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Abstract:
This is section VI.1 of my autobiography: unpublished essays. I wrote some 300 essays as a student, as a teacher-lecturer, as a Baha'i-publicity officer writing items for the media, as a poet-writer and simply as a person with literary needs and interests
Notes:
These essays at this site were written over the thirty year period: 1979 to 2009. I wrote essays which were not published as far back as about 1959, but only two remain from the period 1956-1978. In the 50 year period 1959 to 2009 in which I have been a member of the Baha'i Faith writing unpublished essays has occupied much of my time.

Pioneering Over Four Epochs: Section VI.1 Essays:
Unpublished Essays

by Ron Price

published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs
2003
PREFACE TO THIS ESSAY COLLECTION

Most of the material in this collection falls into the category of essay. A small portion of what is found here belongs to other genres: short-story, letter, indeed an odd assortment of this and that. Some has been published and but most not so. All of it is useful insofar as the autobiographical thrust of my writing is concerned. What I'd like to do here is make some introductory comments about essay writing, the major genre in this collection of material.

In 1580 Montaigne published a selection of his essays. My first published essay was in 1983 in Katherine, four hundred and three years later. Essays, I realize now, a dozen years later, are autobiographical, particularly in the sense that they tend to prescribe a certain philosophy of life. The essayist's truths are "for me" and "for now", personal and provisional as Graham Good says in his The Observing Self: Rediscovering the Essay(1988). There is an unsorted wholeness of experience which can only be held together by the concept of the self, Good argues. The essayist communicates as himself. Montaigne did this four hundred years ago and I do this in my essays. The study of one man is one way to study humankind. The essayist is typical of how we experience ourselves as untypical. He is typical insofar as he focuses on experience. The intellect is part of that experience. For some, like Montaigne, the cultivation and pleasure of the intellect stands out in the essay. So, too, does a humility and unassuming quality. Whoever the essayist, the human being behind the words stands revealed.

William Hazlitt possesses an extreme skepticism in all things. The more evidence we accumulate about others, Hazlitt would argue, the more complex and difficult the assessment of others. His preference is for the solitary. Company inhibits spontaneity. Bacon is a practical man whose essays serve as counsel to harmonize self-interest and public interest. Dr. Johnson is an acute observer and offers up essays like TV programs or newspapers. Henry James is guide, interpreter and provider of vicarious experience. The detailed describer of settings, James did what I do very little of, except on rare occasions. Virginia Woolf sees the self in socio-historical terms as part of one large piece of art and moments of being are the crucial centre pieces. Each essayist has their own particular perspective, philosophy and style. And I have mine. In some of my essays I allude to my aims and philosophies.

The essayist goes out into the foray anticipating anything, seeing virtually everything and anything as fodder for his pen, his essay. The basis of his involvement is disinterested curiosity, contemplation, spontaneity, eagerness. The essayist accepts a basic fluidity to his self, his experience, his understanding: what he records is provisional and any truth he sees is part of his relationship with his reader. This relationship is characterized by friendship. Essay writing began for Montaigne as a substitute for conversation. It was a friendly dialogue. It shows the process and flow of thought, open, receptive and often untidy. This is true of me, of my essays, which function in part as a substitute for conversation which I have grown tired of for various reasons.

There is an intuitive intensity in the essay that is directed toward the mystical moment of union between outer and inner, between soul and form. It is this which makes for refreshing autobiography. In the essay it is the process of judgement that counts not the judgement. The essayist is a combiner, a producer of configurations who declares a direction after a play of ideas and images, after presenting a constellation of material. The essayist is a coordinator, a crystalliser, an interweaver, an interpenetrator. At the heart of the essay is a moment where the self, the writer, finds a pattern in the world and the world finds a pattern in the self. Essays are unquestionably a useful extension of the autobiographical focus in Pioneering Over Three Epochs.

Some readers may find my writing dull. But it is good to recall, as the essayist Joseph Epstein notes, "that dull is not ridiculous, dull is not always irrelevant, dull is not intellectual manure cast into the void." I trust that some readers will find some of what their eyes come across here not irrelevant.

EPILOGUE TO MY 2600 PAGE ONE MILLION WORD AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Having completed my autobiography or, at least, completed a fifth edition in a form that is satisfactory to me and keeping in mind that I will in all likelihood make additions to it in the years ahead, I want to write a sort of addendum or epilogue in the pages which follow. There are many different kinds of self-referential writing. I have incorporated some of them in what is for me this surprisingly large autobiographical work. I invoke Whitman's "I am large, I contain multitudes,” as an appropriate presiding spirit for the genre. In the multitude of methods and genres of studies of Baha’i history and experience, teachings and organization, autobiography is either tentatively acknowledged, invoked by negation or simply passed over in silence. It is one genre that is, for the most part, conspicuous by its absence from any bibliography. This has begun to change in the last decade or two. This piece of writing is part of that change.

Claude Simon, in his lecture for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1985, said, “I find that what one writes or describes is never something which has happened prior to the work of writing. On the contrary the writing produces something in every sense of the term in the course of working.” The writing, Simon argues, produces something within its own present. I find this to be my own experience as well. This work has returned unremittingly to decisive and not so decisive events in my life. I have created a seam of light, of gold, of joy, that has had its source, its origins in the Baha’i Faith. With fire my gold has been tested and life’s gold in its many forms has tested this servant again and again. Many of life’s tests I did not pass. But like a close cricket series, I won’t know the score or, indeed, if I won, until the last ball is played. Indeed, I’m not so sure the cricket metaphor about winning even applies here because so often in life the first shall be last and the last first.

As my early sixties advanced from year to year I withdrew increasingly, almost entirely, from the society of those about me and gave myself up to a wondrous study of writing and reading. Like Gustave Flaubert, the originator of the modern novel who spent much of his life in one house and a great deal of that time in one room I, too, spend much of my time now in a room in a house in the oldest town in Australia at the end of the Tamar River in northern Tasmania. Only the occasional Baha’i activity, family interchange, conversation with a friend, daily interaction with my wife and the inevitable trips to town to shop, to put up posters, to go the library and attend to the several domestic activities that are part of life for everyman now take me into the social domain. I had come to see life more as an affair of solitude diversified by company than an affair of company diversified by solitude. For fifty years(1954-2004) it had been the other way around. With early retirement in 1999 I gradually assumed a more solitary existence as a person. The social-interaction tables and the millennium had slowly been turning.

An autobiography, like a novel, stands between us and the hardening concept of statistical man. “There is no other medium,” said William Golding when he received his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983, “in which we can live for so long and so intimately with a character.” That is the service both an autobiography and a novel renders. Golding went on to say: “It performs no less an act than the rescue and the preservation of the individuality and dignity of the single being, be it man, woman or child. No other art, I claim, can so thread in and out of a single mind and body--and so live another life. I'm not so sure Golding is right here because I think there are other ways besode the printed word.

But the autobiography and the novel do each ensure that at the very least a human being shall be seen to be more than just one billionth of one billion..” And if the potential reader is not interested in what I have preserved here he need not read my work, need not pick it up. He is free to stop at any juncture. I hope the fact that this work is not just a humdrum inventory of personal recollections should encourage the disinclined reader. But neither is this work a series of casually scanned or, like Flaubert’s novels, savagely chosen details in a frozen gel of chosenness.

The reader should also keep in mind as he reads this work that there is what autobiographers calls the interstitial self—the self that emerges in life’s multitude of interstices, some in discourse, others in private. Sometimes this interstitial self emerges only for a moment to deal with and negotiate a conflict, a particular point in a relationship, indeed, many of life’s situations. Sometimes the person is unaware of some of his interstitial selves. He is drawn back into familiar territory where there is a more stable position, a more familiar slef and his interstitial self disappears as fast as it came into being. At other times, this interstitial self is grasped as a way to escape the restrictive discourses that so often arise in social life. In addition to this interstitial self there is another conventional autobiogrpahical term, the hybrid self. This is a self that can be seen as shifting among positions and discourses, sometimes combining them into a true hybrid. At other times I am very aware of the contradictions and contradictory situations in life and that I must maintain quite separate and independent discourses, languages, so to speak, of the self. Then there is the unfound self, a self that seems unfindable. It took me 19 years(1984-2003) to finally find a voice that spoke to me of me. Beginnings are often difficult for novelists and autobiographers. People think of writing for years and often, in the end, never pick up their pen. I shall say no more on what can be a complex subject of selves. But it is an important aspect for readers to consider as they delve into this autobiography or, indeed, any autobiography.

Readers need to keep in mind G.K. Chesterton’s turn of phrase in his discussion of the future of Charles Dickens’ writings. Chesterton notes that there are a number of important factors which never prevent a man from being immortal. “The chief of them,” he adds, “is the unquestionable fact that they write an enormous amount of bad work.” This leads a man to being put below his place in his own time, but it does not affect his permanent place, to all appearance, at all. Shakespeare, for instance, and Wordsworth wrote not only an enormous amount of bad work, but an enormous amount of enormously bad work.” Some of the feedback I have received in the three years since I finished the 3rd edition of this work would indicate that what I have written is just that, an enormously bad work. So, perhaps, my immortality is assured, at least if Chesterton is onto something here.

Chesterton goes on to say in his discussion of the future of Dickens’ writings that it is the very exaggeration of his characters that will immortalize him. The realistic narrators of their time are all forgotten, but the exaggerators live on. Chesterton sites the example of Homer and his characters in the Iliad and Odyeesy. I might add the example of the Bab and Baha’u’llah’s writings which to a western ear and the moderate tones of the stiff upper-lip of the English literary tradition, often seem exaggerated. My own work, sadly, aiming as it does for realism, factual detail and accuracy of circumstance, will probably pass through the wings of time and be no more substance than the eye of a dead ant as the Bab, or was it Baha’u’llah, wrote.
On the other hand, Chesterton did leave me with some hope for a place in posterity’s literary home. Chesterton also felt that those writers with a poetic inclination had a greater future than those without. So, perhaps, in the end, my poetry will save a place for me in future’s rooms amidst its lush or not-so-lush furnishings.
A person is not simply determined and dominated by the pressures of any overarching discourse or ideology such as the secular pluralism in which we as citizens of western democracies are immersed. We are all, I believe, the agents of our own personal discernment capable of identifying and interpreting society’s dominant discourse in order to insert ourselves into it or confront and resist it. The dominant cultural forces within our world do not take away our free will--entirely. For some, especially writers, language itself is the primary arena within which individual assertivenss and agency is manifest. For them talk is more important than action, indeed talk itself is action because words determine thoughts and actions. "Language... is the parent, and not the child, of thought.... Men are the slaves of words."
My resistance to the dominant mores of my time has been articulated, made public, and critiqued in several textual identities of which this autobiography is one. The personal agency of my discernment, my autonomy, thus declares itself in my writing which becomes the site of my resistance to the dominant ideology of my time and its major cultural manifestations. This resistence takes place with the aid of the great power of retrospect and hindsight and so gives to much of the messiness of life, order and shape. In the end, though, much is messiness. If I give to my life artistic form and spiritual vision and design in retrospect; if I discover a more profound truth in the context of this vision than an unfertilized collection of facts could deliver, I understand that is part of a design-imposed, meaning-making, process that I give to my life. Perhaps a great deal of what has happened to me is fate, destiny, a certain predestination. Such was the view Henry James took of his life when he wrote his autobiography in the evening of his life. There is little doubt of the importance of fate from a Baha’i perspective. I wish I could say in this context that my sentences had a quality of stunning exactitude, lyricism and comedy, an aphoristic concision but, alas, style is not a quality bestowed on me as it was on Flaubert. Perhaps this is because I have not been willing to work at it as obsessively as he. But every writer has style as he or she has breath.
Autobiography's ultimate purpose, James felt, was to fix the self for all time, to put forth the idea that the autobiographer matters and that his life is significant in the supposed order of things. I certainly like to think my life matters, that it has meaning in the ultimate scheme of things, that in writing this autobiography I am not merely imposing form on chaos, that all that I think is not merely an exercise in subjectivity, that my life is not so deeply private as to be beyond scientific scrutiny, that it derives its importance from factors beyond that which is unsystematic, even chaotic, uncommunicable and emotional in life. The scientific domain contains an important element of subjectivity and total objectivity is always impossible. One of the key elements of science is that it exists in, indeed generates, a community, a framework, of interpretation. Indeed, the scientist can only function within such a community. That is also true, at least in some ways, for this autobiographer. The community in question for me is the Baha’i community

And, more generally, the human community.
What makes my work scientific is that I am engaged in a “conscious, explicit organization of knowledge and experience.” I am not just engaged in making true statements. One can do this in any quiz or games like trivial pursuit. Proof, in scientific terms and in autobiography, “means nothing more than the total process by which we render a statement more acceptable than its negation.” An important caveat here is that the convictions I bring to this exercise, my feelings of certitude, indeed much that I might call tentative hypotheses for example, are part of a psychological state not part of my knowledge. Certitude can often be had with no knowledge at all and hypotheses are things anyone can make. Our emotions organize themselves around our convictions and become part of our way of life. This is one’s faith, one’s religion. And we all have a religion in this sense; there exists around this religion or faith a theoretical uncertainty and it exists for all of us.



Such is some of the intellectual orientation, some of my foundation position, that I bring to this autobiography. Nothing convinces an artist more of the arbitrariness of the means to which he resorts to attain a goal, to assert this autonomy, however permanent it may be, than the creative process itself, the process of composition. Verse really does, in Akhmatova's words, grow from rubbish among other things. To express this same idea more elegantly, one could say that verse grows out of slime the same way as a lotus flower. The roots of prose are no more honorable. But there in the roots can also be found faith and thought the lotus flower’s embryo. Without faith and thought no society can long endure and without a common humanity and a practical basis for world order appauling catastrophe threatens to engulf humanity. And autobiography would be meaningless without faith and thought.
As this autobiography has come to take form increasingly since I began writing it over twenty years ago, I have felt a measure of literary and psychological power and humility. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that self-narrative is a tool used to gain self-determinacy. This work is also partly an illness narrative, partly a salvation narrative, partly a travel narrative, as autobiographers often call the various sub-genres of their work. Partly, too, this autobiography is an act of becoming and re-becoming. Through self-narration I partly re-make myself, re-fashion and re-invent a new understanding of myself. With this story I try to resist the several disabling definitions that could label my life and so to write myself into/with a rhetorical normalcy. Narrative is used as a tool, a technology, that is intended to be a vehicle to freedom, self-definition, and self-expression.
An important part of this tool of autobiography is repetition which Arthur Frank says is a medium of this becoming. And all this becoming, all this repetition, took place in a world of memorabilia with all its metaphysical significance. Perhaps at a later date I will expand on this notion of the metaphorical significance, metaphorical nature, of physical reality in general and this memorabilia in particular. But, for now, I just want to mention this importnat aspect of both autobiography and life.
Any writer, and especially those like myself who have spent a good part of their lives in Australia, cannot but see that the power of religion, especially belief in revelation, is weaker today than it was in any other epoch in human history. More and more children grow up without faith in God, without belief in reward and punishment, in the immortality of the soul and even in the validity, the importance, of a common ethical system. The genuine writer cannot ignore the fact that the family is losing its spiritual foundation. Such were the views of Isaac Bashevis Singer, expressed in his 1978 Nobel Lecture given about ten days before I left Ballarat for Tasmania. When Singer wrote these words in 1978 I was struggling with another episode of manic-depression; I was out of work and with three kids and a wife; I was more concerned about my own spiritual foundations than society’s. Many would agree with Singer. Like so many issues, I think the ones raised by Singer are more complex and require much more than two or three core sentences. I think the ideas Singer expresses here are substantially true; the issues surrounding them are not simple, though, and so I will leave this issue for another volume.
In life we do not have direct access to the thoughts of other people. We have to infer the working of other minds from surface phenomena such as speech, body language, behavior, and action. R. D. Laing put the point vividly: “your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man’s invisibility to man.” This autobiography and whatever memorabilia remains of my life has taken away some of the invisibility. But still, however much I have put together clues to my life and described its unfolding patterns, however much I have developed various theses about why I and others reacted to the possibilities and circumstances the way they did, I could easily have wasted my time and never touched the truth. This is a theoretical possiblity that the autobiographer must acknowledge. Unlike Samuel Beckett, though, in his discussion of Proust, I am not a writer suffering mysterious agonies whose origins are unclear to him. Most of the agonies I have suffered in life have been all too clear to me. Like Beckett’s work on Proust, though, my autobiography is also intended as an academic study.
In that half century before the Declaration of the Bab in 1844, when His two precursors were alerting people to the coming fulfillment, Goethe made the following comment about his great oeuvre. He called his work one big confession. Looking at his work and the work of other great writers in the broadest sense, you could say the same of them all: Shakespeare, Balzac, Wordsworth, etc. We find, so runs the argument, total self-examination and self-accusation, a total confession — very naked, I think, when we look into it. “Maybe it's the same with any writing,” said the British poet laureate, Ted Hughes, “writing that has real poetic life.”
Hughes went on to say in that same interview that “maybe all poetry, insofar as it moves us and connects with us, is a revealing of something that the writer doesn't actually want to say, but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of. Perhaps it's the need to keep it hidden that makes it poetic — makes it poetry.” The poet is actually saying something he desperately needs to share. The real mystery is this strange need. Why can't he just hide it and shut up? Why does he have to blab? Why do human beings need to tell their stories and confess? Maybe the writer doesn’t have some secret story, some narrative that he can’t get out most of the time, some confession; maybe he doesn’t have a poem — doesn’t even have a story to put on paper.

Maybe we don't even have a writer.
If most poetry doesn't seem to be in any sense confessional, it's because the strategy of concealment, of obliquity, can be so compulsive that it's almost entirely successful. The smuggling analogy may help us here. The smuggler is loaded with interesting cargo that seems to be there for its own sake but, in reality, it’s there for another purpose. I do a little smuggling here in my autobiography, but I feel as if I’ve declared most of my baggage, most of the items in my larder, so to speak. If my larder collects something of the food of other writers, I usually declare it. I draw on other writers because I find in reading their works and biographies I am so often reading about myself. Reading the words of famous writers often seems tantamount to reading about oneself, writing about them becomes pleasureably self-revelatory?
Writers, autobiographers, indeed, all human beings, throw off some of their luggage when they talk or write. But to tell it all is just not appropriate. They and we deliberately strip off the veiling analogies occasionally and go to the root confessing some item of one’s deeper life. The luggage, the baggage, is open to all for inspection. Perhaps Sylvia Plath in our time, in the months before the Universal House of Justice was elected, in early 1962, went further than most. “Her secret,” Ted Hughes said, “was most dangerous to her. She desperately needed to reveal it. You can't overestimate her compulsion to write as she did. She had to write those things — even against her most vital interests. She died before she knew what The Bell Jar and the Ariel poems were going to do to her life, but she had to get them out.
She had to tell everybody like those Native American groups who periodically tell everything that was wrong and painful in their lives in the presence of the whole tribe. It was no good doing it in secret; it had to be done in front of everybody else. Maybe that's why poets go to such lengths to get their poems published. It's no good just whispering them to a priest or a confessional. And it's not for fame, because they go on doing it after they've learned what fame amounts to. No, until the revelation's actually published, the poet feels no release. In all that, Sylvia was an extreme case, I think.”
I suppose I got this sense of release on the internet in the early years of this new millennium. I certainly was not interested in fame, as I pointed out elsewhere in this autobiography. Like Plath I felt compelled to write but, unlike Plath or those native American groups, I did not feel the need to tell all. With more than 1000 pages, though, there is enough to keep most readers busy for a time. I’ve had a need to write about the Baha’i Faith for, perhaps, forty years. My autobiography gave me this opportunity. It also gave me the opportunity in which I could say 'me voici', 'it's me here.'
Peter Read, in his article Private Papers and a Sense of Place in an online seminar Private Lives Revealed: Letters, Diaries, History,1 analyses the nineteenth century English poet John Clare’s verse. He sees Clare’s verse as an interesting example of private papers. Clare's poetry was so eclectic, his language so personal, his personal involvement so touching, that Read argues that Clare’s poetry was much more akin to a collection of private papers that we might find in a library than to the poetry of a poet who could have become, but didn't, one of the best-known poets of the nineteenth century. Instead, wrote the cultural historian John Barrell in discussing Clare, “insofar as Clare was successful in expressing his own sense of place, he was writing himself out of the main stream of European literature.”] Accomplished poets and novelists are fully aware of the need for their readers to be able to generalise from the emotions which they present about a described particular place to their own world view and life experiences. Private papers often reveal such private emotions, and private emotions often reveal intense, ungeneralised concerns for particularities which hardly ever surface amongst the published works of professional writers. I mention this article and the poet John Clare because I sometimes think that all of my writing could be seen as a simple, if lengthy, collection of private papers.



During the last two decades, while I was writing this autobiography, some of the scientific work from the physical and biological sciences and the philosophy of science was turning away from regular and smooth systems in order to investigate more fragmented, more chaotic phenomena. So, too, in the study of the writing of autobiography there was an increasing consciousness, an increasing interest, in autobiography’s complexity, ambiguity, indeed, its chaotic content. In the last two decades there has been much interest in chaos theory, but I don’t want to go into this labyrinthine subject. There is certainly an element of the fragmented, of the chaotic, in my own life, in all our lives. Sometimes the feeling of life’s fragmentation, its lack of cohesion, partakes of a certain absurdity, a certain vanity and emptiness. Sometimes these feelings are pervasive and sometimes they are short-lived, momentary feelings. This new direction in autobiography can be seen emerging all the way back to the 1950s.
Rather than seeing form, literary or physical, as something divided into the classical binaries of order and entropy, form now is often regarded as a continuum expressing varying degrees of pattern and repetition, elements that are at the core of structure, any structure. At one end of the continmuum we find extreme order, pattern and traditional forms and at the other end we find gibberish, chaos and disorder. Fragmentation is something we all experience and it is found between life’s extremes and at the extremes as well. Fractal autobiography works in the ground between the extremes of life. Digression, interruption, fragmentation and lack of continuity, then, are part of the normal world of autobiography. Fractal comes form the Latin for fragmented or broken: hence the term fractal autobiography.
As architect Nigel Reading writes, "Pure Newtonian causality is an incorrect, a finite view, of life’s processes, but then again so is the aspect of complete uncertainty and infinite chance." The nature of reality is now seen as somewhere in between. One writer called this interplay between chance and causality, a dynamical symmetry. It occurs to me that this shift in focus from a simple, a polarized view of life to a more dynamic, more complex, more chaotic view is something that is expressed in, found in, my autobiography. Of course the whole idea of freedom, of free will, is an illusion “in a world where every effect must have a necessary and sufficient physical cause.” It’s an old conundrum, free-will and determinism.. I like to think that we overcome this emcompassing determinism by what Whitehead calls a “creative advance into novelty.”
The poetry, the autobiography, I am calling fractal shares many traits with that contested term--postmodern. Often the postmodern writer dismisses the very idea that a historical, coherent, composite person ever existed. The biographer does not have to dig for true persons with existential truths surrounding their lives. For such people and such truths do not exist. Some historical figures, like Dickens and Shakespeare, are so large, so amorphous, that they can take whatever shape biographers want to give them. Many a postmodernist would argue that voice "is a patchwork of other people's voices" as well as their own. I would argue, with the postmodernist, that this work of mine is, among other things, but an echo of hundreds of different books that I read in preparing to write this autobiography. To many a postmodernist I simply don’t really exist as a character. I’m just a little patchwork figure. In someways this is an exaggeration, but it contains some of the spirit of the approach of the postmodernist to autobiography. These remarks contain, too, some of the spirit of my own approach, my own understanding, of this literary creation of mine.
Some contemporary poetries and genres of autobiography show an allegiance to romantic, confessional or formalist traditions. And so does some of my work. Fractal poetry, fractal aesthetics and fractal autobiography describe another feature of my literary topography. When poets and autobiographers address aesthetics, their own work, their writing, inevitably shades their views. I write from perceptions of where my poems, my autobiography, have been lately and where they are both likely to be headed. I write in a middle, a fractal, ground between the elitist and populist polarities or views of autobiography.
In conventional fiction and autobiography a narrative continuity is usually and clearly discernible. But it is impossible to create an absorbing narrative, it seems to me, without at the same time enriching it with images, asides, themes and variations—impulses from within. This is evident in much fiction: Joyce, Kafka, Virginia Woolf, and Faulkner are obvious examples. The narrative line has tended to weaken, merge with, and be dominated by, the sum of variations. This is also true in much autobiography. Each narrative step in a great deal of modern writing is likely to provoke many sidewinding pages before the next narrative step is taken. A lot of the power of many writers is to be found in these sidewindings. In addition, a writer’s side-glances or, as Emily Dickinson called the process, 'looking aslant on the world', are equally important. What happens in jazz when the melody merges with the improvisations and the improvisations dominate has been happening in fiction and autobiography for some time now.



This is certainly true in both my autobiography and my poetry. There is some narrative in my autobiography and there is a sense of continuity which is clear, but there are also variations, improvisations, sidewindings, side-glances and impulses from within. The earlier senses of 'form' in previous centuries in both autobiography and poetry are not important to me. I have rejected them as irrelevant to what I am aiming to achieve. Perhaps, to put the issue more accurately and more simply, I have introduced my own autobiographical mix and my own prose-poem form because it serves my purposes more usefully. There is a conceptual focus in my writing and the literal activity of the writing itself is very often my focus. This may prove difficult for some readers as it has often proved difficult for me.

The objects which occur to me at any given moment of composition, what we might call objects of recognition, can be, must be, are, treated exactly as they occur to my mind and my senses. Ideas, imaginations, abstractions, conceptions, preconceptions from outside this sensory apparatus, world, paradigm are, for me, introduced to enrich the sensory, the intellectual, picture. They are handled as a series of additions to a field in such a way that a series of tensions are created. These tensions are made to hold and to hold exactly inside the content and the context of my autobiography and its prose and poetry. This content and context has forced itself into being through me, through my writing as autobiographer and poet. This is a central aspect of anything I might say about the memorabilia which will remain after I am gone and the memorabilia which is irretrievable.
The self-chosen place of the autobiographical mode, the point of real reference, is the act and the situation of writing, which provides a sense of coherence. Coherence can be obtained in many ways in life. But, for me, the autobiographical mode, the situation of writing and its products are an important aid. The recent increase of writings in the autobiographical mode, perhaps as far back as the early 1950s, seems to represent both a reaction to the so-called crisis of the novel and a possible artistic solution to the fragmentary nature of human experience. Yet at the same time the autobiographical turn reveals the paradox inherent in this form. My autobiography reflects a nostalgia for stability, continuity, the past experiences and its memories as well as life’s vacuous, empty, semblances of reality, absurdities and vanities.
Conventional autobiographies could be regarded as the proper medium for the realistic representation of a self and for the narrative recovery of past events from the perspective of the present. Many contemporary autobiographical texts of the last half century stress the illusory nature of such mythopoetic endeavours. Due to the breakdown of a clear demarcation between reality and fiction or reality and imagination, the traditional conception of the autobiographical genre has lost its degree of certainty and truth. Any sense of perfection, of completeness, of comprehensiveness cannot be achieved in written works and most certainly not in these kinds of writings composed of thousands and thousands of potential scraps of recollection--so runs the argument. Memory follows exactly the course of events and chronology, but that which emerges from this chronology is totally different from the actual happening. This is partly due to memory’s role in transfiguring the past by bathing things in a sentimental glow, making the good old days appear more beautiful than they actually were. Also, I have come to regard my life as a matter of events of the soul, events which, to quote Levinas again, “resemble mystery rather than spectacle, and whose meaning remains hidden to whoever refuses to enter into the dance”.
A few years ago I heard an interview with Australian historian Inga Clendinnen. She said the following about memory: “Memory is profoundly unreliable and profoundly coercive. Memories can seem absolutely real, realer than reality, as you know quite well when you get a sudden whiff of a scent and you're transported back into some situation you'd thought you'd forgotten and you remember everything about it. You know, the sound of the magpies, the smell of the grass, it's there, held in that whiff of scent.” And she continued: “I think we construct our memories. I think we have vivid sense impressions and out of them we construct a narrative and the narrative is about the sense we make of what's happening to us and our dominant mood and what we think matters about the scenes we're involved with. And we classically do this very slightly, of necessity, after the event. And then those memories which are personal and private and vivid can become consolidated into a kind of group narrative as with family memories.”
I think Clendinnen is right here. At least my experience reflects her views on memory. I often tell stories about something in my life and, after many years of telling a particular story, I begin to wonder if any of what I am saying is true. But I remember the story and I have come to treat it as gospel truth for so long that I feel it to be gospel truth. And it is truth because it matters to me. There's a whole lot of social meaning being invested in our stories and tales.
Cherished memories are often all a person has, but they are often false in terms of many of their basic substantive details. That's the problem with human memory. It's both fallible and creative. It's also our most private, personal and cherished possession. If you attack someone's memories, you're attacking the seams of their being. Nonetheless it's the historian’s and the autobiogrpaher’s jobs to tackle their own and other people's memories. As an autobiographer it is important that I really understand just how perverse and creative memory is and it must be kept under close scrutiny.
Listed below is a brief outline are some potential scraps of recollection and memory that have not made it into this autobiography.
APPENDIX 1: MATERIAL/RESOURCES/INFORMATION

NOT FOUND IN THIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
The material below is found in my home in its study and, although not included in this autobiography, it could be useful for future autobiographical, biographical and historical work.
SECTION III Characters/Biographies: 24(ca) short sketches
SECTION V Published Work : Essays-170(ca):

See(a) Resume Vol.5 Ch 1 above

(b) Section V: Volumes 1&2 of private collection.
SECTION VI Unpublished Work: Essays-Volumes 1 & 2-200 essays(ca)

........................1979-2006

Novels-Volumes 1 to 3---12 attempts

..........................1983-2006
SECTION VII Letters: Volumes 1 to 35: 3000 letters(ca)... 1960-2006
SECTION VIII Poetry: Booklets 1-59: 6000 poems(ca)........ 1980-2006
SECTION IX Notebooks: 300(ca)................1965-2006
SECTION X.1 Photographs: 12 files/booklets/folios.............1908-2006

SECTION X.2 Journals: Volumes 1 to 5.........................1844-2006
SECTION XI Memorabilia..........................…1908-2006

It has been my view, in writing this work, that a piece of autobiographical literature is most effectively religious, psychological, sociological, historical and, indeed, any one or many terms I might apply, not by propounding abstract dogma, theory or general propositions, but by representing human experience concretely and honestly-whatever the professed beliefs of the author. My thesis, if I could call it that, is that the work of unbelievers like writers Yeats and Faulkner, or of Eliot before his conversion, can present a vision of reality of profound significance to Baha’is insofar as it is faithful to the truth of human experience.
Though Beethoven's final religious views are somewhat obscure and Mozart was associated with the Masons, their musical creations often furnish far greater spiritual enhancements to our lives than many of those being contributed by devout believers in our time. By the same token, the first thing a Baha’i should ask about a work of literature of this type I have written is whether it is honestly and skillfully crafted. Of course, I have studiously avoided the works of covenant breakers in composing this autobiography. While this may be strange to those who are not Baha’is, it is only consistent with the teachings of my Faith, teachings at the basis of this work.
And so concludes some 10,000 words of epilogue to my autobiography, further reflections on the overall process, a process that has interested me, off and on, for twenty-two years.
The first essay in this collection is an ‘introduction' to the published essays I wrote in Katherine between 1983 and 1986. These essays appeared in Katherine papers and may be the first extended series of serious essays in the popular press by a Bahá'í in Australian Bahá'í history. I do not know. I sent them to the BWCL several years ago. Now the essays have a fitting introduction, one I am happy with anyway.

These essays, in the pages that follow, might one day appear in a collection of published essays. For several reasons they are not the kind of writing that Bahá'í publishers are interested in putting on the market. Other publishing priorities are paramount. They contribute to my story in ways that my poems do not and so I include them here in this booklet. With the unpublished essays I have already sent and the published ones this should bring the total number of essays to two hundred, or about one hundred and fifty thousand words.

Ron Price

31 January 1998

INTRODUCTION

For the most part, if not entirely, the essays in these two volumes were written between 1984 and 1994. For the most part, too, they were never published. They represent an archive of material from my second decade of significant writing, the first decade being 1974-1984 during which I kept none of my essays, but during which I worked at post-secondary schools and colleges and wrote a great deal.

They are part of what I now see as a long warm-up phase of writing, a warm-up phase that, arguably, could be seen as going back to 1962 to 1964 when I began my matriculation studies, my pioneer life and my four years of study in the arts and teaching. Some of my writing in this second decade, 1984-1994, got published, about 150 essays in Katherine NT. and various other pieces. I keep these pieces in three other files.

After this long warm-up period of some thirty years I began writing in a serious, committed way and have done so for ten years(1992-2002). These two files will serve as a useful base for evaluating what might be seen as some of what has been a long and critical 'developmental phase', of what has now become forty years of writing.-26 March 2002

INTRODUCTION

For the most part, if not entirely, these essays were written in 1993 and 1994. For the most part, too, they were never published. They represent an archive of material from my second decade of significant writing, the first decade being 1974-1984 during which I kept very few of my essays, and during which I worked at post-secondary schools and colleges and wrote a great deal. Some were published in Katherine newspapers.

I now see these essays as part of a long warm-up phase of writing, some thirty years(1962-1992), a warm-up phase that, arguably, could be seen as going back to 1962/3 when I began my matriculation studies, my pioneer life and my four years of study in the arts and teaching.

Some of my writing in this second decade, 1984-1994, got published, about 150 essays in Katherine NT. and various other pieces. I keep the published pieces in four other files. After this long warm-up period of three decades I began writing in a serious, committed way and have done so for ten years(1992-2002). These essays will serve as a useful base for evaluating what might be seen as the end of what has been a long and critical 'developmental phase' and the beginning of what has now been ten years of more 'mature' writing.

March 26, 2002

MY JOURNEY THROUGH SOCIOLOGY

I remember that first year, which ended in early May of 1964, just before I got a job checking telephone poles for internal decay, there was a tutor who was able to explain the mysteries of Parsons better than anyone. Everyone admired him as if he was a brilliant theologian who had just arrived from the Vatican with authoritative pronouncements for us all to write down on our A-4 note paper to be regurgitated on the April examination. He was an Englishman, if I remember, rather slim and a good talker.

For a year I had no contact with sociology, except for a short period of time toward the end of my second year at university. I got to know a young woman of 27 who had one son and who studied sociology. I took her ice-skating in about February of 1965. I can't quite remember how I met her but for two or three months I went to the occasional lecture with her in sociology. She had a passion for helping Africans and I had a passion for her. Our mutual passions interlocked nicely and it was this reciprocity that led us to join together in third year sociology.

I took six courses in sociology that year, enough to bring the dead to life, or should I say enough to kill any enthusiasms for sociology. In retrospect it was fortuitous that Canadian universities begin in mid-September with exams starting in mid-April. With the Christmas break, the week off for Easter and exam study the student is left with six months of lectures-reading-tutorials. That is about all one can stand of reading sociology. The cold Canadian wnters keep it all on chill: nothing like a brisk walk to class in sociology 3A6 to examine the essence of Marxism, if there is an essence, or the intricacies of functionalism. Part of me always wanted to take it seriously and part of me found it such a burden of words that my already incipient depression just got another kick-start on its way.

Anyway, I got through my third year and found myself with a BA bracket sociology end-of-bracket. I did not get my degree until November because when the transcript came out in June I was four or five marks short of a passing grade, 60%. I had to pay a visit to the Head of the Department, a gentle spirit who frequently imbibed a white wine, a beer, a claret and who taught me sociological statistics. This was the most mysterious of all arts in this youthful discipline of about 100 years of age. I remember, yes, as if it was yesterday, sitting in his class writing down as much as I could in the hope of unravelling it leisurely at home in a quiet evening where I lived over a restaurant in the small town of Dundas, 15 minutes away on a good hitch-hike. Of course I never did, unravel it I mean; night after night I'd ponder these mathematical symbols in the hope that sincerity and effort would pay off. In this case they did not and here I was eight weeks after the end of the year asking him for a few marks. He came to the party, probably because it was late afternoon and by then he'd already had a few and he was one of those drinkers who gets friendlier after knocking back a few.

I had periodic dalliances with sociology after that graduating year of 1966. At teachers' college we had a sociology unit. I had to go to a teachers' college to get some practical qualification because sociology was good for absolutely nothing insofar as a career was concerned. I could have tied it to social work as well as teaching, but untied to anything about the only use it had was at a bar in the evening, with your girfriend discussing your(and her) inner life, driving a taxi and sitting around filling in time reading books. However useful sociology may be in this private domain, you can't take it far as the cornerstone of a career.
I came to teach sociology in 1974 to trainee teachers in Launceston, in 1975 to library technician trainees in Melbourne, in 1976-78 in Ballarat to engineers and social science majors. When I lived in Katherine I taught it occasionally in adult education to evening classes and in Port Hedland to students in management courses. In the early 1990s in Perth I taught sociology in Certificate courses and here I am again in 1997 teaching sociology for human service workers. After thirty years I find myself combing library shelves through books which I first saw over thirty years ago with hundreds of additions. Some of the material is highly stimulating and some as dry and coagulating as a sewer after a long period of no rain. The books are still as fat and I find I can not spend more than an hour hunting them down. An immense fatigue sets in toward the end of the first hour and I must scoop up my allotment of seven or eight books to read in the leisurely quiet of my home with a cold or a hot drink in my hand.
I look forward in my dotage to a long and happy life with this strange field I chanced upon some thirty years ago when I was trying to avoid the world of work and its deadening and so often predictable stamp of boredom. The labyrinthine channels of sociology one can travel in forever; the library shelves are getting more extensive; it is a burgeoning field as are all fields now. The river of sociology, now in its middle age, perhaps, will flow on into its third century while I get old. And when my days are long and I am freed from the work-a-day world and its routines I will play among its waters, bathing myself in its endless streams, having learned how to avoid drowning in its heady froth. I will only sample its choicest and its freshest glasses of refreshment. For by then I will be an accomplished connoisseur of its mysteries. I will be old and ready for my final hour.*

Ron Price

16 March 1997

* Two years and two weeks after writing this essay I retired from the teaching profession and from teaching sociology. By March 2000, three years after the pleasure of writing the above 'summary of experience,' I had seven arch lever files of notes, the residue from those many years of dabbling in sociology in my study in a house in George Town, the oldest town in Australia. By then I had begun to sample only the choice bits of the field that I enjoyed the most: sociological theory. I continued what I had done since my first contact with sociology in 1963, enlarge my understanding of the Cause through the insights of this useful discipline. I also found myself teaching sociology in a School for Seniors (19/8/2000). My final hour had begun.

FUNNIES AND WEE-WISDOMS

I wrote a little(2000 word) bit of prose on "Wee-Wisdoms and Funnies: A Sub-Genre of the Email Industry" due to the many I've received(my guess is about 10% of all emails since 1991)in the last decade. I hope you enjoy the read.

To: All senders of 'Wee-wisdoms and Funnies'

I hope you enjoy this little piece of gentle satire, analysis and comment. It will serve as a more detailed response to the many emails from yourself and others over recent months and, for some email correspondents, years. When you are not teaching sociology and the several social sciences, as I had been doing for so many years; when you are not having your mind kept busy by a hundred students a week, other things come into the gap: like responding to emails. Emails need to be given some sort of analysis-at least the genre I am concerned with-given their increasing frequency as a form of communication. This piece is probably a little too long given the general orthodoxy of email communication. Perhaps you could see this as one of the long articles on the internet that you need to copy for future reading, rather than one of those 'quick-hit-emails' you receive as part of your daily quota. Then, perhaps, your emotional equipment will be able to make a positive adjustment to the lengthy(some might say verbose) piece of communication that it is.

Funwisdum, the editor mentioned in the following paragraph, in the end, rejected my contribution to his book, but encouraged me to try for his next collection so impressed was he with the quality of the short essay which follows. I trust you enjoy it, too, even if it is a little longer than my normal missives, and even if it is a little too critical of the genre it is concerned with. And, if you don't enjoy it, I hope you at least tolerate its presence. For we must all, in and out of the world of emails, increasingly learn to tolerate each other's eccentricities, thus making the world an easier place to live in.

WEE-WISDOMS AND FUNNIES: A SUB-GENRE OF THE EMAIL INDUSTRY
Ron Price, "Wee-Wisdoms and Funnies: A Sub-Genre of the Email Industry," Human Communication in the Twenty-First Century, editor, Harry Funwisdum, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 45-63.

The following is a digest of Price's twenty-one pages that did NOT make it into Funwisdum's new book. Price is a prolific writer and, although he is neither famous nor rich, he churns out some provocative stuff from his word-factory on the Tamar River, at Port Dalrymple, in northern Tasmania.
Receiving so many 'funnies' and 'words-of-wisdom' as I do week after week, for over a decade now, from a small coterie of people, I thought I would try to respond more befittingly than I normally do with my perfunctory and usually brief set of phrases and sentences, if indeed I respond at all. What you find below is a more reflective piece that sets all these wisdoms and funnies I receive from you--and others--in some perspective, a perspective that derives in large measure from my years as a teacher/lecturer and from well-nigh half a century now of imbibing funnies and wisdoms from a multitude of sources. It is probably these years as a teacher that have resulted in my habit, engrained after all these years, of responding-if I can- to any and all incoming mail/email. I enjoyed teaching but, as the years approached thirty-in-the-game, I got tired of much of what was involved in the process. Some of the emails and letters I receive now are somewhat like pieces of work I used to have to mark. Like making comments on the work of students, I think it important to respond to such emails and letters with courtesy and with honesty. This is not always easy for courtesy and honesty do not sit easily together, especially if the content of the received material is neither funny nor edifying, as is the case with so much of the material I receive.
It has been ten years since the email became part of my daily life. This short think-piece is a reflection on an aspect of the email industry as well as a celebration of the many advantages of this wonderful, although not always rewarding or intellectually engaging, mechanism of technology. I think I write this for me more than I do for you, since the thrust of so much of this sub-genre of email communication does not, for the most part, require any reflection, or at least a minimum of reflection. I really wanted to have a think about an aspect of this industry that has engaged my attention for some of these last ten years. Quick hits, so many emails are, like jokes themselves-"affections arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing," as the philosopher Emmanuel Kant once defined laughter. Perhaps, they are a sign of "a mind lively and at ease, as Emma once said in Jane Austin's book by the same name. These quick hits require quick responses, if any at all. Many of the emails--both the funnies and the wee-wisdoms--are funny or wise and sometimes both. But given their frequency over a decade now, I felt like making some 'statement' about them.
Is this humour and wisdom? Or is it the trivialization of the human battle, as the literary critic Susan Langer once defined so much of the output of the electronic media factories? I hope you don't find this little 'think-piece' too heavy, too much thinking, too long without the quick-natural-lift, message or laugh that is part of a particular sub-genre of emails these days. In the end you may see me as too critical but, as I used to say to my students, that is the risk you take when you open your mouth or write.

CARRY ON GANG
I have been giving and receiving various forms of advice/wisdom for some 50 years now, 2002 back to 1952 when my mother began to read passages each morning to me from The Daily Word, a publication of the Unity School of Christian Thought with its world centre in Madison Wisconson, if I recall correctly after all these years; and Bahá'í prayers from a religion that had been in Canada then for a little more than fifty years. Life began to assume a more serious aspect in the years of my late childhood and, then, in my teens, school, sport, girls and entertainment found some competition in life's round of activities from the more earnest side of life. First as a student imbibing wisdom from the several founts of knowledge I was then exposed to or that I investigated as a youth(teens and twenties); and then as a teacher/lecturer in the social sciences(including human relations, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, working in teams, a list of subjects as long as your proverbial arm)I received and dispensed advice and wisdoms in a multitude of forms. I was clearly into the advice and wisdom business right from the dawn of my life. It was part of the very air I breathed.
I'm sure even in those years of unconsciousness, in utero and in early childhood, I had my very earliest experiences of wee wisdoms. For my mother was one of those seekers, always willing to try on a new idea if it came into town. And now, twenty-five years after her passing, I have a small books of the wee wisdoms she collected in those embryonic years. I should by now be a fount of unusually perspicacious aphorisms from the wisdom literature of history, or at the very least run 'wisdom workshops' for the lean and hungry.
The funnies department was never as extensive or successful as the wee-wisdom section. Right from my first exposure to jokes about: Newfees, Polocks and the Irish or the genitals of males and females, I generally found much of the humour distasteful back in my late chilhood and adolesence. Although I must confess that thirty years of living in Australia has taught me a rich appreciation of the funny side of life probably due to the humour that lurks below the surface of so much of Australian culture or inevitably bubbles to the surface in this essentially pleasure-loving people. Here humour is compulsory. By now,I should have an accummulation of jokes-and-funnies to keep everyone laughing in perpetuity.
But instead I feel a little like the marriage guidance counsellor who has been married six times. He has never been able to pull-it-off, marriage that is, but he has had a lot of experience trying.
For some fifteen years, during that part of my educative process when I was a teacher, I used to give out "a summary of the wisdom of the ages" on several sheets of A-4 paper to the approximately one hundred students I had every term or semester. Thousands of intending 'students of leisure and life' and I went through the material to see if we could come up with the 'wisest of the wise' stuff, practical goodies for the market-place and the inner man/woman. For the most part I enjoyed the process. Giving and receiving advice was a buzz, particularly when it was sugar-coated with humour. Advice-giving can be a tedious activity and the advice can act as a weight even if it is good advice, unless the context is right. Humour often makes it so.
Now that I approach the evening of my life, the wisdom continues to float in, unavoidably, inevitably. From emails and the internet,among other sources, material is obtained from:

(i) the wisdom literature of the great historical religions;

(ii) the wisdom of the philosophical traditions(outside religion);

(iii) the wisdom of popular psychology and the social sciences(usually from the fields of (a) human relations, (b) interpersonal skills, (c) pop-psychology, (d) management and organizational behaviour and (e) endless funnies and wee-wisdoms from known and unknown word factories.
Unlike some of the other academic fields like, say, the biological and physical sciences, the social sciences(the disciplines in which the wisdom literarture is now located are either old like history, philosophy and religion, or young like economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, human relations, etc.) are all inexact, highly subjective and infinitely more complex than the physical and biological sciences. Everybody and their dog can play at dispensing their wisdoms, with the dogs sometimes providing the best advice in the form of close friendships, at least for some people with canine proclivities. Unlike the physical and biological sciences,too,knowledge and experience is not required. Anyone can play the game. Often the untutored and apparently ignorant and those who have read nothing at all in the field, can offer humble wisdoms and funnies which excel the most learned, with or without their PhDs. So be warned: it's a mine field, this advice and wisdom business.
The result for many practitioners who would really like to be both wise and entertaining is the experience of a field that resembles a mud-pie, poorly constructed and not of much use to humanity, although lots of laughs are had and wisdom gets distributed liberally. The industry, the word factories, pour out their wisdoms and their humour with greater frequency with every passing day.
I felt like having a little think about this sub-genre of emails at this ten year mark and this half-way point(if I live to be 108!) in what you might call my wisdom/advice-lifeline, as I, and you, continue to imbibe the endless supply of resources available from the endless supply of word factories. I hope the satire here is gentle and does not bite too hard or at all. Canadians are on the whole nice people who try to perform their operations on their patients in such a way that they leave the hospital without the suspicion they have even been operated on, but with the new glands fully installed for daily use. Like the pick-pocket and the burglar, I want to get in there and out without alerting anyone to my work. The New Testament calls it the act of: 'The Thief in the Night.' But, again, this is a prophecy capable of many interpretations, as all prophecies are.
I send this your way in response to the many emails I've received in this sub-genre in recent months/years. There are, perhaps, a dozen people now who are 'into this sub-genre' and who send me this special type of material in the course of a year. This dozen sends me many delightful pieces, more it seems as the years go by, including photos to embellish the content of the wisdom and humour.
I feel, after so many years of giving it out as a teacher, it is only fair that I now receive it all as graciously as mine was accepted by my students over those many years. Like my in-class jokes, some of the material I receive is funny, some not-so-funny; some is wise, some not-so-wise. But, then, you can't win them all. Both wisdom and humour are irrepressible. So, carry on gang.

George Bernard Shaw used to say that "I can no more write what people want than I can play the fiddle." So he wrote what he thought they needed. What people need and what they want are usually not the same. Many found George presumptuous. I hope what you find here is not in the same category as Shaw's, presumptuous that is. I hope, too, that this somewhat lengthy read has been worth your while. If not, well, you now have:

.....ten choices regarding what to do next:

(i) delete it;

(ii) print and save for pondering because it's wise, clever and something quite personal from the sender;

(iii) read it again now, then delete it;

(iv) save the very good bits and delete the rest;

(v) none of these;

(vi) all of these, if that is possible;

(vii) write your own think-piece on this sub-genre of emails;

(viii) send me a copy of your 'writing on this sub-genre of emails' for(a) my evaluation(1)or (b) my pleasure;

(ix) don't send your evaluation to me; and

(x) don't think about what I've written; just dismiss it as the meanderings of a man moving speedily toward his last years of middle adulthood(the 40 to 60 block).

