled....there are no lofty, soaring words to say it....poetry
is not a clear cut and simple process.....even to reduce it to some
manageable set of words in a sort of vernacular style...an improved talk
...a simplified arrangement of ideas that everyone can understand.....
a private world where anyone can eavesdrop on someone’s thoughts
about this world being created up on Mt Carmel I tell you it makes me
cry when I watch it on a video even some of my poems just take me to
the edge you know what I mean it’s part of my life story now some
quintessential me up there someone I may never quite become because
of the pull of nature, life, the Earth the whole thing is untranslateable
even in this improvised form pushed out from a word processing
package on my computer where noone is addressed specifically......
why my first memory was back in about ‘53 when the Shrine got finished
.......that’s a whole lifetime ago the days of not knowing how little was
the little that we knew I was nine years old, then.....
23 January 1996
OUR OWN HOUR OF EXTREME PERIL
...a Revelation which, flowing out, in that extremely perilous hour, from His travailing soul, pierced the gloom which had settled upon that pestilential pit, and, bursting through its walls....infused into the entire body of mankind its boundless potentialities.
-Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By(1957), p.93.
The last forty years(1962-2002) have been jam-packed with massive quantities of communication, very successful much of the time, not so successful at others, extensive seed planting, but a meagreness of outward results, much joy and not a little despair. I have tried in this poem to capture this process within the context of perspectives gleaned from the Tablets of the Divine Plan and God Passes by.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 31 January 2003.
Sharp and clean, right through,
heart to heart, man to man,
person to person, straight shooting,
we know where we stand,
as much as anyone knows
this sort of thing
given that we are talking
about human communication.
For a most wonderful state
of receptivity is being realized.1
I’ve seen it, experienced it
at least since that new horizon,
bright with intimations of thrilling developments2
and then the new paradigm of opportunity,
the silver lining and dazzling prospects.3
We tried to be heavenly armies,
freed from the human world,
divine angels, with that trumpet,
that Israfil of life,
blowing sweet new breath,
but we got trapped
by the defects of nature
and the promptings
of the human world
and could not conquer.
Ideal forces and lordly confirmations
did come to our aid.
It may be that we will be crowned
with brilliant jewels....may irradiate
upon centuries and cycles.4
But there was so much
to which we did not attain;
we burned out several times trying,
trying and, at times, we lost the plot.
But, thanks to him, our vision
now has form on that mountain side
and all that work,
going back all those decades,
has been revitalized.
It is as if that maiden
who spoke to Him
in the depths of the Siyah Chal
was giving us, too, a sweet new life
born of beauty for our own hour
of extreme peril.
1 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan(1977), p.41.
2 Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1971.
3 Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1988, 1990.
4 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, op. cit., p.48.
NO BIRDS DIEING OVER BURLINGTON
Price had not perfected his method as much as he had tried to define its nature, but he had certainly zeroed in on his subject matter. His poetry portrayed the origins of Baha’i community life in parts of both Canada and Australia and the experience of one pioneer in that community, during a critical three epochs of its experience.(1944-1999) His ambition and those of his co-religionists was to build the unassailable foundation for a new Order in human society. However exhausting and discouraging the process, however much the work seemed fraught with failure, his belief in the ultimate victory of the exercise, the battle, was not dimmed. His own self-destructive impulses, his Celtic melancholy which from time to time isolated him from the mainstream of Baha’i community life and left him an outsider, unavoidably arose in his poetry, a testimony to the tragic vein in his pioneering experience. But there were many streaks of gold as well. Honey and poison seemed to be an inevitable mixture in his life, like that off all other humans, the destiny of everyone.
I inherited, perhaps, six generations
of experience, over there, where blood
flowed, candles gushed and birds died
But here, in my home, my country,
it was all pretty new, fresh stuff;
no one dieing for the Cause, no birds
Here it was about meetings,
wall-to-wall meetings for just
about any and every purpose
It was about pioneering,
spreading the word
as far as humanly possible
under the blue sky.
And now, me, a literary pioneer,
giving words to it all,
to the strange manner of these years,
inside my life, my days.
14 March 1999
ONENESS: IT’S MULTIFACTORIAL
It is obvious, from the several references in various collections of Shoghi Effendi’s letters to certain special characterisitics of individual nations, that there were and are what you might call master principles, keys, to unlocking the national psychology of individual nations. It is obvious, too, that he did not revell in the attribution of specific characteristics to anything like the same extent as, say, C.G. Jung who used climate, race and geography as candidates for a master principle. ‘Abdu’l-Baha often referred to climate and its salubrious or enervating effects on people. There is now a massive literature analysing the national character of many of the peoples among the nations of the world. This poem deals with this issue of national character from the perspective of my experience in Canada and Australia over fifty-four years. -Ron Price with thanks to Frank McLynn, Carl Gustav Jung: A Biography, Bantam Press, NY, 1996, p.391.