(1) using(a) the scale: A+(91-100), A(81-90) and A-(75-80); B+(71-74),B(68-70) and B-(65-67); C+(60-64, C(55-59) and C-(50-54); D(25-49 hold and try again) and E(0-24 attend a workshop on 'wisdoms and funnies'); and (b) anecdotal feedback.
THE CREATIVE INSPIRATION
In some ways I see this paper as a continuation of the paper I delivered in 1990 at the ABS Conference that year in Perth on "The Inner Life and the Environment". It is a contiuation of that paper in the sense that what I want to stress here in this paper is the same thing I stressed in that 1990 paper: the inner lifer and private character. For it is here that ‘the creative inspiration' finds its origins. I can't begin in a better place than quoting that passage of the Guardian, a passage that has gained in strength and meaning as the decades have passed since his passing in 1957:
Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set of new and noble principles, not by an organized campaign of teaching - no matter how worldwide and elaborate in its character - not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and sceptical age the supreme claim of the Abha Revelation. One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendor of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh.-(Shoghi Effendi: Bahá'í Administration, Page: 66)
The creative inspiration is clearly associated in manifold ways with this "inner life and private character." Before we begin to examine the inner life and creative inspiration, though, I'd like to say a few things about ‘where I am coming from.' What are the origins of my own creative inspiration, what are some of the perspectives that inform it, in relation to poetry, one of the many outward forms, manifestations, of this creative imagination, inspiration, the inner spiritual powers? There are several sources and perspectives which illustrate something of what I want to say about my own creative inspiration.
Firstly, there are the influences of socialization. Both my mother in the 1950s and my grandfather in the 1920s, began to write extensively in the late forties and fifties. My father had an immense energy and drive. The two sides of my life, as represented by my parents, I think have played a role, partly undefineable, in whatever inspiration has come into my life in poetry.
Secondly, there is the influence of my religion which I have been a member of now for forty years and attending various functions for forty six. A poetic literature, a long line of artistic and intellectually endowed associations, listening to people talk and talking with from an infinitely wide range of paths in life, an exposure to books, to reading, to hearing peoople read, to reading myself in public,visible commitments, etc. These and other aspects of my connection with the Bahá'í Faith have all contributed to defineable and indefinaeable infleucnes on my creative inspirations.

In this connection I'd like to mention the invokation Ya Baha'u'l-Abha which means "O Glory of the All-Glorious" and which ‘Abdu'l-Bahá says "is more profit to thee than all knowledge of the sciences and all the wealth of the earth. It is....the melody of eternity...that cry that brings the Supreme Concourse to the door of thy life...It holds all there is of substance in the world of creative thought."(source unknown)

Thirdly, ill-health and personal difficulties: manic-depression in the 1960s and 1970s, divorce, employment difficulties which turned me toward seeking special inspiration. By 1980 I frequently read the following passage from Gleanings(p.161) and sought the intercession of the departed Hands of the Cause on my behalf:



An important part of this tool of autobiography is repetition which Arthur Frank says is a medium of becoming. And all this becoming, all this repetition, took place in a world of memorabilia with all its metaphysical significance. Perhaps at a later date I will expand on this notion of the metaphorical significance, metaphorical nature, of physical reality in general and this memorabilia in particular.
Any writer, and especially those like myself who have spent a good part of their lives in Australia, cannot but see that the power of religion, especially belief in revelation, is weaker today than it was in any other epoch in human history. More and more children grow up without faith in God, without belief in reward and punishment, in the immortality of the soul and even in the validity, the importance, of a common ethical system. The genuine writer cannot ignore the fact that the family is losing its spiritual foundation. Such were the views of Isaac Bashevis Singer, expressed in his 1978 Nobel Lecture given about ten days before I left Ballarat for Tasmania. When Singer wrote these words in 1978 I was struggling with another episode of manic-depression; I was out of work and with three kids and a wife; I was more concerned about my own spiritual foundations than society’s. Many would agree with Singer. Like so many issues, I think the ones raised by Singer are more complex and require much more than two or three core sentences. I think the ideas Singer expresses here are substantially true, the issues surrounding them are not simple, though, and so I will leave this issue for another volume.
In life we do not have direct access to the thoughts of other people. We have to infer the working of other minds from surface phenomena such as speech, body language, behavior, and action. R. D. Laing put the point vividly: “your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man’s invisibility to man.” This autobiography and whatever memorabilia remains of my life has taken away some of the invisibility. But still, however much I have put together clues to my life and described its unfolding patterns, however much I have developed various theses about why I and others reacted to the possibilities and circumstances the way they did, I could easily have wasted my time and never touched the truth. This is a theoretical possiblity that the autobiographer must acknowledge. Unlike Samuel Beckett, though, in his discussion of Proust, I am not a writer suffering mysterious agonies whose origins are unclear to him. Most of the agonies I have suffered in life have been all too clear to me. Like Beckett’s work on Proust, though, my autobiography is also intended as an academic study.
In that half century before the Declaration of the Bab in 1844, when His two precursors were alerting people to the coming fulfillment, Goethe made the following comment about his great oeuvre. He called his work one big confession. Looking at his work and the work of other great writers in the broadest sense, you could say the same of them all: Shakespeare, Balzac, Wordsworth, etc. We find, so runs the argument, total self-examination and self-accusation, a total confession — very naked, I think, when we look into it. “Maybe it's the same with any writing,” said the British poet laureate, Ted Hughes, “writing that has real poetic life.”
Hughes went on to say in that same interview that “maybe all poetry, insofar as it moves us and connects with us, is a revealing of something that the writer doesn't actually want to say, but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of. Perhaps it's the need to keep it hidden that makes it poetic — makes it poetry.” The poet is actually saying something he desperately needs to share. The real mystery is this strange need. Why can't he just hide it and shut up? Why does he have to blab? Why do human beings need to tell their stories and confess? Maybe the writer doesn’t have some secret story, some narrative that he can’t get out most of the time, some confession; maybe he doesn’t have a poem — doesn’t even have a story to put on paper.

Maybe we don't even have a writer.
If most poetry doesn't seem to be in any sense confessional, it's because the strategy of concealment, of obliquity, can be so compulsive that it's almost entirely successful. The smuggling analogy may help us here. The smuggler is loaded with interesting cargo that seems to be there for its own sake but, in reality, it’s there for another purpose. I do a little smuggling here in my autobiography, but I feel as if I’ve declared most of my baggage, most of the items in my larder, so to speak. If my larder collects something of the food of other writers, I usually declare it. I draw on other writers because I find in reading their works and biographies I am so often reading about myself. Reading the words of famous writers often seems tantamount to reading about oneself, writing about them becomes pleasureably self-revelatory?
Writers, autobiographers, indeed, all human beings, throw off some of their luggage when they talk or write. But to tell it all is just not appropriate. They and we deliberately strip off the veiling analogies occasionally and go to the root confessing some item of one’s deeper life. The luggage, the baggage, is open to all for inspection. Perhaps Sylvia Plath in our time, in the months before the Universal House of Justice was elected, in early 1962, went further than most. “Her secret,” Ted Hughes said, “was most dangerous to her. She desperately needed to reveal it. You can't overestimate her compulsion to write as she did. She had to write those things — even against her most vital interests. She died before she knew what The Bell Jar and the Ariel poems were going to do to her life, but she had to get them out.
She had to tell everybody like those Native American groups who periodically tell everything that was wrong and painful in their lives in the presence of the whole tribe. It was no good doing it in secret; it had to be done in front of everybody else. Maybe that's why poets go to such lengths to get their poems published. It's no good just whispering them to a priest or a confessional. And it's not for fame, because they go on doing it after they've learned what fame amounts to. No, until the revelation's actually published, the poet feels no release. In all that, Sylvia was an extreme case, I think.”
I suppose I got this sense of release on the internet in the early years of this new millennium. I certainly was not interested in fame, as I pointed out elsewhere in this autobiography. Like Plath I felt compelled to write but, unlike Plath or those native American groups, I did not feel the need to tell all. With more than 1000 pages, though, there is enough to keep most readers busy for a time. I’ve had a need to write about the Baha’i Faith for, perhaps, forty years. My autobiography gave me this opportunity. It also gave me the opportunity in which I could say 'me voici', 'it's me here.'
Peter Read, in his article Private Papers and a Sense of Place in an online seminar Private Lives Revealed: Letters, Diaries, History,1 analyses the nineteenth century English poet John Clare’s verse. He sees Clare’s verse as an interesting example of private papers. Clare's poetry was so eclectic, his language so personal, his personal involvement so touching, that Read argues that Clare’s poetry was much more akin to a collection of private papers that we might find in a library than to the poetry of a poet who could have become, but didn't, one of the best-known poets of the nineteenth century. Instead, wrote the cultural historian John Barrell in discussing Clare, “insofar as Clare was successful in expressing his own sense of place, he was writing himself out of the main stream of European literature.”] Accomplished poets and novelists are fully aware of the need for their readers to be able to generalise from the emotions which they present about a described particular place to their own world view and life experiences. Private papers often reveal such private emotions, and private emotions often reveal intense, ungeneralised concerns for particularities which hardly ever surface amongst the published works of professional writers. I mention this article and the poet John Clare because I sometimes think that all of my writing could be seen as a simple, if lengthy, collection of private papers.



During the last two decades, while I was writing this autobiography, some of the scientific work from the physical and biological sciences and the philosophy of science was turning away from regular and smooth systems in order to investigate more fragmented, more chaotic phenomena. So, too, in the study of the writing of autobiography there was an increasing consciousness, an increasing interest, in autobiography’s complexity, ambiguity, indeed, its chaotic content. In the last two decades there has been much interest in chaos theory, but I don’t want to go into this labyrinthine subject. There is certainly an element of the fragmented, of the chaotic, in my own life, in all our lives. Sometimes the feeling of life’s fragmentation, its lack of cohesion, partakes of a certain absurdity, a certain vanity and emptiness. Sometimes these feelings are pervasive and sometimes they are short-lived, momentary feelings. This new direction in autobiography can be seen emerging all the way back to the 1950s.
Rather than seeing form, literary or physical, as something divided into the classical binaries of order and entropy, form now is often regarded as a continuum expressing varying degrees of pattern and repetition, elements that are at the core of structure, any structure. At one end of the continmuum we find extreme order, pattern and traditional forms and at the other end we find gibberish, chaos and disorder. Fragmentation is something we all experience and it is found between life’s extremes and at the extremes as well. Fractal autobiography works in the ground between the extremes of life. Digression, interruption, fragmentation and lack of continuity, then, are part of the normal world of autobiography. Fractal comes form the Latin for fragmented or broken: hence the term fractal autobiography.
As architect Nigel Reading writes, "Pure Newtonian causality is an incorrect, a finite view, of life’s processes, but then again so is the aspect of complete uncertainty and infinite chance." The nature of reality is now seen as somewhere in between. One writer called this interplay between chance and causality, a dynamical symmetry. It occurs to me that this shift in focus from a simple, a polarized view of life to a more dynamic, more complex, more chaotic view is something that is expressed in, found in, my autobiography. Of course the whole idea of freedom, of free will, is an illusion “in a world where every effect must have a necessary and sufficient physical cause.” It’s an old conundrum, free-will and determinism.. I like to think that we overcome this emcompassing determinism by what Whitehead calls a “creative advance into novelty.”
The poetry, the autobiography, I am calling fractal shares many traits with that contested term--postmodern. Often the postmodern writer dismisses the very idea that a historical, coherent, composite person ever existed. The biographer does not have to dig for true persons with existential truths surrounding their lives. For such people and such truths do not exist. Some historical figures, like Dickens and Shakespeare, are so large, so amorphous, that they can take whatever shape biographers want to give them. Many a postmodernist would argue that voice "is a patchwork of other people's voices" as well as their own. I would argue, with the postmodernist, that this work of mine is, among other things, but an echo of hundreds of different books that I read in preparing to write this autobiography. To many a postmodernist I simply don’t really exist as a character. I’m just a little patchwork figure. In someways this is an exaggeration, but it contains some of the spirit of the approach of the postmodernist to autobiography. These remarks contain, too, some of the spirit of my own approach, my own understanding, of this literary creation of mine.
Some contemporary poetries and genres of autobiography show an allegiance to romantic, confessional or formalist traditions. And so does some of my work. Fractal poetry, fractal aesthetics and fractal autobiography describe another feature of my literary topography. When poets and autobiographers address aesthetics, their own work, their writing, inevitably shades their views. I write from perceptions of where my poems, my autobiography, have been lately and where they are both likely to be headed. I write in a middle, a fractal, ground between the elitist and populist polarities or views of autobiography.
In conventional fiction and autobiography a narrative continuity is usually and clearly discernible. But it is impossible to create an absorbing narrative, it seems to me, without at the same time enriching it with images, asides, themes and variations—impulses from within. This is evident in much fiction: Joyce, Kafka, Virginia Woolf, and Faulkner are obvious examples. The narrative line has tended to weaken, merge with, and be dominated by, the sum of variations. This is also true in much autobiography. Each narrative step in a great deal of modern writing is likely to provoke many sidewinding pages before the next narrative step is taken. A lot of the power of many writers is to be found in these sidewindings. In addition, a writer’s side-glances or, as Emily Dickinson called the process, 'looking aslant on the world', are equally important. What happens in jazz when the melody merges with the improvisations and the improvisations dominate has been happening in fiction and autobiography for some time now.



This is certainly true in both my autobiography and my poetry. There is some narrative in my autobiography and there is a sense of continuity which is clear, but there are also variations, improvisations, sidewindings, side-glances and impulses from within. The earlier senses of 'form' in previous centuries in both autobiography and poetry are not important to me. I have rejected them as irrelevant to what I am aiming to achieve. Perhaps, to put the issue more accurately and more simply, I have introduced my own autobiographical mix and my own prose-poem form because it serves my purposes more usefully. There is a conceptual focus in my writing and the literal activity of the writing itself is very often my focus. This may prove difficult for some readers as it has often proved difficult for me.

The objects which occur to me at any given moment of composition, what we might call objects of recognition, can be, must be, are, treated exactly as they occur to my mind and my senses. Ideas, imaginations, abstractions, conceptions, preconceptions from outside this sensory apparatus, world, paradigm are, for me, introduced to enrich the sensory, the intellectual, picture. They are handled as a series of additions to a field in such a way that a series of tensions are created. These tensions are made to hold and to hold exactly inside the content and the context of my autobiography and its prose and poetry. This content and context has forced itself into being through me, through my writing as autobiographer and poet. This is a central aspect of anything I might say about the memorabilia which will remain after I am gone and the memorabilia which is irretrievable.
The self-chosen place of the autobiographical mode, the point of real reference, is the act and the situation of writing, which provides a sense of coherence. Coherence can be obtained in many ways in life. But, for me, the autobiographical mode, the situation of writing and its products are an important aid. The recent increase of writings in the autobiographical mode, perhaps as far back as the early 1950s, seems to represent both a reaction to the so-called crisis of the novel and a possible artistic solution to the fragmentary nature of human experience. Yet at the same time the autobiographical turn reveals the paradox inherent in this form. My autobiography reflects a nostalgia for stability, continuity, the past experiences and its memories as well as life’s vacuous, empty, semblances of reality, absurdities and vanities.
Conventional autobiographies could be regarded as the proper medium for the realistic representation of a self and for the narrative recovery of past events from the perspective of the present. Many contemporary autobiographical texts of the last half century stress the illusory nature of such mythopoetic endeavours. Due to the breakdown of a clear demarcation between reality and fiction or reality and imagination, the traditional conception of the autobiographical genre has lost its degree of certainty and truth. Any sense of perfection, of completeness, of comprehensiveness cannot be achieved in written works and most certainly not in these kinds of writings composed of thousands and thousands of potential scraps of recollection--so runs the argument. Memory follows exactly the course of events and chronology, but that which emerges from this chronology is totally different from the actual happening. This is partly due to memory’s role in transfiguring the past by bathing things in a sentimental glow, making the good old days appear more beautiful than they actually were. Also, I have come to regard my life as a matter of events of the soul, events which, to quote Levinas again, “resemble mystery rather than spectacle, and whose meaning remains hidden to whoever refuses to enter into the dance”.
A few years ago I heard an interview with Australian historian Inga Clendinnen. She said the following about memory: “Memory is profoundly unreliable and profoundly coercive. Memories can seem absolutely real, realer than reality, as you know quite well when you get a sudden whiff of a scent and you're transported back into some situation you'd thought you'd forgotten and you remember everything about it. You know, the sound of the magpies, the smell of the grass, it's there, held in that whiff of scent.” And she continued: “I think we construct our memories. I think we have vivid sense impressions and out of them we construct a narrative and the narrative is about the sense we make of what's happening to us and our dominant mood and what we think matters about the scenes we're involved with. And we classically do this very slightly, of necessity, after the event. And then those memories which are personal and private and vivid can become consolidated into a kind of group narrative as with family memories.”
I think Clendinnen is right here. At least my experience reflects her views on memory. I often tell stories about something in my life and, after many years of telling a particular story, I begin to wonder if any of what I am saying is true. But I remember the story and I have come to treat it as gospel truth for so long that I feel it to be gospel truth. And it is truth because it matters to me. There's a whole lot of social meaning being invested in our stories and tales.
Cherished memories are often all a person has, but they are often false in terms of many of their basic substantive details. That's the problem with human memory. It's both fallible and creative. It's also our most private, personal and cherished possession. If you attack someone's memories, you're attacking the seams of their being. Nonetheless it's the historian’s and the autobiogrpaher’s jobs to tackle their own and other people's memories. As an autobiographer it is important that I really understand just how perverse and creative memory is and it must be kept under close scrutiny.
Listed below is a brief outline are some potential scraps of recollection and memory that have not made it into this autobiography.
It has been my view, in writing this work, that a piece of autobiographical literature is most effectively religious, psychological, sociological, historical and, indeed, any one or many terms I might apply, not by propounding abstract dogma, theory or general propositions, but by representing human experience concretely and honestly-whatever the professed beliefs of the author. My thesis, if I could call it that, is that the work of unbelievers like writers Yeats and Faulkner, or of Eliot before his conversion, can present a vision of reality of profound significance to Baha’is insofar as it is faithful to the truth of human experience.
Though Beethoven's final religious views are somewhat obscure and Mozart was associated with the Masons, their musical creations often furnish far greater spiritual enhancements to our lives than many of those being contributed by devout believers in our time. By the same token, the first thing a Baha’i should ask about a work of literature of this type I have written is whether it is honestly and skillfully crafted. Of course, I have studiously avoided the works of covenant breakers in composing this autobiography. While this may be strange to those who are not Baha’is, it is only consistent with the teachings of my Faith, teachings at the basis of this work.
And so concludes some 10,000 words of epilogue to my autobiography.

The soul that hath remained faithful to the Cause of God and stood unwaiveringly firm in His Path shall, after his ascension, be possessed of such power that all the worlds which the Almighty hath created can befefit through him. Such a soul provideth, at the bidding of the Ideal King and Divine Educator, the pure leven that leveneth the world of being, and furnisheth the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest.
I began writing poetry about a year or so after reading this passage frequently. Although I saw no association between this passage and my first poems, by the 1990s I began to wonder at the possible connection with my poetic output and these leavening influences.
Fourth, the influence of other poets: Roger White in the 1980s and the western intellectual tradition since Wordsworth. For a dozen years, 1981 to 1992, I had ‘company defined by letters', company with the most delightful letter writer I've ever known and a poet whose influences has had primacy.(Robert Creeley, The American Poetry Review, Sept.'99, p.18.).
In the years 1993 to 1999 my poetic friends were in books. I read dozens and dozens of books about poetry since Wordsworth started writing in the 1780s. I read publicly in cafes, restaurants, in colleges and at Bahá'í functions but did not find it inspirational, although people enjoyed my reading due to my ability to entertain. But I had tired of the public domain after nearly thirty years of teaching and endless firesides, LSA meetings and what seemed like an endless variety of meetings. I had dried up. Poetry functioned like a new lease on life.
Fifth, the possible influence of the holy year, 1992-1993. My Bahá'í life had occupied the span between the two holy years, the other being 1952-1953. I think this influence is most mysterious. But my life as a Bahá'í had spanned these two special years and a flood of poetry was unleashed after this forty year hiatus.
Sixth, the particular view of time, space and history in the Bahá'í teachings. Time: 13.6 billion years; space: infinite, a general scientific view; and history, a ten stage process(Shoghi Effendi, 1953, Chicago) with plans, eras, cycles, epochs, stages, phases, the Bahá'í calendar, all of this helped to give my life, my age and all of history a new focus and this plays a role in my poetry.
You will see from the above influences something of that inner life which I speak of and something of the creative inspiration which is at the centre of this topic, this discussion today. And my poetry tells a great deal about my inner life; indeed, I often feel quite naked in giving my poems to people.
I have provided for those who attend the workshop on poetry some essays and some interviews, as well as some twenty poems, which attempt in their different ways to illustrate something of both the inner life and the creative inspiration. I'd like to quote from some of this material in closing and then we can conclude with some discussion on this paper.

I'll read several quotations from two of these essays and several of the questions and answers from the interviews I have included and let the poems speak for themselves(include two for the formal ABS paper). Then offer a comment or two on each answer.
TWO ESSAYS: SOURCE MATERIAL FOR PAPER
POETRY AS A SOURCE OF SOCIAL GOOD

If these booklets of poetry, some twenty-seven now,** help to establish nothing else it will be my search for a context in which relevant fundamental questions about the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, the societal need for legitimate and just authority and our need as individuals for solid thinking about the organic change in the very structure of society that the world has been preparing for but has not yet experienced—can be examined. In thirty-two hundred poems, a massive corpus, this search for a context for the examination of fundamental questions may not be so obvious. For I try to do a great deal in this poetry.
The fluid and elastic qualities that underpin the expression of freedom assume a different latitude from one mind to another. Indeed in this Faith there are "unique methods and channels"(1) for the exercise and maintenance of freedom. The very meaning of freedom has been deepened, its scope extended. The very fact that my writing poetry, an expression of art, is elevated to an act of worship augers well for the "enormous prospects for a new birth of expression in the civilization anticipated by His World Order."(2)
Much, if not virtually all, of my poetry is about personal experience, a personal view of some sociological or historical process or fact. I see this poetry as essentially lyrical, as capable of expressing a sense of commonality and, for me, unparalleled intimacy. Some of what I write could be termed confessional. The first person "I" is vulnerable, dealing as it does with varying degrees of self-revelation. But even in the second and third persons there is the poet's view, less direct, self-revelation less obvious. The poetry is self-serving; the reader is invited to share in my experience, in my thoughts. The poetry also serves the community, however self-focussed my poems are, and they all are to some extent. They deal with the universal and with the growth and development of that universal Force and Cause behind these poems. They deal with community. And the quest for community, it would seem, has always involved some conflict, some anxiety.
I strive, of course, for moderation, refinement, tact and wisdom in any of my poetic expressions of human utterance. But for everything there is a season. Thusfar, the season of my poetic writing in public has been minimal. I have been quite happy that the public utterance of my poetry, at poetry readings, has been minimal. I have written about this before in the five interviews recorded in previous booklets of poetry. Bahá'u'lláh, Himself, reinforces this idea in the maxim that: Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed...nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the ears of the hearer." As the Universal House of Justice says in its expatiation on the theme of speech and freedom "an acute exercise of judgement" is called for. Perhaps when, and if, I become "public property" I will have acquired more of that quality of acute judgement.
The freedom of the poet to declare his conscience and set forth his views is at the root of the foundation of this Order, but poetry of a negative quality should be strictly avoided to prevent confusion and discord reigning in community life and to remedy divisiveness. The process of criticism is baneful in its effect and, therefore, the nature of my poetry is intended to counteract dissidence which I see as "a moral and intellectual contradition of the main objective animating"(3) my words. But often what I write is simply ordinary speech, sometimes emotionally loaded, raised to a high level, the highest level I can, of expressiveness. I strive for what the Greeks called kairos: tact, discretion, prudent restraint, maturity, for the quality the poet Pindar expressed.(4) For humanity today needs that communitas communitatum and this Faith, the Bahá'í Faith, has an important role to play in this unifying process. This poetry is part of that wider process, that wider phenomenon.
I seek a judicious exercise in my writing. I try to be sensitive to content, style, sound, tact, wisdom, timeliness in order to "give birth to an etiquette of expression"(5) worthy of that term 'maturity', which Pindar possessed, and which this age must strive to attain. There must be a discipline here in this poetry if it is to attain the status of being a "dynamic power in the arteries of life."(6) If my words are to attain "the influence of spring" and cause "hearts to become fresh and verdant", they shall have to be seen as "acceptable to fair-minded souls."(7) I can not make such a claim of my poetry, yet.
I am sensitive to my poetry's tenderness, as I am to the tenderness of the Cause which motivates so much that underpins my poetry. The rigorous discipline that must be exerted when putting print before the public eye, I have not exerted, not entirely. For I have assumed that, for the most part, the public will not see most of my poetry, at least for some time to come. But I strive to speak the words of both myself and my fellow human beings as part of a whole; this autobiography serves the whole. It resonates in the immediate and the concrete, in the inner and the outer values of our lives, or in some socio-historical framework. However idiosyncratic and autobiographical a particular poem may appear it is related to the totality, the cosmic, the grand-scale, the great system of time and place. For mine is the poetry of a metanarrative. Hopefully different readers will be cheered or saddened in different ways as my poems drift through diverse human situations.
Spontaneity, initiative and diversity must be encouraged, but everything in its time, the right time under heaven, so to speak. The individual in this Cause is "the focus of primary development"(8), but within the context of the group; for the individual is essentially subordinated to the group. The individual should be seen as a source of social good. This is his most supreme delight. This is the essential context for poetry. When, and if, this occurs my poetry will find its right and proper place in community life. Dealing as my poetry does with the fragile, confused and ever to be rediscovered and redefined self, the place of the inner life and private character, the delight to which I refer will, hopefully, be associated with understanding, with intellect and wisdom, the two most luminous lights in the world of creation.(9)

Ron Price

28 November 1997

** The last booklet I sent to the BWCL was called The Art of Glorification. For the period 9 January to 4 September 1997 I sent no poetry. The developments on Mt. Carmel are like a lodestone to human hearts. I continue sending my poetry as an expression of the intense attraction of the heart. 1,2,3,5,6, 7 and 8: all of these references are found in the letter from the Universal House of Justice to the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in the United States of America, 29 December 1988. 4. Joan Aleshire, "Staying News: A Defense of the Lyric", Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World, editors, Gregory Orr and Ellen B. Voigt, University of Michigan Press, 1966, pp. 28-47. 9. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, USA, 1970, p.1.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: ANALYSIS YET AGAIN
I have provided a succinct narrative account of my life. It is chronological; the factual material is ordered, sequential. But, clearly, sharpness of detail, revealing anecdote, even suspense and analysis of motivation are given with insight and style much more effectively in my poetry. There is so much poetry now, some 4000 poems spread over at least 2000 pages, that this collected and compendious mass of material, if it is ever to provide a basis for biography in the future, must be shaped, interpreted, given perspective, dimension, a point of view.
Such a biographer must provide the creative, the fertile, the suggestive and engendering fact, an imaginative, a referential dimension. Such an analyst must enact a character, a place, a time in history. He will do this through language, through imposing a formal coherency on my material, although inevitably there will be present the incurable illogicalities of life, as Robert Louis Stevenson called the inconsistent, the unresolved paradoxes of life. He will give the reader a portrait not an inventory. This is what any biographer must do. I do this in my autobiographical poetry. But I provide many pictures, many moods, many sides. Details balloon; they repeat; they illuminate.
I discover things about my life, but I do not invent them.
As Plutarch and Boswell, two of history's most famous biographers, demonstrated: "anecdote rather than history teaches us more about the subject."1 I see my narrative as the home of history and my poetry as a source of rich anecdote. It was for this reason I turned to poetry as a reservoire of autobiography; it seemed to teach, to convey, much more than narrative. Claude Levi-Strauss helps us to understand why several poems about one object, or person, provide more significance or meaning than a narrative when he writes:

To understand a real object in its totality we always tend to work from its parts.

The resistance it offers us is overcome by dividing it...Being smaller, the object as

a whole seems less formidable....it seems to us qualitatively simplified.2
One can not know everything about anyone, even oneself. The mountain of detail would sink a ship and would not enlighten anyone. The task of achieving comprehensiveness not only is impossible, it is irrelevant. But there are intelligible dimensions of one's life and it is these dimensions that my poetry deals with best. Imagination is critical in writing biography. Some writers see invention more important than knowledge. Inevitably, there is an element of invention, of moving beyond the factual, but my own preference is to use imagination in a framework of factual experience, as far as possible. To read my poetry should be to immerse oneself in the first several decades of Bahá'í experience in what the Bahá'ís see as 'the tenth stage of history' and, especially, that time when the spiritual and administrative centre on Mt. Carmel received its richest, its definitive, elaboration and definition. There are several unifying nodes of experience for my poetry, in addition to the above. I have drawn them to the reader's attention from time to time in the introductions to some of my poems.

From a Bahá'í perspective my poetry will undoubtedly possess a moral appeal associated with overcoming hardship, a quality that characterized most nineteenth century biography. But the moral framework, while retaining a certain simplicity, is expressed in a portait of complexity, refinement, mystery, a slumbering world, my own idle fancies and vain imaginings and the streaming utterance of a new Revelation.

Freud commented that biographers choose their subjects 'for personal reasons of their own emotional life.' 3 I'm sure this is equally, if not more, true of autobiograhers. After criss-crossing Australia as an international pioneer and teaching in the northernmost and southernmost places in Canada-all of this over thirty-six years, I have watched this emerging world religion grow perhaps fifteen times. I have taught in schools for nearly thirty years and feel a certain fatigue. I must write this poetry for the same reason a foetus must gestate for nine months. I feel, with Rilke, a great inner solitude and that my life and history is itself a beginning, for me, for my religion and for the world. I want to suck the sweetness out of everything and tell the story.
I sigh a deep-dark melancholy but keep it in as far as I am able. I am lonely and attentive in this sadness. My poetry gives expression to this process and to my destiny which comes from within. My poetry is the story of what happens to me. For the most part "life happens" and one must respond to the seemingly inevitability of it all, although the question of freedom and determinism is really quite complex. Reality, I record in my poetry, comes to me slowly, infinitely slowly. My poetry records this process. My poetry is an expression of a fruit that has been ripening within me: obscure, deep, mysterious. After years it now comes out in a continuous preoccupation as if I have, at last, found some hidden springs. It is as if I have been playing around the edges, with trivia, with surface. Finally something real, true, is around me. I stick to my work. I have a quiet confidence, a patience, a distance from a work that always occupies me. And so I can record a deep record of my time. I am preparing something both visible and invisible, something fundamental.

Ron Price

25 September 1998
1Ira Nadel, Biography: Fiction, Fact and Form, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1984, p.60.

2idem

3ibid,p.122.

A NOTE TO FUTURE EDITORS
When collections of letters, notebooks, poems and diaries of many writers both during and before the twentieth century are published sometimes everything found in the original is reproduced: words crossed out, misspellings, wrong words, incorrect punctuation, etc. Others try to correct, to normalize, the original work prefering normalization to the raw, the pure, the absolutely faithful reproduction, the unadulterated text. Do the texts come closer to us ‘cleaned up and in modern dress' or in their original form? In their original dress perhaps they force us to penetrate to their essential kinship with our world; perhaps thrust back into history they can speak to us more directly. Does a healthy attempt at correction and revision end up by destroying the essential character of the first drafts, replacing some initial fever with something tame and bland. Wordsworth himself recognized that "his revisions generally made things worse, but he could not prevent himself from trying."1 One day I may have the kind of experience Wordsworth had and feel compelled to revise my poetry.
My own thoughts and feelings on this matter reveal a preference to ‘clean up' my work. Get rid of spelling mistakes, I say. Use a form of punctuation that is as conventional as possible, remove all words crossed out and clear away errors of text and context. If the word is clearly incorrect correct it, even change it where it will improve the flow, the accuracy, the message. Bend things as far as possible for the reader without losing the integrity, the accuracy, the aim, the gist, of the original message. I know the poet W.H. Auden did not think this way. He saw everything he wrote as his private property which only he could change. No one should ‘normalize' his work. With several million words down on paper I do not see how, if some future editor follows Emily Dickinson's approach, spelled out below, too much can go wrong.
I do not feel as possessive, as fussy, as purist, as Auden. Like the essayist, Montaigne, I create a unity in my writings, and especially my poetry, which "is not the result of a simple plan, and does not come from the orderly exposition of ideas; it lies in the movement of (my) thought, the way (I) glance off one subject to another..."2 If I want to revise a poem I am inclined to follow the advise of Robert Duncan insofar as revision is concerned: "I never revise a poem; I simply write a new one;"3 or as W.B. Yeats once said on the subject: "know what issue is at stake/It is myself that I remake." I think, though, I come closest to Emily Dickinson's approach to altering my work. "She made many alterations to her poems, but not one has reference to improvement in rhyme or rhythm. Every change, every suggestion for a different word or phrase was in the evident hope that the thought might be made clearer not to smooth the form.4
Beautiful creations like the unfolding magnificence of the Terraces make you glad you are alive. Now that this creation is here and completed one gets a feeling that it is needed, although one did not have that feeling before it was built. Millions will be affected by the gardens and buildings. It also makes one ask the question: what can I do that is marvellous and inspiring? Maybe I can do something that will last, that is beautiful, that will leave traces for a future age.
This poetry and the general collection of my writing under the title Pioneering Over Three Epochs I like to think displays the kind of sympathy and intouchness with my readers for whom I write, whether they be my correspondents with whom I share an intimacy or those not yet born. That is what I hope to achieve, although I'm sure I often am far off the mark. Any editorial work that will leave the soul of my writing in one piece while making my work easier and more digestible I am happy to give such an editor the full freedom required. Let the trusting trust. If such an editor keeps in mind what is written above, especially Emily Dickinson's prescription, that is all I can ask. By the time such an event occurs, of course, I am likely to have passed from this mortal coil and shall not, in all likelihood, take too much of a serious interest in the exercise.

1 Charles Rosen, Romantic Poets, Critics and Other Madmen, Harvard UP, London, 1998, p.19.

2 Charles Rosen, Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen, Harvard UP, London, 1998, p.12.

3 Robert Duncan in Talking Poetry: Conversation in the Workshop with Contemporary Poets, Lee Bartlett, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1987, p.54.

4 Mark van Doren, editor, Letters of Emily Dickinson, Grosset and Dunlop, NY, 1962, p.225.

Ron Price

31 December 2000

Ron Price

8 October 2000
REVIEW OF 2 CHAPBOOKS OF POETRY BY ANTHONY A. LEE
"Art emerges from an intense valuation of the ordinary," writes Ashton Nichols in his The Poetics of Epiphany, a study of the poetry of William Wordsworth. It transmits "the bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life," the quotation concludes. Two chapbooks, "This is Going to be Short" and "Asia: The Lost Poems" by Tony Lee transmit many slices of his experience: some radiant, some dark, some humorous, mostly quite simply told. "Poetry arrived in search of me," as Pablo Neruda put it in his lifelong statement of the function and purpose of poetry. That is partly how I would convey my recent reading of Lee's words.
Lee's poetry found me at the age of 55. I had just retired from teaching. I found myself reading about his time in China and Japan in the summer of 1999. This is the core of his chapbook "Asia: The Lost Poems." I found myself reading, too about his experience long after the summer of '99. He took me back to the late 1960s. He gave me a graphic taste of the hell that was, at least part of, his life in those years. I had had my hell during those years. Lee's poetry struck a chord with me,with my life. That is what good poetry does. It moves in a liquid field across minds and hearts. Lee's poetry picked me up and look me on a trip. I admired Lee's honesty, his autobiographically sharp edge. He probes the mystery of his own experience and strives for a sense of its meaning. I am reminded of Eugene Ionesco's words: "the poet does not invent, he imagines.....in the imagination he carries along all sorts of symbols which are the profound truths of his soul."(1) Sometimes the truths, the events, are quite simple as in the poem 'First Kiss' with its delightful touch of surprise:
I chased her behind the house
and then behind the garage,
the little black girl with
short hair and pigtails all over.
I robbed a kiss while she squealed
and laughed at the game,
and then ran to my mother
to brag/confess my sin or victory.
Washing dishes, her hands
in the kitchen sink,
prim 50s curtains yellow over the windows
just before her face,

she looked up and stared ahead
not at me-
as if transported to a world of pain,
now long ago, now far away-
then suggested
with a frown
that I might find someone prettier.

The words , the phrases and even the silences seem to fall onto the page with little effort. That is the way it seems. Lee gives us his life or at least pieces of it. His poetry fits well into the tradition, now some forty years in the making, in its twentieth century dress, of confessional poetry. Lee hits you with his experience; it's straight from the shoulder. He's a good story-teller. You don't ask: is this true, correct, right? You bring to his poems what you bring to life: as sane a mixture of judgement and dispassionate acceptance, as much as you can, as you possess.

Excerpt from

"In Paradise"

Living out of season, out of time
in a place so strange and colourful
just for a week. That's all.
No time to talk, really.
Just to pretend, and wish
it could go on a little longer.
Like a stolen moment in bed
in the morning, frantic and rushed.
Or a secret meeting with a lover
soon to be dismissed.
We found a place to gather
and touch each other just
enough to say that
long ago we were
together in paradise.

Lee's poetry creates a telescopic lens which magnifies his experience and brings it as close as he can emotionally to his readers. In the process he avoids complexity, poetic archaisms and a whole panoply and pagaentry of poetic techniques. He gives you the everyday, the quotidian, the colloquial. There is a tendency to glamorize the self, but that is part of the game, the process, the exercise, that is confessional poetry. Going over the top is what readers experience in confessional poetry. It is what you get with the genre. That's part of hte basis of its popularity the last forty years.

Poets try to move beyond the imprisoning ordinariness of the day-to-day. They try to move to higher purposes, to general principles. They try to get at their emotions and thoughts so often buried in life's hum-drum breathings, so often trapped under the weight of what existence throws up in their face, their lives. Let's look at the beginning and the final stanzas of Lee's eight stanza poem "The Road Not Taken" from his chapbook "This is Going to be Short"

I hitchhiked home from the Temple that night
some thirty years ago now
and this old, fat guy
who picked me up
told me I could have a job
that would take me around the world
if we could sleep together the whole time.
I stayed hip through the proposition, though,
I said it would be something new for me
(which was actually true at the time),
and I made him let me off at the corner
in Glencoe, Illinois.
........
If he had been any younger,
or even had average looks,
I would have said yes,
Because I remember that night,
I was so tired of being alone
that suicide felt like a good thing,
even if it was the slow kind.
Anyway, I took another road
and ended up married, with children.
And there was no pool of blood
in the morning papers.
I learned to bleed slowly little by little,
without making a mess.
One senses that Lee, like all of us, has been trying, sometimes desperately, often obsessively, to reconcile the problems that life has dealth him. This poem takes the reader back, with Lee, to the sixties, to a night when he was hitchhiking from the Temple in Chicago. It was a period of personal hell, one of those dark nights of the soul. What attracts me is the similarity with my own experience. We both belong to the sixties generation Lee and I; we both had our hells. Who hasn't? Bridges to the souls of others are built on common experience.

This is confessional poetry at its best, at least for me. It's graphic, blatant, subtle, with a touch of wisdom and sophistication. Roger White used to say, quoting Tagore, "the poem not the poet." In confessional poetry, poetry that focuses on the poet's experience, this aphorism could be reversed: "the poet not the poem." Perhaps the truth comes somewhere in between, differently for each of us according to our particular preferences, tastes and the kind of poem we are writing.

Lee's poems deal in contradictions and conflicts. Doubts, difficulties and dilemmas are part of his life--and ours. The next poem which I quote from caught my eye because I feel as if I might be "a real poet" who "would never have to leave his garden." It is a psychological dilemma for me: the solitude-sociability continuum. Lee taps into this problem I've got. I prick up my ears and read with a keener edge read from his poem 'In the Garden:'

Someone told me that
a real poet
would never have to leave his garden
to find inspiration
for a lifetime of work.
My garden seems ordinary enough,
and I don't think it would be good for
more than two or three poems.
Everything is planted pretty much in place
Except over there
under the lemon tree,
The selection which follows comes from the same chapbook "This Is Going To Be Short." Of the two chapbooks Lee has published by High-Born Lady Press in Los Angeles in1999 this is my favorite. It resonates with my experience; that's probably why. There are eight poems in this small booklet. Four of the poems, are written in three sections each, the rest of varying length each in one section.

This is the last poem in the chapbook:
First Glimpse
Yes, I remember the first time I saw her,
invited just for that
to that tiny beach house
in a crowd of thirty people of more.
She was smiles and laughter,
all gaiety and light--
the kind she switches on and off for strangers.
But I imagined the light switch on
and took the next step, calling and calling.
Calling again, until I was not longer strange.

Poetry resonates in each of us diferently. In some ways the poem does not belong to the poet after it is written. It is sent out on the air-waves to become part of the universe and its billions of suns. 'First glimpse' is a wonderful theme to pick up on. The reader has no idea who this person is. It could be Lee's wife, or a girlfriend. One will never know. More importantly, it could be someone in my life. I might write the story-line a little differently, a lot differently. But however one writes one's own story, Lee has offered a voice to help those who want to listen to his work, who like what he has to say and the way he says it. His voice may help others find their voice, or develop the voice they already have found. Voices, selves and poetry are sometimes found in the works of others.

(1) Eugene Ionesco in "A Concert of Tenses: Essays on Poetry," Tess Gallagher, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1986, p.86.

What follows is a series of introductions to booklets of poetry, many of which are found at the BWCL. These introducitons are not in order. At this point in time(November 2003) there are 52 booklets of poetry and 52 introductions.

43

An essay by Joseph Epstein About Face in a collection of essays* deserves some comment in terms of its relevance to this section of biographies. Epstein writes about the difficulty of making assessments about people on the basis of their facial expression. My initial thought on the subject is that the relationship between physical facial features and behaviour is so complex and subjective as to be nearly useless in terms of drawing any significant corelations. One of the more famous faces was that of The Elephant Man. He had an apparently ‘beautiful' character, one that appreciated culture and the arts and one that was highly refined; yet his face was repulsive at the level of normal, everyday reaction.

In my earliest years of pioneering, in the early 1960s, I used to know a Bahá'í lady who always looked depressed. I always found myself uncomfortable when I had to look at her for any length of time. She was a kind and gentle hostess whenever I was in her home. Some beautiful people on the other hand, externally attractive, have been the sort of people whose company I tried to avoid. The mystery of a person is not written on their face; there may be partial revelations there. But, as Epstein says, the revelations don't jump out. They must be read subtlely, painstakingly and patiently. Like wine, faces age; but unlike wine they don't classify with the same ease and predictability. They don't fit into easy classifications, I find, inspite of all the body language psychology that has become prevalent since the 1980s. We all have biases. I like the faces of young women; I like their freshness, smoothness, firmness of skin, often, a sheer and quiet impressive beauty, admittedly subjective.

When you get to know a man's life, you can translate what you know into his face. I always found the faces of Kevin Croft, Gary Olson and Ian McFarlane mirrored their various personalities to some extent. They were all likeable men and I liked their faces. Nancy Campbell, whom I did not like much when I was young, but whom I came to admire and love as I got older, remains in my mind's eye, a quarter of a century after her passing, as a very beautiful woman. One's own age, development and maturity are obviously critical factors in making any assessment of a person's character based on facial feature.

Whatever remarks I might make, then, about the thousands of characters and their facial features, remarks that would embellish my characterizations, would seem to me to have little relevance except as items to satisfy the curiosity. The reality of man is his thought, not his external features. It seems to me one can measure soul, to some extent, by what people do; but ultimately one can not judge the justice or compassion of the acts of other human beings. And so, in this short essay, I will summarily dismiss the short physical descriptions I might make of those characters, those people, I have known during these three epochs of this Formative Age. Both those who have influenced me a great deal, like Jameson Bond or Douglas Martin, or Elizabeth and Michael Rochester, and those who have had lesser or little influence, will receive little physical reference to widen my analysis.

Finally, it is my hope that in a future edition I will devote more attention to those whom I have known in my life. If treated with understanding and wisdom such attention would clearly embellish this text.
Ron Price
28 May 1996
BACK OF WARM-UP:ARCADE BOOKLET

This booklet of poetry, which I still see as my juvenilia, does not yet possess the control and maturity which began to emerge, if one can judge one's own poetry, in the years after, say, the beginning of the Holy Year. Toward the end of this booklet and into the next a new quality emerges. Of course, this is difficult to assess objectively. It is in these early years, from 1980 to 1992, and the many years before, perhaps as far back as the beginning of my pioneering life in 1962, that I learned to write.

For the most part I have written for pleasure, although I am certainly keen that my poetry should be of some use to the Cause in the furtherance of its many endeavours. I have not had my poetry subjected to the time- consuming and often exhausting examinations of admirers and disciples, autograph hunters and interviewers, at dinners and luncheons, celebrations and commemorations which Virginia Woolf says function to stop "the mouths of its singers and silence their songs."1 Those days may never come. When and if it does "the eye of a severe and intelligent public"2 will, I trust, replace the single eye that has watched it with care over many years.

For the art of writing is, among other things, one definition, one meaning, of ‘beauty.' It is the art, as Woolf explains in such a thought provoking way, "of having at one's beck and call every word in the language, of knowing their weights, colours, sounds, associations, and making them, as is so necessary in English, suggest more than they can state."3 It is the art of finding and describing the right relationship between the self that you know and the world outside. This skill took many years to acquire and, even now, I don't always strike it right. It is difficult to always sense the whole from the fragments, to absorb the experiences that come one's way and saturate them so completely and fearlessly with poetry. What the poet is doing is rethinking human life into poetry, combining the vast panoply and pageantry into a "condensed and synthesized"4 form, in the poet's own unique way.
-Ron Price with thanks to Virginia Woolf, Collected Essays, Vol.2, Chatto and Windus, London, 1967(1925), 1p.194, 2p. 193, 3p.193 and 4p.191.


INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET THIRTY-SIX

Whoever reads these poems, and the now several dozen essays and interviews that accompany them, will bring particular expectations, preferences, beliefs, assumptions, hopes, anxieties, class, racial and gender perspectives into dialogue with the particular repertoire of this text: its demands, its pressures, its formal structure, its conventions, its current critical reception. This is part of any reading experience. There is no one true ‘authoritative' reading of this set of poems, or indeed, any of my poems. I become, in the process of being read, not simply the historical person that I am, but a complex historical construct and a part of the history of the culture of our time. In some ways this point is obvious; in other ways it is important to emphasize this line of thinking because I have constructed what is for me an authentic and satisfying literary life, especially in the last seven years while the Arc has been built but, more generally and gradually, over an entire pioneering life. For me poetry has become a vocation, a profession that has come to claim a central place in my life, as I have come into the latter years of middle age, with the ambitions and responsibilities of career and community occupying a less dominant part of my time.

At the present stage in the development of western society and its arts, poetry is, for the most part, a periferal or marginal activity. It is the assumption here that poetry is, after nearly fifty years of a more vernacular, a more accessible, idiom, only at the beginning of a more popular, a more prestigious, a more serious and central role in the everyday life of society. I am quite conscious that my elevated sense of the importance of poetry is not shared by most of the members of my society, or my Bahá'í com munity, who view poetry largely as a matter of indifference. But for me, an international pioneer-poet, this poetry is an attempt to assert myself in the face of impersonal, complex, dark, bewildering, adversarial, disjointed, superficial forces and features in my society. This poetry is written in an attempt to understand how individuals and society are constructed, how they make decisions and choices and how they see the past and the future.
Certain places, centred around geographic, institutional and activity centres, come to possess a certain resonance in our lives. For me these places are: (a) geographic: Canada, Australia, Israel, Iran, United States and a host of other places on the planet; (b) institutional: Bahá'í administration, local spiritual assemblies, schools and the family; and (c) activity centres: poetry, teaching. My life, literary and otherwise, has been dominated by the interlocking demands, responsibilities and pleasures emanating from these three places.

Bahá'í administration and the many institutional frameworks and activities that are part and parcel of this pervasive global structure and its increasingly extensive national and local expressions has always implied for me a powerful and compelling accumulation of ideas and feelings. Bahá'í administration is not merely a network of people and groups which make decisions and handle a great deal of correspondence, although it is par excellence that; it also excites, far beyond its concrete existence, an intensity that indicates a rare concentration of influence and dominance. Indeed, associated with it are recurring anxieties and affirmations, complex tensions and an elaborate social, ideological and spiritual apparatus with its roots in history and a reach, a vision, into the future that is awe-inspiring.

For the pioneer and especially the international pioneer, even when they are alone in some remote part of a continent, this administrative system reaches into the very grain of one's life, touching one's body and inserting itself into one's actions and attitudes, discussions, learning processes and everyday life. I sometimes feel more connected with baha'i administration when I am in a remote place than when I am in an area highly populated with Bahá'ís. For involvement is always a result of free choice; it can not be imposed. It is a system that one is always free to opt into or out of, as the case may be. This of course is crucial, not only at this early stage of the Cause, but also in the days to come when millions and billions will inhabit the house that is the baha'i world Order. Inevitably the tensions between individual and group play out their part from day to day and year to year in the complex web of forces that inevitably characterize people in groups, that great drama that is Bahá'í society.

In the forty years I have been associated with this administration as a member of the Bahá'í Faith, the poet has played a small role in the wider community. The musician, the singer, the actor, the dancer, the composer, the playwright have all played their parts, albeit embryonic. Before the fourth epoch began in 1986, I don't recall ever seeing a play or a dance performed by a Bahá'í. From time to time I have heard of a poetry reading, but at this date it still seems to be a relatively rare phenomena. I'm sure this will change as the arts come to occupy a much more important part in Bahá'í community life in the twenty-first century.

In my thirty-seven years of pioneering about half of these years have seen me serving on LSAs; during the other half of my years as a Bahá'í pioneer I have served on registered or unregistered groups with a clear administrative orientation. Much of my poetry reflects this place, this centre, of my activity. But, thusfar, my poetry has not had any obvious, direct affect on this centre of my life and those other Bahá'ís with whom I served. I have no doubt about poetry's potential power and place in the world but, thusfar, my poetry has had virtually an entirely private function. This poetry makes no pretensions to be encompassing or complete in any triumphant sense, but it is emerging in a space radically criss-crossed by cultural, political, social, historical forces that can neither be controlled, nor understood at a critical juncture in Bahá'í history. My poetry is unquestionably an ambitious glorification of the Bahá'í Faith, its history, its teachings and its ultimate vision.

There have been several interrelated roles poets have had historically: ceremonial display, self-display, self-promotion, edification and entertainment. In the process poets establish themselves within a whole pattern of social discourse in a society. I have not done this by reading my poetry, except perhaps two or three times at a local Feast. I have, though, sent over four thousand poems to the Bahá'í World Centre Library and so have engaged in a certain amount of self-display, self-promotion and had several of my poems published in Bahá'í publications. This poetry is expressly dedicated to the praise of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh and the subsequent trustees of the Book that was Their legacy. I see my role as poet in terms of praise, warnings, and a celebration of the society of several million souls whose imagination and loyalty has been captured in support of an immense global undertaking: the gradual unification of the planet.

The central places that all of this poetry occupies have been outlined earlier in this essay and these places represent an obviously diverse field. The centrality of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith in the context of this poetry must be seen in a wider context of a multipolar focus, a polycentric universe. To put this another, simpler, way: I relate an immense variety of ideas, thoughts, movements, events, people, lives, et cetera to the Bahá'í Faith and its history and development. These relationships are often tangential, nearly always questionable, an encyclopedia of intersections between an emerging force of immense significance and a secular, a second, culture that has, as yet, virtually no appreciation of that significance. This magnum opus of poetry is a rich and fascinating articulation of a complex and, I find, irresistable cultural phenomemon that has grown slowly in the womb of a travailing age. I think this poetry is intriguing, perplexing, rich, an unmistakable exercise for the mind and, hopefully, a rewarding one. It certainly has been these things for this writer.

This poetry possesses a certain melancholy and is permeated by the desire for change, the desire for a fuller response by the peoples of the world to the claims of the Bahá'í teachings. The melancholy I speak of is the result of the discouragingly meagre response to the Bahá'í message over the years of this poet's pioneering endeavour, as well as the century of Bahá'í history before he was born. Indeed, the central tragedy of the first century and a half of Bahá'í history is the fact that very few people have, as yet, responded to its message and become coworkers in its administrative framework. My poetry reflects this reality and, if any melancholy is apparent in the poetry, it is due to this tragic reality.

Occasionally, for some time now, I see this poetry in epic terms; but the stage of my vision is also occupied with a host of fragments which exist quite independently of each other: fragments of life, fragments of history, fragments of time and space which are interrelated and interdependent. The overall pattern of my work is as much fluidity and multiplicity as it is unity and coherence. ‘Home' for this poet is a word with resonance in a particular place(and I have had many places of residence) and resonance in places and ideas with meaning. These places of meaning are places of engagement with mental worlds, fusions of horizons, where meaning arises from the interpretive process. The language I use is very much a reservoire of modernity and tradition as well as a medium through which my very existence comes to life. Often in this context the past becomes a permanently enduring present. I gain access to meaning by inspecting events, arranging patterns, juxtaposing. My goal is a certain enlightenment, a clarification. My home is the process I go through to achieve these goals. "Our continuing task is" as Kierkegaard puts it, "to order, form, temper, enflame, suppress our characteristics and passions. We are our own editors."1 I like that way of putting the task. There are so many good ways to express what one is trying to do. So many have described the process in such useful and varied ways.


Poetry for me is a combination, an expression, of two needs: the need to be different and so become myself; and the need to see similarities and build bridges between myself and others. It is an expression of what is deepest in me, an inwardness, an inner richness, an inner bankruptcy. This poetry is also an expression of multiple histories, multiple stories of desire, achievement, loss, possibility and impossibility. My narrative, like all our narratives, is multiple and contradictory. Our world is one of a plurality of contradictory narratives. Telling our story is a matter of combining and recombining fragments of our different histories. We inherit from the past a narrative we did not create and we are incorporated into it, often without our awareness. As I got into my fifties I started to create my own story. I became conscious that in telling my story, my story was choosing me.2 And no matter how I tell the story there seems to be some inner dimension of both my own life and my society's that can not be captured. This is not the place to complete the story for it will end beyond where the rainbow touches that pot of gold, on a "throne of everlasting dominion."3
1 Kresten Nordentoft, Kierkegaard's Psychology, Duquesne UP, 1978, p.195.
2 Richard Dutton, Edmund Spenser: A Literary Life, MacMillan, London, 1994, p.189.
3 From R. Rabbani, The Priceless Pearl, Oxford, 1969.

Ron Price
22 May 1999
INTRODUCTION

This booklet is the fortieth in the series, thirty-six of which I have sent to the BWCL. It celebrates my forty years as a member of the Bahá'í Faith. It is a celebration for having survived, at least I am still a Bahá'í in good standing. No one knows, of course, what their own end shall be. For the road is long, tortuous and stoney for both the individual, the community and the global civilization that has so recently come into being. One can lose one's way and not get back to the Path, even in the last moments of life, it would appear from reading Bahá'u'lláh's Writings.

In October of 1959 I became a member of the Bahá'í Faith in Burlington Ontario Canada. I am not going to attempt to summarize here either my own experience or that of my religion during these forty years. In many ways I have done that in these many volumes of poetry now in excess of some five thousand poems. Little did I realise what my story would become forty years and five months ago when, as part of the process of becoming a Bahá'í at that time and place, I answered a few questions in the lounge room of a Mr. Rod Willis, a local spiritual assembly member appointed to interview prospective believers. After these many years much of the reality of being a Bahá'í is memory, one's story and the story of others. Part of this reality is also vision, a vision which creates reality. This memory, this story, this vision, this reality is found here in my poetry. Little can I realise or predict as I write these words what my story and that of my Faith, the Bahá'í Faith, will become in the years ahead and beyond these years in the Unknown Country of the world beyond.

I present this collection of poetry, A Celebration of Forty Years, to the Bahá'í World Centre Library as yet another in the series of booklets of poetry that I have sent to the library over the last eight years. I thank you for accepting this creative endeavour as, among other things, a statement of pioneering over three epochs. It is a statement, too, covering the "final fateful stretch"1 of the Four Year Plan which has just ended. After receiving in that Holy Year, 1992, a kick-start to this poetic outburst, which I like to see as "an external phenomenon" itself "quite markedly a reflection of an inner attainment to a deeper understanding of (my) relation to Bahá'u'lláh,"2 I have gone on now during two Plans, 1993-1996 and 1996-2000 to concentrate my capacities and insights in a quite systematic way, as systematically as one can in a creative endeavour like poetry. The product is some two to three million words over less than eight years.

"Transported on the wings of the spirit to a summit from which"3 I could see, during those same Plans, the fast approaching glory of the Lord's immemorial promise to mankind, symbolized in the gradual construction of the Lord's Vineyard on Mt. Carmel, during these "darkest hours before the break of day"4 I leave these poems as part of the achievements of a century, part of a befitting crescendo, to a period that will have "left traces which shall last forever."5

1 The Universal House of Justice quoted in NSA of Bahá'ís of Australia, December '99
2 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 150.
3 idem
4 idem
5 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 152.......... Ron Price 21 March 2000

One of the obligations of the storyteller, the bard, the poet, is to tell his own story, tell who he is and tell it intelligently. He has to share his own story, his interests, his perspectives, his seeds, his loyalties, his beliefs, his loves, his frustrations. For all he has is his own story. I tell my story through openly autobiograhical poetry. In a world of global media conglomerates and electronic media production which increasingly control the telling of the stories to the rising generation, it has become more important for all of us to tell our own stories. An important part of community, often simply not mentioned, is the aspect of community that is experienced alone. This poetry is an expression of this aloneness.

It has been my experience that the globalizing tendencies and the individualizing tendencies, the sense that we are global citizens and unique individuals, finds its balance in the Bahá'í teachings. My poetry is a testimony to this reality: the balance between the individual and the community.

The titles of each of my booklets are drawn from recent experience in the Bahá'í community usually in connection with the Mt. Carmel Project. What is happening on Mt. Carmel is very much something that I feel is happening to me. So much of my identity as a person is connected with my Faith and the developments on Mt. Carmel. My booklets of poetry reflect the thoughts and experiences of one Bahá'í at this crucial stage in the development of his religion, the Bahá'í Faith.

It is the aim of this writer to provide a poetic and autobiographical work from an international pioneer which may be of use to future historians of the Faith. International pioneers have had an important part to play in the spread, the extension, of the teachings of this Faith in the last century. It is hoped that future historians may obtain a better understanding of these times and this embryonic and global community with an increasingly important part to play in the history of the planet and the establishment of peace and harmony among its component parts.
INTRODUCTION
By 1957 Shoghi Effendi had clearly established Canada's overseas teaching program as part of the National Assembly's agenda. He referred to that program as Canada's ‘glorious Mission overseas.' Of course, he did not create that Mission out of the blue. He pointed out in 1953 that the Canadian Bahá'í community had to its credit "an imperishable record of international service"(1) for nearly half a century. On June 20th 1953 Shoghi Effendi, in a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada, referred to what he called "the glorious Mission" of the Canadian community. It was obvious from the context that at least part of that Mission was overseas. He referred to this overseas Mission again in his last letter to the Canadian Bahá'í community on July 18th, 1957. The years of the Ten Year Crusade were, he said, "the opening chapter" or "the initial phase" of that glorious Mission. I have never been entirely sure if that opening chapter came to an end at the end of that Crusade in 1963. I have never been entirely sure as to why the years 1917 to 1953 were not part of that ‘opening chapter'.

This booklet of poetry and essays celebrates the forty years of that glorious Mission overseas: the years 1957-1997. It was a Mission first enunciated in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, a document which made it clear that the Canadian and American Bahá'í communities were the co-heirs of this Plan. In his letters to the Canadian Bahá'ís beginning in 1948, though, the Guardian did not place any special stress on the overseas dimension of that Mission: at least not until 1953. With his letter of 1957 this initial stress received its seal of good-housekeeping, so to speak. By the summer of 1957 no Canadian Bahá'í reading Shoghi Effendi's letters could miss the emphatic language, the important context, of overseas pioneering. The glorious overseas Mission, as originally defined by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in his immortal Tablets(2), had been clearly reiterated and recontextualized by the guiding pen of Shoghi Effendi especially for the Canadian Bahá'í community, after what might be called a hiatus of forty years.

On 8 March 1917 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá completed His Tablets. This booklet also serves as an anniversary celebration of the eightieth year(1917-1997) of the completion of this foundation document for the teaching work of the international Bahá'í community. For it is from this document that the glorious overseas Mission unfolds.

I make no attempt in this poetry to be especially topical in the sense of systematically covering the content, the context, the events, the people, the places and the circumstances that highlight these forty years, or eighty years, as the case may be. They were years which established and extended the "imperishable record of international service" to beyond the end of the first century of Canadian Bahá'í history.(3) But I do intend to comment on these years in poetry's serendipitous, succinct and, hopefully, practical and persuasive idiom; as well as through the use of the essay, several of which I have included at the end of the poetry. I have also added an interview, an outline of the major sections of my autobiography and a list of my booklets of poetry to provide a richer, a personal, perspective on the content of this celebration of Canada's glorious Mission overseas.

The imagination takes possession of what is basic in our lives. "Truth palpitates" says Maurice Blanchot, "at these moments. These rare moments are secret centres where time is reborn from its own ashes in mysterious flashes of luminosity and timelessness, freed from its own tyranny."(4) Blanchot goes on, in another context, to say that what is useful in our lives is our "readiness to disappear, our ability to perish, our fragility, our weariness, our essential precariousness, our aptitude for death."(5) Death must not be something that occurs at the very last minute, but something that has grown with our growth from the beginning of life and in the deepest recesses of our lives. We give birth to our death, but can never be close to it. Rather, we can be the illustrators, the poets, of our death. It is in this widest context that I like to see this poetry.

I give you these poems in celebration of the forty years 1957-1997, years in the last half of the first century of Canada's glorious Mission overseas, a Mission which Shoghi Effendi with his unerring wisdom clarified for the Canadian Bahá'í community in the last years of his life, focusing sharply and simply on the obvious implications in those Tablets of the Divine Plan for overseas teaching work. With his passing began the real progress in that Mission, in those years 1957-1997, built on the foundation of twenty years of an international teaching plan(1937-1957) and the work of various Bahá'ís, perhaps going back as far as the teaching activity of Marion Jack in France ca 1907.(6)

The Guardian's own influence on these forty years-1957 to 1997- would no longer be circumscribed by any physical limitations, the exhaustion and sorrow of his latter years, for example; the radiance of his soul would no longer be beclouded by his human temple; his soul could now energize the administrative instrument he had brought into being to a degree unapproached while he laboured on earth.(7)

In 1957 there were only about 700 Bahá'ís in Canada(8); the homefront had kept the Canadian community busy. Few Bahá'ís had gone overseas. The Guardian's letters, since the inception of the National Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada in 1948, did not refer to overseas goals in the teaching work. In the years 1953 to 1957 the Guardian had reiterated the importance of that overseas Mission in unmistakable and emphatic language. This poetry is a tribute to the results of that Mission in the forty years since Shoghi Effendi's passing by one of the 132 Bahá'ís who pioneered overseas in the Nine Year Plan.(8) It is also a tribute to the labor of love by Canadians who arose to pioneer overseas in response to ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's injunctions in the Tablets of the Divine Plan during the eighty years since their completion on March 8th 1917. I like to think that included in this tribute, too, are those who will yet arise in generations born and not-yet-born. For we all all links in one great chain.
(1) Shoghi Effendi, Messages To Canada, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 1965, p.22.
(2) ‘Abdu'l-Bahá referred to the "glorious aim" in the TDP, p.96. He was specifically referring to establishing affinity between the hearts. It would be impossible to read this book by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and not see that ‘overseas teaching work' was at the core of the entire exercise.
(3) The words of Shoghi Effendi do not make it clear when the history of overseas teaching began. He implies it was a little less than 50 years in 1951; by now, by 1997, the first century will be very close to completion. Canada's Six Year Plan, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 1987, p.6 informs us that the first Bahá'í in Canada was in 1893.
(4) Maurice Blanchot in The Siren's Song: Selected Essays, Harvester Press, Brighton, 1982, pp. 69-78.
(5) ibid., p.159.
(6) Bahá'í World Compendium: Volumes I-XII, p.658.
(7) This idea is expressed by the Guardian on page 244 of God Passes By.
(8) NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, Canada's Six Year Plan: 1986-1992, 1987, p.46.
(9) This poetry is written after twenty-five years of pioneering overseas in Australia. The number 132 is recorded in the statistical section of Canada's Six Year Plan, p.47, under "overseas pioneers."

Ron Price
Australia
31 January 1997

INTRODUCTION TO THIS BOOKLET ‘ELEGANCE'

This poetry is written by someone whose pioneer life has occupied all of the third and fourth epochs of the Formative Age. These epochs have seen my flowering, my moment, the time I have lived for on this Earth. Part of what I do in my poetry in these booklets is to decorate the featureless wall of a life. Like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, the single most understated monument in history, just a list of names on a wall, most overseas pioneers remain unknown, their lives as featureless as the wall of this war memorial. Occasionally their lives are given a sketch in some statement of tribute, but rarely do we get a detailed account of the inner life and private character.

This poetry is a monument, meant to express the importance of overseas pioneering. Perhaps it would be more realistic to compare it to a tombstone, where necessity requires some statement, something personal, some taste of the tragic, the adventure, something that captures, that symbolizes, a life. Words are like stone; they often endure longer than stone. There is no false heroism here, just an acceptance of history as honestly as possible. There is no false self here, just a self fiercely aware of this moment in history, the beginning of the tenth stage of history, its first several decades and its potential to leave traces that will last forever.

This poetry gives expression to a stage in the building of a social order in which the great Socratic project of self-knowledge becomes possible for all of us. It is a self-knowledge that is both self-forgetfulness and self-realization, that is both a statement of authenticity and a mask for an underlying despair, that is both a search for inner richness and a finding of the void within, that is frankly eager to openly psychologize one's miseries and failures and enjoy self-expression; and that enjoys a moderate confessional candor and is willing to lay bare confusion and self-doubt.

"Their innocence empowers them" says Theodore Roszak commenting on the generation of the sixties and seventies, "urging them to demand more from life than any generation of the past."1 This was the first generation that went pioneering overseas in this tenth stage of history, this end of history. It was the first generation that believed there was a bright spirit waiting to be found in each of us, a true self, a soul hungering to be acknowledged as unique. An enormous extroversion of attention and energy was required to reshape the Earth and this reshaping required a turning inward, what Shoghi Effendi called a turning to "the inner life and private character." This inner fascination was the way to break the manacles of tradition and become some small piece of ourselves. In the Bahá'í Faith those that pursued this goal found that the God within and the God without was essentially a false dichotomy. "Look within thee and thou wilt find Me standing within thee: mighty, powerful and self-subsistent,"
Bahá'u'lláh says. God is a mystery and I am a mystery. This much we must accept. The golden seam of joy has an intimate connection, for the Bahá'í, with the manifestation of God.

This poetry is a result of that turning inward to the inner life. The immense panorama of life, of history, of the disciplines that examine human existence is to be found here in these 25 booklets of over 3000 poems. They are presented as a gift, as a statement of an overseas pioneer, to the Universal House of Justice for the Bahá'í World Centre Library.

1 Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1992, p. 273.
Ron Price
3 January 1998.

INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET OF POETRY ‘IN EVER-GREATER MEASURE'
As the work on the terraces and the Arc goes through its initial stages, plans continue and the fourth epoch moves along its destined course. This booklet of poetry is completed as the first year of the Three Year Plan comes to an end. The Universal House of Justice, in reviewing the significance of the monumental work on Mount Carmel, points us to the ‘providential opportunities' that exist for us in assist in eradicating the causes of the appalling suffering of humanity. They also point us toward the radical changes that are essential in the structure and function of human society. They point toward the three distinct processes set in motion by the triple impulse of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, the Will and Testament and the Tablet of Carmel. They point to the spiritualisation of humanity and to the writings of Isaiah and his prophecies regarding the Mountain of the Lord. It is in the context of these statements of the Universal House of Justice that I place the poetry in this collection.

Not all of my poems are about the developments on Mount Carmel. Indeed words cluster somewhat like chromosomes determining the procedure of the poem. A host of factors come together to make a poem or a group of poems like the ones herein. As I write a poem I am partially governed by the pull of the words, like the pull of gravity; if is very difficult, if not impossible to even define what I do. I never plan a stanza, although on those rare occasions when I try to make rhyming poetry there is a certain constraint that operates. This is why I rarely write rhyming poetry; it is simply far too restrictive over an art form in which I want freedom to move and express.

Poetry, for me, is a way of intensifying experience, of defining the personal value of that experience, of giving form to perpetual possibility. It allows me to go to the heart, to the essence of a situation, with a single and persistent eye. Hopefully, I can take my reader with me to a world of enjoyment as I chart my way through the worlds of life and art, linking them together, making them cohere.

Ron Price
21 April 1994

INTRODUCTION TO THIS BOOKLET OF POETRY

Autobiography gives us access to the brain which is wider than the sky.
-Emily Dickinson in The Private Self, S. Benstock, Routledge, London, 1988, p.300.

This collection of poetry, centered as it is in autobiography, Bahá'í history and contemporary developments in the Bahá'í World especially the Mount Carmel Projects, attempts to explore the whole question of inner life and private character. This exploration is a feature of the entire corpus of my poetry, not just this small volume. I would like to make a few comments on this theme of the inner life in this introduction. I trust these comments will help place this theme, one that pervades my poetry, in a useful context.

There is something about the inner life, perhaps it is the God within, that is characterized by an inexpugnable inner otherness. Tranquillity and a sense of oneness with oneself is, for various reasons, attainable only in part. It is impossible to get a perfect identity between the observing "I" and the observed "me'. This inner division is part of the real battle of life-with oneself. Perhaps this division, this otherness, is part of what Bahá'u'lláh means when He says in the Hidden Words that:

Ye shall be hindered from loving Me
and souls shall be perturbed as they
make mention of Me. For minds can
not grasp Me nor hearts contain Me.1

Although there is clearly a thread of continuity from moment to moment in life, there is also what one could call a multiplicity of selves during these same moments. This poetry is a single opus, but the self that it deals with is no single opus; rather it is many-sided, many-faceted, many-selved. We are more conscious of the continuities but the discontinuities, the changes, are what make life rich and alive.

There is self-portraiture here; there is Bahá'í history here. But the description of both is difficult. They are easier to talk about than to write about. Writing tends to fix things, life, into a position. That is one of the reasons why I have come to enjoy the expansiveness and flexibility of poetry. It approaches the liveliness of speech. I find my understanding of both myself and the history of this new world Faith achieves a form, its first real form, in a lively and serendipitous fashion when it is exhibited in writing. "By showing ourselves" says Michael Montaign in discussing his own autobiography, "we lose part of what we are, we expose ourselves to risk, we entrust ourselves to the safekeeping of others..."2 In this subtle process of losing myself, I find I discover another person when I write. Someone emerges. It is as if I could truely say:

Turn thy sight unto thyself that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.3

Well, I feel a little presumptuous in saying that I see God within. It is more accurate to say I see some new self, perhaps it is the God within, or the absence of the God within.

There is an emergent quality in this poetry which makes me feel like there is another person among the pages. There seems to be more than the record of an ordinary life here in the pages of this poetry, more than a common and private set of days. Something adds on, adds up, as a result of inward reflection, of approaching this inner life and private character. One can't be sure just what it is. It's partly a surprise element. Chance encounter, the occasional poem, may reveal more than a systematic search of all the poetry. Inner knowledge, it would appear, is in many ways the elusive goal on an interminable pursuit. The true self, the inner truth, partly eludes, it would seem, the introspective gaze. This inner world is simply impossible to grasp to the full. It's like trying to grasp a boiling sea, an ocean in storm. The innermost folds, the waves, the brilliant sun on the surface, hide opaque depths, innumerable flutterings of seen and unseen aquatic life, astonishing complexity, mystery and simple H20.

Montaignethought that if "we make ourselves at home with the thought of death....we bestow coherence upon what is otherwise ‘but patchwork and motley'"4. The Bahá'í writings have a great deal to say about death and what they say is, on the whole, very encouraging. I have found myself, as the years of my middle age have gone on, quite attracted to the notion of death. It exercises no tyranny over me, but rather it invites me into what has been called ‘the undiscovered country' where days of blissful joy are "assuredly in store for me. For Bahá'u'lláh transmuted His tribulations into instruments of redemption, as the Universal House of Justice expressed one of the essential functions of this latest manifestation of God.5 It is here in this passing of the soul, this world eternal, that my full identity is to be found. It is here that the goal of my life finds its apotheosis.

Life here offers only change, a discontinuous series of instants, which I tell of in my poetry as honestly and accurately as possible. Stability and permanence are not part of this earthly heritage. Life seems so quintessentially flighty and erratic that it is impossible to know yourself or to be known. The Bahá'í Writings give me a framework for at least a partial knowing. As I attempt to record my life in poetry and other genres, my inner land oscillates between presence and absense. Life seems at best reverie, dream, fantasy, illusion where one lives in silent loyalty to oneself; and at worst a living according to the needs and wants of others and the appearances required by circumstance. The wise man seems to know how to be alone in a crowd and surrounded by company in solitude. This polarity, this dichotomy between private and public, is one which, if we deal with it effectively, brings us much inner peace. Facing the universe and the mystery of God human beings know how to face society and themselves through the guiding hand of what Bahá'ís call the Covenant. This is what I try to convey in my poetry.

My poetry tells of an inner mind which never stops, which aspires to go beyond its strength, reaching out for life, for my soul. This reaching out process is what brings life to the poetry. In the right company it comes alive, for it is so very suited to communication. This poetry also speaks of pleasure and tranquillity for happiness is found in these regions. It seems to me that I have established in my life, through the grace of God, "bases for human happiness". I have created and promoted "new instrumentalities"6 toward producing happiness. There is no question that, as the years have gone on in my life, a deep and abiding happiness has been given to me. It has not been without a great deal of suffering in my early adulthood and an acceptance of what Bahá'u'lláh calls the "burden of sin" and the destructive effects of my own heedlessness.7

"Every movement reveals us", says Montaign.8 Everyone of my poems reveals me. The me that is revealed is to be found in the striving, in the failure, in a region that exists within the poetry, in the interplay of different tendencies that war within me in the endless moments that make up my life. The war is often quiet, often it deals with trivialities and various alluring delights. Often, too, I wonder if, in fact, I will ever win the war. The result, I trust, is that the reader will find an aesthetic arrangement of flowers here, an imaginative organization of my experience for aesthetic, intellectual and moral purposes, a sort of reality testing of my life and of the multiplicity of my persona, my inner selves. Of course a public self is also described here, like some kind of vehicle, stage setting for the real action which goes on inside. This setting is made up of a historical and cultural mise-en-scene, the sky as Emily Dickinson put it, against which the soul moves and has its being.

The Mt Carmel Projects provide a backdrop for this poetry, a quintessential backdrop, without which it is unlikely that any of this poetry would have been forwarded to the Bahá'í World Centre Library. There are unique significances associated with these remarkably dynamic days, days which are chaging the Bahá'í community forever. The poetry here is the response of but one of the Bahá'ís in the world who writes poetry. At one level it is a useful historical document. At another level it is simply a gift, a measure of inspiration and love for the Blessed Beauty Who has filled our souls with His revivifying breath and transmuted His tribulations into instruments of our redemption.
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.
2 Jean Starobinski, Montaign in Motion, trans., Arthur Goldhammer, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1984, p.33.
3 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.
4 Starobinski, op.cit., p. 73.
5 Universal House of Justice, 28 May 1992.
6 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization, p.3.
7 Bahá'u'lláh, Long Obligatory Prayer.
8 Starobinski, op.cit., p.222.

Ron Price
11 October 1996

INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET NUMBER 38

I have written before of William Wordsworth and his influence on my poetry. The autobiographical nature of his poetry, especially in his Prelude; the strong tendency of Wordsworth to shape his memories and use his poetry as a medium for wrestling with the conception of his destiny; the feeling he had, as early as 1799, that he had been called to being a poet: these sentiments find echoes in my own experience and my own poetry, although for me the experience came much later in life. I was approaching my mid-fifties before I felt the strong poetic calling. I was 55 before I found my Grasmere. It would be from here that I would pursue the poetic calling with more vigour with my wife Chris, as Wordsworth did in 1799 at the age of 29 with his sister Dorothy as his companion and helpmate.

As Wordsworth put it in his poem Home At Grasmere:

Where my footsteps turned
Her voice was like a hidden Bird that sang;
The thought of her was like a flash of light
Or an unseen companionship, a breath
Of fragrance independent of the wind

…it was my hope that my Grasmere, in George Town Tasmania, at the end of the Tamar River would become "the choice of the whole heart"; (Stephen Gill, 1990, p.182) that it would serve as a base for future work both in Tasmania and elsewhere, should I want to serve in other parts of the world. By the time Wordsworth went to live in Grasmere he had been writing for sixteen years; I had been writing poetry for eighteen, but only seriously for seven. Any meaningful sense of ‘a poetic call' was slow in coming. I was in my early fifties. It was, and is, my hope that, as Wordsworth put it, "through memory nothing is really lost and change yields abundant recompense."(Stephen Gill, 1990, p.154) For leaving my son in Western Australia was, clearly, an ostensible loss, one of those deep losses most of us experience from time to time. My hope was that it would be only temporary.(*)

It had become my view by 1999, though, that any interpretive analysis of one's life, its growth and development, was doomed to incompleteness and uncertainty. That had been Wordsworth's view by 1799. I have tried to make the factual basis of my poetry as accurate as possible, although this is not always the case owing to a certain poetic license. But the blessedness of that dawn, which Wordsworth spoke of, is to be found in this poetry and should provoke no skepticism, no doubt regarding the traces of its light which I see all around me. After the slow evolution of two centuries that dawn, as it enters the twenty-first century, is about to leave behind it ‘traces that will last forever.'

By 1992 Price's abundant emotions were searching for a worthy focus, a focus which he could not find in Bahá'í community life after over nearly forty years, although he had found it in the past in some towns and cities. As a pioneer over three epochs he had contributed to the development of the Bahá'í community in some two dozen towns and cities. In the process, by his fifties, he had worn himself somewhat thin. This was the reason for his Grasmere. But his sense of awe and reverence, for what was slowly unfolding on Mt. Carmel also needed to be given some outlet. Poetry celebrated and described what were clearly rapturous feelings, blessings, that he felt spread around him like the sea,(Gill, p.33) as this Project neared completion as the year 2000 approached.

The figure of Wordsworth is indistinct. What he actually thought, felt and did are knowable only in part. I trust that this is not the case with myself and my poetry. Wordsworth may be ‘eloquently unspecific', but Price, his religion and his wider society are described in some two million words and thirty-eight6 booklets, with a high degree of specificity. As Wordsworth registered his mind's evolution through an interplay of the present and the past, through a reworking of his poems, Price registered as far as possible his life, his religion and his society in interaction with both the past and the future. Price did not rework his poems; he just wrote more. A new idea led to a new poem, not a reworking of an old one. An experience, however negative, also lead to a poem. Price was not free of negative experiences. Indeed, sometimes he felt exhausted by them.

The Prelude was Wordsworth's account of his spiritual journey, its record of awakening, crises, recovery and maturity in the innermost world of the mind and heart. This is also true of Price's opus, but there was no attempt to make his poetry sequential. The description of Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798 as "solitary beings, dwelling calmly in the immensity of their own thoughts", (Gill, p.122) had become, as Price approached his own Grasmere days in George Town, the way Price hoped his time and energies would be symbolized and unfold in this new location.

As the years 1992 to 1999 flowed on, Price sensed an increasing direction and purpose and, it was his hope, that this directedness would continue. Like Wordsworth, an industrious and active man who tended to overexert himself, Price had a similar orientation. By the time he arrived at his Grasmere, Price felt tired, weary and complained of psychological fatigue; in fact, several days before moving in to his Grasmere in George Town he had felt like abandoning the project entirely. For Price knew, as a basic first principle, almost, that "with fire We test the gold." Sometimes the fires were just too much, but time tended to cool the heat, thank the Lord.

Just as Wordsworth responded to the creative impulse he had felt in 1799 with abundant materials for new poetry, Price responded to the creative impulse of the new developments on Mount Carmel. The magnitude of the task did not paralyse his imaginative power, although it often did lead to feelings of utter helplessness. He felt stirred on to write and write and write when these feelings abated. He new he could not counteract the forces of society with his poetry; for these forces in this dark heart of an age of transition needed more pens than his. But he would play his part.

Price, like Wordsworth, felt he could help, play that small part, in binding together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it had come to spread over the whole earth and over all time. The objects of Worsworth's thought, and Price's, were everywhere. Like Wordsworth, Price saw himself as chronicler, preserver, comforter and moral guide, futurologist and mediator.(Gill, p.197) Like Wordsworth, Price lived increasingly "in the busy solitude of his own heart."(Gill, p.212) Although Price had made hundreds, even thousands, of friends over three epochs, he had come to a view, not unlike Wordsworth's, that friendship was not easy, you could not look for it, but it would spring up and thrive like a wildflower.

If is my hope that, like Wordsworth too, my poetry can rectify the feelings of readers, give them new conceptions of feeling, render their feelings more sane, pure and permanent. Wordsworth thought that one day he would offer the world the great philosophical poem. This remained his last and highest aspiration.'(Gill, p.202) Although this was not Price's aspiration he did like to think that for the critical foundation years of this new Order of society, which he saw take form during three epochs of the Formative Age, his poetry would serve as a useful resource for future readers wanting to gain a better understanding of what went on in these times and how pioneers, oversees pioneers especially, accomplished what they did.

Price, like Wordsworth two hundred years before at the dawn of the dawn of this new age, took possession of his own past, ordered his memories and celebrated the powers which had shaped him to be a poet. He also gave vent to the melancholy which came into his life on occasion, sent by the Hand of Destiny as it seemed, or resulting from his own inadequacies, part of a process which it seemed he was to learn within but which was often so obscure as to force him back onto those mysterious dispensations of Providence.
(*) It was indeed the hope of both my son, Daniel, and my wife and I that he would in ‘a year or so at the latest' join us in Tasmania and that we would be together again.
-The above references are from: Stephen Gill, William Wordsworth: A Life, Oxford UP, NY, 1990.

INTRODUCTION

This booklet is the fortieth in the series, thirty-six of which I have sent to the BWCL. It celebrates my forty years as a member of the Bahá'í Faith. It is a celebration for having survived, at least I am still a Bahá'í in good standing. No one knows, of course, what their own end shall be. For the road is long, tortuous and stoney for both the individual, the community and the global civilization that has so recently come into being. One can lose one's way and not get back to the Path, even in the last moments of life, it would appear from reading Bahá'u'lláh's Writings.

In October of 1959 I became a member of the Bahá'í Faith in Burlington Ontario Canada. I am not going to attempt to summarize here either my own experience or that of my religion during these forty years. In many ways I have done that in these many volumes of poetry now in excess of some five thousand poems. Little did I realise what my story would become forty years and five months ago when, as part of the process of becoming a Bahá'í at that time and place, I answered a few questions in the lounge room of a Mr. Rod Willis, a local spiritual assembly member appointed to interview prospective believers. After these many years much of the reality of being a Bahá'í is memory, one's story and the story of others. Part of this reality is also vision, a vision which creates reality. This memory, this story, this vision, this reality is found here in my poetry. Little can I realise or predict as I write these words what my story and that of my Faith, the Bahá'í Faith, will become in the years ahead and beyond these years in the Unknown Country of the world beyond.

I present this collection of poetry, A Celebration of Forty Years, to the Bahá'í World Centre Library as yet another in the series of booklets of poetry that I have sent to the library over the last eight years. I thank you for accepting this creative endeavour as, among other things, a statement of pioneering over three epochs. It is a statement, too, covering the "final fateful stretch"1 of the Four Year Plan which has just ended. After receiving in that Holy Year, 1992, a kick-start to this poetic outburst, which I like to see as "an external phenomenon" itself "quite markedly a reflection of an inner attainment to a deeper understanding of (my) relation to Bahá'u'lláh,"2 I have gone on now during two Plans, 1993-1996 and 1996-2000 to concentrate my capacities and insights in a quite systematic way, as systematically as one can in a creative endeavour like poetry. The product is some two to three million words over less than eight years.

"Transported on the wings of the spirit to a summit from which"3 I could see, during those same Plans, the fast approaching glory of the Lord's immemorial promise to mankind, symbolized in the gradual construction of the Lord's Vineyard on Mt. Carmel, during these "darkest hours before the break of day"4 I leave these poems as part of the achievements of a century, part of a befitting crescendo, to a period that will have "left traces which shall last forever."5

1 The Universal House of Justice quoted in NSA of Bahá'ís of Australia, December '99

2 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 150.

3 idem

4 idem

5 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 152..........Ron Price 21 March 2000



INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET 47

This booklet of poetry is sent in celebration of the first anniversary of the opening of the Bahá'í Centre of Learning in Melville Western Australia. That opening in May of 2001, at the beginning of the Five Year Plan, 2001-2006, and in the early months of the Fifth Epoch of the Formative Age synchronized with the completion of the Arc project on Mt. Carmel. It was an auspicious beginning indeed for this Centre of Learning.

I have entitled my booklet of poetry: Some Poetry From the Fifth Epoch. I send this poetry in the early months of the second year of this Fifth Epoch, "the beginning of what future generations will regard as a splendid chapter in the annals of our Faith."1 It seems reasonable to see the opening of this beautiful Centre of Learning as part of the "series of soul-stirring events"2 that celebrated the completion of the Terraces on Mount Carmel, part of the "auspicious beginning"3 of the occupation of the International Teaching Centre, part of "the revolutionary vision, the creative drive and systematic effort"4 that is coming to characterize the work of so many of the institutions of our Faith in this new millennium. To put it another way, this magnificent edifice in Western Australia, is part of the "new impetus to the advancement of the Cause,"5 part of "a change of time,"6 "a divinely driven enterprize."7

May this building and its associated services and activities help in the process of aiding humanity in finding its Soul. For that is our job, as the House of Justice pointed out in its recently published book Century of Light. May it help in opening people's "minds and hearts to the one Power that can fulfil their ultimate longing."8

I wish you well in your efforts toward that end.

After living in Western Australia with my wife and son from 1986 to 1999, and after attending many firesides in Melville in the 1990s, I have felt a certain kinship with what is now, for me, a distant landmark on this continent. I am now living in Tasmania, but your Centre of Learning is a beacon of beauty and clearly a point of attraction for Bahá'ís in Australia. I find it an inspiration even at this distance, far to the east on this Australian continent. The Bahá'í Centre of Learning in Western Australia is a magnificent building and makes a prestigious addition to the visible symbols of the Cause in Australia.

In this introduction I would like to say a few things about why I write prose-poems and about the philosophy behind my poetry. This will assist anyone who comes across this poetry as it sits in the library of the Bahá'í Centre of Learning and who then decides to read some of it. There are many reasons that I write my prose-poems. Most of these reasons I have already outlined at many places in the corpus of my work, now nearly 6000 poems. To introduce this 47th booklet of poetry, poetry going back to 1980, I would like to summarize several of these reasons here in alphabetical sequence:

(a) to adjust, as far as writing can adjust, the imbalances, the malaises, the rifts involving my needs to be loved and to love; and to harmonize the disparate and the contrary in life;

(b) to deal with existential angst, sadness, dissatisfaction, gap and melancholy that arises in life;

(c) to express my journey, my search, my desire to know and understand;

(d) to express my love for the world and its: beauty, joy, madness, complexity, et cetera;

(e) as a way of finding what will suffice and a way of getting beyond writing, beyond the trying; transcending the day-to-day reality blunted as it often is by repetition;

(f) to express my unique being in the presence of a Divinity Whose theology, prophetology, theophanology I find in the writings of my Faith, the Bahá'í Faith;

(g) to constantly amalgamate disparate, chaotic, fragmentary and irregular experience into new wholes;

(h) to express what for me is a rich, varied consciousness and memory of the various communities I have lived in and been a part of;

(i) to define my horizon, my range of vision which includes everything that I can see from the particular vantage point of my experience and my religion; and

(j) to organize my tastes, beliefs and experiences into a whole which will satisfy my need and craving for perfection and unity, for self-realization.

These ten reasons are a start. I could write many more. This poetic opus is acutely personal, deeply autobiographical, as is the work of many poets throughout history. It also attempts to ‘think out loud,' to ‘think through' the mass of ideas and experiences that come into my life. It is a reasoning as clearly as I can with myself, to write as clearly as I can so that my readers will understand. After nearly a decade of a great deal of writing I feel as if I have found my voice, my style, from a union of heart and mind, feeling and thought. I don't write from one of these centres, but from both, and as far as possible I strive to make them--heart and mind--one. While the waters of my life are occasionally troubled with those eddies of "care and sorrow" that inevitably come to all of us from time to time, I live for the most part "in the palm of repose."9 Withdrawn into myself, in the being of repose, a great stream of humility flows into my being from the silence around me. This quietude and the depth if this repose is the basis for an intimacy that seems conferred upon me by those mysterious dispensations of Providence. It is as if all of history and the future rushes in, at least that part which seems needed at the time, for the purposes of writing. It is a difficult process to describe.

I'd also like to say something about the philosophy, the sociology, the psychology, the historical connections behind my poetry. Auden, the famous American/English poet of the 1930s, felt he wrote from, was a product of, a long line of ancestors who were clerics and schoolmasters. I feel a deep connection with at least two generations back in my family: my mother, my father and my grandparents on my mother's side. In addition, I have come to feel another connection, a spiritual one, a fertilization from people for whom I have been praying, for some two decades now, those who have remained faithful unto the Covenant of God and fulfilled in their lives His trust. I pray for their power to manifest the art of poetry; I pray for protection; I pray for their intercession.

I still hold to solitude. It seems to have an importance for me in writing poetry, although I don't seem to be writing any more poetry now than I did when I enjoyed far less solitude in the years before my retirement in 1999, the year I left Perth. This house wherein I dwell, symbolizes this solitude, as houses do in literature and poetry.10 The demands on my time have not returned to the heights they occupied from 1992 to 1999, the first years of serious poetry writing when I was still employed as a teacher at Thornlie Tafe College and serving on the LSA of Belmont. Those demands may not come again; they have not returned thusfar, and so I can deeply connect myself to my writing and milk its many pleasures. I do not complain, therefore, as many writers have, those who have come into fame, of the way the social, the public, wastes their time and energy. I can immerse myself in time and space and the great labyrinths, the circuitous paths, associated with them and try to describe this immersion in my poetry.

I like to think there has been a ceaseless development of my mind and sensibility in this poetic journey, a journey that seemed to get some kind of a kick-start back in that Holy Year of 1992-3. But it is difficult to describe, to define, to understand. I do feel fertility, newness with each poem, a sense of solving new problems along the way. I feel, too, a distance and a detachment as well as a ‘take this with a grain of salt' feeling in what I write.

Auden was often seen as the voice of his time, at least in the 1930s. For this time, these several epochs of the second Bahá'í century in which I have lived, there needs to be many voices. Mine is but one. Perhaps I have written too much poetry; perhaps only a small portion of it will endure; perhaps none of it. My poetry is what Auden's was in his New York period: ‘prose cut up in lines to look like verse.'11 That is why I call it prose-poetry. That is why I see it as ‘personal speech in its purest form.'12 That is why it is ‘talking to myself,' necessarily autobiographical. Perhaps my poetry is more idiosyncratic than universal, more temporary than permanent. Time will tell.

To compose a finished, well-constructed poem, the mind must focus all along the way as the poem-project develops. For a simple poetic image, a stimulus-idea, though, all that is required is "a flicker of the soul."13 This I offer to my readers-the flicker of my soul and the light of my mind—all a gift of God. When a poem leaves me it belongs to whomever comes by for a read. It takes root, it emerges, in the reader or it is not planted and it blows away, as the case may be. The writing of the poem is a creative act expressing the world, life, my life, my community, its history, my history. If it achieves its function when read, the poem removes passivity, it accesses a world for the reader, it can transform and remodel the reader; it can play on man's most exquisite sensibilities. It can rejuvenate, giving a quality of beginning to the most everyday actions.14 Such are the lofty possibilities of poetry. For me, I try to construct my world, as Boris Pasternak wrote, with the help of instinct and of mind.

As I look at the constantly changing world through "the thousand windows of fancy" I draw on a certain philosophy or sociology called phenomenology. It is a movement dedicated to "describing the structure of experience"15 as it presents itself to our consciousness, to understanding the social construction of reality and, in the case of this poet, understanding how I orient myself to life, to the world, to reality, to meaning, to experience, to self. There are so many departures to my reflections. Each phenomenologist is a beginner and must reconstruct the work of others. Phenomenology is a "flexible orienting frame" not a fixed interpretive scheme. My own perpetual beginnings are my primary resources for arriving at my phenomenology. "Every aspect of human existence lies within its scope."16 Phenomenology can illumine whatever I experience. Such is the theory and it is the most useful broad framework for my poetry, the framework for making my world new, the framework for the inner immensity of imagination and memory, the framework for grandeur.

These, then, are some general remarks to introduce my poetry here and my booklet. I hope whoever comes across these poems will enjoy the experience of reading them. When I first read the poetry of Roger White back in 1980 it opened my mind and let the rivers of my heart flow. I have tried to do the same in my poetry but in a different way to Roger. Time will tell how successful I have been.

1. The Universal House of Justice, Letter, January 14, 2001.

2. The Universal House of Justice, Letter January 16, 2001.

3. The Universal House of Justice, Letter January 14, 2001.

4. ibid.,p.2.

5. idem

6. idem

7. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2001.

8. The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, 2001, p.144.

9. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Places, Beacon Press, Boston, 1964, p.36.

10. ibid.,p.226.

11. A.L. Rowse, The Poet Auden: A Personal Memoir, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, NY, 1987, p.121.

12. ibid. p.130.

13 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Places, Beacon Press, Boston, 1964, p.xxii.

14 ibid.,p.67.

15&16 Mary Rogers, A Phenomenological Critique, Cambridge UP, NY, 1983, p.3.

Ron Price

21 April 2002

"The best gifts have the giver's spirit in them."

-Louis Hyde, author and student of ‘gift giving' on "The Comfort Zone," ABC Radio National, 15 December 2001.

…….here is a little of my soul…….

INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET NUMBER 46: REVISED

This booklet is composed as a dual-celebration; firstly, of the election of the first Regional Bahá'í Councils in Australia and in Tasmania in particular1 and; secondly, my fortieth year of pioneering. I had no idea back in August of 1962 that in later years I would come to see this time at Kashabog, a Bahá'í camp near Peterboro in northern Ontario, as the start of my pioneering life. This booklet contains poetry from the last two months of the 39th and the first three months of the fortieth year of this pioneering experience.

It is the prayer of the Bahá'í community that "the establishment of Regional Bahá'í Councils will greatly enhance the ability of the Administrative Order to deal with the complex situations with which it is confronted."2 These Regional Councils are part of a new impetus to the advancement of the Cause, part of a change of time, part of a divinely driven enterprize. This poetry celebrates this new enterprize, this new addition to the global plan of governance in the Bahá'í community.

Fifteen months ago now we entered a new epoch and one that, in all likelihood, will take us to the end of the first century of the Formative Age in 2021. This poetry, my 46th booklet, is about many things. It is a story of my search for myself, an attempt to extract truth from all that is my life, my culture and my religion. It is the story of my Faith, the Bahá'í Faith, over the several epochs of this Formative Age that has been my life and beyond. One of the beautiful things about writing poetry is that it involves imagination and memory and when they catch fire, or even kindle themselves producing heat and smoke, the poet travels to unexpected places. The intensity of emotion, the heat and the fire of the process is what makes me a writer of poetry.

My life, my religion and my poetry involve a series of journeys: of arrivals and departures, of going to a place and returning home, of going to a place, then going to another place and never returning home, of travelling in my mind and standing still, of imagining my vision and returning to the harsh and not-so-harsh reality of the present and of being transported into a state of exaltation but only after I have travelled in despair or slowly struggled on and on.

Loss and defeat preceded my obsession with writing poetry. By the time I was fifty-five and the age I felt I could retire from my profession of teaching the spark seemed to have gone out of my energy systems. The road to writing poetry seemed to be one I walked on in some ways as a last resort. The road of every writer in the long run involves travelling alone. Both writers I draw on in this introduction have given emphasis to this aloneness. W.H. Auden says being alone is absolutely crucial to the development of the poet. So,too, is the notion of the oneness of all of life. The poet's role, insofar as this oneness is concerned, is to synthesize, integrate, order the macrocosm and the microcosm, the local, the national and the global, the cosmic. And, of course, there is always the example of the Guardian and his aloneness.

I began travelling the road, the path, of the Bahá'í Faith the year the Trinidadian novelist V.S. Naipaul published his first novel, 1959; and I pioneered the year he published his most famous book, A House of Mr. Biswas, in 1962. I make this comparison because Naipaul and I share two obsessions: what it means to be/become a writer and a vast socio-political issue. In Naipaul's case the issue is: 'what happens in post-colonial societies' and in my case it is: 'what it means to be a Bahá'í.'

Naipaul says that writing for him is 'a willed act of self-creation.' I feel the same way. Writing is a refining of the emotions and it brings a feeling of completeness. This is true for both Naipaul and I. When we do a piece of writing that moves us, we are impregnated by the mood of it and its content. What we have written is like our child and, since we can not give birth, this is the closest we will come to the experience of childbirth. The analogy, of course, is not a perfect one. I think I detach from my writing much more than good parents do from their children.

I am both beleaguered and enthralled by the truths at the centre of the Bahá'í vision. While this, it seems to me, is an honourable problem and while it is an underlying motivational force in my writing, it is also part of an obsession. I am a driven man, driven by the compelling vision and the life experience I have now had for forty-three years as a Bahá'í. Poetry is just the most recent expression this obsession is taking.