There’s such a lot of mixing going on,
what some call miscegenation; anyway,
people are really all cousins, up to your
fiftieth if Guy Murchie is right.1 And....
in this inherent, scientific, biological,
oneness of humankind there is a oneness
of all of life with the very stardust
of the universe your quintillionth cousin.
Such is the awesome nature of what is
a mystic, phenomenal, oneness.
The problem, I have found,
in these embryonic communities
spread across two continents,
in the first quarter century of their lives,
where I have lived and moved
and had my being during these epochs—
is that our experience of this oneness
is exhausting. Yes, national character
is a factor; it plays a part,
but the multi-factorial set of variables
of people in groups tests the wisdom of Solomon,
the patience of Job and the whole pantheon
of virtues that fill the pages
of Baha’u’llah’s magnum opus.2
10 May 1999
1 Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life, Houghton Mifflin, 1978, p.357.
2 This vahid tries to illustrate the far greater complexity of the issue of working in groups, a complexity far beyond the notion of national characteristics, however useful that line of thought may be.
ONE OF LIFE’S WAR ZONES
The major theme of the artist Henri Matisse was the female model. For Matisse the female was, in some ways, too ideal to even have a body. She was a sublime cathedral, a disembodied presence, idealized into pure form, into cosmic proportions, into ecstasy. Woman was a whole universe for Matisse. But, in other ways, she was also an intensely erotic child of nature; she was beauty; she was meant to be looked at. In painting, Matisse tried to clean out, put behind, deal with, his intense impulses toward, turbulent feelings about and the overwhelming presence of woman’s flesh. He was afraid of her absorbing and disturbing presence. He found the erotic too irresistable to completely transcend. The female body was a war zone where he struggled against his attraction to woman’s body. In order to be the pure artist he felt that he was he needed to deny the erotically exciting and alluring, which sullied and diminished the female aesthetic. He saw the erotic as the last distraction before the frontier of transcendence, the last obstacle to the beyond. To Matisee, serious art should approach the erotic with disinterestedness. The erotic should be contemplatively remote and unapproachable, not sensuous and emotionally engaging. Still he was secretly excited by the recalcitrant flesh of the female; the instinctual seemed inescapable. He always seemed ready to plunge into the depths of her instincts.
-Ron Price with thanks to Donald Kuspit, Signs of Psyche in Modern and Post-Modern Art, Cambridge UP, 1993, pp.18-41.
For Price the female body was also a battleground, a war zone, not unlike that of Henri Matisse. Price’s religious philosophy required that he struggle with his concupiscible appetite, on the assumptions that self control exercised a positive affect on his soul and that it was important to keep one’s secret thoughts pure. If he had not regarded this philosophy with some importance it is likely, he had often thought, that he would have yielded to the great weight of that secret excitement, that intensely pleasureable impulse and feeling and that overwhelming presence of female form and flesh. So, too, did Price seek to understand himself, most of all, as Matisse put it in a letter in 1938. Matisse said his nature remained mysterious. It was a wall, although he had put a little order into his chaos over the years. The task of art, Matisse felt, was to help him participate in life not to isolate him. It’s role was therapeutic not aesthetic. His artistic aim was to generate the luminous. Price agreed with all of this, although thusfar his art form, his poetry, had an isolating function, a necessary isolating function; indeed his poetry’s therapeutic role was tied up with this isolation.
-Ron Price with thanks to Donald Kuspit, Signs of Psyche in Modern and Post-Modern Art, Cambridge UP, 1993, pp.18-41.
Such beauty is an itch,
much more impact than is kitch.
And here I am an old man
and it still plagues my land.
This daemon, this disorder,
this befuddled border.
I stagger and I contradict,
this labyrinthe, this addict.
Will I ever sort it out?
Will it forever leave me in doubt?
29 November 1999
At the end of the day, I remain, somehow or other, against all odds a Christian. It’s what I actually in the end believe in, even though intellectually I am appalled by the very baldness of such a statement. I know that at the root somewhere, somehow, that is what I turn to and respond to. That is what tortures and torments me. And whatever travails, mental or physical or social or sexual or whatever, that I go through, I end up somehow or other getting my life into order. And in getting my life into order my work improves. -Dennis Potter in Dennis Potter: A Life On Screen, Manchester UP, NY, 1995, p.292.