There are also some similarities between my poetic opus and how and why it was written and the work of W.H. Auden, another man obsessed by writing poetry. Both myself and Auden see a great similarity between the Roman Empire and our modern twentieth century, although my own view has been significantly refined by reading Patrick Brantlinger's Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay.3 Neither Auden nor I feel a crude need for fame, but we both feel a need for visionary experience to fertilize our poetry. The primary function of poetry, for both of us, is to make us more aware of ourselves and our world. Both of us feel a passionate concern for what we write about and absolute confidence in the success of our poetic commitments, although we may define that success somewhat differently.

Poetry should praise just for its being and its happening as well as the being and happening of the world. It should be a reflection of intensive reading and thinking, a reflection of a certain enthusiasm, however quietly expressed, for living. Poets have a separate existence and meaning in the lives of their readers from the existence and meaning their poetry has to themselves. When and if poetry is read, it should become 'memorable speech.'4 Poetry digests and expresses the world and gives expression to a meditative concentration of feelings. So ends, for now, this comparison. And so ends this introduction.

footnotes

1 Elected in November 2001. I have forewarded this revised introduction to Booklet Number 46 of my poetry, an introduction written originally in celebration of the election of the Regional Bahá'í Council in Tasmania, because it seems relevant to celebrate the election of the Regional Baha'I Council of Western Australia in the same context, a context that comments on my poetry as well.

2 The Universal House of Justice in Regional Bahá'í Councils, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia, 2001.

3 Patrick Brantlinger, Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay, Cornell UP, London, 1985.

4 Richard Davenport-Hines, Auden, Minerva, NY, 1996. Davenport-Hines informs us of all these aspects of Auden's view of poetry and I found them so pertinent to my own poetic opus that I refer to them here in this introduction to a celebration of my 40th year of pioneering and the election of the first Regional Bahá'í Councils in Australia.

Ron Price

21 April 2002
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR COLLECTION OF POETRY

What follows is an outline of the titles of the booklets of my poetry and the dates

when the poetry in these booklets was written. There are nearly six thousand poems(5000 in BWCL) in these fifty-two booklets, forty of which have been sent to the BWCL

A. Booklets:

This poetry is divided into several parts named after the several stages associated with the construction of the Shrine of the Bab and the beautification of the surrounding properties: The Tombs's Chambers, The Arcade, The Golden Dome, The Terraces and The Mountain of God.

BOOKLET NUMBER NAME OF BOOKLET DATES WHEN WRITTEN
1. THE TOMB'S CHAMBERS:

-----Warm-Up: The Tomb's Chambers August 1980 to 2 March 1987
(not sent to anyone or any group; kept as part of my personal juvenilia)

2. THE ARCADE
Warm-Up: The Arcade June 1987 to 22 August 1992
3 THE GOLDEN DOME

2 Pioneering Over Three EpochsJanuary 1992 to 22 December 1992
3 Swiftly Changing Tides 4 January 1993 to 22 April 1993

4 The Priceless Treasury 22 April 1993 to 5 July 1993

5 A Yet Greater Impetus 11 July 1993 to 29 August 1993

6 The Darkest Hours Before the Dawn 4 September 1993 to 11 November 1993

7 Instruments of Redemption 12 November 1993 to 30 December 1993

8 In Ever-Greater Measure 1 January 1994 to 20 April 1994

9 Time Capsules 27 April 1994 to 11 September 1994

10 The Emergence of a Bahá'í 18 September 1994 to 28 November 1994

Consciousness in World Literature

11 Intensest Rendezvous 4 December 1994 to 14 December 1994

12 Soldiering On 16 December 1994 to 5 January 1995

13.1 Vista of Splendour 23 March 1995 to 4 May 1995

13.2 The Prelude 4 May 1995 to 30 May 1995

4 THE TERRACES:

14 Mysterious Forces 1 June 1995 to 29 June 1995

15 Apple Green 2 July 1995 to 10 September 1995

16 The Hunt for Ground Cover 13 September 1995 to 3 December 1995

17 Emerald Green 7 December 1995 to 23 January 1996

18 The Strong Room 26 January 1996 to 8 April 1996

19 Tapestry of Beauty 9 April 1996 to 30 April 1996

20 In Loving Memory 3 May 1996 2 June 1996

21 Ivy Needlepoint 6 July 1996 26 August 1996

22 Tender Packages 30 August 1996 to 3 November 1996

23 The Art of Glorification 6 November to 8 January 1997

24 Canada's Glorious Mission Overseas 10 January to 14 February 1997

(sent to IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada)

25 A Small Contribution...Befitting Crescendo 19 February to 25 May 1997

(sent to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia)

26 An Imperishable Record of Int'n Service 26 May to 31 August 1997

(sent to several LSAs in southern Ontario)

27 At the Crest 3 September 1997 to 28 November 1997

28 Elegance 29 November 1997 to 4 January 1998

29 A View from the Roof Garden 6 January 1998 to 2 February 1998

30 Lines, Curves and Concentric Circles 3 February 1998 to 13 April 1998 31 Silver Green and Grey...and Flame Orange 14 April 1998 to 7 August 1998

32 As Elegant As 8 August 1998 to 9 November 1998

33 Panorama Road's Monumental Gates 7 November 1998 to 10 January 1999

34 Impression of a Deeper Curve 12 January 1999 to 18 March 1999

35 Cascading Down 20 March 1999 to 16 May 1999

36 Who Is Writing the Past? 18 May 1999 to 6 July 1999

37 The Field Is Indeed So Immense 29 August 1999 to 9 July 1999

38 This Dawn and That Dawn 31 October 1999 to 31 August 1999

39 Epic 1 November 1999 to 25 December 1999

40 A Celebration of Forty Years 27 December 1999 to 15 March 2000

41 A Bahá'í Poet of the 4th Epoch 22 March 2000 to 18 May 2000

42 39 19 May 2000 to 12 September 2000

43 Finished At last 14 September 2000 to 31 December 2000

5. THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD:

44 Fifty Years from F.O.G. 30 December 2000 to 13 April 2001

(sent to the IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada)

45 Thirty Years of International Pioneering 14 April 2001 to 12 July 2001

(sent to the IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada and the NSA of the

Bahá'ís of Australia)

46 Forty Years of Pioneering: 1962-2002 13 July 2001 to 15 November 2002

47 Some Poetry from the Fifth Epoch 20 November 2001 to 30 January 2002

(sent to the Bahá'í Institute of Learning for WA)

48 Out From Under the Bushel 31 January 2002 to May 14 2002

(sent to the Bahá'í Centre for SA)

49 The Fiftieth Anniverary Plus One 2 June 2002 to 30 August 2002

(sent to the Bahá'í Centre for Canberra)

50 Twenty Years On 7 September 2002 to 5 November 2002

(sent to the Bahá'í Council of the NT)

51 Forty Years On 6 November 2002 to 21 March 2003

(sent to the Bahá'í Council of Victoria)

52 22 March 2003 to 21 October 2003

(sent to the Bahá'í Council of Queensland)

B. General Outline of the Several Purposes of These Booklets:

The booklet entitled Warm-Up: The Tomb's Chambers was not sent to the Bahá'í World Centre Library(BWCL). It contained some 35 poems. I keep this in my study. The next several booklets were not given titles originally, as far as I recall; and, although they were placed in covers, they do not now have what has become the standard format for each of my booklets of poetry, the plastic folder/cover. I have now, though, given titles to all the booklets and each one is in a plastic cover in my personal collection. Perhaps one day the several booklets that are not now in plastic folders in the BWCL can be put in plastic covers and they can all be numbered with titles on the outside covers for easier access and continuity of form and presentation. I hope, too, that one day the pages can be numbered and a table of contents for each booklet can be arranged, as well as an Index to cover all the poetry. This is a somewhat daunting task and since there are few readers of my poetry in these middle years of the Formative Age, there is little need to complete such an exercise. (note: the page number in my personal copies are different than those in the BWCL copies.)

Booklet number 24 was sent to the International Pioneer Committee of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada in celebration of eighty years of the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan and Canada's glorious mission overseas. Booklet 25 was sent to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia in celebration of the contribution of overseas pioneers from other countries to the Australian Bahá'í experience, the fortieth anniversary of the spiritual axis and the Guardian's last letter to Australia. Booklet 26 was sent to the LSA of the Bahá'ís of Burlington, to be shared with several LSAs in Southern Ontario, where I became a Bahá'í in the 1950s and enjoyed some of my initial Bahá'í experience in the early 1960s. I sent booklets 27 to 43 to the BWCL.

Booklet number 46 celebrated forty years of my pioneering: 1962-2002 and was given to the Regional Baha'I Council for Tasmania to celebrate their first year in office. Booklet number 45, I sent to the International Pioneer Committee(IPC) of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada and the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia in celebration of my Thirty Years of International Pioneering, Booklet 44 Fifty Years From F.O.G.,(an expression used in Canada for 'Feet-on-the-Ground.') sent in April 2001 to the IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, celebrated the current situation, fifty years, of international pioneers in-the-field beginning with Alan Pringle in Costa Rica who arrived there in 1951.

Booklet number 47 I sent to the LSA of the Bahá'ís of Melville to celebrate the first anniversary of the opening of Western Australia's new Bahá'í Centre of Learning which open in May of 2001. Booklet number 48, celebrates the first anniversary of the opening of the new Bahá'í Centre on Brighton Road in South Australia and Booklet number 49 the opening of the Bahá'í Centre in Canberra and the beginning of the second half century of Bahá'í experience in the national capital. Booklet 50 was sent to the Bahá'í Council of the NT thanking them for including my History of the Bahá'í Faith in the NT: 1947 to 1997 in their newsletter 'Northern Lights.' Booklet 51 was sent to the Bahá'í Council of Victoria in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the election in 1963 of the Universal House of Justice. And, finally, Booklet 52 was sent to the Bahá'í Council of Queensland to mark the half-way point in the Five Year Plan, October 2003.

33

One of the obligations of the storyteller, the bard, the poet, is to tell his own story, tell who he is and tell it intelligently. He has to share his own story, his interests, his perspectives, his seeds, his loyalties, his beliefs, his loves, his frustrations. For all he has is his own story. I tell my story through openly autobiograhical poetry. In a world of global media conglomerates and electronic media production which increasingly control the telling of the stories to the rising generation, it has become more important for all of us to tell our own stories. An important part of community, often simply not mentioned, is the aspect of community that is experienced alone. This poetry is an expression of this aloneness.

It has been my experience that the globalizing tendencies and the individualizing tendencies, the sense that we are global citizens and unique individuals, finds its balance in the Bahá'í teachings. My poetry is a testimony to this reality: the balance between the individual and the community.

The titles of each of my booklets are drawn from recent experience in the Bahá'í community usually in connection with the Mt. Carmel Project. What is happening on Mt. Carmel is very much something that I feel is happening to me. So much of my identity as a person is connected with my Faith and the developments on Mt. Carmel. My booklets of poetry reflect the thoughts and experiences of one Bahá'í at this crucial stage in the development of his religion, the Bahá'í Faith.

It is the aim of this writer to provide a poetic and autobiographical work from an international pioneer which may be of use to future historians of the Faith. International pioneers have had an important part to play in the spread, the extension, of the teachings of this Faith in the last century. It is hoped that future historians may obtain a better understanding of these times and this embryonic and global community with an increasingly important part to play in the history of the planet and the establishment of peace and harmony among its component parts.

INTRODUCTION BOOKLET # 48

In July 1971 my wife Judy and I pioneered from Canada to South Australia. We moved to Whyalla. In the next twelve months we enjoyed what has become our only experience in Australia of entry-by-troops in the last thirty years. This booklet of poetry celebrates this experience of entry-by-troops. During that time, our first twelve months in Whyalla, that city formed its first Local Spiritual Assembly and between twenty and thirty people joined the Cause. This booklet also celebrates the first anniversary of the opening of South Australia's new Bahá'í Centre on Brighton Road in 2001. A great deal has happened in the South Australian Bahá'í community since those two Canadian pioneers arrived in 1971. This booklet of poetry does not attempt to survey that thirty year history or even provide an account of the experience my wife and I had back in that first year we lived in Australia, in Whyalla. In December 1972 we left Whyalla. It seems like a lifetime ago.

One development in the last thirty years has been an efflorescence of poetry both in Australia and throughout the international Bahá'í community. If I tried to summarize the developments, the poets and their work it would lead to prolixity. As the Bahá'í Faith has come out of obscurity so too have the Bahá'ís who write poetry. What is found here is but one sample from one poet. What is found here is the product of a long incubation period. This incubation took place during periods of illness, loss, isolation and personal difficulties of various kinds, both before arriving, after arriving and while living in South Australia. Some of this incubation has involved, I trust, some assistance from souls who "remained faithful to the Cause of God"1 and who are possessed of such power that they can provide leaven for poets like myself.

Beginning in the Holy Year, 1992-1993, a quickening wind, ventilating "the modes of thought of us all,"2 as the Universal House of Justice described the process, arguably had a rigorous effect on my poetic sensibility. What had been an occasional experience of writing poetry for the years 1980 to 1992 became a frequent one. That quickening wind, I like to think, has been involved in the production of some six thousand poems. A few are found here.

Some of my poetry is kept in the Bahá'í World Centre Library, some in the Bahá'í Centre for Learning in Western Australia. Some is also found in the National Bahá'í Centres of both Canada and Australia as well as the Bahá'í Library in Hobart Tasmania. Several LSAs in both Canada and Australia also hold some of my poetry in their archives. Interested readers can also read my poetry on my website at: users.intas.net.au/pricerc. I have for many years, since living in South Australia from 1971 to 1973, felt a connection with the Bahá'í community there and for this reason I have sent this poetry to be kept in the library at its new, elegant, dignified and attractive Bahá'í Centre on Brighton Road.

Readers will find here in this poetry an attempted reconciliation of divergent realities, a mingling of contraries, the extremity of sorrow, the extremity of joy, degrees of perfection in personality, some surrender of self, overflowing turbulent energy and great stillness. My pioneering life has contained all of these divergent realities. We all have our own particular divergent realities, we who live in these difficult times, these particular epochs of the Formative Age. This poetry, the work of one poet, is but one manifestation of the integrative process that Douglas Martin, member of the Universal House of Justice, spoke about in a recent talk. It is my hope that what I have wirrten here in these poems will have an integrative function for whoever happens to read them. My hope is that it will be of help in producing that feeling of quiet assurance that things will work out no matter how difficult the times.

The Arc Project has now been completed on Mt. Carmel. This "divinely driven enterprise,"3 whose magnitude we can but dimly comprehend, accompanied as it is by the "catalogue of horrors"4 in society, is at the heart of our experience as Bahá'ís at this crucial turning point in the history of the Cause and of the planet.

Geoffrey Nash, at the conclusion of an essay entitled "Can There Be a Bahá'í Poetry?", writes to "the lonely Bahá'í poet, writing in inhospitable circumstances among strangers or not always enlightened friends."5 He advises such a poet to persevere in what he has been given, in what he has to do. "Do not hide your light under a bushel,"6 he concludes. I do not feel especially lonely, but I do persevere, take some of my poetry out from under the bushel of my computer directory and present it to you for your new Bahá'í Centre and its library. May your Centre be a strong impetus for the advancement of the Cause in South Australia in the years ahead as we move toward the second century of the Formative Age.

1 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p.161.

2 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 1992

3 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2001.

4 The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p.1.

5 Anne Gordon Atkinson, "The Dilemma of the Artist," The Creative Circle, Kalimat Press, 1989, p.74.

6 idem

Ron Price

May 5th 2002
INTRODUCTION
By 1957 Shoghi Effendi had clearly established Canada's overseas teaching program as part of the National Assembly's agenda. He referred to that program as Canada's ‘glorious Mission overseas.' Of course, he did not create that Mission out of the blue. He pointed out in 1953 that the Canadian Bahá'í community had to its credit "an imperishable record of international service"(1) for nearly half a century. On June 20th 1953 Shoghi Effendi, in a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada, referred to what he called "the glorious Mission" of the Canadian community. It was obvious from the context that at least part of that Mission was overseas. He referred to this overseas Mission again in his last letter to the Canadian Bahá'í community on July 18th, 1957. The years of the Ten Year Crusade were, he said, "the opening chapter" or "the initial phase" of that glorious Mission. I have never been entirely sure if that opening chapter came to an end at the end of that Crusade in 1963. I have never been entirely sure as to why the years 1917 to 1953 were not part of that ‘opening chapter'.

This booklet of poetry and essays celebrates the forty years of that glorious Mission overseas: the years 1957-1997. It was a Mission first enunciated in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, a document which made it clear that the Canadian and American Bahá'í communities were the co-heirs of this Plan. In his letters to the Canadian Bahá'ís beginning in 1948, though, the Guardian did not place any special stress on the overseas dimension of that Mission: at least not until 1953. With his letter of 1957 this initial stress received its seal of good-housekeeping, so to speak. By the summer of 1957 no Canadian Bahá'í reading Shoghi Effendi's letters could miss the emphatic language, the important context, of overseas pioneering. The glorious overseas Mission, as originally defined by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in his immortal Tablets(2), had been clearly reiterated and recontextualized by the guiding pen of Shoghi Effendi especially for the Canadian Bahá'í community, after what might be called a hiatus of forty years.

On 8 March 1917 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá completed His Tablets. This booklet also serves as an anniversary celebration of the eightieth year(1917-1997) of the completion of this foundation document for the teaching work of the international Bahá'í community. For it is from this document that the glorious overseas Mission unfolds.

I make no attempt in this poetry to be especially topical in the sense of systematically covering the content, the context, the events, the people, the places and the circumstances that highlight these forty years, or eighty years, as the case may be. They were years which established and extended the "imperishable record of international service" to beyond the end of the first century of Canadian Bahá'í history.(3) But I do intend to comment on these years in poetry's serendipitous, succinct and, hopefully, practical and persuasive idiom; as well as through the use of the essay, several of which I have included at the end of the poetry. I have also added an interview, an outline of the major sections of my autobiography and a list of my booklets of poetry to provide a richer, a personal, perspective on the content of this celebration of Canada's glorious Mission overseas.

The imagination takes possession of what is basic in our lives. "Truth palpitates" says Maurice Blanchot, "at these moments. These rare moments are secret centres where time is reborn from its own ashes in mysterious flashes of luminosity and timelessness, freed from its own tyranny."(4) Blanchot goes on, in another context, to say that what is useful in our lives is our "readiness to disappear, our ability to perish, our fragility, our weariness, our essential precariousness, our aptitude for death."(5) Death must not be something that occurs at the very last minute, but something that has grown with our growth from the beginning of life and in the deepest recesses of our lives. We give birth to our death, but can never be close to it. Rather, we can be the illustrators, the poets, of our death. It is in this widest context that I like to see this poetry.

I give you these poems in celebration of the forty years 1957-1997, years in the last half of the first century of Canada's glorious Mission overseas, a Mission which Shoghi Effendi with his unerring wisdom clarified for the Canadian Bahá'í community in the last years of his life, focusing sharply and simply on the obvious implications in those Tablets of the Divine Plan for overseas teaching work. With his passing began the real progress in that Mission, in those years 1957-1997, built on the foundation of twenty years of an international teaching plan(1937-1957) and the work of various Bahá'ís, perhaps going back as far as the teaching activity of Marion Jack in France ca 1907.(6)

The Guardian's own influence on these forty years-1957 to 1997- would no longer be circumscribed by any physical limitations, the exhaustion and sorrow of his latter years, for example; the radiance of his soul would no longer be beclouded by his human temple; his soul could now energize the administrative instrument he had brought into being to a degree unapproached while he laboured on earth.(7)

In 1957 there were only about 700 Bahá'ís in Canada(8); the homefront had kept the Canadian community busy. Few Bahá'ís had gone overseas. The Guardian's letters, since the inception of the National Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada in 1948, did not refer to overseas goals in the teaching work. In the years 1953 to 1957 the Guardian had reiterated the importance of that overseas Mission in unmistakable and emphatic language. This poetry is a tribute to the results of that Mission in the forty years since Shoghi Effendi's passing by one of the 132 Bahá'ís who pioneered overseas in the Nine Year Plan.(8) It is also a tribute to the labor of love by Canadians who arose to pioneer overseas in response to ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's injunctions in the Tablets of the Divine Plan during the eighty years since their completion on March 8th 1917. I like to think that included in this tribute, too, are those who will yet arise in generations born and not-yet-born. For we all all links in one great chain.

(1) Shoghi Effendi, Messages To Canada, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 1965, p.22.

(2) ‘Abdu'l-Bahá referred to the "glorious aim" in the TDP, p.96. He was specifically referring to establishing affinity between the hearts. It would be impossible to read this book by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and not see that ‘overseas teaching work' was at the core of the entire exercise.

(3) The words of Shoghi Effendi do not make it clear when the history of overseas teaching began. He implies it was a little less than 50 years in 1951; by now, by 1997, the first century will be very close to completion. Canada's Six Year Plan, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 1987, p.6 informs us that the first Bahá'í in Canada was in 1893.

(4) Maurice Blanchot in The Siren's Song: Selected Essays, Harvester Press, Brighton, 1982, pp. 69-78.

(5) ibid., p.159.

(6) Bahá'í World Compendium: Volumes I-XII, p.658.

(7) This idea is expressed by the Guardian on page 244 of God Passes By.

(8) NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, Canada's Six Year Plan: 1986-1992, 1987, p.46.

(9) This poetry is written after twenty-five years of pioneering overseas in Australia. The number 132 is recorded in the statistical section of Canada's Six Year Plan, p.47, under "overseas pioneers."

Ron Price

Australia

31 January 1997
INTRODUCTION TO THIS BOOKLET: ‘A YET GREATER IMPETUS'

This booklet celebrates the recent news of consultations between the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Centre in June of 1993. The developments announced here, it is hoped, will impart a yet greater impetus to the activities of the believers and the institutions throughout the world. As this "whole age", in the words of W.B. Yeats, seeks "to bring forth a sacred book"1, I seek to comment on the process which is being given this ‘yet greater impetus'.2 The visible construction exercise, the Mount Carmel Arc Project, is the physical basis for a series of spiritual processes of enormous institutional significance, a significance still largely unappreciated.

I feel as if I am as much a creature of these poems as these poems are creatures of my making. Like some high tension wire which permits the discharge of images, I have attracted some poetic force. Thrown forward, tense and attentive, I move outside myself and produce words, words beyond, always beyond and put to flight as soon as they are born on paper.

Of course, one must also talk of inspiration and imagination, some other voice, temporality gushing out and manifesting itself unceasingly, as if I was magnetising the world by this poetic voice, or being magnetised by some other Voice. There is an image of the future forming here in these years, an image that has been slowly growing over a century and a half, but being given ‘a yet greater impetus' in these wondrous years, years which will pass soon enough. The world has lost its image of the future and, in the words of Ortega y Gasset, this world has mutilated the past and lost its control of both the future and the present.3

This poetry is playing its small part in creating this new image. This poetry is also trying to catch the world's mystery, its surprise and identify it. There is a white radiance to eternity, a radiance which we just touch faintly here. This poetry tries to paint this radiance in words. It tries to bring desire under some control4 through words-a task which is only partly attainable.

There is unity here, a unity based on and expressed through an integral meaningfulness. It is an essential constituent of my happiness and I trust readers will share in it so that my words will enrich their lives. "The end of poetry is to please" said William Wordsworth.5 Having given myself some pleasure, some play, some intellectual delight, I hope I can pass these experiences on through these words.

1 W.B. Yeats in The Bow and the Lyre, Octavio Paz, University of Texas, 1956, p.73.

2 Universal House of Justice, 24 June 1993.

3 Octavio Paz, op.cit., p.244.

4 Albert Camus, Notebooks: 1942-1951, trans. Justice O'Brien, A.A. Knopf, 1965, NY, p.210.

5 William Wordsworth in The Seamless Web, Stanley Burnshaw, Allen Lane, Penguin Press, NY, 1970, p.125.

Ron Price

7 July 1996

Ron Price

9 July 1996

INTRODUCTION

This poetry is sent in celebration of the Canberra Bahá'í Community's fiftieth year of history--plus one. This poetry is also a celebration of fifty years--minus one of my own Bahá'í experience. As I indicated in my covering letter, my hope is that you will accept this booklet of poetry into your Bahá'í Centre's library. Forty years ago this week I arrived at my first pioneering post in Canada; this booklet is a celebration of this forty years as well.

Poetry written by Bahá'ís in Australia goes back, in all probability, to the first few years of Bahá'í activity here: 1921-1931. I say, in all probability, because no one, as yet, has tried to document the history of poetry writing on this continent. I find it difficult to believe that none of those early believers, in what was a busy first decade, wrote any poetry. But it is not my purpose here to outline the origins and development of the history of poetry written by Bahá'ís in Australia. In this booklet the reader will find some of the poetry of a Canadian pioneer who came to Australia in 1971, at the mid-point in the first century of the Formative Age and the first century of the history of the Cause in Australia. Readers will also find some interview material and two essays which help place this poetry in context.

I have also included in this booklet a copy of a book that has been given 'provisional approval' by the National spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada. The book is entitled The Emergence of a Bahá'í Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White. Roger White has been a major inspiration to my own writing of poetry and readers will find a short biography of White as well as an analysis of each of his books of poetry written between the years 1979 and 1993 when he passed away.

I trust your Bahá'í Centre provides a "new impetus to the advancement of the Cause" in Australia in our "divinely driven enterprize." I trust, too, that this booklet of poetry and prose finds a home in your Centre's library where it can be accessed by Bahá'ís and their friends in the years to come.

INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET THIRTY-NINE

As the opening weeks of my thirty-ninth year of pioneering pass by I forward this thirty-ninth booklet of poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library. In 1997 I sent another, a single, booklet of poetry to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia Inc, as well as one to the International Pioneer Committee of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada and one to some of the Local Spiritual Assemblies in Canada were I spent the first nine years of my pioneering experience before becoming an international pioneer in Australia twenty-nine years ago. A final booklet of poetry, containing what could be called my juvenelia(1980-1987) I have kept and have not sent a copy of it anywhere.

My intention at the moment is to send two more booklets to the BWCL making a total of forty-one, for my forty-one years of membership in the Bahá'í community. By the time these booklets are completed the work at the World Centre on the Mt. Carmel Project should be at an end with only the official opening to take place in May 2001. By then I will have completed and sent out a total of forty-four booklets of poetry, one for each of the years since the Guardian's passing. I may send additional booklets to the BWCL after the completion of the Mt. Carmel Project in 2001, but only to celebrate other special developments and occasions there.

Included in this booklet is what might be called a sub-booklet, Something Gold Can Stay,1 which is a poetic account of my pilgrimage with my wife and son in May-June of this year, 2000. An essay introducing this sub-booklet can be found at the beginning of that booklet.

As I have pointed out on many occasions in these booklets, my poetry seeks to integrate personal, community and societal perspectives at a critical time in the development of the Cause. Interested readers can follow these poetic and autobiographical perspectives in five volumes of Journal, sixteen volumes of Letters, several hundred Essays, a one volume Narrative and some forty volumes of Notes which, one day, will, I trust, occupy space in a Bahá'í or family archive. This material may be more useful to the Bahá'í community at some future time, if it is useful at all.

1 It should be noted that this sub-booklet on my pilgrimage is kept separate in my personal collection of booklets. For the BWCL copy the two are put together in one booklet.

Ron Price

12 September 2000

INTRODUCTION 43

What has inspired my sending over five thousand poems to the Bahá'í World Centre Library since 1992 is the profound significance of the projects on Mt. Carmel. Poetry takes a special pleasure in walking hand in hand with beauty in the realm of art. Beauty is like a native climate for poetry, for the air it breathes. It is as life and existence are for a runner moving toward his goal. The gardens and buildings on Mt. Carmel are an expression of love, a mirroring of the lives of the Bab, the Blessed Beauty, indeed, all the Central Figures of the Cause, by the Bahá'ís of the world, in appreciation for their life-giving forces. My poetry was partly a conscious seeking to express beauty, moved as I was by the beauty, the inspiration, the developments on Mt. Carmel. The active mystery of poetic knowledge and poetic intuition, at least mine, has been set free by the results of these projects on Mt. Carmel in the last decade of this twenteith century.

By the time this booklet is finished and in the Bahá'í World Centre Library the Mt. Carmel Project will be virtually completed, with the exception of a few finishing touches here and there. The official opening is yet to come in May of 2001. But the project, begun in 1987 or before, is finally completed and this booklet is sent in celebration of this wondrous and inspiring reality.

I feel that, during the years that this project has been in operation, there has been a growth in my own self-awareness, a discovery of my own spiritual powers, a striving toward something made, toward utterance, toward production, toward the end that is a beauty beyond any end; one might call it a God-consciousness. Perhaps the reader will see these things in my poetry, perhaps not. But, in the end, my poetry was not so much an expression of beauty, for beside the beauty on Mt. Carmel one would not want to compete in any way, as it was an intellectual gift. These are busy times for the Bahá'í world and, as yet, my poetry has only been received in a minimalist sense. My poetic knowledge, my poetic intuition, through which I have perceived my portion of the mystery of the world, provides a transient,a fleeting, revelation and vision. Perhaps some of it will endure.

The "I" of this poetry is not the self-centred ego not the egotistical self. It limits the egotistical. At least that is how I like to see it. It is the substantial depth of a living and loving subjectivity; it is the creative Self, a subject as act, marked with expansiveness to the spirit. It is a Self marked, too, with a process of giving, with a disinterestedness which engages my human Self in its deepest recesses, but not for the sake of the Self. Rather, the exercise takes place due to a craving for creation, for the sake of the work, the poetic activity, the revelation of my Self in the work and the particular meaning I have obscurely grasped in things, in society, in life. Of course, "self-love", as ‘Abdu'l-Bahá wrote in His Secret of Divine Civilization "is kneaded into the very clay of man." I know I am no selfless saint. In writing poetry the subjectivity of the author is of its very essence. Poetry proceeds from man's totality: sense, intellect, imagination, memory, desire, instinct, blood and spirit.

"Poetry defeats the curse," as Shelley once wrote, "which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions...it equally creates for us a being within our being....It creates anew the universe after that universe has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration."1 The poetic knowledge that the reader will find here, then, is the result of inclination or connaturality(a combination of conviviality and creativity). This is a knowledge that is fully expressed in my own work and partly in my day-to-day existence over many decades. It emerged, at first, almost imperceptibly and then in an imperative and irrefragable manner through quite unpredictable experiential insights, through some disposition of the will and guided and shaped by both. I feel, and I have felt, that the value of this work is proportional to a poignant contact with my own sense of destiny. It is a sense of destiny that is also associated with a powerlessness which is "the goal of them that have reached and attained Thy court"2 and with the energies of "the treasuries of (His) grace."3 For whatever is of value here is the result of His unmerited favour.

"To be fertile, so as to manifest that which one possesses within oneself," John of St. Thomas wrote, "is a great perfection, and it essentially belongs to the intellectual nature."4 Sadly, though, history is littered by the products, the pens, of fertile men who were possessed with an inner demon, a not-so-treasured force, that proved to be of no value at all to humankind. The fertility I have sought is a spiritual fertility. I have felt, for at least a decade now, that Mt. Carmel was, in a sense, pregnant. Any fertility, then, that I acquired was a result of the fertility I caught by being associated with Mt. Carmel.

The beauty, the phenomenon of beauty, that interested me was much deeper than that associated with shapeliness, handsomeness, prettiness, charm, or those physical delights ‘up on a hill.' It was incomparably more important. It was, and is, associated with the transcendental; it is known in and through the subjective; it is grasped by means of emotion; it is more experience than knowledge; it is expressible only in a work, some made thing; it is quintessentially bound up with self-knowledge; it is the first thing the poet needs, the first thing he must seek; he must seek to know himself.

Any attempt, though, to understand self or, indeed, the spiritual significance of the developments on Mt. Carmel, through a poem, or series of poems, must ultimately fail. For one can only understand in part. My poetry signifies part of truth but must remain an unconceptualizable flash of reality obscurely grasped in the mystery of the world by the intuition, the emotion, of the poet. I see a poem somewhat like an engine to help readers pass through or beyond things. I also see it partly as a result of a long period of incubation, perhaps forty years, perhaps the period: 1953-1992, between the holy years.

The poetic experience is an arrangement of words on paper, a natural contemplation involving a moment of silence and alert receptivity. Without the contemplation there is no poetic activity. Poets take a greater interest, I think, than painters or composers in reflectively scrutinizing and putting into words their inner experience. The "glory and force" wrote Baudelaire of great poetry is due to the fact that "it believes."5 And, of course, none of this poetry would have come had it not been for my belief, my faith.

But, again, as Edgar Allan Poe repeatedly insisted "everything that is beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation."6 The poet cannot be too cool, too collected. Whatever passion I have brought to poetry is dominated, in the end, by the mysterious workings of the mind. And some inner necessity, some secret germ, some hidden place, that is quite indefinable lies at the single root of the powers of the mind, or the rational soul, where subjectivity is gathered in a state of expectation and virtual creativity. I find poetry gives chase to any flash of existence glittering by the way, any reflection of the visible and invisible order.

For poetry is both knowledge and spiritual nourishment. Poetry yearns to know much more than to make. It yearns, at least modern poetry, for spiritual experience.7 Thusfar, though, it does not "satisfy nor appease the hunger", except temporarily. Perhaps, as Maritain writes, "that is its grandeur."8 My poetry expresses itself in the things of sense, in a delight of sense. Perhaps that is why hunger never ceases except in the same temporary way hunger does in the physical domain after a good meal. If my poetry did not give some expression to human wisdom, to genuine contemplation, there would be little point. For our time stands in such great need for the fruits of wisdom and the cultural attainments of the mind.

John Crowe Ransom believes that "something is continually being killed by prose which the poet wants to preserve."9 When I write poetry I feel I am making an ontological,a metaphysical, manoeuvre that I hope will contribe to the perpetuation of the existence of things, some of which in actual life are clearly crumbling beneath my touch: like my own physical self and those of many I know. Perhaps that is why, as the poet Coleridge said, "the poet brings the whole soul of man into activity."10 Although physical life, in the end, crumbles, the soul is an eternal essence strangely, intimately, connected with the knowledge of God Himself.

I feel that my poetry not only exists but it acts and it does. Action, doing, is a necessary property of any work of art. Coleridge said that unity of action was the end of all poetry. Maritain says there is "an elan or motion which develops" in a poem and "through which within itself it asserts itself beyond itself.11

The value and richness of the themes I pursue in my poetry depend on, and are a token of, all the intellectual baggage in my universe of knowledge, all the rational power and energy of my perception and comprehension and all the vastness and unity of my mental horizons. Yet my poetic sense, my inner melody, my poems' meanings, originate in, function by virtue of, creative emotion, poetic intuition, inner spiritual springs. This is the supreme gift that a poet cannot seek. But a poet can care for, protect and assist the process, the functioning of the gift if he has. Perhaps one sign of the gift is the presence of an inclination towards the workings of poetry by some sense of inner necessity. Inner necessity has been present in my poetic functioning over the last eight years. Whatever I do poetically I feel is a gift.

Whatever sins I have placed into the light of day in my poetry given the slightly confessional aspect of my style and themes may, as Shelley thought, get washed away in the eyes of those who read my poetry. They may be washed away through the redemptive function of my Lord. I like to think, too, that they will be washed away in the context of my participation in an organic Order which has felt the breaths of a newly-born spring and basic existential certainties which exist with greater force and stability due to their integration in an articulate universe of thought. The climate for exceptional poetic assistance is highly favourable in these days and hours when a whole cosmos has been passing through the creative night of this dark heart of the age of transition, a cosmos which has only recently been given its initial mapping, in a dark heart which we have been living through for decades.

1 In Jacques Maritain, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, Princeton UP, 1977(1953), p.146.

2 Bahá'u'lláh, Prayers and Meditations, Wilmette, 1969(1938), p.89.

3 idem

4 In Jacques Maritain, op.cit., p.54.

5 Baudelaire in Maritain, op.cit., p.249.

6 Allen Poe in Maritain, op.cit., p.247.

7 ibid.,p.183.

8 ibid., p.235.

9 ibid., p. 335.

10 ibid., p.334.

11 ibid.,p.360.

Ron Price

1 October 2000

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKLET

'THIRTY YEARS OF INTERNATIONAL PIONEERING'

In the sixteen months before the opening of the Seven Year Plan(1979 to 1986), I experienced a recurrence, a debilitating manifestation, of my bi-polar tendencies. At the time I had been an international pioneer to Australia from Canada for seven years. In March 1979 I wrote to the Universal House of Justice requesting their prayers. About a year after receiving their letter informing me of their prayers I was finally treated for this disabling illness.

And so in the first two years of the Seven Year Plan I received the assurances of the House of Justice, their prayers for my 'serene happiness' and eventual healing of my illness. Sixteen months later, in May 1980, I wrote what was to become the first of a series of thousands of poems of which those contained in this booklet are but a few. Writing poetry was to become an important, a major, source of whatever serene happiness I was to achieve.

My poetry from 1980 to 1995 I now see as my juvenilia, an early developmental stage of fifteen years, a warm-up period. I have divided this stage into three sub-stages named after three phases of the construction of the Shrine of the Bab: The Tomb's Chambers(August 1980 to April 1987), The Arcade(May 1988 to August 1992) and The Golden Dome(September 1992 to June1995). This slow and gradual developmental phase led to what I now see as a more mature poetry which, for convenvience as much as anything, I see as beginning in July 1995. I have called these last six years(July 1995 to July 2001) The Terraces.

There are now some 46 booklets of poetry, of between five and six thousand poems and two to three million words in the entire opus. In February of 1997 I sent to you a booklet of poetry entitled Canada's Glorious Mission Overseas. I also sent a booklet of poetry to you in April 2001: Fifty Years From F.O.G. Somehow it was misplaced and for that reason I forward to you this third booklet. This third booklet, Thirty Years of Pioneering, celebrates thirty years of my international pioneering here in Australia from Canada(1971-2001). It also celebrates the opening of the terraces, the Arc Project, in May of this year and the beginning of the Five Year Plan(2001-2006), the first Plan of this new millennium.

These three booklets could be seen as a report to you written during the 26th to 30th years of my pioneering in Australia from Canada. I have also sent two different booklets of poetry to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada during this same period, partly to serve as a report to them. There are now an additional 42 booklets in the Bahá'í World Centre Library sent from 1992 to 2000. Together, all these volumes serve as a poetic expression of nearly forty years of service and experience in the Cause. They may be useful one day as an interesting historical record for a period which, if one draws on the Guardian's ten stage model of history, covers the last years of the ninth and the early decades of the tenth stages of history.

Generally, what I try to do in my poetry is to play with three interrelated themes or topics: my own life, the life of the Cause and the experience of society, the global civilization that is emerging and its history and future. I have found poetry to be more suitable to my literary aims and goals than essays, novels, or indeed other genres of written expression, although I have an extensive personal archive of these other forms and one day they may be useful as historical documents that speak of our time and age.

With six months gone in this the Fifth Epoch I send to you another expression of the spirit of that exaltation with which the Universal House of Justice opened the Fifth Epoch. May your services to the Cause in these opening years of this new millennium be rewarded with His abundant blessings and may we all continue to observe this Faith going from strength to strength in the years ahead. I hope, too, as I point out in the introduction to that first booklet of poetry I sent to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia in 1997, that future generations of international pioneers,1 generations that will see many more individuals come to Australia's shores, will enjoy the richness of experience this pioneer has enjoyed. and come to win, as Shoghi Effendi encouraged Australian Bahá'ís back in 1954, "a still greater measure of fame in the service"2 of the Cause.

1 I have defined a generation as 25 years and the four generations thus far are: 1921-1946, 1946-1971, 1971-1996 and 1996-2021.

2 Shoghi Effendi in Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand: 1923-1957, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia, 1970, p.122.

Ron Price

12 July 2001

INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET NUMBER 52

I have presented this Booklet of poetry to the Bahá'í Council for Queensland to mark the half-way point in the Five Year Plan, 2001-2006. All the states and territories in Australia now have a Booklet of my poetry somewhere in their Bahá'í libraries. I have listed below the other libraries in the Bahá'í world which have accepted Booklets of my poetry:

Libraries Containing My Poetry:

1. Bahá'í World Centre Library, Bahá'í World Centre, PO Box 31 001, Haifa Israel: 5000 poems.

2. Canadian National Bahá'í Centre Library, 7200 Leslie Street,Thornhill, Ontario, L#T 6L8 Canada, 300 poems.

3. Australian National Bahá'í Centre Library, Sydney, Australia, 300 poems.

4. Regional Bahá'í Council of Tasmania, PO Box 1126, GPO Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Bahá'í State Library of Tasmania, Hobart, 150 poems.

5. Bahá'í Centre of Learning Library, C/-LSA of the Bahá'ís of Melville, PO Box 628, Applecross,Western Australia, 6153, 200 poems.

6. Local Spiritual Assembly Library of the Bahá'ís of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, 150 poems.

7. International Pioneer Committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 7200 Leslie Street, Thornhill, Ontario, L3T 6L8, Canada, 120 poems.

8. Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Brighton, PO Box 553, Brighton, South Australia, 5048, State Bahá'í Centre Library, Brighton, S.A., 120 poems.

9. Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canberra, 18 Hichey Court, ACT, 2611, Bahá'í Centre Library, 120 poems.

10. Bahá'í Council of the Northern Territory, PO Box 2055, Humpty Doo, NT, 0836.

11. Bahá'í Council of Victoria, Knoxfield, Victoria, 3182.

12. LSAs of Belmont, Launceston, Ballarat and Darwin: hold 'some of my poetry' in their archives.

13. The Afnan Library, c/-George Ronald Publisher Ltd., 24 Gardiner Close, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3YA, England. They hold a CD of poetry, essays, interviews, letters, inter alia.

14. A multitude of Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í sites on the Internet.

Libraries Containing My Books About Poetry :

1. "The Emergence of a Bahá'í Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White," in the Afnan Library, a 'deposit library' Administered by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom. Address Above.

2. The same book is in the 'Bahá'í Academics Resource Library' and the Bahá'í Website: http:www.bahaindex.com/ See http://bahai-library.com/books/white.

3. "Pioneering Over Four Epochs," a 660 page autobiography at both of the above sites.

4. "Pioneering Over Four Epochs," a website of 1000 A-4 pages containing oetry, prose, essays, interviews, book reviews and commentary on the Bahá'í Faith. This website can now be found at some 50 websites and search engines.

I have been writing poetry seriously for some eleven years, after a twelve year warm-up. Sending my poetry to Bahá'í libraries, Bahá'í websites and a range of other websites has proved an effective way to get my work into the community, to the grass-roots of Bahá'í community life and to various non-Bahá'í publics. It has proved difficult to publish poetry because Bahá'í publishers find it does not sell well enough to stock it and, in recent years, there has been a burgeoning of Bahá'í books, too many for Bahá'ís to purchase. Given the difficulty of marketing my material I send it to LSAs, Councils, Centres for Learning, various Bahá'í committees whose task is relevant to the content of my poetry(eg. pioneering) and Bahá'í centres--for the most part in Australia, Canada and England.

I thank you for accepting this work and I hope it can be given a home in one of your Bahá'í libraries in Queensland.

Ron Price

15 November 2003

MYSTERIOUS FORCES REVOLUTIONISING HUMANKIND
This booklet of poetry celebrates the 85th birthday of Hand of the Cause Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum at the Bahá'í World Centre. The booklet is also sent in appreciation of the efforts of Universal House of Justice member ‘Ali Nakhjavani to rally Western Bahá'í communities to support the urgent need for an increase in donations to the Arc Fund; as well as the inspiring response of these Bahá'í communities in North America and Europe to meet the financial need for forty million dollars. This poetry is also a reflection, from a point that is one of the most isolated on earth, of those mysterious forces released with every stone that is being moved, a humble and perhaps not-so-humble reflection in the heart and mind of an Australian poet. He has, in recent years, been influenced by the brightening of the silver lining at the world's horizon, by the new paradigm of opportunity both within and without the Bahá'í community and by the new tendencies and social processes at work in the world.

Roy Harvey Pearce, a former professor of American Literature, made the following comment in summarizing Emily Dickinson's contribution to poetry. "Writing poems she writes herself. She is hounded by her own identity"(1) "She writes", he goes on, as "simply life being made as it is being lived through."(2) It would appear Dickinson is concerned with being herself, defining herself and knowing herself. Her empire is in her poems and it is the only area of her life where she has total control. This is how Pearce argues the case. I'm not so sure he is entirely correct in his argument, but I am confident of the autobiographical nature of Dickinson's poetry. She has helped me construct my own autobiographical poetic, helped me avoid constructing a confiningly subjective world in this poetry and helped me discover myself at the same time. Other poets have also contributed their share, William Carlos Williams among a host of others.

Dickinson vitalizes the simplest commonplaces and makes them precious to the mind. This is more than an art. It can be made a crucial part of the core of one's way of life. It is essential to poetry, to my poetry. I am not hounded by my identity. But I am hounded by my religion and and I have been, at least since the beginning of my pioneering days in September of 1962. Perhaps obsession is a better word. The Bahá'í Faith has been the dominating passion of my life and I have been pioneering its teachings and its outreach for some thirty-three years. Now that I am in the early years of my old age, or my late maturity as one writer defined the late forties and early fifties, my poetry has become partly an account of the Bahá'í experience in the third and fourth epochs of the Formative Age, or the second epoch of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan. This poetry is also a way of expressing a range of Bahá'í motifs, the most dominant of which is the Oneness of mankind: just how does a poet, a person, experience this oneness in an everyday sort of sense. At the same time the international record of Bahá'í pioneering experience is enriched.

The dominant principle of this cycle (3) is the political and religious unification of the planet for the welfare of its people. I see this poetry as making a small contribution to this process, as part of my own role in pioneering a religion which is emerging on this earth as the religion for mankind. These words are a note, a chord, in a grand symphony: I think we are at the stage of the prelude, somewhere in the opening stages, phases, epochs of an international teaching campaign to extend the teachings of this Faith around the world. Put another way, this poetry is part of the experience of the second generation's response to the series of international teaching plans.(4) I feel as if my poetry is part of a tradition going back to Bahá'u'lláh and the Bab, not that I would want to compare my feeble contribution to the Word of God, but a tradition going back to the earliest believers who themselves wrote poetry, like Tahirih or Na'im of Sidih, or more recent Bahá'í poets like Roger White or Michael Fitzgerald. This poetry is all part of the first interior throbs of a mighty world, a mighty river, a mighty torrent that has been spilling over its banks and transforming the world in the process. Poetry is one of the ways a community has of coming to understand itself.

Writing helps enrich life; provides retreat, surcease from the storm and stress, a quiet centre with a meditative dynamic which tastes of the sacred, the reclusive; provides a balance to the trivial and the ordinary which occupies so much a part of life, it seems inevitably and necessarily. Some people seem born to be writers. The evidence comes early. For me, there was little evidence until my thirties. My international pioneering experience provided the setting for me to learn and master the art of writing. I sometimes feel it is an art I am just beginning to acquire. My pleasure in writing is increasing, although with my reading programs it is often exhausting. The writing provides an opportunity to forge, to articulate, a vision which is at the heart of this new world Order. Art and life merge in the words I put down on paper, an exploration takes place in the country of the mind and each year I feel as if I am moving beyond the previous development. With the completion of the buildings on the Arc at the Bahá'í World Centre in this decade it is a wondrous time to be alive. "With every stone that is being moved, mysterious forces are released that are revolutionising the fortunes of mankind."(5)

Some readers who come across these small booklets of poetry, or some other genre that is part of my Pioneering Over Three Epochs may find this introspective voice surprising, self-indulgent or even irrelevant to the history and development of the Cause. Indeed I would not be surprised if some readers questioned my motives, my intentions, my true aspirations. Such questioning is natural, even desireable. And so it is for me: self questioning is healthy, necessary. However much individuals are the warp and weft of the community; however much plans ultimately rest upon the response of the humble individual believer, one can not help but voice a skeptical note when someone comes along and writes an autobiography that, should it ever be published, would occupy the space of several bricks on a shelf. At least Momen will not be able to accuse me, as he has accused the generality of Bahá'ís of being "lamentably neglectful in gathering materials for the history of their religion."(6)

For a decade or more I tried to gather materials for the history of the Cause in areas where I lived and worked. I did this in Tasmania, in the Northern Territory and in Western Australia.(7) By 1992 I had run out of gas. I simply dried up; I'm not sure why. Partly it was the conviction that what I wrote was not very good, not appropriate some how; not tactful enough, in some ways; not enough potential for my own particular writing talents and writing style. The gas was transferred to a different machine and since 1992 I have written some 2000 poems, most of which have been sent to the Bahá'í World Centre Library. Many people do not relate to poetry and even if they know it is good, like that of Roger White's, they do not understand it. Roger often said he got tired of people saying "what does it mean?" I have tried to make my poetry as simple and easy for the layman to understand, but in the end I'm sure it will confuse and leave many cold, as Dickinson and Williams leaves others cold.

There is a certain sport for the intellect in poetry. It attempts to catch the evanescent flickerings of thought across the surface of things. The human soul, in intense emotion, strives to express itself in verse. It is not for me, but for the neurologist, to discover why this is so, and why and how feeling and rhythm are related. That was how T.S. Eliot put it.(8) I'll leave the last word, here, to Eliot.
(1) Roy Harvey Pearce, The Continuity of American Poetry, Princeton UP, 1977(1961), p.185.
(2) idem
(3) Juan Ricardo Cole, "The Concept of Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings" in Bahá'í Studies, Vol.9, p.37.
(4) 1937-1962: generation one; 1962-1987: generation two.
(5) ‘Ali Nakhjavani, Australian Bahá'í Bulletin, July 1995, coverpage.
(6) Moojan Momen, The Babi and Bahá'í Religions, 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts, p.xvi-ii.
(7) I have sent some of this work to the Bahá'í World Centre Library; others are in archives of various LSAs and Bahá'í Groups in Australia, or simply kept by the author.
(8) T.S. Eliot in Coleridge on the Language of Verse, Emerson R. Marks, Princeton UP, 1981, p.68.
Ron Price
27 June 1995
INTRODUCTION TO THIS BOOKLET OF POETRY

Autobiography gives us access to the brain which is wider than the sky.
-Emily Dickinson in The Private Self, S. Benstock, Routledge, London, 1988, p.300.

This collection of poetry, centered as it is in autobiography, Bahá'í history and contemporary developments in the Bahá'í World especially the Mount Carmel Projects, attempts to explore the whole question of inner life and private character. This exploration is a feature of the entire corpus of my poetry, not just this small volume. I would like to make a few comments on this theme of the inner life in this introduction. I trust these comments will help place this theme, one that pervades my poetry, in a useful context.

There is something about the inner life, perhaps it is the God within, that is characterized by an inexpugnable inner otherness. Tranquillity and a sense of oneness with oneself is, for various reasons, attainable only in part. It is impossible to get a perfect identity between the observing "I" and the observed "me'. This inner division is part of the real battle of life-with oneself. Perhaps this division, this otherness, is part of what Bahá'u'lláh means when He says in the Hidden Words that:

Ye shall be hindered from loving Me
and souls shall be perturbed as they
make mention of Me. For minds can
not grasp Me nor hearts contain Me.1

Although there is clearly a thread of continuity from moment to moment in life, there is also what one could call a multiplicity of selves during these same moments. This poetry is a single opus, but the self that it deals with is no single opus; rather it is many-sided, many-faceted, many-selved. We are more conscious of the continuities but the discontinuities, the changes, are what make life rich and alive.

There is self-portraiture here; there is Bahá'í history here. But the description of both is difficult. They are easier to talk about than to write about. Writing tends to fix things, life, into a position. That is one of the reasons why I have come to enjoy the expansiveness and flexibility of poetry. It approaches the liveliness of speech. I find my understanding of both myself and the history of this new world Faith achieves a form, its first real form, in a lively and serendipitous fashion when it is exhibited in writing. "By showing ourselves" says Michael Montaign in discussing his own autobiography, "we lose part of what we are, we expose ourselves to risk, we entrust ourselves to the safekeeping of others..."2 In this subtle process of losing myself, I find I discover another person when I write. Someone emerges. It is as if I could truely say:

Turn thy sight unto thyself that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.3

Well, I feel a little presumptuous in saying that I see God within. It is more accurate to say I see some new self, perhaps it is the God within, or the absence of the God within. There is an emergent quality in this poetry which makes me feel like there is another person among the pages. There seems to be more than the record of an ordinary life here in the pages of this poetry, more than a common and private set of days. Something adds on, adds up, as a result of inward reflection, of approaching this inner life and private character. One can't be sure just what it is. It's partly a surprise element. Chance encounter, the occasional poem, may reveal more than a systematic search of all the poetry. Inner knowledge, it would appear, is in many ways the elusive goal on an interminable pursuit. The true self, the inner truth, partly eludes, it would seem, the introspective gaze. This inner world is simply impossible to grasp to the full. It's like trying to grasp a boiling sea, an ocean in storm. The innermost folds, the waves, the brilliant sun on the surface, hide opaque depths, innumerable flutterings of seen and unseen aquatic life, astonishing complexity, mystery and simple H20.

Montaign thought that if "we make ourselves at home with the thought of death....we bestow coherence upon what is otherwise ‘but patchwork and motley'"4. The Bahá'í writings have a great deal to say about death and what they say is, on the whole, very encouraging. I have found myself, as the years of my middle age have gone on, quite attracted to the notion of death. It exercises no tyranny over me, but rather it invites me into what has been called ‘the undiscovered country' where days of blissful joy are "assuredly in store for me. For Bahá'u'lláh transmuted His tribulations into instruments of redemption, as the Universal House of Justice expressed one of the essential functions of this latest manifestation of God.5 It is here in this passing of the soul, this world eternal, that my full identity is to be found. It is here that the goal of my life finds its apotheosis.

Life here offers only change, a discontinuous series of instants, which I tell of in my poetry as honestly and accurately as possible. Stability and permanence are not part of this earthly heritage. Life seems so quintessentially flighty and erratic that it is impossible to know yourself or to be known. The Bahá'í Writings give me a framework for at least a partial knowing. As I attempt to record my life in poetry and other genres, my inner land oscillates between presence and absense. Life seems at best reverie, dream, fantasy, illusion where one lives in silent loyalty to oneself; and at worst a living according to the needs and wants of others and the appearances required by circumstance. The wise man seems to know how to be alone in a crowd and surrounded by company in solitude. This polarity, this dichotomy between private and public, is one which, if we deal with it effectively, brings us much inner peace. Facing the universe and the mystery of God human beings know how to face society and themselves through the guiding hand of what Bahá'ís call the Covenant. This is what I try to convey in my poetry.

My poetry tells of an inner mind which never stops, which aspires to go beyond its strength, reaching out for life, for my soul. This reaching out process is what brings life to the poetry. In the right company it comes alive, for it is so very suited to communication. This poetry also speaks of pleasure and tranquillity for happiness is found in these regions. It seems to me that I have established in my life, through the grace of God, "bases for human happiness". I have created and promoted "new instrumentalities"6 toward producing happiness. There is no question that, as the years have gone on in my life, a deep and abiding happiness has been given to me. It has not been without a great deal of suffering in my early adulthood and an acceptance of what Bahá'u'lláh calls the "burden of sin" and the destructive effects of my own heedlessness.7

"Every movement reveals us", says Montaign.8 Everyone of my poems reveals me. The me that is revealed is to be found in the striving, in the failure, in a region that exists within the poetry, in the interplay of different tendencies that war within me in the endless moments that make up my life. The war is often quiet, often it deals with trivialities and various alluring delights. Often, too, I wonder if, in fact, I will ever win the war. The result, I trust, is that the reader will find an aesthetic arrangement of flowers here, an imaginative organization of my experience for aesthetic, intellectual and moral purposes, a sort of reality testing of my life and of the multiplicity of my persona, my inner selves. Of course a public self is also described here, like some kind of vehicle, stage setting for the real action which goes on inside. This setting is made up of a historical and cultural mise-en-scene, the sky as Emily Dickinson put it, against which the soul moves and has its being.

The Mt Carmel Projects provide a backdrop for this poetry, a quintessential backdrop, without which it is unlikely that any of this poetry would have been forwarded to the Bahá'í World Centre Library. There are unique significances associated with these remarkably dynamic days, days which are chaging the Bahá'í community forever. The poetry here is the response of but one of the Bahá'ís in the world who writes poetry. At one level it is a useful historical document. At another level it is simply a gift, a measure of inspiration and love for the Blessed Beauty Who has filled our souls with His revivifying breath and transmuted His tribulations into instruments of our redemption.
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.
2 Jean Starobinski, Montaign in Motion, trans., Arthur Goldhammer, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1984, p.33.
3 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words.
4 Starobinski, op.cit., p. 73.
5 Universal House of Justice, 28 May 1992.
6 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization, p.3.
7 Bahá'u'lláh, Long Obligatory Prayer.
8 Starobinski, op.cit., p.222.

Ron Price
11 October 1996
INTRODUCTION TO THE ESSAYS IN THIS COLLECTION

The first essay that appears in this collection is an ‘introduction' I wrote to a collection of essays that appeared in newspapers in Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia from 1983 to 1986. I sent these essays under separate cover to the BWCL several years ago. While the essays featured Bahá'í perspectives, the word ‘Bahá'í' rarely, if ever, appeared. Outside of these essays for a non-Bahá'í public I have published very little for an explicitly Bahá'í readership.

Other essays which I have sent to the BWCL from time to time were difficult to publish in the normal channels of Bahá'í publishing houses. The essays in this collection fall for the most part in this category. These essays embellish the autobiographical ethos of the larger work within which all of my writing falls, the work entitled Pioneering Over Three Epochs.

One day some of this material may be published. In the meantime I like to think it will at least be useful as an enrichment to the collections of poetry I have been sending to the BWCL since 1992 and as part of that report concerning the teaching and consolidation work during the second, third and forth epochs from an overseas pioneer, a report which is part of the larger function of my writing.

Ron Price
30 January 1998
INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET 44

This booklet celebrates fifty years of pioneering overseas, the international pioneers who are currently in-the-field.* Alan Pringle, Canada's longest serving pioneer, who settled in Costa Rica in 1951, is enjoying a half century of service this year. This year is, for me, a celebration of thirty years of international service. These poems are a companion-piece to those sent to you in February 1997 celebrating Canada's ‘glorious mission overseas: 1957-1997' and Canada's response to the Tablets of the Divine Plan: 1917-1997.

During the years 1992 to 2000 I sent forty booklets of poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library, one each to the NSAs of Canada, Australia and the International Pioneering Committee of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada and one to be shared by several LSAs in southern Ontario where I used to live more than thirty years ago. I have decided to use future booklets for various and special purposes. Some of these booklets may become simple gathering points for poetry written over a several month period, if no special purpose becomes obvious at the time of completion of a booklet of poetry.

But the conjunction of the fifty year celebration of international pioneers in-the-field with their feet-on-the-ground (F.O.G.), as mentioned above, and the celebration of the completion of the Arc Project in May of this year, fifty years after the Guardian announced "the rise of the World Administrative Centre of (the) Faith, within the precincts and under the shadow of its World Spiritual Centre, a process that (had) been kept in abeyance for well nigh thirty years"1 provides the excuse, if one was needed, for my sending you this collection of poetry.

My own pioneering experience, now nearly forty years in duration, if I include the homefront portion, and life itself has taught me that man's most important actions usually proceed from mixed and complex motives. Virtue and vice are distributed in unquantifiable portions and are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, as James Madison, one of the founding fathers of the American democracy, once said our society, our government, is based on human foible, inadequacy and weakness. Our talents and strengths are inextricably caught up with our inabilities. In Bahá'í communities, still at the beginning of the building process as we are, we must deal with the entire constellation of human qualities. This is the great challenge the pioneer faces, both in others and himself.

It is impossible to judge the worth, the justice, the beneficial nature of our actions in any ultimate sense. Poetry is, therefore, not so much an exercise in judgement, as an attempt to understand the event, the person, the action of myself and others in the complex context of history and contemporary society. Indeed, poetry is an endless succession of engagements with the past, the present and the future in which the dramatis personae are never able to fully fathom, control or command events. This poetry is, therefore, evidence of the importance of what Elizabeth Rochester once referred to as being "conceptually prepared to recognize the experiences of ignorance, powerlessness and unworthiness as natural human conditions."2

The more I have experienced, lived and read, the more my original belief in the Bahá'í Faith has been confirmed. My poetry is a reflection of this process of confirmation. My poetry is, in general terms, a record of my transactions with the past and present for the instruction of the future. Perhaps that is why, in part at least, I send you this poetry. I am not pretentious enough to claim any special wisdom but, rather, I see this poetry as simply a document of history, from a crucial period in the evolution of the Cause both internationally and in Canada, poetry from the fifth epoch covering years during four epochs of the Formative Age: 1944-2001. These two booklets serve as a type of report on that "initial clash between the forces of darkness and the army of light" which the Guardian referred to at the beginning of the second year of the second stage of the Divine Plan in June 1947 from one member of "the little as yet unnoticed band of pioneers" in a field experiencing "the first stirrings of that spiritual revolution."3 It is a document for your files and a type of summary of the experience of one pioneer and his thirty years of international experience in-the-field. If the contents of this poetry can be of any use in your consultations, so much the better. If not, perhaps at some future time, its contents may become a useful commentary on these early years of international pioneering in the first century of our experience. You do not need to even consider publicizing them in any way. They are a gift, as I say, for your files.

Day-to-day living results in the sheer accumulation and repetition of experience that provides patterns for the poet. His poetry is partly a record of these patterns. Gibbon's conclusion4 that the determining factor in history was the human predilection for faction augmented by environmental and cultural differences is a factor that, it seems to this poet, struggles with the tendency to unity, at this stage of history, the unity of humankind. This Cause has demonstrated its capacity to remain united through the first century and a half of its existence.

My poetry, my life, is a record, a register, of follies and misfortunes, as Gibbon said was the stuff of history. It is also a record of the meaning that I give it, an uneasy synthesis of subjectivism and empiricism, a relation between the ideal types provided by the Exemplars in my Faith and the concrete reality of my life and of my society. My poetry is a dialogue with the subject matter of history, of society and my religion. My poetry is an interpretive poetic, rooted not simply in my own constitutive activities but in the relationship between these activities and the meaningful acts I am attempting to explain. The act of understanding presupposes my ability to place meanings in context.

My poetry, then, focuses on the interplay of meaning and conditions of action, and the concrete, contingent nature of that relation. The meaning-relation between words is the outcome of the genuinely creative activities of individuals in changing historical circumstances. It is not so much what people do but ‘what they think about what they do' and particularly, what poets think about what they do that is at the basis of my poetry. Charisma and its routinization in a bureaucracy known as Bahá'í Administration is at the centre of this poet's view of history as it was of Max Weber's view of history,5 though for Weber his concern was with bureaucracy in general not with the specific Bahá'í bureaucracy. This poetry is an expression of the effort of one small part, one strand of the warp and woof of the Bahá'í community, to understand the process whereby the charismatic inspiration of Bahá'u'lláh is slowly becoming part of the dominant orientation of a whole civilization through "the weightiest spiritual enterprize launched in recorded history."6 I like to think, too, that this poetry is an expression of a widening of vision due to events of great significance associated with the Arc Project at the World Centre. The Guardian referred to such a widening of vision a month after the Canadian Bahá'í community acquired its first National Spiritual Assembly.7 Over half a century later this widening of vision continues for us all, each in our own ways.

* As reported in Bahá'í Canada, January 2001.
1 Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, Wilmette, 1965, p.91.
2 Elizabeth Rochester, "Letter to International Pioneers," Pulse of the Pioneer, January 1981.
3 Shoghi Effendi, op.cit., p.27.
4 J.A.S. Evans, "The Legacy of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall," Lecture 1998/9, American School of Classical Studies in Athens, on The Internet.
5 Reinhardt Bendix, Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait, Methuen and Co. Ltd., London, 1959, p.326.
6 Shoghi Effendi, op.cit.p.43.
7 ibid.,p.54.

Ron Price
28 January 2001

INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET NUMBER 51

My four years in Victoria, 1975 to 1978, living in Melbourne and Ballarat, were formative ones for what became future years of writing poetry. Some twenty months after leaving Ballarat in December 1978, I wrote the first poem in what has become a collection of poetry entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs. This particular collection of poems, Booklet No.51, written in late 2002 and early 2003, is a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the election in 1963 of the Universal House of Justice. The collection is also put together in memory of four years of teaching work that my wife and I did in Victoria, formative years, too, in the history of the first century of the Bahá'í Faith in Victoria.

Booklets of my poetry are now in the libraries of major Bahá'í centres of all the States of Australia with the exception of Queensland, the only State where I have never done any teaching work for this Faith, as well as Bahá'í libraries in England, in Canada and at the Bahá'í World Centre. After more than thirty years of Bahá'í teaching in Australia and more than ten in Canada it is obvious to me, as it is to many who have worked for the Cause in the last half of the twentieth century and these early years of the twenty-first, that the process, the activity, the dedication, of one's time and energy to this 'dominating passion of life' is a difficult one with its rewards and its sacrifices.

Poetry became for me a way of expressing my joys and sorrows, my aspirations and disappointments, my day-to-day life and my sense of the past and the future. By the Holy Year in 1992, some forty years after my family began its association with this new world Faith, I was writing hundreds of poems each year. The poems in this booklet, then, represent a small collection of material which I wrote after ten years of extensive poetic writing, after forty years of pioneering and as the Five Year Plan(2001-2006) turned the twenty-month corner of its sixty month trajectory.

I send this poetry as a gift, partly in memory and nostalgia for those years serving the Cause in Victoria, partly in celebration of the 'divinely driven enterprize' we are all engaged in but which we can but dimly comprehend, accompanied as it is by the catalogue of horrors that seems to be our fate to observe in our world and partly as a simple enrichment to your own Bahá'í library. And finally this poetry is a celebration of forty years of the Universal House of Justice at the apex of the Bahá'í administrative Order. These trustees of an international Plan set in motion over one hundred years ago by a remarkable set of events associated with the vision of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of this Faith have now been in office for four decades.

I hope you will accept this gift from a colleague working for the Cause, at the moment in Tasmania, but formerly in Victoria. I wish you all well in your service to the Cause in the remaining months of the Five Year Plan and in the remaining years of this Fifth Epoch, the last two decades of the first century of the Formative Age.

Yours, in His service
Ron Price

encl.
INTRODUCTION

The opening chapter in Canada's glorious mission overseas, a chapter coinciding with the ninth stage of history, the Ten Year Crusade, has long since ended. Since those years of 1953 to 1963, additional chapters have been added to that mission in the years 1964 to 1997. I write to you, Bahá'í Assemblies and Groups in Southern Ontario where I was nurtured in the years 1953 to 1971 before pioneering overseas and playing my small part in that glorious enterprise beyond the confines of my homeland. Most of those early years of my Bahá'í experience were in the Burlington Bahá'í community(1953 to 1962), although I also lived for short periods in Dundas, Hamilton, Windsor, Whitby, Scarborough, Toronto, and King City before pioneering on the homefront to Picton where a Bahá'í Group was established for two years(1969 to 1971).

Shoghi Effendi pointed out in a letter he wrote in 19511 that Canada already had, by that time, to its credit "an imperishable record of international service" for nearly half a century. Forty six years later that record now approaches the last decade of its first century, if one considers Marion Jack as the first Canadian Bahá'í with a record of overseas service.2 This booklet of poetry, written in love and appreciation to the various homefront communities where I began my Bahá'í life, is also written on the threshold of the last decade of this radiant first century of Canada's history of international service.

I could make several copies of this booklet for the many communities where I lived so many years ago, but such an exercise is too costly and complicated. I have decided instead to send one copy to the Burlington Local Spiritual Assembly, the institution under which I lived as a youth and a pre-youth before my nine years of homefront pioneering(1962 to 1971) and the twenty-six years of overseas pioneering.(1971 to 1997). If the several Assemblies listed above could just pass on to the next in line this small booklet of poetry, this mechanism will serve as a simple means of distribution. I know how busy LSAs are since I have served on LSAs here in Australia for years. If any Assembly finds the task of passing on this booklet to their local community and then to another LSA area too burdensome, or something the Assembly feels is beyond the scope of their responsibilities and/or interests, just return the booklet to the Burlington LSA and that institution can keep the booklet in its archives.

Pioneers, and especially overseas pioneers who remain at their posts for many years and sometimes decades, have some difficulty in establishing a sense of continuity in their lives. I have lived in thirteen communities since coming to Australia, from Zeehan in Tasmania to Katherine in the Northern Territory. This has been not unlike living in Windsor and then Frobisher Bay in Canada, northern and southern extremities in Canada. With so many moves in my life establishing a sense of roots seems to have become more important to me as the years have gone on. That is probably an underlying motive for my sending you this poetry. It is an expression of memory, of days in my life from forty-four to twenty-six years ago, which sometimes seems like a dream.

To the many Bahá'ís in Southern Ontario whom I knew so many years ago and whom it would seem I may not see again on this side of that Undiscovered Country, I send you my warmest regards for fond memories that grow richer with the years. I wish you well in your own efforts, often more difficult than those of the overseas pioneer who receives a bountiful harvest for whatever he or she has exerted in His Path.

Ron Price
2 June 1997

1 Shoghi Effendi, Messages To Cnaada, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 1965, p.22.
2 Bahá'í World Compendium: Volumes 1-X11, , p.658.

INTRODUCTION
On July 19th, 1957 the Guardian wrote his last letter to the Bahá'ís of Australia. This booklet of poetry is a commemoration of this, the Guardian's last letter. It is also a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the establishment, in that same letter, of a spiritual axis extending from the antipodes to the islands in the north Pacific Ocean. I would also like to see this collection of poetry as a small contribution to that "befitting crescendo"1 to the achievements of this century, perhaps one of those traces which shall last forever.

For over twenty-five years I have contributed, as an overseas pioneer, to the teaching and consolidation work of the Cause here in Australia. I came here from Canada toward the end of the Nine Year Plan in 1971. This booklet of poems should also be seen as an expression of celebration for the part played during these years since the Guardian's by pioneers from the North American continent. There were few, probably no more than several hundred, Bahá'ís in Australia in 1957. Hardly any of these would have been overseas pioneers. Some day, when the history of the Bahá'í Faith in Australia is written, details such as these may become known to interested inquirers. The legacy of overseas pioneers, going back to Mother and Father Dunn in 1920, is a rich and imperishable one. Indeed, this poetry could be seen as a statement of celebration of this legacy.

This poetry brings to more than three thousand the poems I have written since mid-1992 when I began sending poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library. Perhaps all these poems could be seen as an expression of that ‘rendezvous of the soul with the Source of its light and guidance', part of that retreat to my inmost being which the Universal House of Justice drew to our attention in its Ridvan message of 1992. I do not know for sure. I did want to formalize an expression of appreciation to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Australia under whose generalship, so to speak, I have laboured these many years. The Universal House of Justice, in the early days of its existence, in 1968, said there would be a need for pioneers for generations to come. Here is a report, albeit poetic, of a pioneer to the shores of Australia in the first generation, in the third and fourth epoch of the Formative Age.

I have written much more in the form of narrative, diary, letters, essays, character sketches and history of various parts of Australia. One day these genres may serve, if collected, as a special commentary on this generation of overseas pioneering experience to Australia. I shall leave that to those mysterious dispensations of Providence and the wisdom of future editors and publishers. For I have no interest in publication at this point in time. There seems no need. The time for publication, if it ever does exist, is far off in the distant future.

All that has taken place in my years in Australia is part of what the Universal House of Justice referred to as the "majestic process launched by our beloved Guardian in 1953" which will "continue its historic course until its final consumation."1 There is in it all, in both our private lives and in the vast and historic processes, a rhythm of life, of sorrow and joy, of crisis and victory, of calamity and unfoldment. Our happiness as believers depends to a very large extent on the depth of our understanding of this life process. We must regulate our own life to this alternating rhythm.

Australia has provided me with a milieux, a battlefield, a theatre, in which I have tasted of the finest joys imaginable and the deepest sorrows. Some of this experience is found expressed in this collection of poetry. I have written so much of these years in other places and I would encourage any interested reader to seek these places out. Let me say here that the battle has been prolonged and I hope not unduely in the years to come. As I write this I am tired with a deep weariness. This poetry lifts as it moves from some hidden spring. Just how long Bahá'u'lláh will grant me on this mortal coil, time will tell.

In the meantime I give the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Australia my appreciation and my warmest regards. I wish future generations of overseas pioneers who grace the shores of Australia the same richness of experience that I have enjoyed. It is far more than the heart could have anticipated feeling, or the mind imagined.

Ron Price
24 May 1997

1 Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, 1965
INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME FOUR OF POETRY FOR PIONEERING OVER THREE EPOCHS
REJOICING IN ANNOUNCEMENT OF MAJOR ADVANCE IN MOUNT CARMEL PROJECT
With each selection or volume of poetry I attempt, in the introductory words, to describe where I am in the process of writing, of living and of understanding. Often the understanding is strongly influenced by something I have read or done within the last day or two and it will inform the introductory statement to a degree that is somewhat unbalanced and to a degree that often ignores other influences that simply do not come to mind as I write. I could, perhaps, overcome this exaggerated emphasis on the recent by a more studious examination of other influences which I record in the notes I take from my reading, or in my journal or letters, but thusfar this is not the case. Perhaps when I retire and I can enjoy the leisure that could lead to a more painstaking and thorough analysis of the writing process, this will be the case.

As I write this introduction I am especially conscious of some ideas I came across in A Mind For Ever Voyaging which is about the process by which William Wordsworth wrote his poetry.(1) There were many influences, this book points out, that led to the poetry of Wordsworth, not the least of which was his reading. He would often use the very words of other authors in a process which Coleridge would call imitation which he insisted was very different from copying. I have often done this myself; many poets other than Wordsworth do what some writers would call plagiarism. For those who would try to understand my poetry an examination of the quotations of other writers in either my notes or my poems, or indeed in my letters or diary would be helpful.

In the 1990s with the Arc in various stages of completion from year to year and with videos and letters informing us all about what is happening at each stage the World Centre has come to be both visually close and emotionally intimate. Feelings, both solemn and sublime, have often flooded over me in these years, especially when the sight of the World Centre came into view. It was as if a lifetime devoted to an idea finally found its apotheosis. Drifting through an ambrosial night sky, lit by glowing lights, silent and wondrous, this incarnation of beauty would descend into the heart of my emotional life and lift me to the highest heaven. In weaping I found catharsis. With a grave and steady joy, silent and divine, I would try and give expression to the wonder I felt, to the awe that inhabited my solitude.

In these years, nature took on a new orientation. Perhaps it was just part of getting older. Perhaps it was the product of twenty years of quite intense reading that left me slightly dizzy from the delirium of text which I felt from consuming ten to twenty books a week. Perhaps it was over three decades of pioneering with several trips to hell and back. Perhaps it was simply those mysterious dispensations of Providence that seemed to open up a whole world to me in the years surrounding the Holy Year(1992-1993), that auspicious juncture in the history of His Cause.

In recent years, then,I have peopled my solitude with nature and books; in a crowd I often found myself alone. Often there were strong emotional currents running through my being, but I learned what many must learn; namely, not to

do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces
(Shakespeare)

Just which of heaven's graces I have inherited I do not know. But by the 1990s, reading, experience and those endowments conferred by birth, combined in serendipitous ways to generate new and serene emotions which formed a new culture of feeling and thought within me, a culture within which this poetry was produced. Alternating periods of the day, of freshness and fatigue, produced different kinds of poetic themes and moods. I was especially conscious of my generation that had been pioneering over three epochs beginning with the year I was born, in 1944. They had done so much in such obscure, unobtrusive and apparently unheroic ways. Whereever they are, here in a multitude of places on this planet or in that Undiscovered Country, they will feel, one and all, delight and wonderment at the transformation of Mount Carmel and the profound significance that lies therein.

I send this small selection of poetry in celebration of the recent announcement by The Universal House of Justice of a major advance in the Mount Carmel Projects: the razing of several houses opening the way for the completion of the lower terraces of the Shrine of the Bab and the municipal scheme involving the restoration of the German Templer houses.
(1)W.K. Thomas and Warren K. Ober, A Mind for Voyaging: Wordsworth at Work Portraying Newton and Science, University of Alberta, 1989.
Ron Price
17 April 1995
37

I see what follows as a light-hearted, but hopefully not unhelpful look, at an LSA meeting. I write from the perspective of a secretary, the role I am currently performing here in Belmont. I thought to myself that fifteen years of attending LSA meetings, usually as one of the executive officers, was a sufficient basis for me to serve as a mentor to some student who was interested and willing to learn. My other twenty-three years of active involvement in registered groups, unregistered groups, as a pioneer, travel teacher gives me nearly four decades on which to base any insights offered here.

If I am really efficient an LSA meeting begins for me within twenty-four hours of the last LSA meeting. This is because I am currently a secretary and within twenty-four hours after a meeting I like to get the minutes, the letters and as much of the agenda of the next meeting prepared as is possible. Then, as the days go on to the next meeting, I can simply add items to the agenda as they come in: usually from correspondence, sometimes from Bahá'í friends and occasionally over the telephone. I always take a certain pride in getting the minutes and the agenda done right after the meeting. I think my record is an hour to an hour-and-a-half between the end of the meeting and all paperwork done, the end of the secretarial follow-up. This also includes minutes delivery.

There is a sense of urgency which gives me a certain adrenaline rush as I drive through the quiet suburban streets late at night popping minutes into mail boxes. The inquisitive reader should be warned, though, that this zeal and enthusiasm has a price in secretarial burnout. For part of the rationale for getting all the "paperwork" done so quickly is that: it has a tedious aspect, a routine that over many years brings most secretaries to the edge of an enormous weariness; and I can barely read my own notes and tend to forget what I should write in the minutes if I don't get them done quickly.

The eager novitiate may like to consider the LSA adopting the policy of having an assistant secretary to pick up the mail, table correspondence and write outgoing letters. To have such a secretary do that last task requires someone who is able to write well and, in these relatively early days of the Cause, such a person of literary merit is often lacking. Getting an assistant to pick up on as much of what is often a tedious flow of paper is part of the salvation of the new and keen secretary. As these embryonic institutions develop the role of secretary will continue to be the pivotal one for the local Bahá'í community. If handling the paper and its associated tasks can be done efficiently, the secretary's energies can be saved for the challenging task of getting through the meetings themselves. This is the subject to which I would now like to turn.

Sometimes I feel as if I should bring a wheelbarrow to Feasts and LSA meetings. For I carry: an LSA handbook which is now the thickness of one brick after being slim and one-quarter inch in thickness for as far back as the 1960s when I first remember carrying paper to meetings; a secretarial two-ring binder, several smaller files; and to Feasts I carry: a guitar, music books and the fund boxes(for the treasurer). Incumbent secretaries should try to travel as lightly as possible. Transporting great quantities of paper for most people has a wear-and-tear function which contributes often to their early demise. I've known grown men and big solid women develop acute paranoia around the thought of carrying out the secretarial function. They get beaten by the paper. But the paper tradition has an fine history going back to the Central Figures of the Faith and secretaries participate in this rich and impressive tradition.

Secretaries can also be beaten by the personalities who inhabit the lounge-rooms of LSA meetings around the globe. I think the first thing I would recommend to any person, especially a secretary, who has been elected to serve is to have a sin-covering eye. One really must overlook the faults and failings of one's fellow members of humankind. The less one expects the better and then disappointment will not linger on one's lips with guilt tripping edge to the voice. A casual detachment sprinkled with humour is a wonderful recipe for success, for keeping cool when the potential for heat and anxiety is great is of the utmost importance. Here, too, I have seen strong men and even stronger women brought to tears, to the pitch of anger, to the sounds of an embittered sarcasm and to a boredom only a hair's breadth from sleep. Warn to a frazzle the eager secretary, no matter how efficient his or her paper flow, quickly loses his fires, his enthusiasm, his desire to serve. A quiet voice, a kindly but honest tongue and a brilliant inventiveness help a great deal in your survival.

There have been years when I served on LSAs when I had the only telephone and everyone else on the LSA was a brand new Bahá'í. I served as secretary for two such years. I also served for three years when we had entry-by-troops. It was during that period of mass entry in the West from 1970 to 1972, the only period as far as I know, when entry-by-troops was a commonplace in the western world. There was more paper to play with and more people came to meetings, but the LSA itself went through the same routines. What did change at LSA meetings from year to year was the composition of the membership and this was often enough to test the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon.

There is now a developing literature to assist secretarys and LSA members. This essay will join dozens of others I have written and one day, God willing, it may be published. After 450 to 500 LSA meetings under my belt I offer the above as a Guide, a summary statement of experience from the third and fourth epochs. The Bahá'í world had, as far as I know, a little over one thousand LSAs when I became a Bahá'í in 1959 and well under one thousand when my mother first started going to meetings and serving on LSAs in the mid-1950s. I like to think of what I have written here as a voice from the past, from the last half of the twentieth century, to LSA members in the twenty-first century. Here is a summary sketch, a bird's eye look, at how someone survived one of the most challenging and difficult parts of his Bahá'í experience. Perhaps one day I will expand on this page-and-a-half, but for now this brief look at someone's experience may help to provide a thread of continuity for future participants in the Administrative Order, that precursor to the World Order whose first stirrings we are just now seeing break over the horizon.
Ron Price
6 January 1996
THE CELEBRATION GOES ON
In thinking of a title for this small booklet of poetry I thought of several alternatives to the one I finally selected, namely, Tapestry of Beauty. I thought ‘white sand' or ‘fair-faced' might be appropriate since so many of the current developments on Mount Carmel involve types and surfacing of concrete, sand, gravel and cement. I also thought ‘bush-hammered' or ‘soft impact' might be fitting words to capture some of the processes of construction work on exposed surfaces or some interesting facets of the work on the various building complexes. Thusfar, the Bahá'í world's impact has been soft, except perhaps in Iran. The process of ‘bush-hammering' which is intended to create a soft visual impact for concrete, and which is a process involved in construction work, is one the Bahá'í community has been remarkably successful at over the first century and a half of its existence. The Bahá'ís have been giving their message softly, softly, kindly, kindly, quietly, quietly in increasing numbers of places all over the globe for an increasing number of decades.

Even the evocative phrase ‘special release agent' had an appeal and I nearly went for it as the title for this booklet. In the end, though, the words ‘tapestry of beauty' from the Ridvan Message BE153 seemed to be especially suitable, so fitting for the overall conception, the overall effect, that is being created on our beloved Mount Carmel, this earth ennobled by the footsteps of Thy Chosen Ones in Thy path.(1)

And so another booklet of poems becomes a part of the Bahá'í World Centre Library. This booklet especially celebrates the landscape work on the lower terraces getting underway, the progress on the upper terraces continuing apace, 20 tonnes of Italian marble arriving, an additional 20 tonnes of steel fixings of various kinds being ordered and contracts for roadwork being signed. This stupendous architectural exercise is celebrated in many of the poems in different ways: sometimes quite overtly, sometimes indirectly, sometimes not at all. Whatever the theme in each poem, a record exists herein, and in the other booklets, of the affects on one person in the Bahá'í world, a person who writes a great deal of poetry, of the developments at the Bahá'í World Centre at this turning point in its history, this climacteric of history. To some extent this poetry speaks for the whole Bahá'í community in the sense that it represents part of an emerging Bahá'í consciousness in the arts and world literature. Part, too, of the literature of interpretation, a literature that does not possess any authority and is merely the expression of the individual heart and mind.

We have in these booklets a commentary, albeit in poetic form, on three epochs of this Formative Age, three epochs that are the foundation for this autobiography Pioneering Over Three Epochs. These epochs have seen an immense historical process taking place and this process is documented in this poetry. It is one small contribution to the abundant and lasting legacy of this period to the twenty-first century. Inevitably, too, this poetry goes back to the beginning of the Heroic Age and back into mankind's history. For this poetry is also a comment on history as well as this more contemporary period. There is here, too, a vision of the future, one that has been stimulated by the exciting and visionary statements contained in the corpus of Bahá'í literature. The Universal House of Justice called for the developing and fostering of the intellectual life of the Bahá'í community in 1979 and, again, in the 1996 Ridvan message it called for greater attention to the use of the arts and literature. This poetry is a part of this intellectual life, this literature. This poetry and this autobiography is also a tribute, my personal expression of joy, wonder, praise and thanksgiving for the edifaces on Mount Carmel which will stand as a monument to the progress of the Administrative Order to this point in the Formative Age. Finally, this poetry is part of an effort to "inscribe (my) own mark on a brief span of time so charged with potentialities and hope for all humanity."(2)

These introductions are intended to provide some general perspective on the poetry contained in each booklet. I tend, somewhat, to repeat myself here and there over the many introductions. I try to avoid repitition, but it is inevitable when so much is written over a short space of time and the heart is so full that it wants to keep responding to the urgent call that is emanating from an institution which is now acquiring a visual embodiment worthy of its role as trustee of a global undertaking set in motion by events of more than a century ago.

(1) ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in Bahá'í Prayers, USA, 1985, p.234.
(2) Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message BE 153.
Ron Price
2 May 1996

INTRODUCTION TO THIS POETRY

The title Emerald Green comes from the colour of the grass on the two larger planter beds in the inner areas of Terrace 9. This Terrace is larger than the other Lower Terraces and has emerald green grass of the Zoysia variety. The poetry in this folio was written in December and January 1995/6. It continues the autobiographical thrust and the concommitant celebration of the Project on Mt Carmel of the previous folios of poetry.

All the sub-categories of autobiography which I have been sending to the Bahá'í World Centre Library since 1993: journal, poetry, narrative, essays, letters, are a telling and retelling of my personal past and present, directly or indirectly. This personal past, experiences in the present, reflection and feeling on self and society have become my stock-in-trade now after three years of forwarding autobiographical material to the BWCL. But this self is possible only in community. It is a self which is celebrated in the poetry herein by a facing up to deep, dark inwardness, my nature and my fate; by an examination of the most intimate of tensions and resistances that are inevitably part of heterogeneity in community; by scrutinising my everyday experience and all that is involved in It as well as the realm of the Thou and its massive relations of recognition and reverence. These things are all part of the ‘being happy' that ‘Abdu'l-Bahá exhorted us to achieve. The context for this happiness and joy, I have always found, is an acceptance that life is difficult. To be happy when it is, it could be argued, is our supreme achievement in this earthly life.

There are many things that have made, are making and will make this democratic theocracy work. This vast system, which has only recently stuck its head above the ground after a century and a half of slow, difficult and embryonic development, appears to be "the structure of freedom for our age."(1) One of the many contributors to the "mutuality of benefits", "the spirit of cooperation", "the initiative of individuals, the courage, the sense of responsibility", "conscience exercised in private in an attitude that invites communion with the Holy Spirit", an engendering of perspectives, "an acute exercise of judgement" is poetry. It offers many "insights into the dynamics of freedom of expression.". There is clearly an important contribution made by poetry to "the social utility of thought". It can also contribute to the important, profound and necessary "change in the standard of public discussion intended by Bahá'u'lláh for a mature society."(2)

There is clearly an attempt in this poetry to manifest the spirit of a true Bahá'í, although I would make no claim to have achieved such maturity and distinction. I have avoided, because of its elemental importance, the "dreadful schismatic consequences" (3) of dissent, opposition and ill-directed criticism. I have tried to be conscious of motive, manner, mode, etiquette of expression; while at the same time I have aimed for a freedom of expression and the ironies of a Voltairian irreverence that counteract moralizing, melancholy, acidic individualism and fanaticism's passionate intensity. Such a judicious exercise over the content, volume, style or body of poetry requires a discipline and vision, an effort and care over my expression that, again, I could scarcely lay any serious claim to exemplifying.

This poetry is a vital emblem of my own integrity and my own struggle to understand and achieve a sense of who I am, identity. It is my individual signature. In the Bahá'í community the individual is not lost in the mass but is "the focus of primary development." Indeed, it is intended in Bahá'í society that the "whole may benefit from the accumulated talents and abilities of the individuals composing it."(4) At the heart of this poetic expression is a desire to be of some source of social good. To be able to do so, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá said, was the greatest bliss, the most complete delight. So right He was.

The making of a work of art, like poetry, represents a plunge into the abyss. The poet invites the reader to take the same plunge. Sometimes the plunge is into a world of light, or of humour. Hopefully, the reader is taken back into his own presence and he becomes more cognizant of his own life. In manipulating the world through words I experience an adventure in the land of self and others, a certain freshness and immediacy, an enchantment even, an affirmation of life. Harry Levin said that poetry was "the richest and most sensitive of human institutions...a rounded organism embracing the people by and for whom it was created."(5) The value of an institution lies in the degree to which, by massive or subtle interpenetration and vital relations, that institution combines with others to sustain and foster the individual in his various potentialities, even though any number of such beneficiaries may be unaware of the process. Sending this poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library is one form of such "interpenetration" to foster the individual in his various potentialities. I like to think I am performing a special ‘fostering' of the pioneer, not only the clearly defined pioneer who has left his homeland, but everybody else who is pioneering this new way of life.

There is, on the world's immediate horizon, a vast array of social and psychological problems. Indeed there has always been, as I understand history. Perhaps one which is beginning to linger hard and long is the mental and emotional stability of the great mass of humanity who, in one way or another, want to kill time, pass time, spend time, find free time. How to live life has always been a concern at the heart of the world's great religions. There are so many more people than there were when I began my pioneering life in 1962. The domain of art in its many manifestations is an activity that the Bahá'í Faith enjoins for its self-fulfilling nature and its contribution to community life. Gratuitous joy in the act of doing is one of the marks of poetic writing. The doer pursues the doing as a projection of his own nature upon the world in which he lives. In the process he discovers both himself and the nature of the medium of poetry itself. In a world in which passivity is fed by a progressively intense diet of sensation and novelty, significance, which refers to the past and the future, is not significant. Millions are trapped in this cycle of futility and try to "get away from it all." They do not find themselves. They find escape.

These are the earliest years in which I am finding a richness in writing poetry. But there is a price for independence of thought. Things which separate us from the great mass of humanity bring varying degrees of tension in the same way that spiritual exertion over habits that are long-standing brings some kind of pain. But we must avoid the dark towers of our personal tragedies as much as mass opinion, "affectation and imitation"(6) as the Guardian calls the loathsome odour of conformist thought and its repetitive and boring qualities. Poetry is an antidote to the passivity and the imitation of a mass society. Poetry demands participation as the poet imaginatively enacts his of her deepest recesses where life-will and values reside. I have discovered a deep solitude of will and spirit in writing poetry. There is no loneliness. I feel as if I have found a voice for my soul, a way of grasping reality and especially my own life. I have begun to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears.

(1) Universal House of Justice, December 1988.
(2) idem
(3) idem
(4) idem
(5) Robert Penn Warren, Democracy and Poetry, Harvard UP, London, 1975, p.77.
(6) Shoghi Effendi in Universal House of Justice letter, February 1980.
Ron Price
24 December 1995

INTRODUCTION TO THIS BOOKLET:
THE PRICELESS TREASURY
This booklet of poetry was written in the first three months of the publication of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Perhaps some of that ‘felicitous spirit', associated with Bahá'u'lláh's own announcement of the book, can be found in this poetry. I am unable to tell. I leave these poems to whoever chances across these pages.

I'd like to think that the words here passed through me like storm-winds, flinging open the doors of perception, pressing upon the architecture of my beliefs with their transforming powers. That is how I think great works of art are sometimes produced. The imagery appeals to me. The poems seem to be coming through me like a torrent. But I have no idea of their quality, their power, or their greatness.

I feel as if I am invading the outer world with the inner world of my own being. There is in this poetry some of the quality that is pervasive in Australia: improvisation. I feel as if I am living more fully and as if I am creating bonds with other human beings even though hardly anyone is reading what I am writing, yet.

Rather than seeking readers I seem to be doing what Herman Hesse did: seeking quietude. This was for him the immediate task. What he wanted to do was ‘extinguish himself and go into the woods.'1 I used to go into the woods frequently, and into the fields and the windy beaches, to pray and be by myself. Now I go in and bring all this stuff out. It is as if the road of excess is leading me to the palace of wisdom.2 That, of course, is what I'd like to think. But one does not know. One writes.
1 Herman Hesse, "Backward Glance", Herman Hesse: Pilgrim in Crisis, Ralph Freedman, Jonathan Cape, 1979, p.393.
2 A.S. Ostriker, Stealing the language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America, The Women's Press, p.ix.
INTRODUCTION TO THIS BOOKLET OF POETRY:
‘SWIFTLY CHANGING TIDES'

And so another Ridvan comes our way: BE 150. The release of the annotated English translation of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book was the event of the greatest magnitude this past year. This booklet is written in celebration of that event.

There are many selves that are carried around in our memory. This poetry is like a reservoir, full from the season's rains, of explicit and implicit meanings. I relish in the discovery of these selves, their meanings and the their being transmuted into language. The process of writing poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination. It also forces me to see things as clearly as I can and see old things freshly.

I have felt for some time as if Mount Carmel is pregnant, pregnant with new meaning, pregnant with a fresh excitement. All of this poetic outburst is like another pregnancy only on the west coast of the Antipodes. I seem to be drawn, by something in my nature, to seek fitting words for my reading of life. I seem to be literally being pushed to try to utter as faithfully as I can the beauty and mystery of life, the very glory in the world that seems to be synchronising with current developments on Mount Carmel. It is as if the whole of life is being canalised into this poetry. It is most a process of delight for me to put these words on paper, although there is an element of sheer exhaustion.

I seem to transcend myself in going through this process and were it not for the fatigue I would think myself just about permanently in another world. I am able to play with my dreams as I have never before, only my eyes are wide open. It is as if the conception is coming from my soul, from a great depth in my being. I still suffer; I still sin; I am still the ordinary mortal I have always been. Perhaps it is simply a manifestation of an obsessive-compulsive neurosis. I have no idea what it is really. Why does anyone do what they do?

Ron Price
21 April 1993
INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET NUMBER THIRTY FIVE

What we have in these several genres, and especially in this poetic matrix, is a meticulous examination of a life(1944-1999) over several epochs of the first century of the Formative Age. Mine is a unique approach to autobiography within the existing body of Bahá'í literature and commentary. I speak from the interior of a life so that others may imagine themselves speaking; I also speak from the merely local and time-bound perspectives of the eighth, ninth and early tenth stages of Bahá'í history. I address both the externals of my life and our times as well as my unknowable inside, the inner life and private character.

For me this poetry is partly a romance of epic proportions. It is a romance that is also a tragedy and triumph, a vocabulary and a perspective, an interdependence of diverse points of view that lie along the linking line of my life's response in the space inhabited by my thinking and moving soul. It is not the poetry of "white heat",1 as Emily Dickinson described her work in 1862, or "faithful self-abandonment" as George Walley describes the poetic process.2 It is, rather, the poetry of a certain mysterious quietness that descended on my life after three decades of pioneering(1962-1992) a Cause that is the spiritual underpinning of the whole oeuvre. Perhaps it was what Dickinson described in: ..............................the vivid Ore
Has vanquished Flame's conditions,
It quivers from the Forge
Without a colour, but the light
Of unanointed Blaze.

By the early 1990s I had had some forty years of contact with this new Force with pretensions to being the newest of the world's great religions. The wider society I worked in and through, however, was largely unresponsive to its radical, its subtle, its new message. After three decades of pioneering its teachings among my contemporaries I seemed "called by sorrow and a strange desolation of hopes into quietness", as Shoghi Effendi had been in his later years.3 At least, my experience, by 1993, had some similarities to his state, what you might call ‘spiritual fatigue.' Only in my case it was a much more minor key than his. This factor, among a complex of other reasons, was what turned me to poetry. I think. It is difficult to know for sure.

I strive, as far as possible, to be understood in what I write. For I see my poetry as history, biographical source material, autobiography, an archive of our times. Like talking and wanting to connect, this poetry aims itself at an audience, an audience that is not yet. I try to surprise, "Truth's superb surprise", to provide "expression kind" and to say it all in a gradual and gentle form that is honest and direct.4 I would like to think that I am forging a link, one of many, for future generations to see into our times, the traces of our times by means of simple links of human experience. This is my aim. It is not so much a longing to be known, to acquire some of fame's fragile glory, some posthumously conferred immortality, but rather a perspective that sees-

The Poets light but lamps-
Themselves-go out-
The Wicks they stimulate-
..........
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference-6

With Dickinson, I see my poetry as disseminating something of the ‘circumference' of both my time and my own life. The subject, the content, gives my voice, my poetry, form. To achieve this I need to focus on my ego. This is natural, a necessity, as natural as being centered in one's own brain, in one's own body. In the end, we must all nourish ourselves. It is all part of that self-love which ‘Abdu'l-Bahá says is the very clay of man. And it must be done in both solitude and with people. My poetry is my fascination with the movement of my mind, my thought, my interior experience. I try to make of my dieing, immortality.7 For the last several years, since the Holy Year in 1992, this activity, this writing of poetry, has seemed ceaseless, a part of me like my own face. Hopefully, the winter of my life, the years ahead, will be "as arable as (this) Spring."8

I have moved on a teaching stage as wide as two continents, closer than most people get to the two poles9 of this bi-polar world. I have experienced the intensities that come from possessing a bi-polar tendency, formerly known as manic-depression, and can appreciate the view that my ‘quietness' is simply a part of the leveling out of this tendency due to lithium carbonate treatment. By 1992 I had come to accept this treatment with equanimity after a decade of struggling to accept its necessary part of my life. I have spent a good deal of my time looking inward and this writing of poetry seemed to offer an opportunity to retreat to my innermost being, to that interior to which He summons us. Perhaps my poetry was a symbol of a recommitment to the Covenant, a rededication to duty, a revitalizing of my energy for teaching, that the Universal House of Justice wrote about10 when my commitment to poetry was just emerging. Time would tell.