I am, first and foremost, a Baha’i. In a world of six billion souls and six million Baha’is the odds are small that I would be a Baha’i: one in a thousand. At least that is one simple way of calculating the odds. My belief is rooted fundamentally in an intellectual matrix that is really quite massive in its implications for increasing one’s knowledge; and one that I have spent much of my time since about 1962 pursueing in different ways. This is true in spite of the fact that my religion is quintessentially mystic, devotional. I, too, am tormented by my belief. I think this is due to my obsessive nature and my obessional belief in the Baha’i Faith over nearly four decades. This belief system has come to occupy the central place in my life. It is also a source of much joy, understanding and pleasure; so, consequently, any torment I do get is a small price to pay for the immense enrichment.
-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.
THE TYRANNY OF THE FIXED FOCUS
From this poet’s perspective all thought, all language, all of life flows into one great river. But one can only contain a portion of it in the bonds and ties of words. It is as if the river of language can only be dipped into; one can only sample a portion. We sample such different measures: some only a cup and others a gallon, some the salty brine at river’s end in the ocean, in the sea; others taste the cold clear mountain streams; some taste the rain and see the beauty in its clouds; others spend their days in the desert with only the occasional downpour. We all drink from different honeyed streams, enjoy different waters which, in the end, are distasteful, as if they had been mixed with poison. We seek, then, the cup of pure and limpid water from streams of crystal clarity, so that our natures will not recoil. -Ron Price with thanks to Beverley Farmer, A Body of Water, University of Queensland Pess, 1990, p.18, her comment in relation to James Joyce on his novels as rivers and his poems as fountains-stiff and bare ones; and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Centre, Haifa, 1978, p.239.
Writing it down will not make the waters clear,
although, somehow, they are recreated as I am,
alone, in a garden, behind a veil, a wall, a scent
in the air, a fragrance, a perfume,
sweet and foul-smelling,
savors attractive and repelling.
And aware, too, of some verdant tree,
some snow-white spot,
in this city, this refuge, this stronghold,
this utterance, this robe, this garment,
like some knight, I am, in the romance tradition,
an epic, planting a standard on the highest peak.
And now my readers recreate this poem
and create themselves, do they but know.
Reality floods in, Woolf said,1
to their sealed vessels,
breaking down the tyranny,
the fixed focus,
the public persona
by a trip to an inner world,
a private landscape.
3 April 1999
1 In A Body of Water, Beverley Farmer, University of Queensland Press, 1990, p. 79(Virginia Woolf).
THE WAR TO END ALL WARS
With the discovery of the atomic bomb and increasingly advanced forms of technology the nature of war has been transformed. But the war we all face at the individual level is a more massive and complex war than any ever fought in history. And it has few of the overt signs of traditional warfare.
They were trying to make a bomb-
a bomb that would shake the world
as the first century of this new era
came to a close.1 My days, too, began
in those world reverberating times when
we found so much power that the world
would never be the same again. But......
the power was not in the bomb as much
as it was in a spiritual force that had begun
its unobtrusive spread over the planet. And
went on over further epochs as I began my
spread over the last nine years of the eighth,
all of the ninth and the first decades of the
tenth-the end stage-of history.
For it was the end, the beginning of the end
or, perhaps, the end of the beginning of the
greatest drama in the world’s spiritual history.
We were ready, at long last, for the inception
of the Kingdom of God on earth2 amidst blood,
sweat and tears, more pain than humankind had
ever seen, and the cleansing winds of God.
For the war to end all wars had come
and it was nothing like the rest.
It would blow our souls in Thy Kingdom come
while we all pursued each one our quest.
10 January 1999
2 1953: after four decades of two world wars, the evils of Stalinism and more deaths from various forms of violence than in all of history.
MANY SELVES IN TENSION
Price’s awareness of his personal weakness, juxtaposed with several public persona: the entertaining and knowledgeable lecturer he had been for many years, the ordinary man about the house whose sins of omission and commission were only too apparent, the outstanding or mediocre member of the Baha’i community depending on which Baha’i was doing the observing—created a tension, a creative tension. It was within the bounds of this tension that Price lived and slowly learned: to think about and define himself, to accept himself, to change what he could change, to appreciate and wonder at the nature of his many selves and to observe their affects on others.
-Ron Price with thanks for an idea and a process to Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins, Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet-A New Biography, One World, Oxford, 1998, p. 201.
The field of interactionist sociology posits a social self, a self which emerges as a result of its relationship with the other, from its social context, from a social construction of reality. Here the self is, in fact, the capacity to keep a particular narrative going, formed in the rituals of ordinary conversation and in the complex world of multiple roles and built in the local logic of moments, frame by frame in its daily life. The “I” here is, then, the individual’s response to the attitudes of others and, in the case of the Baha’i, an indwelling God. The “Me” is an organized set of the attitudes of others which the individual assumes, accepts. In some respects the self is the resultant of this inner and outer role definition.