Thirty-seven years after leaving home, of moving from place to place, for the Cause, for career, for psychological necessity, I trust I will feel no need to leave home, to move any more. My soul's passions can be as readily at hand in one's home, as elsewhere; although more moves may be inevitable in the last years of middle and late adulthood and old age. This poetry, then, is but one attempt, however inadequate, to describe the effects on one person, a pioneer within the framework of Bahá'í administration, of this new Revelation from God. It is my hope that my own effort will assist others in their efforts to define, to express the mystery of the interrelationship between their lives and a religion with the future in its bones, between the flower of their lives and the garden of the Cause.

Poetry comes unbidden, like flashes of good luck, some whelling up from within. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani expresses the process best in her "Artist, Seeker and Seer"11 where she talks of ‘the cleansing of the heart with the burning of the spirit'.12 I am not particuarly conscious of possessing ‘a clean heart', although like everyone it is partly clean. She goes on: "the heart can recognize the relationship between dissimiliarities, can reflect the patterns in which the blinding shapes and colours of human conscience revolve, and see a glimpse of certitude..."13 Astonishment and wonder certainly fill the veins, but so too does a sense of powerlessness, nothingness, a burden of sin and a heedlessness which threatens to destroy one's life.

I express the Beauty I have seen in my poetry. My poetic form, my method, is an expression of "a form of seeing"14 that reflects the motions of my heart. It is a motion that has had the aspiration of ‘the true believer': of search, of earnest striving, of longing desire, of fervid love, of rapture, of ecstacy.15 It is a motion, too, which increasingly observes "the patterns of our lives" as they "unfold through the dazzling coloured mansions of our Lord";16 or to put what Nakhjavani is saying in a different poetic context, the river of my life has come to dance in the sunlight of this new Revelation. There are mysterious subtleties of colour dancing in this sunlight. There is an abundance of life, of sight and sound, threading my life, my darkness, with the colours of day. My poetry is but one more attempt "to find a fit vessel in which to sail on this light-filled and shoreless ocean of Baha."17 As yet, this vessel is inaccessible, an interior, a private skiff, as far as the wider world and its audiences are concerned. Small parts of my opus are relevant and interesting to a mass audience; indeed, I have shared it with small parts of that audience in my contact with it in my personal and professional life.

It is difficult to know just where I am in the acquisition of my poetic voice. Perhaps a retrospective examination of my work one day will reveal that I have found it. I tend to think I have but, after only seven years of intensive writing of poetry, I am disinclined to say definitively. But whatever state I have achieved in the development of a distinctive voice, a body of poetry quite unlike any other has been created. It is the expression of a unique, a highly individual life. All of us have such lives, really. Mine is just one of the millions of potential lives that could be recorded autobiographically, diaristically, and has been recorded. My quest is at once epistemological, personal and emotional. I like to see my quest as Everyman's, with my own particular colour, texture, tone, manner and mode.

As I gaze at my production of poetry over the last seven years, over four thousand one hundred poems, I am struck by its amplitude. I celebrate and commemorate hazardous states of the psyche, the wholeness of the psyche, the mysterious integration of the psyche that one could theologically define as grace, the balance between the known and the unknown in life. I am a proselyte for a new belief, a belief with a public character; I am also a person whose belief wants to express itself in art, in a deeply introspective and private way. I trust, though, that the different colours of a deeply inlaid skepticism, a cynicism, a pessimism and an optimism painted over half a century now of listening and observing, will provide a rich texture for any simple statement of dogma that is necessarily present in my poetry.

Many poets have a central theme. I suppose if I were to pick one from an off-the-cuff first impression of my work it would be: the Bahá'í Faith and me. Indeed both are the raison d'etre for my poetry. Take away these two topics and there is little left. We are all unique people and our unique personality constructs taken through the sifting mechanism of the Cause in this first century of the Formative Age produce a quality of individual personality and vision unlike no other: a heightened sense of the mind's uncharted possibilities; a triumphant sense that the solitary soul can define its own "Superior instants" as Emily Dickinson called them; and a story of pain, anguish and powerlessness that can produce, paradoxically, an artistic, a spiritual, abundance.
----Ron Price May 1999

FOOTNOTES

1. Emily Dickinson, Complete Poems, Number 365.
2. George Whalley, Poetic Process, Cleveland: A Meridian Book, 1967, p.xxv.
3. Dickinson, op.cit.
4. Ruhiyyih Khanum, Priceless Pearl, p.451.
5. Emily Dickinson, op.cit., Number 1129.
6. Number 883.
7. Emily Dickinson in Joyce Carol Oates, "Soul At White heat: The Romance of Emily Dickinson's Poetry", Critical Inquiry, Summer 1987, Internet, p.6..
8. ibid.,p.7.
9. 63 north and 42 south: Frobisher Bay NWT to Queenstown Tasmania
10. Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 1992, p.6.
11. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, "Artist, Seeker and Seer", Bahá'í Studies, Vol.10, pp. 4-5.
12. Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words, Persian Number 8.
13. Nakhjavani, op.cit., p.4.
14. ibid.,p.5.
15. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p.267.
16. Nakhjavani, op.cit.,pp.5-6.
17. ibid.,p.6.
INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME FOUR OF POETRY FOR PIONEERING OVER THREE EPOCHS

REJOICING IN ANNOUNCEMENT OF MAJOR ADVANCE IN MOUNT CARMEL PROJECT

With each selection or volume of poetry I attempt, in the introductory words, to describe where I am in the process of writing, of living and of understanding. Often the understanding is strongly influenced by something I have read or done within the last day or two and it will inform the introductory statement to a degree that is somewhat unbalanced and to a degree that often ignores other influences that simply do not come to mind as I write. I could, perhaps, overcome this exaggerated emphasis on the recent by a more studious examination of other influences which I record in the notes I take from my reading, or in my journal or letters, but thusfar this is not the case. Perhaps when I retire and I can enjoy the leisure that could lead to a more painstaking and thorough analysis of the writing process, this will be the case.

As I write this introduction I am especially conscious of some ideas I came across in A Mind For Ever Voyaging which is about the process by which William Wordsworth wrote his poetry.(1) There were many influences, this book points out, that led to the poetry of Wordsworth, not the least of which was his reading. He would often use the very words of other authors in a process which Coleridge would call imitation which he insisted was very different from copying. I have often done this myself; many poets other than Wordsworth do what some writers would call plagiarism. For those who would try to understand my poetry an examination of the quotations of other writers in either my notes or my poems, or indeed in my letters or diary would be helpful.

In the 1990s with the Arc in various stages of completion from year to year and with videos and letters informing us all about what is happening at each stage the World Centre has come to be both visually close and emotionally intimate. Feelings, both solemn and sublime, have often flooded over me in these years, especially when the sight of the World Centre came into view. It was as if a lifetime devoted to an idea finally found its apotheosis. Drifting through an ambrosial night sky, lit by glowing lights, silent and wondrous, this incarnation of beauty would descend into the heart of my emotional life and lift me to the highest heaven. In weaping I found catharsis. With a grave and steady joy, silent and divine, I would try and give expression to the wonder I felt, to the awe that inhabited my solitude.

In these years, nature took on a new orientation. Perhaps it was just part of getting older. Perhaps it was the product of twenty years of quite intense reading that left me slightly dizzy from the delirium of text which I felt from consuming ten to twenty books a week. Perhaps it was over three decades of pioneering with several trips to hell and back. Perhaps it was simply those mysterious dispensations of Providence that seemed to open up a whole world to me in the years surrounding the Holy Year(1992-1993), that auspicious juncture in the history of His Cause.

In recent years, then,I have peopled my solitude with nature and books; in a crowd I often found myself alone. Often there were strong emotional currents running through my being, but I learned what many must learn; namely, not to

do the thing they most do show,

Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,

Unmoved, cold and to temptation slow;

They rightly do inherit heaven's graces

(Shakespeare)

Just which of heaven's graces I have inherited I do not know. But by the 1990s, reading, experience and those endowments conferred by birth, combined in serendipitous ways to generate new and serene emotions which formed a new culture of feeling and thought within me, a culture within which this poetry was produced. Alternating periods of the day, of freshness and fatigue, produced different kinds of poetic themes and moods. I was especially conscious of my generation that had been pioneering over three epochs beginning with the year I was born, in 1944. They had done so much in such obscure, unobtrusive and apparently unheroic ways. Whereever they are, here in a multitude of places on this planet or in that Undiscovered Country, they will feel, one and all, delight and wonderment at the transformation of Mount Carmel and the profound significance that lies therein.

I send this small selection of poetry in celebration of the recent announcement by The Universal House of Justice of a major advance in the Mount Carmel Projects: the razing of several houses opening the way for the completion of the lower terraces of the Shrine of the Bab and the municipal scheme involving the restoration of the German Templer houses.

(1)W.K. Thomas and Warren K. Ober, A Mind for Voyaging: Wordsworth at Work Portraying Newton and Science, University of Alberta, 1989.

Ron Price

17 April 1995

problem, more dance than difficulty. There is an exhausting side of my own particular approach to poetry and that is the amount of reading I do. As I may have indicated in that first interview, I read a great deal: perhaps fifteen books a week, or ten a week when averaged out over the last twenty-two years. I push myself to read by an insatiable curiosity, by habit, by a sort of orgy of acquisitiveness, perhaps a certain obsessive-compulsiveness. And the process of reading, hour after hour, makes me very tired, utterly exhausted. That is the worst part of the process. But the answer is simple: I go to bed and sleep like a baby. Writers have different work capacities: Jane Kenyon, the American poet, goes for two or three hours; Xavier Herbert, the Australian novelist, could go for thirty-six hours straight. I drive in a middle range: six to ten hours a day when I don't have to go to work. I find the process quite ‘life-enhancing' to use Kunitz's phrase.

Q: Whom do you write for?

Price: I'm not sure I really write ‘for' somebody or some group, or even for me. I write for the pleasure of the experience, the exercise of the intellect, the feelings, the power of thought. I believe Mozart composed to work things out. I like that way of putting it. It's not really for anyone. It's like some inner whelling up, working toward, out, in. I write especially with the Bahá'í community in mind and the great souls who have gone on, as I have indicated before. There's a certain excitement and mystery in this. So much of my inspiration comes from my religion. But let me say a little more on this subject. The Bahá'í community shares my values and beliefs, but much of my poetry is what I might call experiential, non-denominational, non-sectarian, neutral as far as labels are concerned.

Tomorrow I am going to be giving a twenty-minute poetry reading at the cafe I mentioned earlier. I will read poems that please, that I hope everyone understands and that touch people's minds and hearts. Hopefully the listeners will laugh occasionally and a necessary entertainment function, at least here in Australia, will be supplied. The audience is part of an enormously expanding one around the world. The whole process of participating in a way of life, of creating a way of life that will give us all respect and a little joy, if not alot, need not be a burden. At the moment in most places it is. That is probably why my own poetry is, as yet, not read much in the public place, especially the Bahá'í community. We have not yet quite learned how to make community life a joy. But we will, slowly. Also, as I have indicated before, getting poetry published is difficult, or costly, or both. Given this reality I have to content myself with writing the poetry, with communicating with myself, with the great unseen souls of history and the future. I feel, I think, my poetry will one day occupy a place in Bahá'í history. I may be wrong. I'm not arrogant about this intimation. Writers like to be read, the more readers the better.

Q: What do you think is the first lesson, the key, to understanding poetry?

Price: We need to know to whom the poet is listening. In my inner life I have been listening to the central figures of the Bahá'í Faith most of my life. I have also read a great mass of other material: perhaps Arnold Toynbee and Edward Gibbon have had the most influence on me from the word of books. My parents, grandfather, my first and second wife, my son, my two step-daughters: have all been seminal influences. There have also been a host of other influences from the twenty-five towns, the thousands of Bahá'ís and students I have known and talked to over the last thirty-four years since leaving my home town. If we know something of these primary influences, we know something about the person who writes the poetry and thus we understand the poetry more than we ever could. We need to focus on the poetry, not the poet, the words, not the personality. The reality of man is his thought, his poetry if you will, not the shape of his face and the length of his hair.

As a writer of poetry, not the reader, I think the first thinG you need to be aware of in understanding poetry is that in writing free-verse you slowly feel your way into the poem. A writer also needs to know a great deal; at least I feel this is important to me. These two qualities are important in my understanding of poetry.

Q: Do you think poetry has any use?

Price: Poetry's purposes should be expressed in terms of the true and the beautiful, not the useful. It's like religion. The religion I have been associated with now for nearly forty years should be evaluated in terms of whether it is true not whether it is useful. People use religion and they use poetry, but I think this emphasis, this approach, is secondary, or tertiary. It is inevitable that both poetry and religion have uses, that they have utilitarian functions, but their core is spiritual, mystic.

Q: The American poet Diane Wakowski says that good writers have problems as they aproach middle age; as their lives become less eventful, less tense, their writing loses energy and shape.

Price: If one defines middle age as the ‘middle adulthood' period of human development, then I began to overcome the major battles of my early life and early adulthood, as Diane described. But I had enough to keep me busy until my mid-forties, so that tension and difficulties continued to face me. By my late forties life was for the first time more peaceful and a period of relative tranquillity, like a kind of golden years, entered my experience. It is this relative ease of life than has been the backdrop for this poetry. But even here there is enough tension, struggle, activity, to provide some base for a creative edge.

By my late forties I had been a teacher for nearly twenty-five years, a pioneer for nearly thirty. I had been as popular as a teacher can get for many years. Popularity held no buzz. I had never aspired after wealth. The major problems of life had been sorted out to all intents and purposes. Overt interest in my religion seemed to have reached a point where no matter what I did only seeds got planted. The world of action simply did not yield great fruit, or at least any different fruit than it had already done for at least two decades. I think writing often takes over when human action can not go any place else. And so writing began to fill the spaces of my life where living had reached a dead end, where it repeated what I had seen a million times, a million. My writing has given me enormous satisfaction. It is action, as satisfying as an overseas trip, a stimulating conversation, a good meal, even an erotic experience.

Q: Thank you again for your time; we look forward to a third interview one day.

Price: Thank you, I do too. Would you like a final cup of tea?

Rivervale WA

18 May 1996

A THIRD INTERVIEW WITH RON PRICE

Preamble:

This is the third interview this year, 1996, with Ron Price. It continues to explore some of the same questions, examine similar issues and talk about poetry, reading and writing as the first two interviews did.

Questioner(Q): We have talked before about your first poem, or poems. Could you tell us more about how you got started?

Price(P): The first poem was written about sixteen months after I started taking lithium carbonate. I wrote some forty poems in the six years: 1981 to 1987 and another one hundred and thirty from 1988 to 1991. I have come to see this period of ten years as my ‘first poems'. There was an emotional stability in my life that I had not had before as an adult or young adult even, since I was in my mid-teens. I have talked about lithium before and I don't want to belabour the point here, but I think it has been crucial to my balance and well-being. In the ‘80s I still had some major battles in my life in my employment. I worked in Zeehan, Tasmania; Katherine, Northern Territory; Port Hedland and Perth in Western Australia--all in the same decade. My wife was sick most of the time in that decade and on and on goes the list of troubles. I think this kept my production limited, although I did write many essays.

The whole idea of taking poetry seriously did not really dawn on me until 1992/93. That's a story I have already commented on to some extent in an earlier interview, so I won't say anything more here. In addition, I wrote poems before 1981, but I never kept any of them. I think my first poems were written to Cathy Saxe when I was about eighteen. She was a Bahá'í youth who lived in Georgetown Ontario. My memories of this time are vague and unreliable, though, and it may just be that she and I wrote no poems to each other at all. I have not seen her in thirty years.

Q: Could you tell us more about what you think regarding the teaching of poetry and how you learn to write it?

P: Perhaps the most interesting thing about poetry is actually who writes it, not who teaches it or how it should be taught. Teaching poetry has little to no significance to most people who write poetry, except in an indirect way by reading the poetry of others and reading about their poetry. I'm influenced by what I read and experience. I teach myself. I read about poets and, if I like a poet, which I rarely do, I read a great deal of his or her poetry and the commentaries about it. Shakespeare's Sonnets, Wordsworth's poetry, T.S. Eliot's poetry, Roger White's and a few others are examples where this process was applied. For the great majority of poets whom I don't enjoy reading, I read about some of them: partly in the hope I may get awakened and partly just to widen my own knowledge of poets and poetry. There is a vast tradition here going back to the Greeks and the Hebrews in the West and other traditions as well, enough to keep you busy for the rest of your life.

I'll give you an example here from last night. I got a six hundred page biography of Robert Graves. It was simply massive, but freshly minted 1995, beautiful hard-cover. I read about thirty pages of Graves' philosophy of writing poetry. The rest of the book had little interest to me.

Q: Tolstoy thought that the definition of religion was to renew because no matter what one did life went on and renewal was essential to our continuity. Does poetry do this, too?

Price: Yes, it certainly does for me; it has, like religion, a deep-seated relationship with life. It enables me to go on living.

Q: Obviously there are many things that influence your poetry. What specific poets have clearly had an affect on your style?

Price: Roger White writes humorously and kindly as did the Roman poet Horace. This is a tradition I would like to emulate, but I find it very difficult to achieve. My poetry usually does not come out in a humorous mode. I think on the whole my writing is kindly, if not humorous. I have studied Shakespeare's Sonnets a great deal and I like to think his poetry has influenced mine, but I'm not sure how; this is also true of many other poets I have read to a lesser extent.

Q: James Wright, an American poet, says that poetry helps you endure because it helps you sing about life. Do you think this is true?

Price: Yes, again, I think it's like religion. It deals with such basic forces: attitudes, beliefs, values. It gives you a reason to sing, or simply to put into words what you think. Generally, I think the ability to put life into words is a source of pleasure and makes life a little easier for the person who can do this. But there is also much work in writing poetry, at least for me. So, in a way, I pay for my pleasure. For, say, Robert Penn Warren, before 1958 poetry helped him endure his sense of despair and alienation. I'm sure it helped Ezra Pound while he was in a mental hospital. For me, meaning unfolds as I write and this gives me satisfaction; it helps me endure some of the more unpleasant things in life. I love writing poetry. I seem to need to do it. Just how good it is is difficult to say; partly, I don't care because I find that, in spite of the work involved, writing poetry is a most enjoyable way of spending time.

Q: Robert Penn Warren says that writing a poem is like stalking a beast for a single shot. Is that analogy a good one from your point of view?

Price: It's excellent. Sometimes something emerges when you write a poem. It's something extra, a plus that makes you feel you've scored a goal, hit a home run, shot the bear, caught the fish, made a sale. I suppose the analogies are infinite. Social scientists use the term synergy: the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Some poems possess a special synergy for me. Others seem empty, less than the sum of their parts.

Q: William Stafford, another American poet, says that wherever liveliness of emotion and intellect are happening, poetry is near. This is an interesting juxtaposition. Do you agree?

Price: I used to feel comfortable in the presence of alot of emotion but, after twenty-five years in Australia and perhaps just getting older, I've become suspicious of emotion in group contexts. I've also found Australians possess a certain embarrassment when intellectual ideas are on the floor. When I can act as facilitator, which I often have over the years as a classroom lecturer/teacher, I find the process is like keeping a lid on a very volatile mix. Humour has become for me, as it has for Australian culture, the great integrating mechanism. In poetry readings I go to and read at, humour takes the emotion and intellect and neutralizes them; otherwise the tension would be insufferable. Freud said the intellect spoke with a soft voice. That is my preference, although I think Aussis are onto something with their use of humour when emotion and intellect are present.

Q: The twentieth century is riddled with example after example of poets with severe depression, alcoholism, mental illness, who have suicided, overdosed on drugs, etc. Could you account for this?

Price: I had my own battle with depression and mental illness before I took up the poetic pen, so to speak. This was a battle I had with myself until my mid-thirties. It's also a battle fought by millions of other people who never write a poem, or anything else, except a list of food items for the local grocery. store. This century has seen vast change but, then, as Robert Nisbet points out in his fascinating book about social change in the West since the Greeks, so have the last twenty-five centuries.

Still, I think you do have a point. Poets tend to be marginal, lonely people in the wings. Whatever sense of insecurity and instability they may have is accentuated by a feeling of uselessness or, more importantly, by a philosophy of nihilism, a fever of living that burns in the brain, a cancerous materialism, the virtual uselessness of religious traditions, even truth, as W.B. Yeats would have put it. Hardy said life was a train of suffering punctuated by illusory moments of happiness. Dylan Thomas drank himself to death. There are a host of examples which Colin Wilson discusses in his book The Strength To Dream.(1976)

Although the game went on into the twentieth century, Christianity had collapsed for the intellectual and there was really little to put in its place, except some new religions which were emerging from obscurity and what the Greeks had, namely, reason and the senses. The Greek culture of the fifth century BC took hundreds of years to develop into that golden age. It was an age which burned out quickly, although it left its mark on western history. The secular humanism at the heart of that Greek culture tends to end in pessimism and one of the more popular twentieth century equivalents, a sense of absurdity. In Australia I think this is one of the more important sources, or underpinnings, of humour. Time will tell what will happen to these new religions. Toynbee mentions two in A Study of History, Vol. 7B(p.711). The architectural creation on Mount Carmel is a testimony to the development of one.

In my own case, as I have indicated above, I got most of my own traumatic sufferings over with before I wrote any poetry. Loneliness was not a problem for me; I cultivated a certain detachment, aloneness, partly as a reaction to the excessive amount of talking and listening I do in my role as a lecturer and in my role as a chairman or secretary of the local Bahá'í community in Belmont. Probably everyone has some degree of instability or insecurity. I certainly know what the more extreme manifestations of these qualities are like and, compared to these, I am living in the land of tranquillity.

Q: Would you say your poetry is both descriptive like William Carlos Williams and philosophical-spiritual like Roethke or Wilbur?

Price: No, it's much more of the latter. Descriptiveness in my poetry falls short of what for me is a certain impoverishment in Williams' poetry. The imagination plays a big role, but not fantasy. Fantasy is present. As Rollo May says fantasy is a crucial part of the imaginative function, of creation. History plays an important role, too. Formalism has little

to no role as it does for Wilbur. My density is predominantly colloquial.

Q: This is the third interview now and I don't think we have talked about your family, your adolescence, the influence of your father, your mother, your wife or, indeed, other significant individuals, except quite tangentially, somewhat serendipitously

Price: Yes, that's true; I've mentioned several individuals thusfar but given them nothing like the sharp focus they deserve. And I have not talked about my own childhood or adolescence which, as we all know, are exceptionally formative influences on one's life.

Perhaps I'll start with the latter factor. It is difficult to summarize what are, in effect, nineteen years to the end of adolescence. Even to pick several highlights for a short paragraph or two seems totally inadequate. But I'll try. The influence of my grandfather in the first three years of my life, a time I have no memories of at all, is immeasurable. He was a man in his seventies who was himself retired. He read enormously. I get the impression that was about all he did beside visit with his family and very small circle of friends. Now, half a century later, I follow a similar pattern, although he drank port before retiring at night and smoked a pipe. These nights I just collapse from an enormous fatigue.

My mother had manic-depressive illness, although not in an extreme form needing hospitalisation. She just had bad mood swings; she wrote poetry, read lots of books, worked as a secretary at a university before retiring, was interested in religion, painted a little in her final years, became a Bahá'í in the mid-1950s and was very kind, gentle and loving to me for my entire youth. Her influence was immeasurable and she is the one person in life, beside my wife, that I feel the greatest connection with, the greatest influence. I have a small booklet of her poetry here in my study. She began writing poetry about the same time I did, around the age of fifty.

My father had lived a lifetime before I was born. He was a Welshman: strong, energetic, sang in choirs, had a terrible temper, seemed to have a succession of losses in jobs, marriage and eventually his health. He died two months before I turned 21. By then his temper had cooled off and I think of my father as the source of the great energy I've had in my life, the sine qua non, the foundation, of any achievement. I also inherited his temper, although I've learned to keep in under raps most of the time. He was a man I never really got to know and I look forward to eventually coming to know a man I've grown close to in the world of the spirit in the thirty years since his passing.

Let me say one or two things about the stages of childhood and adolescence. One of the best things about adolescence is the intense male friendships, the camaraderie, the sheer fun of it all. It comes at a time when youth begin to become unstuck from their own families, when they are confronted by a surging sexual drive and the endless complexities of society. I have the fondest memories for a small circle of half a dozen boys whom I have not seen now in thirty years. Although I've come to know hundreds of men and women since and talked endlessly with them, these special relationships enjoy a place in my memory that is quite precious and treasured. My childhood, that period up to say twelve years old, is like a magic land inhabited by faint memories, a gossamer world, a place where I first kissed a girl, discovered pretty female nymphs and satyrs, a place where life began mysteriously bearing some semblance to reality, like a vapour in the desert which the thirsty dreams to be water. There is no pain for me here just an endless playground haunted at the edges by the strange realities of life.

Q: You did not mention your wife. I believe you also had a first wife for seven or eight years as well.

Price: Both these women were wonderful: practical, talented, long-suffering. I won't dwell here on that first marriage, a relationship that helped propel me first into the Canadian Arctic and then overseas into the international pioneering field. I could say a great deal about my present wife, Chris. I could finish the interview talking about her and the value she has been to me. I will try and be brief. In some ways her relationship with me is a little like Elizabeth Barrett Browning's relationship with Robert. She has been immensely encouraging. She is the only person who reads much of my poetry and so her reactions and understandings are crucial. She has a critical spirit and, if she does not like something, she will tell you. My poetry was the first of my writings that she reacted favourably toward. Chris is, too, my dark haired lady. The mysterious lady who occupies the last twenty-seven of Shakespeare's Sonnets comes closest, in poetry, to this lady of my life. I'll quote some lines from sonnet 141 to illustrate the profound significance of some of the poetry Shaekspeare wrote to his ‘dark haired lady':

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,

For they in thee a thousand errors note;

But ‘tis my heart that loves what they despise,

Who in despite of view is pleased to dote.

Chris' health has not been good for nearly fifteen years. Living with someone like me who writes so much, has a high level of intensity and energy and has moved around so much over the years--has not been easy for her, especially since I have very little practical propensities and consequently little interest in gardening, fixing up the house, cooking, etc. She gives me lots of space and freedom and keeps the pressure off me most of the time. Although this is helpful to my writing it makes it difficult for her to get close to me. These are still my early days: four years of intense writing. Perhaps an interview in a few years may reveal another pattern in our evolving relationship.

Q: I'd like to talk a little about sex. It has had an obsessive quality in the last half of this century. It also has a powerful conditioning force. Tell us something about your own experience of what has been a central motivation, goal, mysterium tremendum, for the mass of people in the last several generations at least since it got freed up in the 1920s.

Price: Where should I begin? First, let me say that until about the age of fifty I found sex and its several relationships in my life: my first and second wife and, perhaps half a dozen other women in varying degrees of intimacy a source of great joy and seemingly endless frustration. In spite of all the freeing up of the passions, first in the 1920s and then again in the 1960s, my own experience of a sexual relationship has been fraught with difficulties. I would not even want to try to summarize them here. I'm still enormously attracted to women, but the great itch, the inner battle, has cooled and I can enjoy the feminine without getting itchy and scratchy. Unquestionably, though, part of the war I fought these past forty years, has been working out some balance with the erotic, some foothold on an

erotic homeland. It has been an enormous battle.

Q: How would you assess those last forty years in some overall social and political sense?

Price: The years since Sputnik, since the Guardian died, for they occurred within a few weeks of each other, are impossible to characterise in a paragraph. I would encourage anyone interested in my answer to this question to read my poetry. In some ways that is what Pioneering Over Three Epochs is about. The other genres of this work, too, also say a great deal. I must have several million words now that come at this question in a thousand different ways. Let me make a comment though. The Guardian said, just before he died, that we were a society on the edge of extinction, annihilation, oblivion. That was literally true in the late fifties as the cold war brought us close to nuclear war several times. In 1967 the Universal House of Justice used the phrase ‘dark heart of the age of transition'. That reality has been at the core of the social and political fabric of society and my experience of it in a host of manifestations during all my years of maturity.

Q: We have talked before about the writer withdrawing, being a hermit, being a self-ordained monk who must remain secluded from life for the sake of art. Let us talk about this theme a little more.

Price: Philip Roth said in an interview in 1981 that art is life, solitude is life, meditation is life, language is life. It is all life. The dichotomy between the social and the solitary is false. The historic distinctions between "mysticism" and "practicality" really don't exist any more, except in people's minds. We can no longer separate the "active" and the "contemplative" facets of our lives. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani says this in an article about the seeker she once wrote for Bahá'í Studies. This is not the issue, although emotionally we often struggle with it. The issue is a multifaceted series of questions: are we exulting in immortal thoughts? Are we circling around the great? For here our own greatness lies. Can we find the dancing lights held up against the glancing rays of His white words? ‘Abdu'l-Bahá describes the gregarious and the quiet types in his classic Memorials of the Faithful. It is crystal clear that this is a Faith for all types: the solemn, the chirpy, the loner and the social, etc. etc. One's basic proclivities are accepted here unless, of course, they are amoral and then one must battle with them oneself and with the help of society, if necessary.

Q: What does Australia mean to you? Canada? The rest of the world's countries?

Price: We talked about this question of influences of place back in that first interview and again a little in the second. Let me say a few more things here. Each country has a certain psychology, you might call it a psycho-history. I think Ronald Conway, the Melbourne clinical psychologist, is for me the best analyst of the Australian psyche. He has four books out beginning with The Great Australian Stupor which came out the year I arrived in Australia, 1971. Canada, too, has its psychologists, sociologists, historians. I have lost touch with them over the years, although George Grant was always of some influence on me beginning when I had him as a professor in 1963-64 at McMaster University. In really answering this question properly I'd like to place my remarks in the context of their books. This would lead to prolixity.

As far as other countries are concerned, I've never lived anywhere else, and I would have to work quite hard to attempt to discuss any influences that have come my way from the dozens of people I have known from many of these places. This question really needs a much more extended answer. Perhaps in a future interview.

Q: Do you have any sense of power when you write poetry? Do you feel powerless as a poet?

Price: This question is a little like that other question you asked me about poetry having any use. There are many answers to this historic question beginning with Plato who would have banned poets from his Republic. I don't want to talk about the issues Plato's policy raises other than to say the poet has a place in Bahá'í society which, like the artist or sculptor, is encouraged. But I would like to talk about this question of power. Power is a difficult term to define in the social sciences, unlike ‘authority' which is quite a specific term with a specific application or applications. Power is much more diffuse, difficult to define, to tie down. One can have a very strong sense of power when one writes poetry because one is tapping into a world and giving it form. Often the process is joyful, enriching, quite meaningful: there is clearly a sense of power, but it is not power over anyone; it is power to do something, power in the exercise of a talent. Whether the poet ever influences society or other people is difficult to say: perhaps a small handful. I've read arguments both for and against the influence of a poet and after all is said and done, I'm inclined to think the poet influences a coterie at best. This is even true of Shakespeare, Bach or Mozart but this does not make these men any less important. They enrich our culture beyond measure.

Q: How would you describe yourself?

Price: There are so many ways of answering this: by role-husband, father, teacher, writer; by temperament—manic-depressive with the sharp edges taken off; by habit and taste—someone who likes the quiet life reading and writing, all day if possible; style of participation in a group, like an LSA—synthesiser, unifier, efficient minutes taker. Perhaps you could have a look at my resume; it certainly tells a story; you could ask my analyst, he'd give you another; my family would give you one or two more; my students, most of them, would give you yet another perspective; the few students you never win over would give you yet another view. Other people's views are essential to provide a balance with whatever view occupies the centre stage in your own life.

Q: I think we'll leave it at that for now and return at some future time, all being well.

Price: It's a pleasure; I look forward to a future examination of what must be an endless world of questions and possible answers.

Ron Price

7 July 1996

INTERVIEW NUMBER FOUR WITH RON PRICE

This is the forth interview in the series that began a year ago next week. This particular interview resulted from reading a series of interviews with American playwright Arthur Miller of Death of A Salesman fame, interviews conducted over a forty year period 1947-1986 and published in Conversations With Arthur Miller (University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1987). What follows allows for a certain overall reflection on my writing of poetry, a serene labour, confident and unremitting, part of my own contribution, my own assistance, to the operation of the forces which, as marshalled and directed by Bahá'u'lláh, are leading humanity to the loftiest summits of power and glory.1

1-Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, BE 153, p.6.

Questioner(Q): I understand that you have been writing poetry for over four years at a rate of two poems a day. That is quite an output. Gerald Manley Hopkins says that to write a poetry of the imagination, with any significant degree of output, requires a mood of mental acuteness, an energetic force, a receptivity, so that thoughts come into the mind virtually unasked and frequently and are translated into form. What is your own source of output?

Price: In order to write poetry with any regularity, any frequency, putting a good deal of time and effort into the work you have to be a bit of a, a specie of, fanatic who sees the task as having some top priority. Otherwise you can't generate the intensity, the obsessiveness; the orchestra of winds can not perform its strange, sad music. John Crowe Ransom looks at it differently. He says it is a kind of self-indulgence that pushes the poet to achieve his ponderous whimsicality, his labor of wit. There are many theories, many reasons, explanations, of what drives a poet, a writer, or indeed any creative person. I have no special theory. But I'd say there are several specific factors that have combined serendipitously to produce what is now more than 3000 poems. Listing the following factors amounts to a theory, I suppose: (1) being settled in both my marriage and my employment for perhaps the first time in my life; (2) this domestic and professional anchorage is conjoined with good health, a chemical stability on lithium carbonate and a pleasant climate which is gently stimulating, as Mediterranean climates tend to be; (3) some fifteen years of praying for the assistance of Holy Souls: it's like I'm finally getting some pay-off; (4) having forty years of contact with and/or service in the Bahá'í community(1952-1992) encompassing, as that period of time does, two Holy Years. My great outpouring of poetry has come at the end of this period. I do not think, although I cannot prove, that this is accidental.

Q: You have still to publish anything significant; except for the occasional poem in the occasional magazine your work is still unknown. You have been writing poetry for fifteen years and only strongly for five years. Is that lack of public recognition beginning to bother you?

Price: I have nothing against recognition but, as I have indicated in previous interviews, the several Bahá'í publishing houses expressed no interest in my poetry; it is too costly to publish my own; I really have no interest in sending batches of it off to secular publishing houses any more after the little feedback I received a few years ago. I'm in the process of putting a page on the Internet. The BWCL has a copy of 2900 of my poems. That is enough recognition for my ego. I have always liked Rainer Maria Rilke's attitude to writing poetry expressed in his Letters to a Young Poet. This small book of some 125 pages would summarize my own feelings and thoughts about recognition, fame and publication. It would take too long to even highlight Rilke's views, but they convey a foundation for my own approach and I have Roger White to thank for pointing me toward Rilke.

Q: Arthur Miller says he can not write when he is unhappy. Many writers write best when they are despondent, miserable. When do you write best?

Price: I know what despondency is, what it is to be miserable. The bi-polar tendency which I was afflicted with for about twenty years gave me a taste of the most bitter pills. This is well behind me now and except for a certain early morning drag and a fatigue setting in after, say, 10 pm at night, I feel good most of the time. Of course, there are occasional domestic problems or situations at work which cause the inner life a degree of angst but, most of my life now is tranquil and I prefer to write from this emotional base. Sometimes a particular poem comes out of a special problem I am facing that is making me unhappy, but nearly all my poetry is written in the Wordsworthian sense of ‘emotions recollected in tranquillity.'

Q: Staying on Arthur Miller, I'd like to ask for your comment on something he said in an interview in 1960. He said that he could not write on anything he understood too well. It must be partially understood; then a hardening process takes place and the idea begins to take on form which can be communicated. Is the process of writing poetry like this for you to any extent?

Price: Sometimes. I think there are two general categories of poetry when seen from this perspective. One type I understand well, so well that the poem slides out onto the page like greased lightening, as they say. It is the type that Archibald MacLeish says is written by master poets. They come at the poem as a hawk on a pigeon in one dive. Another type is like the one Miller talks about and you never feel you've really got a handle on it. The hold on the pigeon is tentative. Then there are a range of other types between these two extremes. There is no simple dichotomy.

Q: Writers spend their lives articulating questions and answers. As Chekhov says: "A conscious life without a definite philosophy is no life, rather a burden and nightmare. How would you respond to this?

Price: I think I've covered this territory before in a previous interview in one way or another; but there are so many ways to come at a question like this that another swoop at it will not hurt. I've taught philosophy courses and various social science programs in universities and colleges for years. I have frequently asked students to write down their "philosophy of life". It is really not that difficult for most people. The question is: ‘what informs that philosophy?' I think there are several things which can enrich and deepen a philosophy: (1) a religion, (2) the cultural attainments of the mind, (3) a love of words, (4) endless curiosity, (5) a solemn consciousness and (6) joy. Together they can also give to poetry a wonderful set of tools to play the music of life, to explore its wholeness and its infinite detail.

Q: Some poets seem to be ‘ideas people' and others ‘stories-facts-experiences people'. The former are few and far between: Dickinson, Roethke perhaps. They deal more with the abstract. And nearly everyone else is at the other pole. Where do you line up on this continuum?

Price: I have been trying for years to make my poetry more concrete and less abstract. My culture is not oriented to ideas. The few people I used to give my poems to would say: ‘I don't understand what you are on about, Ron.' I think I've got some balance now, although I still have only a small handful of readers and readers often define the balance. I only have part of my eye on the reader off in the distance when I write; I'm not really dependent on reader response, be it good or bad. My main aim is to please myself. The public is such a variegated, flippant and fickle creature: you win with one and not another with little more than a casual nod. Professionals of many ilks are not appreciated; occupational inferiority is a common experience. Besides, I see myself as a person, a man who is moved by life; postures and pretensions I try to avoid, especially in Australia. If someone introduces me as a poet, I'm frankly embarrassed because I'm very conscious of an Australian anti-intellectualism. If one's poetry can reach in and touch people then perhaps the term poet is earned. I have not achieved this except on rare occasions in public readings. The title ‘poet' is still, for me, a largely private signification. In that domain I am virtually unconcerned with the public.

Q: It is obvious from some of the things you have said that a sense of history, among other things, is essential to your writing of poetry. Could you comment on that a little further.

Price: Many in our society seem to be uninterested in history; they seem to feel it has nothing to contribute to their understanding of life. I have tried on many occasions to try to convince a class of students that history has a great deal to offer, but I find I am fighting an uphill battle most of the time. Much of my poetry depends on some aspect of our history. I wrote a series of poems last week about Shaykh Ahmad who travelled a great deal from 1793 to 1826. It would be impossible to appreciate my poems if you did not know who this man was. Those without an interest in history will simply have to pass over these poems in my collection. Randolph Stowe said there were too many books in the world and he would be happy if only two people found his book a necessary one. Perhaps that is the way to go: toward the few, the very few and not worry about popularity at all.

Q: Arthur Miller speaks of the basic impulse of writers as the desire, the ability, to speak of their uniqueness. He sees writing as the opportunity to deal with what he has discovered himself, with expressing his vision, his style. He sees this as perhaps the key to understanding the human being. Do you like that approach, that emphasis?

Price: This approach reinforces what I would call my autobiographical approach to writing. There is a reconstitution of self going on when one writes, a reconstitution that serves as a bulwark against the disintegration of that self. There is often an enchantment present; it is like a bowl of fruit that one keeps filling; the fruit is memory and imagination, knowledge and devotion. Virginia Woolf says that the past comes back when the present runs so smoothly that it is like the sliding surface of a deep river. For Woolf peace was necessary, at least preferable, when writing. I find this equally true.

Q: Miller says what a writer must do, what we all must learn how to do, is to synthesize experience. Could you comment on this?

Price: There is an absolute chaos of opinion, change, events, ideas, sensation and the individual must try to get some coherency out of it all, both external and internal. Meaning is quintessential. Poetry is my own attempt to define the meaning I have found, created, transferred to my acocunt from others. As Shakespeare says, the poet "gives to airy nothing, a local habilitation and a name." This is a delightfully light and insinuatingly skeptical attitude. I would say poetry creates a new world in which the poet lives; it lasts longer than a movie or a book; when it is healthy and vigorous it is a self-renewing visionary process.

Q: How have you dealt with that sense of crisis, urgency, impending anarchy that has been increasingly characterizing western and global society in the last half of the twentieth century? How has poetry helped you articulate your response to this tempest, to what many see as gloom and doom, war and bloodshed?

Price: I think back in 1962 about the time of the Cuban missile crisis, just after I started pioneering, I began to ‘run', psychologically. Perhaps it was because I was a child of the cold war with the threat of the bomb always hanging over my head. Later in that decade I came across Paul Erlich and then in the 1980s David Suzuki. All they did really was reinforce a sense of urgency planted in me by my study of the Bahá'í teachings. I've just finished reading Vietnam We've All Been There: Interviews with American Writers(Eric James Schroeder, Praeger, Westport, Conn., 1992) I have felt like a war veteran for years: not in the sense that I've seen it on TV or been there as one of the troops, but in a wider sense of fighting a different war on the home front and overseas. All the battles of life are ultimately within the individual. Thirty-four-and-one-half years of pioneering the Bahá'í teachings has frankly warn me out in the sense that Roger White describes it in his poem Lines from a Battlefield(Another Song Another Season, pp.111-112):

......I tire of this old-borm war.

..........

I am alienated from angels and celestial concerns,

..........

Locked in a grief so ancient as to have no name,

in this dimming light,

..........

Ah well, not every day can witness an anabasis*

and I, a sorry soldier, camp in ruins,

speak from weariness of battle far prolonged.

 a large scale military advance.

Poetry has helped me express the inner world of feelings and thoughts. It has been part of my survival package.

Q: This has been a useful year. These four interviews1 have helped to established an articulate sense of why you do what you do, what you are trying to do and what it all means. Thank you again for your time.

Price: See you again someday for that fifth interview.

14 January 1997

1 three other interviews took place in 1996 and are available under separate cover.

INTERVIEW NUMBER FIVE WITH RON PRICE

This is the fifth interview in fifteen months. It resulted from reading a series of interviews with Edward Albee over the twenty-five year period 1961 to 1987 and published in Conversations With Edward Albee, Philip C. Kolin, University of Mississippi Press, London,1988. Knowing as I do that these are historic days, days of infinite preciousness in the brief span of time before the end of the century, days of urgent and inescapable responsibility as I strive toward my God-promised destiny in the midst of a spiritual drama,1 provided a motivational matrix for the comments that follow.

1Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, 1997.

Questionner(Q):Are you conscious of influences on your poetry?

Price(P): Yes and no. My religion, my reading, ‘big' events in my life, people(family, friends, associations) are each and all immense influences on what I write. Given the time and the inclination I'm sure I could point to literally hundreds of poems that have direct links to one of these four influences. That's the ‘yes' part. The ‘no' part would go something like this: often I begin a poem and I have no idea how it will end and I have no idea just where it came from, the germ of the idea. It's like the birth of a baby and you did not know you were even pregnant. Keats put it well in a letter he wrote in 1820 and which I often quote, or paraphrase. Once a poet gets to a certain intellectual maturity etherial finger-paintings can be engendered, voyages of conception he calls them, which arise out of the most mundane experiences.

Q: Are there any serious problems with the interview method?

P: The viewer or the reader who comes across a transcript must keep in mind that answers change. Truth is relative. Individuals change. Ways of thinking about things go through processes of complete overhauling. As Edward Albee put it in an interview in 1980 with Peter Adam, an interviewee finds as he is giving an answer, one he has given many a time, and in mid-stream he realizes he does not believe that answer any longer, or it is just not true. The interviewer also has to keep in mind that we all have many selves, many ‘positions', we are many things to many different people. I find a position, a point of view, evolves with each poem; it's an organic process.

Also, the concept that the spark of truth comes from the clash of differing opinions means that the interviewee often will play the devil's advocate just to generate that truth spoken of above. A sociologist with an interaction perspective might say something like "a sense of self results from the process of interaction". Putting this a little differently, he might say the interviewer strongly influences the way the interviewee comes across. There are many things that affect an apparently neutral or objective interview. There's a whole literature available now on the subject of interviewing. I often play the devil's advocate game when my wife and I are in company. My wife used to find it quite annoying, but she's used to it now. We've been married for 22 years now.

Q: Do you prefer the ambiguities of life or the factual in your poetry?

P: You really need both in poetry. They compliment each other over and over again. As Carl Jung says most of the really important things in life don't admit to answers. It's better that way, he argues, they give us something to work on right to the end of it all. They help us grow. The endless analysis of issues helps to fill life's spaces in with challenges, enigmas, paradoxes that the mind can play with forever; for so much of the everyday is factual and beyond analysis, the routine, the sensory, better just enjoyed without too much thought.

Q: What do you like to do when you're not writing?

P: I don't consider writing as work. I like to read, eat, drink, sleep, walk; I actually like my job as a teacher; I enjoy relationships, some of the time; I enjoy shopping, although my wife would never believe that; I enjoy driving in air-conditioning on a hot day; I like swimming, sauna-bathing, good grief, I could go on and on. "The usual stuff," as Edward Albee put it when he was asked the same question.

Q: Why did you stop sending your poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library?

P: After sending nearly 3000 poems in less than five years--1992-1997--I felt a little pretentious that so much of my work was being stored there and me not being either famous or rich. I felt I had expressed my enthusiasm to a sufficient degree for the marvellous developments on the Arc and it was time to leave it off, so to speak. I got the idea of sending my poetry to other places and this is what I plan to do since it is really impossible to get my poetry published at the various publishing houses around the Bahá'í world.

Q: Do you think much of your audience as you write?

P: They drift somewhere out on the perifery. Our society is largely a film and television culture with poetry just about irrelevant, ‘cauterized, coterized'. Millions write the stuff, on the net, in little magazines, probably more poetry being written than in all history. But, like the theatre, it's not mainstream, although when I read Pamela Brown's description of poetry as ‘close to popular culture', I understand what she's driving at.1 My concern is with the reality, the honesty, the poem I'm writing. It's quite an introspective process. It's not about popularity. I'm in there but the audience hardly exists, except in a posthumous sense. I like to think what I write may be valued, as W.H. Auden put it once, by some future generation. Time will tell.

Q: The Polish poet Cszeslaw Milosz said that poetry should be written rarely and reluctantly under unbearable duress and only in the hope that good spirits choose us for their instruments. Your poetry would seem to testify to the opposite of this philosophy?

P: I like the last part of the idea. I like the concept of being a channel for good spirits beyond the grave, although it is always difficult to know for sure when you are serving in such a capacity. As far as the frequency of writing is concerned, I think that is quite an ideosyncratic issue. The opus of each poet is different; the published portion varies from virtually nothing to many volumes; for still others, like Emily Dickinson, it all gets published after their death. For still others it happens, like Keats, when they are young, like a flood; or like me, in middle age, another flood. In some ways I think poetry chooses you; it is not forced. I think the confluence of the death of Roger White and the anchorage I found here in Perth after years, two decades, of moving from town to town and job to job allowed my poetry to find a home in this world.

I must say, though, that Milosz has put his finger on part of the essence of poetry-the pain of life, the suffering in human existence. But this is only part of the story. There is also the public pain in this dark heart of an age of transition, as the Guardian calls our times. There is also the joy, the adventure, the knowledge and understanding and so much, much more.

Q: Do you plan any of your poetry? Do you worry about where the next one will come from?

P: Ralph Waldo Emerson used to worry about the ending of his creativity. I come across this idea from time to time in reading about other poets, not frequently, but occasionally. The only time I worried significantly about creativity was when I used in argue with myself about taking lithium which seemed to have an effect on my creative edge. That was in the 1980s, by the ‘90s I did not concern myself at all. If I lose interest in writing poetry, I will probably miss it because it has been such a source of pleasure, for at least five years now. One can't predict this sort of thing in life any more than one can plan the next poem. Poems seem to pop out of some intuitive, cognitive-emotional zone. The only planning that takes place is while I write but, even then, the whole thing usually comes pretty fast, like the rushing current of a river. It is very cathartic.

I don't have time to worry about the process, although occasionally I agonize over a phrase, an ending, a word. I've been averaging a little under two poems a day for five years. I'm awake for about 16 hours a day and two poems does not sound like much: a poem every eight hours. But given the fact that I'm a teacher, a parent, a husband and am involved in the local Bahá'í community, I would not want the process to be any faster. When I retire in a few years perhaps the production rate will increase. I'm not sure who controls the assembly line. I have a central role and certainly push alot of buttons. Perhaps, if the stuff is not very good I can blame Ford!

Q: Gwen Harwood the Australian poet who died two years ago in Hobart said she did not think about her position in the literary field; she did not intellectualize about her writing. What sort of attitude do you have to your writing?

P: I don't really have a position in the literary field, not yet anyway. I am a solitary person after I leave my various professional and public responsibilities. I am not against the idea of a public definition, fame or wealth and if it comes my way that will be fine, but I don't seek it out. One of the reasons I have put these interviews together, though, is that I think about what I write. I seek out a sense of definition; I want to be able to put into words what I'm trying to do. It is part of being articulate, part of the autobiographical process. But it is not just an autobiographical surge of the spirit.

Gwen calls herself a Romantic. She said she thought it was "a nice thing to be called."2 I've always thought of W.B. Yeats as the last of the Romantics, although certain Romantic tendencies linger: the desire to reform humanity, messianic interests. I have such interests. It would be difficult for a Bahá'í not to have them. These interviews express a certain intellectualization of what I do, where I'm at. My writing is also a bi-product of tranquillity, emotions recollected in tranquillity as Wordsworth put in 200 years ago. After three decades of the hectic, the problems of maturity, marriage and career I feel a certain peace, what one poet called the golden years.

Q: Why do you write poetry when you are obviously an effective communicator in your profession as a teacher? I would have thought you'd had enough ‘communicating' at the end of the day.

P: Yes, for twenty years, beginning in 1973, I've seen myself as an effective communicator in the classroom. Student evaluations of my work also support my own view and I enjoy the teaching process immensely. But I have found communication in my two marriages has not been easy. Also the general difficulty I have had, and the rest of the Bahá'í community in the West, in communicating the Bahá'í teachings to the people we contact each day—and the importance given by the Bahá'í community to this teaching process—creates a pressure that the Bahá'í lives with year after year. I think writing poetry has partly been a response to this pressure and the tensions in my two marraiges over more than twenty-five years. I also read an average of a book a day and have for years and my mind just gets so full of stuff-in addition to the endless output of the media and what one gets from the seemingly endless conversations with people-that I need some outlet. Ideas build up, float around, scratch about. I should say something, too, about Rilke in closing because so many things he said in his ‘advice to poets' explain the reasons I write.

Q: Why the sudden outburst in poetry in your late 40s and early 50s?

P: I'd written 150,000 words of published essays in Katherine when I wrote for newspapers in the Territory. I'd written enough academic essays to sink a ship, although I still did not have a Master's Degree. I'd tried writing sci-fi, but ran out of ideas and found it too demanding. I think I got to 40,000 words one summer holiday; I even went off my lithium in the hope that the creative edge would be sharper. But I found the exercise too onerous. A lady in California, Betty Conow, who had edited some of my essays on the request of Roger White, suggested I write poetry. I had been doing a little poetry writing, perhaps two dozen poems a year from mid-1981 to early 1992. Then the surge started. In the last four months of 1992 I wrote 75 poems; in 1993, 700 poems; in 1994, 708 poems; from 1995 to April 1997 another 1500 poems.

I have tried to answer this question in other interviews in other ways. This is yet another stab at it.

Q: Would you say your poetry is strongly ‘message oriented'?

P: It's mostly didactic. I've got something to say about a thousand-and-one things. There are probably several major themes which I've commented on before in other interviews(Volumes 17, 20, 21 and 24) I try to be humorous when it comes naturally; I try to contextualize the message in history, in my own life and ideas. But I don't worry too much about how people are going to react. I did in the early years of my writing and I think the worry was useful because I wound up simplifying my poetry so people could understand it and, in the main, I achieved this. I've had several public readings of my poetry in Fremantle and I was well received. I felt like I was in a classroom. Of course, not everyone is going to understand what you write and there will often be interpretations of your words that you had no intention of putting in. But I think you have to let it go, let it travel on its own, wild and free so to speak.

Q: How would you label yourself as a poet?

P: I don't like labels. I'm a Bahá'í who writes poetry, or should I say I'm trying to be a Bahá'í and I try to write poetry. I find the term ‘poet' a little pretentious. Even with the terms ‘husband' and ‘father' I sense a gap. They are roles you only partially fill. Being a poet is not a career position, a career move, part of a trajectory. It's an occasional experience. It is not loaded with expectations; you don't have to prove anything. Occasionally when I read in public I feel like a performer, an entertainer. The label ‘poet' is not one I wear comfortably. In some ways writing is more what you hear than what you write. Labels tie things down too much; I want to savour the experience in all its complexity and expansiveness in a living world. A poem can not be summed up in a glance, any more than a painting. It needs time and patience. The more time and patience, the more labels disappear. I don't like to see a break between the aesthetic, the poetic, the sociological, the historical, the psychological. The whole of existence is multi-dimensional, interdisciplinary, incredibly complex and utterly simple all at once. It can't be reduced to some label, although I like Judith Rodriguez's definition of poetry as "the habit of squeezing for the essence."3

Poetry has a long history now of movements, positions, ideas, approaches, styles. It's like many other disciplines there is alot going on in them when you start to get into them. I'm teaching a course now in sociological theory; I used to teach philosophy. I took an eclectic apporach to these subjects and I do the same with poetry.

Q: You have been asked many times abouth the influence of the Bahá'í Faith on your poetry. Could you answer this question again?

P: Some poets are ambivalent about the influence of religion. Fay Zwicky thinks of religion as one great confidence trick, for example. Other poets are clearly Christian in some way or other; sometimes the infleunce is obvious; sometimes it's indirect. Sometimes poets talk about how Taoism or Buddhism influences their perspectives. Anyone who reads my poetry to any extent will know that the Bahá'í teachings, its history, its organization, its philosophy, etcetera are manifest again and again in my poetry. In fact, I would say if you are not interested in the Bahá'í Faith you would have to cut away, what, fifty to ninety per cent of my poetry? So much of what I write is inspired by, a comment on, a wrestle with, some aspect of this Cause that I have belonged to for nearly forty years.

Q: How do you cope with all the personalities that come into your life?

P: I try to cut off when I'm finished with the ‘duty' side of my life. I'm a little like Keats in the sense that I absorb alot of my environment when I'm out in it. It's like being fully turned on, ultra-receptive; things impinge, sometimes quite acutely. So I try to turn that whole world off and read and write. This way I can control the input totally. I like to think this will be a permanent diet when I retire. For now I can only get a few weeks, a few days, a few hours, of solitude. I desire invisibility for the next dip into the jungle of life and all its complexity and stimulation. When I have had humanity in and out of every corner of my being, then I seek silence, solitude. It's then that I read about poetry, but I rarely read poetry itself. I want to listen to my own voice; the voice of others gets in the road, or it's just plain uninteresting. But some poetry you want in your head so you read and reread it: Shakespeare, Dickinson, Keats, Dawe, etcetera.

Q: You plan to read at the July 1997 Conference on Global Governance in Perth?

P: Yes, I have not read publicly in the Bahá'í community yet. I've given many Bahá'ís a poem or two, or more. I've read a poem once or twice in Belmont at a Feast or a deepening. I've written many essays about poetry, especially Roger White's. I've got nearly 3000 of my poems at the Bahá'í World Centre Library. I've read publicly, as I've said before, at a cafe in Fremantle. But no official exercise like this conference in Perth. I read rarely because I find it limits the text of my poetry; it is too oriented to the trivial, to entertainment. It must be if it will be heard and enjoyed. It limits the reader's reaction by imposing the author's view, although being a teacher I'm used to doing that. You have to when you're on the stage with an audience. I'm not a performance poet, although on those occasions when I have been ‘performing', it has been quite successful. I enjoy pleasing people but, after twenty-seven years of teaching on a thousand platforms, it does not have the turn-on it used to do. I prefer the page, the book, kept, preserved.

I think my general lack of interest in self-promotion, voyeurism as some call it, begins in the desire for solitude. I'm not interested in being a personality. I've done this for nearly thirty years as a teacher and lecturer. Public reading tends to put a portrait around the poetry. Tagore or White would have preferred a focus on the poetry not the personality. Some publishers prefer it that way too. They don't even put photographs in with the poetry. Maybe in the next five years of writing poetry I may find myself with a more public profile. We shall see.

Q: Thank you again for your time. I wish you well in the years ahead and to many more years of writing poetry.

P: Thank you; I hope the buzz continues to enrich my middle years.

Ron Price

25 April 1997

1 Pamela Brown in A Woman's Voice: Conversations with Australian Poets, Jenny Digby, University of Queensland Press, 1996, p.183.

2Gwen Harwood in A Woman's Voice: Conversations With Australian Poets, Jenny Digby, University of Queensland Press, 1996, p. 45.

3Judith Roriguez, ibid., p.164.

Ron Price

23 April 1997

INTERVIEW NUMBER SIX WITH RON PRICE

It's been eight months since my last ‘interview' and one month short of two years since the first interview. Reading a series of interviews with Stephen King, the most popular writer of horror-fantasy books in the last quarter of a century, published in 1988 in Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King has stimulated this simulated interview. A periodic reflection, a standing back from the writing of poetry, is useful and something I quite enjoy. It's a bit like going on stage, into theatre, into the media without all the razzamatazz. Stephen King's honesty was engaging. If mine is only partly so I will have achieved my purpose.

Questioner(Q): We all aspire to different things. Twenty years from now where would you like to be; what would you like to have happen to your work?

Price: I enjoy writing poetry. It brings me great pleasure. It would give me immense satisfaction to bring some of this pleasure to others. I think I have something to say, something to contribute on the international stage, so to speak. But ours is a burgeoning world of productivity in so many fields, so many genres of literary and artistic life, the performing arts: dancing, concertizing and acting; the creative arts: choreography, composing and play writing. I've been picking away at ‘the market' for over thirty-five years. I had very little success in the first twenty years, but since 1983 with my published essays in Katherine there has been some progress. Slowly in the 1980s and with rapid-fire activity in the 1990s, poetry has been gushing out in increasing quantities. In the next twenty years I shall continue to do what I have done in the last ten years: write as much poetry as inspiration allows and market it whenever a new marketing idea comes my way. I do not sense a great market for my work now, at least not in the Bahá'í community. As the editor of Kalimat Press, Anthony Lee, put it a month or so ago over the phone. "Bahá'ís don't buy poetry; you should send your work to other publishers." This may change in the next two decades. I shall be watching.

Q: Have you submitted your work to the appropriate publishers of poetry here in Australia and overseas?

Price: I've started the process in 1997 after a hiatus of several years when I sent my work off indiscriminately in the early 1990s. But I have not gone into the exercise in a comprehensive manner. Slowly, when I'm moved by circumstance, some temporary enthusiasm, the encouragement of others, some intuition of emerging fame, I'll send a batch of poems off. In November of this year I sent from two to six poems off to close to a dozen publishers and contest addresses. A lovely lady, a colleage at work gave me a writers' magazine with all the latest poetry prizes listed. There is a small group of women where I work who frequently tell me good things about my poetry. This is a factor; I'm not sure I'd bother with publishers otherwise. There seems to be a wall there. I enjoy writing poetry and just can't be bothered most of the time cultivating the publishing world. Perhaps when I finish teaching and talking endlessly I will have the energy to do so. When time permits, now, I seek solitude, reading and writing, not publishers.

Q: What do you think has led to this great literary output of poetry since 1992?

Price: I've always had a certain intensity in living, a certain obsessive-compulsiveness, however mild. When I was about six I remember drawing tulips, endlessly: all the same, one-after-another, hundreds of them. My poems are like these tulips. They are written quickly, as easily as drawing those tulips. Before 1992 I had something to keep me away from writing freely, on topics of my own choice. From 1962 to 1992 there was along list of blocks, but in the 1990s: career ambition, the pressure of work, of marraige and family life, the lack of a focus for writing—all disappeared and I fell into writing poetry as naturally as breathing.

Q: Have you ever seriously contemplated suicide?

Price: Many of those who have been manic-depressives as I have been find the contemplation of suicide an old theme. I think I was about 18, back in 1962, or perhaps 1963, when I first thought about the subject. Some philosopher, I think it was Sartre, though I can't recall, said the only serious question is "why not commit suicide?" I have a very strong belief in an afterlife, one that is very attractive. I have had this belief for over thirty years. My religion does not encourage suicide, but in its literature there is understanding and compassion for the person who commits suicide. I have often found the pains of life overwhelming but never had the courage, stupidity, imagination, conveniences, whatever, to pull it off. So I'm still here enjoying life's ups and enduring the downs. I must say the trip is easier now, now that my manic-depression is cured.

Q: Have you ever had doubts about your sanity?

Price: When I used to struggle with manic-depressive episodes I did, in the sixties and seventies. But since about 1980 the question never enters my mind. Lithium is a wonderful stablizer; I know now that for me any ‘insanity' was simply a chemical or electro-chemical experience. After eight to ten hours of reading and writing now I get feelings of utter exhaustion. So I just go to bed and sleep. The delusions, fantasies, the troubled mind that ponders the question of sanity is not remotely connected with my experience any more.

Q: Tell us something about your fears, your anxieties, your libido?

Price: Where does one begin with such an intimate agenda? Anxieties, that sounds like a safe place to begin. I get anxious before I go into the classroom, even after teaching for twenty-five years. I get anxious before I go into most ‘people settings', but it does not incapacitate me. I've heard famous actors say the same thing even in the evening of their life. I think that is normal in many ways. Even fears and shynesses are normal, universal experiences. Daily vigilance in the control of my carnal desires is essential; I work with many beautiful young women and it would take very little divergence from the norm to have a flirtation, a dangerous liaison. I find many young women very attractive. My libido would enjoy the erotic fling. I'm surprised at how well I've done to maintain my marital fidelity since 1967. One of the reasons I got married for a second time in 1975 was the difficulty I had in controlling my libidinous urges between marriages. I am a hot-blooded man and after more than twenty years of marriage I am happy and safe, secure and comfortable, in my relationship. And I want to keep it that way. Following my desires into the beds of other women, however attractive superficially, would be disasterous to a relationship I value very highly.

This is not to say I have had no frustrations sexually. Maintaining a tight reign over a very powerful force I have found immensely frustrating both inside and outside marriage during the many years since I left my hometown in 1962. I continue to struggle to overcome these temptations and others, as well as a host of faults, faults we all must work on in a lifetime. But I try not to focus too much on them, try not to let it occupy too great a share of my attention, or yours in this interview.

Q: What epitaph would you like on your gravestone?

Price: Stephen King said his would be: "It is the tale, not he who tells it." I'd like to be able to say that, but that would be dishonest. I've thought about this before and even come up with a guess at an epitaph. But I honestly can't think of anything that would convey the quintessence of it all, other than the one everyone has: Ron Price

1944-20??

Q: What are you trying to give your readers?

Price: I'd like to give my readers what the poet Roger White gave me: entertainment through insight. I want to touch people's feeling systems and their cognitive systems. I found I learned more about the Bahá'í Faith in reading his poetry than I did in any other way. I had to work at it but there was a pay off for the investment of time and effort. I'd like people to come away from my poetry with a feeling that they've come to understand something in quite a new way: the Cause, life, marriage, suffering, the everyday, to be given a new, a fresh experience. That is what I'd like. I think I achieve this from time to time, not often enough times to suit me and not often enough to have a significant readership. At least not yet. When I acquire that readership people will expect to be mentally engaged by my work. Now I can get away with pleasing myself because only the occasional person even reads my poetry now: my wife, my son, a friend, a student at college, someone on my homepage, someone to whom I send an e-mail.

Q: What kind of a kid were you?

Price: I was a quiet young man until about the age of twenty. I became quite talkative about that time and have been ever since. I was coming out of a depression at the time, part of the high end of the mood swings I suffered from for nearly twenty years. Also, school teaching helped to make me more articulate, helped me to externalize my inner life. You have to do this in teaching these days and you have to be able to do it quickly especially in the subjects I teach, the social science and humanities. It's also helpful in interviews like this. I see myself as quite a talker. I do a good job in the college; the students enjoy me. Some of the Bahá'í settings I think find me a bit eccentric, a bit too fast, not conservative enough. I don't know exactly, but I'm rarely asked to give a talk.

Q: Movies, TV, music, the performing arts all have impacts on mass audiences that poetry does not have. Where does poetry fit in?

Price: Poetry has always been for a coterie. Even a brilliant poet like White is still, after twenty years as a public possession, read by a coterie in a coterie. As Anthony Lee put it recently-and he reads a great deal of poetry-Bahá'ís don't read poetry, at least not the poetry written by their fellow Bahá'ís in English. When you give them a person like White who is also a bit of a wordsmith, you get a largely unread poet. He was successful at getting himself published. I'm a novice at this; I'm hardly known. I think that is how I will stay even if I get published. I hope I'm wrong. But I won't get an ulcer trying to get known. I love writing. I love movies, good ones. Most people love movies, but they don't love writing or reading poems.

Q: If you tried to put your poetry in a wide context what sorts of things would you say?

Price: I'd suggest that people read the Forward I wrote to Roger White's Occasions of Grace. That was over two thousand words and is the best way I could contextualize my own poetry, although I might add a paragraph or two about autobiography since so much of my poetry is explicitly autobiographical. Also much of what I write is in reaction to White, a kind of polar opposite. I wrote that Forward in 1991 and it was my starting point for my own poetry which took off in the early 1990s.

Q: Why do you write?

Price: I enjoy it.

Q: Describe some of the process of writing for you.

Price: When you live as I do in a realm of ideas, literally obsessed with a rich repertoire of thought: religion, history, philosophy, etc. ideas for poems drop out of the sky, as if from anywhere. I'm hanging loose so to speak, having a good time with a book or with a train of thought, and stuff starts to develop. That's why I like to hang around my study in the holidays with plenty of books around, somewhere between ten and twenty. I go for walks and swims to keep me from having a brain haemorrhage; I get stiff in the joints after three of four hours at my desk, so I wash the dishes, watch some TV. I don't know how people like Xavier Herbert could sit down for thirty-six hours at a stretch.

Q: Most writers are able to preserve their anonymity. How do you feel about preserving this private world.

Price: I like the idea of preserving my private space. In today's media saturated society it is rare for a poet to be popular. In a few years I will be retiring from the teaching profession and being a popular poet would be an excellent substitute, although I think the idea is totally unrealistic, a dream. If I was able to extend the influence of the Bahá'í Faith, which I think has a great deal to offer humankind, then I would have no hesitation in accepting the price of popularity.

-31 December 1997

INTERVIEW NUMBER SEVEN

This interview is the second and last during the summer(southern hemisphere) of 1997/8. It arose out of reading Sounding Differences: Conversations with Seventeen Canadian Women Writers by Janice Williamson (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1993). The first interview in this series took place a little more than two years ago, in January 1996. Much of the poetry of these 17 women is autobiographical and feminist. The interviews tended to be too academic for the average reader, although some of the ideas I found useful and I have captured them below, I hope in simpler language, relating them to my own perspective.

Question(Q): Given the extent of Bahá'í literature and the already large body of commentary why do you feel the need to add even more to this literature?

Price: The Bahá'í Faith is an immensely rich, provocative and stimulating reservoire of ideas, symbols and intellectual material. I find writing, writing poetry in particular, helps me define, give shape and form to this immensity. There is already an oeuvre of vast shape and definition, but I feel the need to particularise this great artistic base, this work of genius. Writing poetry I find is an adventure. I have no idea what I am going to write from one poem to another, one day to another. The self is a fragile system with desires, interests and contradictions all milling around and the inner voice seems to dance around somewhere inside this coat of many-colours, asking questions, wanting to understand more, to discover more.

I also believe that a Bahá'í consciousness, for that is what has emerged in the arts in recent years, changes your perspectives on reality, on therefore your relation to people, to social attitudes, to morality, to art and language. This consciousness has something specific to contribute to the human condition, to society, to the global milieux. I find articulating that consciousness is alternately: like a gush of a fountain, a scary and serious business, an important responsibility and gift that is slowly contributing its part to resolving so many of the world's complex dilemmas. My own consciousness was subjected to a series of shocks and pressures beginning in 1962 and ending in 1992 which produced the hard diamond of my writing from the crude coal of my existence. It was not all a solemn consciousness. There was also celebratory joy.

There is also the feeling that everyone plays a part in contributing to community; so what you say and do matters. This is very important. In addition, an international pioneer like me must create himself out of the air for there are no memories of the past around you. I arrived in Perth when I was 43.

Q: The Canadian feminist Nicole Brossard says that writing autobiography keeps you from eating yourself from the inside; you adjust your inner clock back to the present and say things that can only be said in the act of writing. Do you find these views relevant to your own perspective?

Price: I agree with much of what Brossard says especially the idea of writing to discover things which can't be said or even thought without writing. Writing makes for a processing of my emotions, sensations and ideas. I'm not so sure I'd eat myself if I did not write. But there is certainly an inner compulsion involved. It is something I seem to have to do to map out my understanding, my thinking, to give me a sensibility, a coherence, an order.

Q: Another Canadian feminist Di Brandt, born into a Mennonite community in the 1950s, says poets have more trouble than others repressing the questioning self to achieve an ordinary common and successful life. They also can be easily seduced by their poetic voice because this voice seems the closest to their true self; and their day to day identity seems at least partly fictional.

Price: I'm not so sure poets have a monopoly on this questioning spirit. It seems to be spread out across the disciplines and the professions. There are more scientists alive today than ever before—and more of alot of other human types. People who are obsessed with learning and questioning I find everywhere; it takes many forms and intensities and it is very difficult to compare one with another. I enjoy writing poetry; yes, there is a seduction there. And I'd like millions of others to love it too. I'd love a big audience. But I don't want to make love with my audience. I'm even happy to leave them alone. If my words are not asked for I can sit in peace in my garden with my poems unread in their plastic covers.

Q: Feminists talk about the personal being political; some sociologists talk about the social as being inherently political. The Bahá'í perspective is one in which a religion, the Bahá'í Faith, has a great deal to say about how society should be organized. Where does your poetry fit into this radical concept?

Price: After nearly forty years in the Bahá'í community I find that the processes of community building are immensely complex and different in various parts of the world. After all these years I often feel as if we have just begun, even though the religion itself is a century and a half old. A long range historical vision is essential. In the wider society the processes of community and institutional disintegration are equally complex. My poetry plays a part, is one small voice, is part of one life, dealing with and describing these immense, incredibly complex processes and how they play themselves out in the microcosm and in the interstices of my life, my world. My poetry tries to draw on a very diverse set of strands, meanings, views, to bring them into a coherent whole. Building this new order, the nucleus and pattern of which is Bahá'í Administration, is often very difficult, very painful, but this difficulty, this pain, this personal engagement, is not often talked about. The feminists were in this position before it became respectable to write about child abuse, domestic violence, incest. I see my poetry as part of this coming out, part of the voice that tells of the intense difficulty of building community in the ninth and tenth stages of history(1953-1998).

Q: Do you regard the statement "I am a Bahá'í" as heavy with consequences? If so, what are the consequences?

Price: I am unable to erase my religion as part of who I am. My religion and my consciousness go together. This does not necessarily mean that I always write about my religion. Much of my poetry is universal and concerns everyone and anyone. To some extent I am seeking a space for Bahá'ís in language, as feminists do for women and Eskimos do for Eskimos. The exploration of language leads back to the self, to different selves. It is this plurality and the effort to get rid of ego that is the story of my Bahá'í experience. It is here that the consequences come in. For self is the place of language; language is the place of meaning; and meaning is the action of a man.


Q: What does the term ‘moment of writing' mean to you?

Price: All my poetry takes on a ‘having been written by someone else' feeling. When I go to read a poem only a short while after writing it, it seems to have taken on a life of its own. It generates language, energy, freshness, newness. It seems to have moved into another space, a margin, where something is born and something is lost, where something is formed quite independently of my writing. It is as if the poem is speaking, a kind of narrative line, a poetic voice. I don't always like what I read, although mostly I do. Writing seems to generate a heat, an emotion, fatigue, occasionally exhaustion. Reading is a cooler experience, a stimulus for the mind, energizing when pleasureable. This is one way to look at the concept of the ‘moment of writing.'

Another aspect of ‘the moment' is writing about something that is real, being true to something real in me, attending to an inner and outer complexity, tapping some spiritual core, heartland, landscape, some accuracy, some point of clarity like a distant star. Writing is also following a compulsion, a sense of necessity without knowing the results. I keep breathing, living and it feels so good. This is also ‘the moment'. It's not so much individual noise, but rather differences that make for interdependence. We need each other. That is why I am needed. That is why my moment is important.

Q: Poetry requires a certain kind of attention that very few people today have cultivated or are prepared to cultivate. Do you agree?

Price: Yes, the majority of the people I've ever met are not readers of poetry nor can they appreciate the gems in the Bahá'í writings. This is equally true of Shakespeare and advanced studies in virtually all disciplines of learning. But the disciplines go on and I will continue to write to please myself. Eventually it is my hope that others, too, will be pleased. I await that day with hope. Occasionally, I give someone a poem and they find it "moving" or "a pleasure", or "really good." I am a person who likes to please others, so this pleases me.

Q: Robert Pinsky, the United States' poet laureate, talked about improvisation and quotation in his recent interview of October 1997. What are some of your thoughts on these two aspects of poetry?

Price: Sometimes, perhaps as much as one-third of the time, my poetry comes so quickly it feels a little like improvisation. This is especially true when I work on my epic poem which contains many quotations. I learned to feel comfortable about straight quotation from reading about Ezra Pound's Cantos. Occasionally, I slip in a line from Shakespeare, from his sonnets or plays. Sometimes I acknowledge the line; sometimes I don't. I frequently quote from one of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith; usually I acknowledge the quotations.

Pinsky talks about Frank O'Hara sitting down after breakfast for two hours improvising as he goes. For me it's more a matter of sitting down in my study with my thirty books, borrowed last week from three libraries, and letting the mysterious forces of intellectual stimulation do their work. I also soak up the silence and nature's beauty from walks in suburban Rivervale in metropolitan Perth; after a forty hour work week as a lecturer/teacher the silence and nature are refreshing sources of vitality and spontaneity.

Q: Robert Pinsky also discusses the meaning of ‘interesting'. He says that interesting is the free acceptance by others of the poet's gift of pleasure. The poet needs the promise, from somewhere in the pub lic domain, of a responce; he needs a sense of the group to whom the poem belongs. This is what makes a poem a political poem. The poetry becomes part of the property of a group, part of a group's culture. Do you like that definition, that approach to poetry?

Price: I like the tones, the notes that Pinsky strikes here. They are appropriate ones for a poet laureate, indeed for any poet. It would also please me to have my poetry bring pleasure to others. The process of bringing pleasure has only just started for me. It sounds like a sexual experience one is describing. I think poetry can also evoke other metaphors beside the sexual: food, sound, sight, nature, teacher/student, seeker/sought, autobiographer/ reader. The pleasure Pinsky is talking about is, of course, primarily intellectual pleasure.

My poetry is clearly political in the same sense that Pinsky intends. Those who inherit my poetry are responsible for it, as Pinsky emphasizes. My poetry also becomes part of the audience's breath, part of an intimate/private and civic/communal/public continuum. Few, as yet, have responded to my poetry, but from these few I get a sense of the inheritance that is my poetry, a sense of my own special definition of my poetry as political.

Q: The 73 year old Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska, sees poetry as an expression of the enchantment of the world, as an expression of her refusal to see anything in the world as ordinary. She feels her task is to ‘pick singular threads from the dense coloured fabric' of life. Do you like this nobel prize winner's approach to poetry?

Price: I try to do what she does; but she does it more effectively. Perhaps by the time I'm 73, twenty years from now, I'll have developed her talent. She is able to take large unanswerable questions and treat them with wonderful delicacy. I'm still somewhat ponderous, in part because I'm trying to reclaim history, reclaim my life and I have not learned the light touch, not as light as I'd like. Poetry in Australia needs a certain lightness if it is to be popular. I may never be popular even amidst the coterie that is the Bahá'í community. Of course, wth the burgeoning of faces in the electronic media there is hardly any room for a writerly celebrity, even if I ever got to that lofty or not-so-lofty height. The day of ‘famous for 15 minutes' seems to have arrived. At the moment I'm going for one person at a time. --13 April 1998.
INTERVIEW NUMBER EIGHT

After using the internet for two years now I have discovered several interviews with contemporary poets. These interviews have provided more material for my own series of interviews, interviews which have embellished my booklets of poetry.

Questioner(Q): Jodie Graham said in an interview in American Poet(Fall, 1996) that she would like to see more use of the senses in poetry. Do you think that failure of many contemporary poets to use their senses applies to your poetry?

Price: To some extent this is true of my poetry. I try to get a balance between the senses, the rational faculty and the inner faculties of imagination, memory, etc, tradition, intuition and so the senses don't dominate. They are just one of the avenues, parts, in the process of describing truth in all its forms.

Q: After you have talked a great deal and listened as you must do as a lecturer at a college each week do you find this helps the poetic process?

Price: The main affect it has after more than thirty years of going into classrooms and loungerooms for LSA meetings is to make me want my silence back desperately. In fact I hope to retire from teaching at the age of 55 and seek out that silence for an indefinite period. "Excess of speech is a deadly poison" says Bahá'u'lláh. I feel as if I have had an excess of that speech. My career as been rewarding, enriching, very meaningful; my experience on LSAs richly diverse; but the time has come for a change. Who knows? I may come back to it after a few years away; but I'm nearing retirement age in Australia, 65, and I'd like to begin that silence of retirement a little earlier. Optimism and hopefulness get somewhat tarnished after nearly four decades of service. I think my poetry has been born in this observed experience, in a certain weariness and doubt and this tarnished optimism.

Q: Stanley Kunitz in a recent interview(10 August 1997) said that he was not a member of a religion but feels like a religious man. He quoted Keats in talking about the "holiness of the heart's affections." Tell us a little about your own religious proclivities.

Price: Obviously much of my poetry is overtly religious. It's about my religion, the Bahá'í Faith which I joined in 1959 after several years of contact with it in my childhood and early adolescence. But there is an element of my poetry which is religious in Kunitz's sense. I find many of the things Kunitz says about poetry are echoed in my experience: that we are many selves over the years; that there is a tension between isolation and community; that there is a power in poetry found in the chaos of its source, the secrets of its path and the mystery of its word; that the dichotomy between everyday things and the existential concerns of life are the source of poetry's flow—and without this flow there is no poetry; that poetry is the medium of choice for giving our most, our hidden self, for coming out from behind the mask.

So there is something inherently religious in poetry; I'd say in life itself. There is something scriptural, something that clings to the metaphysical. All true prophets are poets. We are saturated with the eternal and the ache we feel, quite often without knowing it, is the ache of the ephemeral, or the ache of feelings. Writing a poem is writing about a single moment, a fracture in time, a fracture not so much in nature's world as in an alternative world. So that the poem we write is difficult to describe, to label its contents. It's an intimation, a penumbra-a partial shadow, a scent, a hiddenness, an elusiveness, 'edgelit' as Adrienne Rich calls it.

Q: The philosopher Paul Ricoeur states that our way of dwelling, of being, in the world is changed by poetry. Each poem, by articulating a mood, a feeling, projects a new way of being, of living in the world. Do you experience the writing of poetry this way?

Price: In the last six years during which I have been writing poetry a great deal of the time I feel as if I have been creating a new me. There is a me in my poetry that seems to be separate from the quotidian me, that derives its existence from the quotidian, but is found in reaching out for the beyond, the existential, the divine, the fragrances of mercy which have been wafted over all created things. I seem to abandon an old identity and dwell on the threshold of ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy—indeed—oneness.

Q: Various poets in different ways refer to the dark night of the soul, the struggling torment of life toward death, suicide, the abyss, the disconsolate consciousness, the torments of test and trial. Describe this theme in your poetry.

Price: I have written about 3500 poems in the last six years. Off the cuff I have no idea how this theme is expressed in this great mass of what must be at least a million words. I write so much, on so many themes. There is sadness, a sense of the tragic, of joy, of happiness. I really don't think I could summarize what I've written on this quite deep subject. Poetry is fed from the inner life and the inner life is a composite from the sublime to the ridiculous. Writing poetry has to do with the interminable, the incessant, said Blanchot,(1955, p.12) with inner voices which only cease when sleep takes over or when one's mind is taken over by the many soporifics of society.

Perhaps, though, I might offer a general philosophico-religious underpinning to my position on the sadnesses and tragedies of life. I'm sure I have commented on this theme in these interviews before, so I'll be brief. Life is both honey and poison; no one likes the poison, but the poison has the affect of drawing one toward the cup of "pure and limpid water", as 'Abdu'l-Bahá calls the "realm which is sanctified from all afflictions and calamities."(Selections, 1978, p.239.) Perhaps this is the reason why so little of my poetry is entertainment. I see it as inviting interactive participation.

Q: Could you comment on the circumstances in which you write your poems?

Price: When you have written the number of poems I have written, nearly two a day for six years, you come to have no idea of just how or why you wrote a great many of your poems. A poet's preoccupations and themes over a lifetime of writing poetry don't change, for the most part, so I'm not so sure it matters much that you don't remember, although I would enjoy being able to recall what inspired a particular poem, indeed, all my poems.

There is a developmental process that goes on in writing poetry, even if the themes stay the same. The poet can put the full diversity of his moods, emotions and knowledge into his poems as time goes on. I think there is a richness, a depth, that is not there at the start of his poetic career, in my case as far back as 1981. I think my poetry is also what is left of the incessant striving of life. By my late forties I was beginning to feel as if my life forces were spent. I no longer had the energetic juices of life to play with. Poetry was like turning to a sacred calling, or giving the sacred calling that had run its course in my life an appropriate meditative expression.

The poet sits down to breakfast, as Yeats puts it in a clever way, in a bundle of accident and incoherence and pursues completeness, self-conquest. He redresses the muteness of life, searches out the meaning of experience, lives in dialogue with the forces of silence with his toiling intelligence. He knows he is not linguistically inadequate; he takes a certain pride in his use of language and proceeds to invent a vocabulary, a language. Kafka took refuge to watch pulsating life and in this refuge wrote. I participate in pulsating life and writing poetry allows me to find the balance between the pulse and the silence.

Q: Could you comment again on the confessionalism in much of the poetry in recent decades.

Price: I see nothing wrong with what Kunitz calls a 'fierce subjectivity' in poetry. But I would avoid the sense of compulsive exhibitionism I see in much of the poetry today. I think there is the capacity for perpetual self-renewal in poetry so that the poet can be freed from emotional exhaustion and world-weariness. I find myself in a state of great weariness from life; poetry certainly renews my spirit. One day I will take the last step in the great adventure. From what I anticipate may be an enormous fatigue I will step into a world of light, my last poetic act.

W.B. Yeats talks about a 'moral radiance' that it is discovered and created in writing poetry. Perhaps this is part of the renewal process I refer to above. But all is not radiance; there is also the burden of one's sins of omission and commission, one's heedlessness, the 'boiling of the blood in one's veins' as Bahá'u'lláh refers to the processes of the lower self. A rich vein of material certainly exists in my past, the history of my community and the wider world, from which I can draw in writing poetry. You could call this the reading of a life into art. I like that concept, that view of the process.

Q: Stanley Kunitz says "there is only one artist, the true, recurrent, undying wanderer, the eternally guilty, invincibly friendly man." Do you agree with this perspective?

Price: We should all be seen, Bahá'u'lláh says, as wanderers in search of the Friend. My individual poems, in this perspective, should be seen as part of one long poem. I prefer to see long poems, epic poems, this way. Thusfar I've had an immunity, as Kunitz calls it, to the fevered dreams of this sort of epic productivity. My fevered dreams seem shorter, more episodic. I think, though, that poetry for me is part of the concept of Oneness which is at the basis of the Bahá'í teachings. I'd go on to say, with Kunitz, that there is only one myth, only one metaphor, played out in an infinite variation in the web of creation. While expressing this myth in episodic form I try to move people, try to move beyond a tedious conventionalism. I try, also, to honour grief and weariness, as much as joy, in the emotional spectrum. Oneness encompasses everything imaginable and unimaginable in life's journey.

Q: Kunitz also writes about dissent and not being a subscribing member of the party, the organization , the group identity. How do you feel about this as a Bahá'í?

Price: From a Bahá'í perspective the Administrative Order serves as the structure of freedom for our Age. The Bahá'í life, system of governance, is not characterized by an inordinate skepticism regarding authority, by an incessant promotion of individualism; indeed, dissidence is a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main objective animating the Bahá'í community. The itch for the Bahá'í has a different complexion in these last decades of the twentieth century. I think for me the discouragingly meagre response to the Bahá'í teachings is the equivalent source of anxiety, sadness, frustration. Spontaneous individual candor, straightforwardness of individual statement, that is part of the philosophy of Everyman these days must find in the Bahá'í community a degree of control, an etiquette of expression, a kindly tongue, if the community is to exist in any degree of unity. This produces a different itch for the poet. I think it is here, partly, that the poet finds his role, in the creation of community language, dialogue.

Q: Quoting Kunitz a final time, I'd like to have your comment on his notion that once the poet has written the poem it is no longer his. He does not invite the reader to become the judge of the poem. The poem represents a kind of fullness that overspills into everything.

Price: I think this is true. Of course, readers do judge. They read what they see as "my' poems, my possessions and they see me through my poems. It is very difficult for the reader to see the poetry as "theirs". It is difficult for the poet not to see the poem as "his". But I like the theory and good theories have their place. It is like separating the man from the opinion in Bahá'í consultation. It is very difficult. Certainly, though, that process of spilling over is part of what poetry is, unquestionably.

Poetry seems to catch perception, thought and feeling on the edge of articulateness and gives them a push beyond an inherent hesitancy. I like to think there is a confiding tone in my poetry, one that invites and makes my words welcome as I give them away to my reader.

All thought is an outward face to an underlying silence. Much of my time is spent in this silence and poetry seems to be a natural bi-product.

Q: The Bahá'í Faith is still emerging from obscurity and as a religion in the last half of the twentieth century, when you've been living and writing, is it largely marginal if not irrelevant to most of the mainstream society. As a poet you are not only irrelevant to this same mainstream you are largely irrelevant to the main currents of intellectual thought of your own religion. Would you not agree?

Price: If one measures relevance by how many readers I have, there is no question that what you say is true. The Bahá'í Faith has been emerging from obscurity for decades. The Guardian uses this phrase 'emergence from obscurity' in God Passes By to refer to a process he saw taking place right at the beginning of the Formative Age in the 1920s. This may be the same for me and my poetry. I was referred to as 'an Australian poet' in a Bahá'í publication back in June 1994. As far as I know no other Bahá'í has received this appellation. My essays were published each week in the Katherine Advertiser for nearly three years in the mid-1980s. I think I will always be emerging from obscurity during my life. The attainment of a significant level of public recognition and acceptance which we know the Bahá'í Faith will one day achieve may or may not be something I achieve. Time will tell.

Q: Poets inevitably have many roles. Could you comment on how you see yourself, say, as a poet, a writer, an intellectual?

Price: Let me comment on a wider range of roles because we all have many parts on the stage of life as Shakespeare put it. My approximately one hundred students see me in quite a variety of ways: stimulating lecturer, strange eccentric, the student feedback sheets provide some definite patterns of reaction. My dentist, who did some work on my teeth this morning, sees me as a client, a pleasant Canadian, perhaps someone who talks with a restful accent. The Bahá'ís on the Belmont LSA see me as their chairman and in that role presumably efficient because they keep putting me there; or perhaps I'm the best of a bad lot. Some of the Bahá'ís in the greater Belmont community might see me as a person who has memorized a lot of prayers; while the Bahá'ís in greater metropolitan Perth may see me as a Bahá'í who is not very active because I don't attend many activities involving the wider metropolitan community.

And on and on one can go through the multitude of roles one has, in my case: father, husband, ex-husband, step-father, friend, loner, union member, colleague, fellow-believer, poet, writer, intellectual, neighbour, shopper, et cetera. I think one needs to get a wide view of the kaleidoscope of roles one occupies before one focuses on any of the specific ones, like the ones you refer to in your question.

I do a great deal of writing; I've written thousands of poems and I deal significantly with ideas. So I'm quite happy with any and all of these labels, these roles. All three involve creative thinking, thinking for yourself, ranging widely and freely over a body of material. One can be an intellectual, an academic, but these are not recognized categories in the structure of the Cause. There are so many definitions and interpretations of these terms that, in the end, the central question is how does one see oneself. I probably influence people more through talking right now, as a teacher in a college. I'd like to influence people through my writing, but it is difficult to do so through poetry. But even though my audience is small I still see myself as a poet, writer and intellectual because this is how I spend a great deal of my time.

I should say, too, that having a coherent, established world view, significantly influenced by the "official" position of Bahá'í institutions and being a poet, writer and intellectual are not incompatible categories. Not all thinkers are what you might call bourgeois humanists, or ideology-free thinkers. People with ideological commitments are perfectly capable of being intellectuals, scientists, poets, whatever. They are perfectly capable of becoming the lighted candles, referred to by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in his characterization of the "spiritually learned." But I do not call myself a "Bahá'í poet", a "Bahá'í writer", or a "Bahá'í intellectual" because these terms tend to establish demarcation lines, categories.

Q: We have talked before about influences on your poetry. Tell us a few more aspects of this multifaceted process.

Price: It's the sort of subject one can bring up again and again. Life's kaleidoscope of writers, events, memories, moods and emotions bring so much into the day-to-day activity of writing poetry. This has been particularly true since about 1990 to 1992 in the last years of Roger White's writing, when I was writing to him and working on the introduction to his final major book of poetry, Occasions of Grace. But let me be more specific about influences in the last few days.

Yesterday evening was cold and wet and the end of another week in the classroom. After washing up the supper dishes and checking on the comfort of my family in front of the TV, I spent about two hours reading some essays by Charles Harrison, a Professor of English in Tennessee until 1973. The essays were about Shakespeare whom I keep coming back to again and again. I came across a quotation from Samuel Johnson in that book: "I dogmatize and am contradicted, and in this I take pleasure."(Charles Harrison, Shakespeare's Insistent Theme, 1985, p. 185) It expresses so well an important principle in my classroom teaching and in the Bahá'í writings regarding the 'clash of differing opinions.' Underlying my poetry a matrix of principles: specific, general, short, lengthy, clear, vague—provide a foundation, a frame, a guide. One of these is that "the spark of truth comes from the clash of differing opinions." It sounds simple enough but it is a principle most people seem to be constitutionally unable to put into practice. I felt an influence from this very successful teacher-lecturer-professor, a person who died in 1985 at the age of 82, who used this principle at the heart of his pedagogical philosophy.

I also read several essays in A Collection of Critical Essays on Seamus Heaney. (edited by Elmer Andrews, MacMillan, London, 1992). They contained many ideas and approaches to poetry that are consistent with my own, or to put it more humbly, I find my own ideas reflected in those of Heaney. I will list some here to illustrate: (i) there is a tension between soaring away from the contingent world and remaining firmly rooted in it; (ii) the poet has to go away from home in order to find it; (iii) in the poetry there is the promise of loss redeemed; (iv) family relationships can be a burden and sustaining all at once; (v) poetry is an act of making emptiness speak; (vi) poetry is a search for a luminous emptiness within the mind, (vii) the poet wants to break out of the givenness of the world, to lighten its materiality; (viii) there must be at the heart of things a renewed or renewable devotion to the ordinary; and, finally, (ix) there is a dominant note of buoyant confidence and a relaxed visionary quality.

While I would not claim to be the poet Heaney is, I would claim that my poetry and the poet have these nine characteristics in some degree.

These are just two influences from this evening since washing the supper dishes. Now I must go to bed.

Q: Before you do, let me ask two final questions. In the two-and-a-half years that these interviews have been taking place have there been any significant changes in your life-style? Tell us a little about your life-style, your habits, your interests, your activities.

Price: We've discussed this kind of question before. I'm not sure what I said, but I'm not doing anything different now than I was when these interviews started in January of 1996. Indeed my adult life, at least since I came to Australia in 1971 has been very similar. I played the guitar a lot until the early 1990s; I spent from ten to thirty hours a week outside of my employment, on my teaching job, for years, back to the early eighties. Outside of reading, writing and a few activities associated with my religion I have no hobbies to speak of. I can engage in conversations with just about anyone about anything, but after doing so at work I have no inclination to continue the process at home. I definitely watch more TV than I ever have before. Until the 1990s I only watched documentaries. Now I watch: Seinfeld, ER, Chicago Hope, and other things, not only to be with my wife and son but because I find them genuinely relaxing, entertaining, pleasureable.

As I've advanced toward my mid-fifties my energy levels are clearly lower and by the time 9 pm arrives I often have no energy to do anything else. If my family is watching TV my inclination is to join them and take my book along while I watch TV. That is a skill I have yet to master.

Q: Some poets look to the land for their stabilizing source or root; some look to a long religious tradition like Christianity or Islam; others, like Wordsworth, give nature centrality, or feelings, intuition, sex, reason, autobiography. How would you define your root, your source, your core, your basis for continuity?

Price: There is no question for me the basis, the core, of any continuity in my poetry. It is the writings of the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh and Their sucessors. They sound notes that are silent in us. There is a spiritual creation here which recreates me and defines my world and has done so in a body of writings going back to the 1840s, over one hundred and fifty years.

Q: Goodnight.

Ron Price

4 July 1998

INTERVIEW NINE

It has been nearly three years since the first of our series of interviews in January 1996. I'd like to revisit some questions, rephrase others and ask some new ones. These interviews have been very helpful for gaining a perspective on both your poetry, on you as a poet and on this crucial decade when the Bahá'í community made its major thrust in completing its spiritual and administrative center in Haifa.

Questioner(Q): Thank you for letting us into your home again here in Rivervale, by the Swan River in Perth. You have a lovely garden.

Price(P): Yes, that is why we bought this house back in 1988. My wife has a Certificate in Horticulture and she loves gardens and gardening. I like gardens but not the gardening. All those green things: trees, shrubs and plants make for a very pleasant atmosphere in this study where I do most of my writing. My wife is not unlike the plants. She is quiet, easy on the nerves and an organized and efficient homemaker. This all helps create a place of peace and quietness for writing poetry as I have been doing since the early 1990s.

Q: W.B. Yeats said that "there is one Myth for every man which if we knew it, would make us understand all that we did and thought." What does this mean to you?

P: I think that Myth has become a historical fact, rather than just a story like the Garden of Eden. That fact is the life and teachings of the prophet-founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh. It is, as Yeats says, the Myth for everyman. But he is coming to it slowly and it is unfolding slowly in the lives of those who would claim to be the followers of Bahá'u'lláh. My poetry is a partial record of an unfolding in the life of one person, myself. Of course, the whole process is made more complex because in our modern age, as that contemporary authority on myth Joseph Campbell put it, everyone must make his own myth. There is a jangling cacophony of mythic views. Even in the Bahá'í community the meanings of the shared Myth of the Bahá'ís are multifold. Bahá'u'lláh's teachings cover a vast range of history, theology, philosophy and life and the metaphorical nature of this corpus has only begun to be explored. This exploration is at the basis of my poetry and a significant part of the richness of its texture.

Q: How would you describe your poetic endeavour as we approach the year 2000?

P: My poetry creates, in its own unique way, a mosaic of my life and those experiences that are dear and not-so-dear to me. It is a sort of continuous, ongoing, summary, a weighing of the evidence of my times and days. The reader is invited along and, if he or she is keen, they can try and fuse the totality of the poetic corpus into an analytical whole.

Poetry clarifies. It clarifies self, society, everything that comes under its umbrella. It helps me to focus the elements of my days through curious and surprising juxtapositions of ideas and events. In the process, truth and insight are enhanced; at least the effort is made to enhance.

I should also add that I draw on a very wide range of perspective's. I have been teaching and studying the social sciences and literature for many years, a quarter of a century, and I am not comfortable with any one label. I draw on so many theoretical positions in sociology and psychology, in history and literary criticism. I mix them and stir the pot. It is very fertile but consistency is not my aim, integration perhaps? In the process I am trying to express the spiritual dimension of life, the deeper sense of self and world, a certain style of authenticity.

I find in an interview like this I can theorize about my writing; it provides a useful balance to the actual doing of it. But most of the "doing" it to a large degree based on hunch, intuition, inspiration and is divorced from theory and its multitude of perspectives. What we are doing here is talking retrospectively, as John Barth put it in an interview, or navel-gazing as they might call it in Australia. It is verbal analysis of an essentially impulsive activity. I find it quite satisfying as a contrast. This way of 'conducting' the interview helps me to focus on ideas and delimit the social aspect of the interview.

Q: Freud says that anyone who writes biography is committed to lies, concealment, hypocrisy, flattery and even to hiding his own lack of understanding. For, he argues, biographical truth does not exist and, if it did, we could not use it. What do you think of this provocative line of thought?

P: I like its very provocativeness. I think it contains a solid grain of truth: no more than a grain, much more. It is probably more true of autobiography. Everyday life is also: lie, hypocrisy, concealment, flattery, a hiding of understanding and more. The sociologist, George Simmel, described elements of this in his study of sociability at the turn of the century. If these things are part of life, and one must accept that they are if one is honest, then they are also part of written statements like biography and autobiography.

Bahá'u'lláh says that there is a great deal that "the garment of words" can never clothe; many mysteries that are concealed and no ear can ever hear them. You can't get it all down on paper.

Q: Do you think that autobiography can deliver the essential person, the core personality, the real self and that, if we dig deep enough as writers and readers, we can find this gem, this thing, this enigma? Can we get the total person, in any way?