-Ron Price from notes in Sociology on ‘Symbolic Interactionism.’
I stand up
in the face of life’s barrage
and become an “I”...
I look within and find Him
standing within me:
mighty, powerful and self-subsistent....
He stands against a “me”
which others posit and
some composite self,
some resultant, some
exists in tension
with the many
the many selves
which I try to integrate
into some complex whole,
a whole I call myself.
......This exercise takes all my life. ---Ron Price 10 April 1999
The mist is rising
and I must go in. Called back, little ones.
The air is like gingerbeer-
and God all morning
-Roger White, “Last Words”, One Bird, One Cage, One Flight: Homage to Emily Dickinson, Naturegraph Publsihers, Inc., Happy Camp, CA, 1983, p.127.
If we could see the beauty there
and taste the sweetness too,
we’d clamor for its mansions
and their wondrous hue.
We’d turn our back on this
heap of dust and clay
and hurry fast
to that endless, placeless day.
To a land where forgiveness rains
and abounding grace,
away from this least of worlds
to a brilliant, lighted place.
To a garden where we’re safe
at last, with adventures too,
to the neighbourhood of God
and a rank of angels just for you.
So, when they come at last for me,
I’ll ravish them with flowers
and kiss the hour my soul will find
its real face and eyes and powers.
We’ll meet again, not far from now,
just around the bend.
I trust we both have the honour
of meeting the true friend.
They say its the most precious gift,
this meeting’s crucial goal.
And you pay a ransom here.
Your life, your heart, your soul.
10 January 1999
UNITY IN TENSION
I have accepted the various sides of my nature, although some of their features I would like to eliminate entirely if I could, especially what has seemed like demons which have possessed me from time to time and
which I have battled with in various ways all my life. Somewhere I read
that when the demons go away, the angels fly with them. Perhaps there is always some element of the lower self we have to deal with in ourselves.
I have come to see these various facets of my personality like flickering images: part inconsistency, part perversity, part excitability, part emotional explosiveness, part indiscretion, part voyeur; as well as: part poet, part critic, part scholar, part historian/sociologist, part aspiring spiritual being. All these facets have coexisted with a freedom and a tension that resembles a kalaidoscope of colour, variety and intensity.
-Ron Price with thanks to A Life of Gerald Brenan: A Biography: The Interior Castle, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994, Toronto, Introduction.
All of this, all of these facets,
are part of an overall unity,
an overall interrelationship
and interconnected experience,
sometimes in high tension,
just about blackening out my world;
and at other times in a bliss
that knows no bounds;
and it is the function
of this poetry
all human life.
8 September 1999
D.H. Lawrence, trapped by the sexual conflicts of Edwardian England, had a powerful effect on the well-educated professional women he had loved and left between 1908 and 1912, the period of his early twenties.1 Price, trapped by a different set of sexual mores during his twenties, was powerfully affected by the varying degrees of sexual intimacy that he enjoyed with eleven different women. Three of these involved only varying degrees of kissing and it would not, perhaps, be accurate to talk about being ‘trapped’ in these relationships. But eight involved far more than simple kissing, what one could call one of the many manifestations of the clutches of a permissive society, part of the expanding prison of an inordinate craving for pleasure and diversion, the seriousness of which “to a superficial observer (was) liable to be dangerously underestimated.”2
Ron Price with thanks to 1 Jeffrey Meyers, D.H. Lawrence: A Biography, A.A. Knopf, NY, 1990, p.68.; and Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, USA, 1965, p.124, written in 1954 in a letter “To the American Baha’is in Time of World Peril.”
Trapped is really only applicable in,
perhaps, four of these relationships,
but not by the women, by my own
erotic zeal and enthusiasm. In time
I’d be imprisoned by someone, that
someone being me; and it would be
more good fortune than management,
destiny perhaps, but not planning, foresight,
or thought, if it turned out to be happy and
fulfilling. Of course, by the time I was forty
well into my second marriage, I had come to
know the nature of this trapped life. I knew
the game was over and I would have to make
the best of it and learn the pleasures of acceptance.1
17 June 1999
1 this has been a slowly acquired virtue, trait or quality. It really has only been ‘kicking in’, to use a new term from the vernacular, in recent years, or perhaps months. I’m finding the experience of acceptance is one of slowly acquired depths of meaning. It seems to be much more associated with inner tranquillity than with outer excitement.
That's all for now!