P: Often the reader or writer, or both create something that is not there. Gail Mandell, a student of autobiography, states that an "autobiographer is not obliged to be particularly accurate as to facts."(Life into Art: Conversations with Seven Contemporary Biographers, Arkansas Press, London, 1991, p.57) Many, therefore, manufacture an illusion because the picture created is not factual. The writer deconstructs a life and reconstructs it with the tool of language. That is one reason I have abandoned chronology, memory, sequence, spiralling narrative. I have found new ways of structuring a life in my poetry. I use pattern and form, singular events, paradoxical juxtapositions, rather than time and history as a sequenced and continuous centre. For how a life is written is as important as how the life is lived, more important I would say. The writer delivers something with the indelible stamp of his own mind. It is like a performance enacted before an audience. He is given a sketch of the plot and a rough draft of a script. He must finish this 'roughness'. He must polish, then produce and direct. In fact whatever the real-self is: it is his creation. Without him there would only have been dust, ashes and a sea of words. I try, though, to be factual as far as this is possible but, more important than this is a certain spirit that I must capture when I write a poem. This is difficult to control within a boundary of specific fact.

In the last century and a half both biography and autobiography have burgeoned, after a long history going back at least to the Roman Empire. But they are only just beginning to accomplish what Virginia Woolf thought they must do: "weld....into one seamless whole....the granite-like solidity of truth and the rainbow-like intangibility of personality."(In Life Into Art, Gail Mandell, Arkansas Press, London, 1991, p.3) I see my poetry as a contribution to this deepening 'solidity' and 'rainbow-like intangibility.' Most autobiography I have read I find graphically uninspiring. I hope my own work does not add to the existing and massive pile of autobiographical tedium.

Q: Many things shape a life: an inner world, an external set of forces, facts, events, persons, cultural and historical realities. What is your bias in writing your life on paper?

P: There has been an increasing interest in the inner life in this century. More recently biographers and autobiographers are aiming for a balance between these inner and outer worlds, linking past, present and future generations and childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. I think that autobiographers, like biographers, are engaged in the task of defining what it means to be human, factoring in a range of variables not before attempted in Bahá'í literature and its many genres of commentary and analysis. As we talk, at the close of the twentieth century, there is very little analysis of the response of an individual Bahá'í over a lifetime to this new Revelation.

Certainly my autobiography tries to capture many worlds. I have many paintings in my gallery, many galleries, many potential collections for the world and its galleries, so to speak. But the key to its meaning, inevitably, is in the readers' hands. Many find it difficult to participate in poetry. And we live in a glass darkly, not face to face with reality all the time. Increasingly the glass is getting cleansed, shining for our use by the process of history. My poetry plays its part in the cleaning of the mirror. Hopefully, some readers will find the mirror useful.

My different selves emerge in my poetry the same way they emerge in everyday life with the many people who come to know me. Readers must construct my life the same way people who meet me must construct it: little by little, day by day. Most of the time, in most relationships you can't say it all or even most of it. This poetry says more, it accesses more, than probably most readers will either need or want. But it is there like an archive kept in the back room for now.

Q: Do you think you will ever return to your narrative autobiography?

P: Perhaps when I am old and grey with little to do. For now this rich soil of poetry will serve as the garden for my work. As I said above, poetry allows me to juxtapose different things, people and events, try to connect them and find "the truths common to both." Meaning emerges from the analysis of this connection. Proust put it like that in his Remembrance of Things Past. The reader must puzzle over what is in the poetry, must deal with the complexities often without getting answers to his questions. In the end, what the reader will get from my poetry will be an attitude, a perspective, a point of view. They may also get some of that 'bliss of solitude' which Wordsworth says exists in the inner eye which writes the poetry. In the end, too, what interests readers is this 'innerness', not facts, however luminous.

Arguing the other way, though, the narrative sequence could be useful to those who don't find poetry heuristic. And it is as difficult to paint the "real" person as a biographer as it is as an autobiographer. Each genre has its strengths and weaknesses. The cleavage of two minds, what William James called "the greatest breach in nature", is replicated in autobiography by the divisions within oneself. The subject in autobiography is 'vulnerable' and a 'victim' of the self within and the host of trivialities without. The narrative is a much simpler, clearer story. If nothing else, autobiography is a story.

Q: Do you think there is more reality in some of your poems than there is in real life and its relationships, its sensations and perceptions?

P: I look back with amazement at the road I have travelled and at the variety and extent of my poetry in recent years. In some aspects of my life I must force myself: Bahá'í meetings and going to my place of work. The forcing has become necessary because of the vast quantity of repetition over thirty years or more. But this is not the case in writing. With writing I wait in a certain busy stillness, a solitude. Here, the center of my life finds expression in words on paper and I can gaze at the near and far, the internal and the external. Reality emerges like some core of beauty that is different than anything I find in life. The quotidian and the poetic intensities must both exist, one of life's infinite polarities.

Q: Do you think there is something about writing poetry which draws attention away from the writer and toward the writing itself?

P: Yes. David Womersley says this in his book about the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He says that Gibbon's writing drew attention away from the subject of the Roman Empire. His writing was an art form unto itself. Life's reality is awkward, tangled and difficult to penetrate below the surface; but language can do it. It can deal with the massive and inescapable complexity of it all. In writing, I find a place, a defined place in the midst of this great immensity. For me, it is a logical extension of my writing. I'm a very serious chap, unlike some writers who feel they waste a great dela of their leisure time. I use all of my leisure time in the service of 'the project', 'the work'. If anything my problem is an obsessiveness, a compulsiveness, a self-indulgence. That's how my wife sees it and she says so in her kindly way.

One advantage writing poetry has over the longer pieces like novels, or sci-fi stories, is the sheer shortness of most poems. So the intense exhaustion you read about in some novelists is something I only experience at the edges, say after a ten hour day with print. So what I do is simply go to bed or become a vegetable in front of the TV for an hour or two. But I admit that I am addicted to work, to expelling built-up ideas that form in my head. I like to write; I also like to read. They bring me great pleasure.

Q: The problems of philosophy, history, politics, indeed many of the disciplines, have become intertwined. The historian Dilthey argued this a hundred years ago. Where does your poetry come into this interdisciplinary complexity?

P: It is interesting that you should mention Dilthey in this context. He also saw the frightening catastrophes on the horizon, the shaking of the foundations of human society, the questioning of assumptions, the discordance between thought and life, the dark and awesome outlines in a global era, the emptiness, the alienation, the abyss of modern life. The world has been transformed in the last century and a half and the many prescriptions offered: the left, the new left, the right, the new right, the social sciences, the old religions and a host of new ones--have left a world of confused alarms with no center for humankind. My poetry comes into this complexity, this vacuum, this crisis, this ferment, this restlessness. For Dilthey the center was a lived experience. My poetry is at least that and with Dilthey I share a concern with the spiritual dimension, a dimension expressed in the context of subject matter from many subjects of study. Of course, my poetry is clearly associated with a specific centre.

It is interesting to note, parenthetically, that autobiography is rarely included as part of any university syllabus; poetry, yes. Poetry is taken seriously but not autobiography. So, if I had to pigeon-hole my poetry for academic study it would not be under autobiography. If my poetry were to be studied for scholarly purposes it would result in literary criticism. Anyone wanting to write a biography of my life, it would seem to me, would be primarily concerned with telling a story. He'd have to piece together, like a great patchwork quilt, the material from my poems. The main advantage he would have is that poetry allows me to tell my story in a thousand ways. In the end, though, the reader and any writer of my biography are left with interpretation, no matter what discipline I'm drawing on.

Drawing on a variety of disciplines allows me to enter the inner life and private character and come away with a bigger slice of 'the true me.' In the end, though, there is much of myself, much of anybody in any biography, that can not be expressed There are so many views of a person. No view, or synthesis of views, can plumb the depths. But the exercise of trying is not without its rewards.

Q: What do you see as the relationship between the poet/writer and society in the Bahá'í community?

P: Back in March 1956, three years after my first contact with the Bahá'í community and three months before the Guardian first referred to the North American Bahá'í community as 'the impregnable citadel of the Faith' the renowned French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty was the invited speaker to a conference in Vienna. During the discussion the role of the writer was discussed and I would like to start my answer to this question by drawing on some of the remarks he made then. Merleau-Ponty referred to engagement as "the coming into relation with others." "We come", he said "to extract from (this engagement) a formula for living with others."1 Autonomy and engagement run along a continuum. One discovers the portion of separation and the portion of involvement. This portion changes in a range of ways in the writer's lifetime as he expresses his sense of community. We must learn and unlearn just how it is that we are to engage ourselves. There is no one way. There are many models, many points on the continuum which are right for us.

It must be kept in mind that the Bahá'í Faith is a Divine Revelation not a socio-political system. Writers can not call into question the integrity of Bahá'í administrative processes. They must exercise wisdom, a certain measure of love and develop a sensitive conscience. They must not stridently insist on individual views. An intolerant attitude toward other perceptions of reality must be avoided. Since conflict and contention are categorically forbidden the relationship of the writer to society is one centred around an etiquette of expression in which dissent is forbidden. This conception is far, far removed from present conceptions of both the writer and society. I have spoken on this subject before in other interviews and there is more I could say here, but this will suffice.

Anything written about the relationship between an individual writer and the Bahá'í community can grow quite naturally out of the material presented to the biographer or by the autobiographer. This organic growth of views reflects the vast range of personality types, idiosyncrasies and individual orientations and does not impose some single 'ideal type' onto the writer involved. What is written about a life should reflect the spirit of that life. For this reason, among many others, I write poetry to tell my story. This genre seems the most appropriate spirit or form. A certain perspicacity is required of the reader of my poetry, though; otherwise the reader is advised to stay with the narrative, the letters, the essays and whatever else I leave behind. My poetry is my treasure. I hope it is yours, dear reader.

Q: Tell us some more about your writing habits. Have they changed in any way since we began these interviews three years ago?

P: The main difference is that in the evenings, after a day of teaching, I have little to no energy to write, a little reading for an hour or so and that's that. On the weekends I still get in my six to ten hour a day of reading and writing. I don't use any chemicals, psychic energizers, maybe two cups of coffee; writing makes me hungry; I gave up smoking four or five years ago. I drink lots of water, juices, soft drinks. I probably take in too much sugar for my own good. I go for walks, have a swim, a sauna bath, touch base with my wife and son, visit the local shop. After sitting for such a long time, the body craves movement, exercise; you get to the point that you could just about scream.

I've worked out a city-survival package that preserves as much of the privacy that I need. That has been difficult in a community of a thousand Bahá'ís. Actually this hermit-like, solipsistic existence, with its hours of solitude and wearisome fatigue at the edges after many hours of work, fits in well with the teaching profession and the endless talking and listening and a moderate amount of Bahá'í activity and its essential social base.

I'll be retiring soon and I wonder how I will go without that balancing factor of the social and the solitude.

Q: Some biographers say that interviews are a way of accumulating a great deal of wasted paper. Some interviewers are impressed with their utility. What do you think is the value of the interview?

P: I have constructed the above nine interviews over nearly three years, asked all the questions and answered them. I have found this form of art, even if my own expression of it is recognisably artificial, a unique way of defining what I am trying to accomplish in my poetry. It achieves what no other form of writing achieves. I've grown quite fond of it and will most probably come back to it in the future. It is a way of cleaning up, tidying up, clarifying, the complex exercise of writing poetry.

1 Maurice Merleau-Ponty in Texts and Dialogues: On Philosophy, Politics and Culture, editors: Hugh Silverman and James Barry, Humanities Press, N.J., 1992, p.51.



Ron Price

8 October 1998

INTERVIEW NUMBER TWELVE

INTERVIEWER(I):

Carlyle, the British historian, says that no great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men. What are your views on this concept?

PRICE(P):

One can not ignore the role of great men and great women but, if anything, this poetry is a testimony to the contribution of the not-so-great. One of the poems in this collection, a collection I have entitled Cascading Down after "15 small pools of water in the centre of the two sets of stairs leading from the Entrance Plaza to Terrace one."(Bahá'í Canada, Baha, BE 156, p.5), answers this question in part. I refer you to that poem: "At Speed and in the Darkness Before the Dawn" in which I have drawn heavily on J. Harrison's book The Common People. Obviously, Bahá'í history has great souls. Our history is a documentary to them; but it is also a history of the ordinarily ordinary and a greatness that comes from the humble and the unrecognised. This poetry is as much a tribute to this latter category, as the former. I see myself, in some ways, as a symbol of the ordinary.

I: Is there much in your poetry about your family history and its relationship with the Cause?

P: The first two poems in the collection of poetry I sent to the World Centre were written in the first week of September 1992. They were addressed to my mother who passed away in 1978. She started investigating the Bahá'í Faith in 1953. One of the poems in this collection was inspired by my grandfather's autobiography, A.J. Cornfield's Story, about his early life from 1872 to 1901. I refer you to this poem: "1953: A Turning Point in History" to partly answer this question. There are, of course, many other poems that involve my family history. It is impossible to separate family history from one's autobiography, whether that autobiography is poetic narrative or simple narrative prose. I know nothing at all of my family history before 1872 and so, as yet, there is no poetry about it. Something may come up that is based on history in Wales, England and France. Time will tell. We could hold a separate interview on the influences of family; I have referred to some of them in the first eleven interviews. But I think this is enough for now.

I: Have you written many poems about specific contemporary events in the political, social, economic and historical worlds?

P: Only very occasionally. I think there are a number of complex interacting factors that, for various reasons, make writing poetry about "the news" difficult. There is something about "the news" that has an air of fantasy, of make-believe, about it. There is also the problem of making sense of the recent past. Kosovo or East Timor are good examples, to chose two from a potential multitude. You really have to give the issue a great deal of time to unravel the complexity. There is just so much going on that the mind is on overload. Getting a precise knowledge seems just about impossible except for the specialist. There is no cultural and classical consensus any more and there hasn't been, perhaps since the beginning of the Formative Age in 1921, perhaps since the 1950's and the onset of postmodernism; so what the individual gets is an enormous plethora of opinions, a pastiche, incoherence, with little sense of overview. As the French sociologist/philosopher Jean Baudrillard puts it: it has became very difficult to plot reality, or even get a sense of who you are. Any poems I do write in this area of social analysis tends to be ‘big picture', ‘whole culture', ‘wide angle' stuff.

I: Do you think the fact that your poetry deals with the big picture and not with specific social problems is partly a reflection of the nature of your religion?

P: Unquestionably! The problems in the world possess an immense complexity. The Bahá'í Faith offers helpful perspectives on many of the problems. But the Bahá'ís are not pretentious enough, or ignorant enough, to think they have the answer to all the world's problems. Any Bahá'í who makes such a claim is really a simpleton and just not aware of the complexity of things, or brings to the issues a mind that has grown up on what Bahiyyih Nakjavani calls ‘Bahá'í Fundamentalism.' They have no idea of "what a massive dose of truth", as ‘Abdu'l-Bahá puts it, which "must be administered to heal this chronic old disease."(Secret of Divine Civilization, p.43)

Yes, my poetry approaches the world and its problems obliquely, sensitively, with some understanding but also, I like to think, with a degree of humility in the face of the immense complexity of the problems. But I certainly don't think either I or my religion have the answer to all the thorny and difficult problems bedevilling the world.

I: I understand you have just retired from teaching. What is the experience like thusfar?

P: Yes I've had over six weeks thusfar, what you might call the honeymoon period of retirement. The first thing I notice is that I've slowed down. I wrote a poem this morning about the hibiscus(see the enclosed poem: ‘Flame Out'). The poem would not have been written under normal circumstances because I needed to be in low gear, enough to stop and have a good look, especially standing out in the rain trying to write the poem. I get a good forty minutes of brisk walking in every day. I've never been able to do that before. I'm also getting to know my wife again after years of running past her on my way to work, meetings, or something that I had to do. We are also getting ready to move to Tasmania so I'm useful around the house in preparation for the departure.

I: Spike Milligan says his father said that he would rather tell him stories about himself that were exciting but a lie, than tell him stories that were boring but true. For some of us the incurable romantic never dies. Is there any of this romanticism in your poetry?

P: My mother used to say to me, I remember, back in the early 1960s before I went pioneering, that the Bahá'í Faith was a good religion for me because of the strong element of the theatre in its framework of activities. The social dimension of life inevitably involves a certain theatricality. As I said, too, in my introduction to Roger White's Occasions of Grace there is in the Bahá'í ethos, at least there is for me, a stong element of the cry of all Romantic artists since the industrial revolution: I don't want comfort; I want God; I want poetry; I want real danger; I want freedom; I want goodness; I want sin. Well, I'm not so sure about the real danger any more and I do like my bourgeois comforts. So I suppose I'm just a part Romantic on these terms.

Ron Price

14 May 1999




NOT FIXED
My understanding, and therefore my poetry, is based on the ties of my present horizons, my knowledge and my experience. But these limits, these constraints on my understanding, can be transcended through exposure to the discourse of others, to culture and its linguistically encoded traditions, to history in which my understanding is bound and embedded, and through the simple recognition of one's limits and thus the possibilities of transcending them. In addition, my understanding and my poetry relies on scientific understanding, critical interpretation and assumptions that are unreflectively inherited from my cultural traditions. The meaning of my experience and the texts I read are not fixed but change over time and are distilled from my participation in a social universe. My poetry is also a product of a mental rhythm alternating between a virtual intoxication with the flow of life-experiences and a calm sobriety where the landscape of my judgements and the fabric of my conscious acts glue together, fix, my place in the world.
-Ron Price with thanks to various writers on Phenomonology and Hermeneutics, 20 December 2000.
You'd think productivity was
the central explanatory principle
behind this great mass of poetry
and its continually flowing stream.
It's more a weaving of meaning,
a river of consciousness
where the bird dives
creating a splash,
getting a fish
and taking off
to feed her chicks.
And, so, I feed my chicks,
create my own world,
orient myself to life,
its strangeness and familiarity,
its habit and taken-for-grantedness,
its corporeality and intersubjectivity,
its self and common sense.1
And trying to feed my babies
I have often lost the plot
and, having to start all over,
flying above the blue waters
under the sapphire sky,
I plan my attack yet again,
reaching under the ocean's waves
for the fresh and tender food of life.
1 Mary Rogers, A Phenomenological Critique, Cambridge UP, NY, 1983, p. 1.
Ron Price
20 December 2000
INTERVIEW 15
Interviewer:(I)
Now that you have finished sending your poetry to the Bahá'í World Centre Library, fourteen years of poetry, nearly all of what you had written up to the end of the twentieth century; now that you have been out of full-time employment in the teaching profession for over two years, I think it's timely that we continue these interviews as a means of marking your progress or the lack of it and as a means of defining the ongoing process that is involved in your personal and poetic life. This seems like to good time to catch you in: it's quiet; it's raining; we won't be disturbed, although you might get a little tired since it's after midnight. If you do we'll finish this interview in the morning after you've had your haircut. How does all that sound to you?
Price:(P)
Yes that's fine, but I'll just get some Weet-Bix if you don't mind and put on Beethoven's Fourth Symphony as a little background music.(Gets up and returns with Weet-Bix and puts Beethoven on his record player)
I: How is the writing coming along?
P: Quantitatively I think I'm averaging about 8 hours a day of reading and writing, although I don't time myself: a little in the morning, the afternoon and evening. Qualitatively it is always difficult to measure quality. I tried novels, three or four attempts, but ground to a halt after several thousand words on any one attempt. I could list several essays and odds and ends for magazines which I have been able to get published since 1999 but the poetry is still centre-stage, still magnifying my life and what I'm thinking about, making it new again, making it shine, as David Malouf once put it in discussing poetry..... Look, let's pick this up in the morning. I'm getting a little too tired for this.....
I: Sure(they go off.....) See you in the morning......
P: (early afternoon) Sorry for putting you off so long; I hope you enjoyed your walk around Pipeclay Bay and down at Bass Strait and Low Head. There were a number of important emails that came in today: several form Western Australia and two from the Bahá'í World Centre. I also wanted to listen to an interview with Robert Dessaix and get some information off the Internet on Somerset Maugham. I'm always better after lunch anyway....
I: You are now working on your 47th booklet of poetry and are at the end of your ninth year of serious writing with an output of about 5500 poems. Are you producing more poetry now that you have freed yourself from the various constraints you operated under until mid-1999? What do you think keeps you at it, at the poetic response?
P: Keeping track of how many poems one writes after several years gets a little tiresome. But I don't think I'm writing any more poetry now than I was when I was a teacher and a Bahá'í in a larger Bahá'í community. I would guesstimate that I am writing now, as I have been for many years, a little less than two poems a day. Essays and interviews help me clarify what I'm trying to do; novels seem to get in the poetic road.
Also, I have an immense freedom now that I did not have before. I'm not famous; I'm an unknown really, so noone is watching over me. Poetry makes you focus on reality, on what happens inside your head and in the world. So, although it looks like escapism, what I am doing, it is really quite an intense involvement in life. When you write poetry, the poem takes you on a trip, not a fantasy or an escape, but an integrative exercise where everything in your life, your
I,

1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Haifa, 1978, p.111.
2 idem
3 The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p.108.
4 ibid.,p.111.


Ron Price
15 August 2001

I INTRODUCTION
This poetry is sent in celebration of the Canberra Bahá'í Community's fiftieth year of history--plus one. This poetry is also a celebration of fifty years--minus one of my own Bahá'í experience. As I indicated in my covering letter, my hope is that you will accept this booklet of poetry into your Bahá'í Centre's library. Forty years ago this week I arrived at my first pioneering post in Canada; this booklet is a celebration of this forty years as well.
Poetry written by Bahá'ís in Australia goes back, in all probability, to the first few years of Bahá'í activity here: 1921-1931. I say, in all probability, because no one, as yet, has tried to document the history of poetry writing on this continent. I find it difficult to believe that none of those early believers, in what was a busy first decade, wrote any poetry. But it is not my purpose here to outline the origins and development of the history of poetry written by Bahá'ís in Australia. In this booklet the reader will find some of the poetry of a Canadian pioneer who came to Australia in 1971, at the mid-point in the first century of the Formative Age and the first century of the history of the Cause in Australia. Readers will also find some interview material and two essays which help place this poetry in context.
I have also included in this booklet a copy of a book that has been given 'provisional approval' by the National spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada. The book is entitled The Emergence of a Bahá'í Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White. Roger White has been a major inspiration to my own writing of poetry and readers will find a short biography of White as well as an analysis of each of his books of poetry written between the years 1979 and 1993 when he passed away.
I trust your Bahá'í Centre provides a "new impetus to the advancement of the Cause" in Australia in our "divinely driven enterprize." I trust, too, that this booklet of poetry and prose finds a home in your Centre's library where it can be accessed by Bahá'ís and their friends in the years to come.


INTRODUCTION TO BOOKLET NUMBER 52
I have presented this Booklet of poetry to the Bahá'í Council for Queensland to mark the half-way point in the Five Year Plan, 2001-2006. All the states and territories in Australia now have a Booklet of my poetry somewhere in their Bahá'í libraries. I have listed below the other libraries in the Bahá'í world which have accepted Booklets of my poetry:
Libraries Containing My Poetry:
1. Bahá'í World Centre Library, Bahá'í World Centre, PO Box 31 001, Haifa Israel: 5000 poems.
2. Canadian National Bahá'í Centre Library, 7200 Leslie Street,Thornhill, Ontario, L#T 6L8 Canada, 300 poems.
3. Australian National Bahá'í Centre Library, Sydney, Australia, 300 poems.
4. Regional Bahá'í Council of Tasmania, PO Box 1126, GPO Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Bahá'í State Library of Tasmania, Hobart, 150 poems.
5. Bahá'í Centre of Learning Library, C/-LSA of the Bahá'ís of Melville, PO Box 628, Applecross,Western Australia, 6153, 200 poems.
6. Local Spiritual Assembly Library of the Bahá'ís of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, 150 poems.
7. International Pioneer Committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 7200 Leslie Street, Thornhill, Ontario, L3T 6L8, Canada, 120 poems.
8. Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Brighton, PO Box 553, Brighton, South Australia, 5048, State Bahá'í Centre Library, Brighton, S.A., 120 poems.
9. Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canberra, 18 Hichey Court, ACT, 2611, Bahá'í Centre Library, 120 poems.
10. Bahá'í Council of the Northern Territory, PO Box 2055, Humpty Doo, NT, 0836.
11. Bahá'í Council of Victoria, Knoxfield, Victoria, 3182.
12. LSAs of Belmont, Launceston, Ballarat and Darwin: hold 'some of my poetry' in their archives.
13. The Afnan Library, c/-George Ronald Publisher Ltd., 24 Gardiner Close, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3YA, England. They hold a CD of poetry, essays, interviews, letters, inter alia.
14. A multitude of Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í sites on the Internet.
Libraries Containing My Books About Poetry :
1. "The Emergence of a Bahá'í Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White," in the Afnan Library, a 'deposit library' Administered by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom. Address Above.
2. The same book is in the 'Bahá'í Academics Resource Library' and the Bahá'í Website: http:www.bahaindex.com/ See http://bahai-library.com/books/white.
3. "Pioneering Over Four Epochs," a 660 page autobiography at both of the above sites.
4. "Pioneering Over Four Epochs," a website of 1000 A-4 pages containing oetry, prose, essays, interviews, book reviews and commentary on the Bahá'í Faith. This website can now be found at some 50 websites and search engines.

I have been writing poetry seriously for some eleven years, after a twelve year warm-up. Sending my poetry to Bahá'í libraries, Bahá'í websites and a range of other websites has proved an effective way to get my work into the community, to the grass-roots of Bahá'í community life and to various non-Bahá'í publics. It has proved difficult to publish poetry because Bahá'í publishers find it does not sell well enough to stock it and, in recent years, there has been a burgeoning of Bahá'í books, too many for Bahá'ís to purchase. Given the difficulty of marketing my material I send it to LSAs, Councils, Centres for Learning, various Bahá'í committees whose task is relevant to the content of my poetry(eg. pioneering) and Bahá'í centres--for the most part in Australia, Canada and England.
I thank you for accepting this work and I hope it can be given a home in one of your Bahá'í libraries in Queensland.
Ron Price
15 November 2003
1 March 1997
It has been nearly five months since I have placed an entry here in this diary and seven months since I felt a strong disinclination to continue making any entries at all. Indeed, in the last year I have written very little at all in this diary. Perhaps the desire has returned. I certainly want to record this sadness which has invaded my being in the last 24 hours after finishing three weeks at College-quite successfully. The sadness tastes of that same flavour I came to know in my late teens, although in a milder form.
I have developed a strong distaste for going to any kind of Bahá'í meeting except the occasional feast, holy day or deepening. It seems to have been about two years that this has been the case in varying degrees. After thirty years of pioneering I seem to have become flattened out, burnt out, tired out, warn out. The only desire I have to serve is to teach in my work, to teach the Cause and to write. I trust the juices will return one day. It saddens me this desire not to participate. Today, for example, is a RTC Conference with LSAs. I would have, and did, jump at the opportunity to engage myself in such a discussion at least from 1965 to 1995, or thereabouts. There were, of course, off-years in there, in those thirty years, due to: sickness and broken marriage.
That life process of the Cause is a rhythm of life and is best summed up by the Guardian in the introduction to God Passes By. Our happiness as believers depends to a significant extent on our understanding of this process. This recent drying-up of my energies to serve in the administration is a crisis, the major crisis of my fifties, thusfar. Perhaps it is a "calamity" to use the Guardian's terminology. The job losses in my early 40s were a calamity/crisis, as were the health breakdowns in my thirties, twenties and late teens. Using those 34 years of pioneering as the time frame it becomes easier to spell out the calamities: 1968, 1978-80, 1985-7 with the lesser events, the crises, being: 1962-64, 1973-4 and now 1995-97.
I can now present to the world the "mature, responsible, fundamentally assured and happy way of life" with whatever sadness, solitariness, aloneness I must experience in my private domain. It is easier now because He has given me so many talents to continue my day to day life. I have become tired with myself in the early morning and late at night and the desire to leave this earthly life has returned quietly to my spirit in the late evening. I continue my job very successfully and, except for the occasional argument with Chris, my marriage is a happy one, or perhaps tranquil is a better word.
I am now working on my twenty-fifth booklet of poetry and I think this obsession, as my wife calls it, has taken its toll on my mind and spirit. Three thousand poems have warn me out in some ways, flattened out my soul: a four-and-a-half-year job. Is this poetry "grace", ‘victory", "divine power" or "unfoldment"? It is difficult to define where you are until the perspective of time provides the context. The future will tell whether this unfoldment is just that unfoldment, or whether the grace I have felt is some compelling victory, to use the Guardian's phraseology again. Certainly the calamity that began developing toward the end of this great output of energy and experience of pleasure would suggest that what I am dealing with is merely unfoldment; but a victory is followed by crisis, so it could be seen as a victory at this stage. This process needs periodic monitoring.
A POET SHOOTING FOR POSTHUMOUS FAME?

It would be a pity if the only people who read this poem were the author's occasional friend and relative. In some ways this poem goes to the heart of the Australian outback, at least part of that outback: that part of the outback that has been part of the great hope for Australia since, when was it, the late 1960s when the mining boom put a new vigor in the Aussi economic psyche.
Mike Brown is not particularly interested in the economic psyche of Australia; though he is enjoying the largess that comes from driving a truck at $2200 clear a fortnight up in the Pilbara for one of the mining giants. A high school science teacher with the gift of the gab, Brown has put together the seasons of the year at the Newman mine site. The seasons form the backbone of his ten page poem that will tell you more about the place, about a large hunk of Australia, and about Brown himself. Poetry has a strong autobiographical flavour even when the author is not conscious of it. Although I think in the case of this teacher-in-search-of-adventure (or some money to pursue his adventure) he is more than a little aware of just what this poem says about himself, as well as the land and the place he is writing about.
Perhaps this poem could be serialized in the Mt. Newman Times, or whatever that local rag is called. The serious poetry journals would never touch it, although if Brown is an ambitious poet he might consider the Southerley, among the other four or five Western Australian and Australian major poetry magazines. Perhaps it's not-so-much ambition Brown needs-for he may have ample supplies of that quality-as belief in the quality of his writing.
No poet should be concerned these days about rhyming couplets. Ezra Pound once said "...there comes a time in the career of a great poet when he ceases to take pleasure in rhyming "mountain" with "fountain" and the corresponding banalities.(Ezra Pound, The Spirit of Romance, New Directions, NY, 1910, p.50) Brown could not care less about rhyme and he need not. His love of words, his play with words, is evident on all the ten pages and in his odd nod to some of the writers in the great poetic tradition of the west. There are too many examples of his sensititivity to words to quote here; I've underlined many for my own use. Anyone who has lived north of Capricorn will recognize the taste and the texture that Brown gives his readers.
This was no poem thrown off the back of one of those big bruizers, those enormous trucks with the wheels as big as houses which Brown drives every day. He nursed this little piece over several months until it was as dry as the dust, or the sun which "runs its dirty salmon fingers out into the greenness." He seems to have a bit of a problem with the use of the possessive case, although a good editor will fix that up. Perhaps it's one of those Freudian slips, or it may just be a part of that metaphorical nature of spiritual reality, or to put it yet another way: Brown may just be spiritual, a material man reaching up out of the boredom and the chouder for something more.
He tells us a little of that "more" on the final page. He plans, with his wife Pam, to go off in the future to:
......... "distant lands.
Teaching and learning and enriching our lives
through the wisdom of foreign eyes.
......"(OB 25, p.10)
Not if that aint a spiritual aspiration I'll bite my ass.
Since very few are likely to read this creation of a humble-whatever that means—truck driver, I'll close this short statement in the name of some posthumous fame Brown might acquire, unbeknownst to himself. W.H. Auden, a great American poet, always said the only really worthwhile ambition a poet should shoot for was to be of value to generations yet to come. Very few have painted in poetry what Brown has done here in capturing the Australian experience out past the black stump where men are men, where bags of money are to be made and the mining boom has come and runs its inevitable course.
This mining boom was once the great hope for Australia. Brown has shown us in a graphic way, which only poetry can,that some individuals may make a ‘pack of dough', but "there is a sadness here...bitter men and empty ones...This is life but it isn't living. And:
Why is too hard a question and the answer is too easy
because life isn't that simple for most of us.
Like much poetry the reader has to fill in the meaning. Brown does not tell it all. But he tells enough for those who already like reading poetry. And for those who don't, but who have had any experience at all up in that God-forsaken land of beauty that covers so much of Australia (and where the resolute verbena unarrestably insinuates itself through the socket of despair's bleached skull), Brown can give them a good read. Perhaps Brown will be seriously read in a hundred years!

Ron Price
26 June 1997


AN INVITATION TO MY POETRY

Often when people, students and actors, are asked to give a summary of a play or a novel their words are banal, boring, dull, like some history textbook. Nothing is expressed in words which ignites the imagination, that makes the mind soar. This is how I felt when I read my own autobiography, the story of my own life. Over the next six years I added several appendices to this autobiography: essays, quotations, periodic analyses of portions of my life, nearly as many pages as the original autobiography. Some life was engendered; there was some inner vision, some stimulant to my creativeness but, somehow, my imagination had only been partially turned on, had only set me in motion in a limited way. I had had a rich and varied life but the approach I took to telling the story certainly did not awaken my interest and, I thought, it would be unlikely to awaken the interest of anyone else. I loaned it to several people and my intuition told me that, although their responses were courteous with a degree of interest expressed, they did not find the account ‘grabbed them,' to put it in the vernacular.
Slowly, somewhat insensibly, it seemed that, to go deeper into my spiritual, my psychological, life, to get to what actors call the subtext, below the superficial actions of my life, I became compelled to write poetry. My narrative autobiography had established the facts of my life with some degree of appraisal but poetry allowed this appraisal to attain the required, the necessary, depth. Some of this depth involves an appraisal of the facts by means of my own feelings, my personal, living relationship to them. It involves discussing my own inner life, gifts and shortcomings, desires and needs. It involves getting a sense of my life. It involved a clarification of both the ex ternal and internal conditions of my life, the crystallisation and recrystallization of the images of my life, the attaining of a certain angle of vision with which to view of life or some portion of it.
Some parts, some incidents, in my life are warmed by my feelings; others remain fixed in my intellectual memory. With the former there is often tenderness, excitement, buoyancy; with the latter the feelings are cold and lacking in expression. The one is congenial; the other alien. After a ten year warm-up in writing poetry and, now, eight years of extensive writing there is a certain coalescence of poetic fragments; the points of light are growing and spreading, filling out an entire life. It is as if the venetian blinds of my life are slowly being opened, filling, flooding the room of my days with light and throwing into relief, the contrasting areas of darkness in the other rooms of my house.
Poetry allows the reader to come to my life bit by bit; if its spiritual essence is deeply embedded then the reader can dig it out gradually, poem by poem. In some ways a life is a puzzle and a poetic autobiography allows the reader to unfold its structure, however confused and intangible, anatomically, piecemeal. Frequent readings allow such a reader to solve the puzzle.
Sincerity of feelings, feelings that are true in a given circumstance, are essential in poetry. For the most part I think I acheive this, although at certain points rhyming patterns induce a feeling of artificiality; at other points I think I try to say what I would like to feel but don't really feel; at still other times I simply fail to go to the centre of the issue, the feeling, the idea. Honesty and directness is sometimes very difficult even after living for over a quarter-of-a-century in a country which prides itself on these traits.
Artistic ardour, enthusiasm, provoke creativity. This in turn provokes understanding which evokes and reinforces the initial enthusiasm. Since 1992 such an ardour has characterized my writing, a writing that had lost its first fires in the narrative begun in the 1980s. But the emotions are themselves silent. They have provided the fuel for the mind which acts as a scout, a pioneer, cutting new paths for my creative forces, intuitions and feelings. My pioneering mind goes out in many directions, searches everywhere for stimuli and leaves it to my feeling systems and their intuitive paths to choose whatever is most appropriate for each poem. My mind plumbs the depths of my life, past and present, even future, goes over its several layers, tries to get down to its essence, tries to dismember it, subjects each portion to study and then allows the creative ardour of life, my feelings, to provide the stimuli that will result in the writing of a poem.
Poetry is a moulding of the dry facts of a life into spiritual form and content. This is done through artistic imagination. It involves the creation of inner circumstances by means of analysis and infusing life into material already collected, the facts of life. Some call this the "I am" state, where the poet feels himself in the thick of things, where my life coalesces into one organic whole. This state is achieved gradually, periodically, episodically. I am a participant observer as the ethnologists call it. One must avoid the falsities, the accidental imaginations and emotions, the forced and mechanical expressions.
The more a poet has experienced, the more he has observed and known, the greater his accumulation of live impressions and memories, the more subtly will he think and feel, and the broader, more varied, and substantial will be the life of his imagination, the deeper his comprehension of facts and events, the clearer his perception of both inner and outer circumstances. I came to poetry in a serious way at the age of nearly fifty. This is later than most poets but my many years have certainly provided the opportunity for the accumulation of the experience and comprehension suggested above.
Ron Price
17 April 1999
There are endless ways of telling one's story. For this reason poets and writers like Roger White and Bernard Shaw may be wrong to think that the passive nature of their lives disqualifies them from even attempting to write their autobiography. Roger used to say that he did not think it was possible for a biographer to make anything at all interesting out of his life. I think time will prove him wrong. He, like Shaw, thought his life was in his writing, or as he once put it, quoting Rabindranath Tagore: "the poem not the poet."
If one does write autobiography, as I do, one can not tell one's whole story no matter how one tells it. As I look back on that relationship I had with that delightful young woman, Kit Orlick, who, for a short time, gave to me a physical delight I had never before tasted, I am disinclined to reveal what parts of each other's anatomy we caressed and for how long and where and when. It's not that I think the event, the experience, does not matter; on the contrary, it mattered a great deal then and, in retrospect, it still 'matters.' While one tells one's story, as Montaigne said, one's story makes oneself and there is so much of tedium, chouder and trivia in life which one simply edits out, out of pure necessity. If you put it all in you'd have a mountain of garbage that even the most assiduous reader could not plough through. You take form as you write and it is fascinating to watch. It feels to me a little like sculpting or painting must feel like to the artists in these fields. It's part of the magic of writing autobiography. As William Spengemann emphasizes, autobiography is synonymous with symbolic action. Writing is symbolic action. The implications of this idea revolutionizes the experience of writing autobiography. One sees the whole exercise in metaphorical terms. While not possessing the freedom of the novel or the facticity of writing history, autobiography does contain enough freedom and enough truth to give it the best of both worlds.
"Autobiographers", Brian Finney notes in his introductory words to The Inner I: British Literary Autobiography in the Twentieth Century(1985, p.21), "appear to have as many different conceptions of what constitutes the truth about themselves as readers have different expectations of them." So, in the end, what I write about those intimacies with Kit Orlick nearly forty years ago is in my hands, in my head and, as in the life of a conversation, one decides what one is going to say to whom and when all of one's days. And it is no different with the written word, with the autobiographical word.
If parts of our nature are unknowable, if our degree of confessionalism is in our own hands, if others see us quite differently than we see ourselves, there is going to be only a certain aspect of the truth and only a certain degree of it that opens up for the autobiographer. Even if autobiographies are lies, as Shaw said; if they are not to be trusted unless they reveal something disgraceful, as Orwell hypothesized; if they reveal one's mendacity as Freud emphasized; if they focus on our personal myths as Jung would have put it--they at least pursue the human, the personal, story from within. Even if autobiography is a caricature of sorts, it cannot deny the tyrannical power of basic facts, however interpretive or subjective. There is an inevitable and, to some extent, naive trusting in memory. And there is always the question of what one wants to disclose, its timeliness, its suitedness to the hearers. There is tact and frankness; there is a judicious etiquette of expression and there is the relaxation of restraint.. There are words which have "the influence of spring" and there are words which are "like unto blight" and cause the blossoms and flowers to wither.
There is both historical veracity and artistic creativity, then, in autobiography. The self-portraiture, the process of writing, transmutes one's life into a verbal artifact. It is difficult to reveal one's private self to the world; some aspects of that self are better left unrevealed and an ambivalence regarding the revelation of some of that inner life is, it would seem to me, unavoidable. Each person has his or her ambivalences, areas they want to evade, be diversionary and euphistic. Evasion, euphistic language and diversionary tactics are all part of a process of saying what one wants to say and not saying it all.
George Orwell talks about a certain amount of exaggeration in the process of selection and narration and a type of meaning that emerges by the way one retrospectively chooses to order events. In the process of his own analysis Orwell attempts to come to grips with his buried and not-so-buried motives for writing his autobiography. Subjective self-discovery and the capacity for objective reportage are related; factuality and self-awareness seem to walk hand-in-hand. The reader, too, can often correct the unperceived distortions of the writer when the autobiography embraces fully this subjective element. For the reader and writer become more intimate through this style, this tone, of writing.
Memory is notoriously unreliable; it is like a minefield; it is also the great artist, as Andre Marois once put it. Some see memory as a pandering to the ego; some point out that being told by others what happened is not the same as one's own account: so that all one really has is memory. "There have been episodes in my life" says A.E. Coppard "which not even the prospect of an eternity in hellfire would induce me to reveal."(ibid.,p.46) But even then it is very difficult for the writer to hide his true nature. I see all of my own effort as quite a transparent, honest exercise, an exercise which is conscious of a good degree of probing, conscious of style, language and form. I am conscious that my own life has nothing of the great adventures and incredible stories that are at the heart of many autobiographies. Hopefully it has an interesting yarn at its centre and material that will be useful to the Bahá'í community as it unfolds its contribution to the globe in the decades ahead. I hope, in aiming to achieve something useful, that I have not poured out a pile of dirty laundry, that I have at least kept the pile tactfully small. Vanity is as common as air and I trust this ubiquitous folly is at least kept to a minimum in the process of all my navel-gazing. The desire to give the reader pleasure and contribute something original and probing lies in the matrix of my motivations to write. Moliere said that what he tried to do was correct men by amusing them. I would like to be able to achieve this, but I am not conscious of much success. I hope I get better at this style of writing, at this comic autobiography. At this stage of my life writing, an autobiography seemed to be something I could do, something I would enjoy doing from among the options one has available in life, something for which there was a place in the burgeoning Bahá'í literature of this new millennium and might even find a place in the decades surrounding the emergence of the third century of the Bahá'í Era.
I trust, too, that my writing is not characterized by that romantic flavour that Frank Harris writes with in his My Life and Loves published in England in the 1920s in all its 1100 odd pages. There is romance in my life: a sexual aesthetic, a sensitivity to the beauty of the feminine, of nature and of the intellect; and I trust that it is not removed from the real world, that it is simply part of my experience and not over-emphasized in my narrative, just a part of the intentional and unintentional revelations that add complexity and fascination to the text. The theatrical, the dramaturgical, is present in my work, but hopefully not unduely so. The mock-heroic, the lofty sentiments, the literary and thematic exaggerations and postures I hope are not overly done, stretched too far with too much religiosity as George Moore tended to do in his Hail and Farewell.(1911)
The following poem explores this issue of sexuality, of sex, in more detail.
TAKING THE HEAT OFF
Sylvie Hill, in a MA research paper submitted to Carleton University, discusses masturbation, sexual frustration and artistic failure in James Joyce's portrait of Stephen Daedalus. In my lower moments, and I get many over the days, months and years; and even in my not-so-low moments I identify strongly with the portrait painted by Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I have never taken recourse to prostitutes to deal with my sexual as the Guardian points out on character, but I would present a far from complete portrait of myself if I disregarded how sexual tension has affected my life as an adult. I came to control my carnal urges after the age of 50 partly through masturbatory fantasies. This process, this exercise of a common sexual form of gratification, this self-stimulation, coincided with the onset of my poetic obsession in 1992. The combination of writing and masturbation is, at least as Sylvie Hill puts it, "a way of integrating with the structure of life, a way of working out (my) life problems." For me, this puts it a little too strongly.
Masturbation may simply be a way of resolving the tension. It may be much more but, as the Universal House of Justice writes, masturbation is "only one of the many temptations and faults that a human being should strive to overcome." And one should not "overemphasise its importance." I do not want to discuss this activity in great detail; I admit this autoerotism here in the hope that by acknowledging some of the more personal aspects of my own battles, some of my own struggle, others with similar battles may acquire more courage to deal with them. This subject seems to me one of those subjects best kept in the private domain, at least for the most part. I wonder, though, how much of my motivation for writing is sexual, a sublimation of my sexual insecurities in writing. Is my masturbation what David Hayman calls "a false release from self?" Is my poetry, then, like Dedalus's, "too individualistic and does not speak to anyone but myself?" Such is some of my inner conflict in relation to my writing. The Universal House of Justice provides wise and comforting words of understanding. -Ron Price with thanks to the Universal House of Justice, Letter to an individual believer, March 8th 1981.
You1 advised I concentrate
on developing my virtues,
on serving the community,
on God and His attributes
and on living a full Bahá'í life
in all its aspects,
not to let this problem
claim to great a share
of my attention,
not to overemphasise
its importance.
Such wisdom:
takes the heat off,
makes me feel human,
overcomes a thousand years
of ignorance in one simple
letter to an individual believer.
1 ibid
Ron Price
25 March 2002

"The truth is", J.D. Bereford tells us, "that my single pleasure is in continual retelling of the story of my own intellectual and spiritual life."(ibid.,p.68) Beresford's creative energy goes into interpretations of what is going on and that is the case with me as far as I am able. Frankly, I do not have that singleness of pleasure that Bereford seems to get. This autobiography has occupied a good deal of my time since the mid-1980s, but it is only one part of a multifaceted life. It is clearly not ‘my single pleasure.'
For some writers their creative effort goes into discussing others since others are part of their corporate identity. I do not do this well, at least not yet. Perhaps I got too discouraged by some of my earlier experiences with short biographies that I wrote about people in the Northern Territory of Australia. Alan Sillitoe says a writer makes art when he trys to make truth believeable. Given a certain shapelessness, plotlessness to life, the autobiographer strives to give form to an episodic enigma, to create the artistic illusion of conclusiveness, beginning and middle. Finney suggests this form is best defined in inner terms. For the main problem in autobiography is how to deal with yourself: not too high flying and smug on the one hand and not too humble and self-effacing on the other; not too confessional on the one hand, not too restrained, too moderate and refined on the other. Comedy is one way out of the dilemma. Understanding, wit and verbal skill is another way to hit some solid ground that is winning, genuine and communicates effectively.
Freud argues that the spheres of sexuality and obscenity offer the amplest occasions for obtaining comic pleasure. I don't think I have yet achieved much comic pleasure in writing about these domains of life. Perhaps when and if I produce a second major version of my autobiography I can find the necessary humor to obtain the pleasure that Freud alludes to. I have always found it difficult to find sex through love; over the years love blossomed and I stopped looking for sex. I became quite happy with a little. I'm sure I could deal with this feature of my life with more artistry. Perhaps one day I may find both the desire and the opportunity.
Finney states that the history of autobiography is "the history of self-awareness". (ibid.,p.117). The breakup in the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries AD led to St. Augustine and a more changeable, less static conception of self-statement. The Renaissance led to a concentration in autobiography on the private self, even a creation of a self, especially through an examination of one's formative, one's earliest years. This has been especially true in the last two centuries where autobiographers drew their very breath from the past and the mysterious origins of their authors' lives. The imaginative experiences and insights which come from memories and the process of private excavation help the writer make his story interesting. What and how things are excavated from one's life is, to a significant extent, the basis of the richness and pleasure derived from an autobiography. It is a challenge, a difficulty, inherent in the genre itself.
In a world of sensory stimulation, continuous entertainment and panem et circenses writing an autobiography that will hold the reader, many readers, is a high challenge. I'm not so sure I have acheived this goal. I take refuge in my poetry for its inevitable coterie of readers and for its expansion on themes I have difficulty elaborating in prose.
"Childhood is important" wrote Jung late in life "because this is the time when, terrifying or encouraging, those far-seeing dreams and images appear before the soul of the child, shaping his whole destiny." The autobiographer reaches back when he can even into the life of his ancestors. (ibid.,p.127) We begin in the magic circle of our childhood, reaching out into the world in ever-widening circles as man breathes his own life into things in the act of observing himself and his environment. This I have done in my poetry and in my Life Story but not in the narrative of Pioneering Over Four Epochs which does not really begin until that magic circles begins to enlarge. Sometimes, I am only too conscious, the light of nostalgia is falsifying, sometimes illuminating, but always it tells something of the observing self and my adult preoccupations. One lives the early years, everything, over and over again.
Infantile amnesia, or what one author called the sweet darkness of one's earliest years, is the time when the formative events and influences occur. I have no memories before the age of four. Freud argues that affectionate and hostile images of the father are born here and persist all one's life(ibid.,p.140). This is an aspect of my life, these earliest memories, that I could develop one day in my own story. It is here that the dominating parent is born, the excessively pietistic influence, indeed much that is both positive and negative in life. And one can learn a great deal by examining the etiology of these influences. One can, as D.H. Lawrence suggests, shed some of one's sicknesses by such retrospection or, as Clive James once put it, one can get out of the prison of one's childhood. Both Frued and Jung argued, though, that we gain only a partial understanding of our early life and indeed of life itself. There is an inevitable incompleteness, blindness. There are countless subsidiary happenings that don't get in to our story due to the genre's pressure to create shape and meaning, and to be bony and bare at the perifery outside that shape and form. George Bernard Shaw admitted this when he wrote that his "story has no plot and the problem will never be solved."(ibid.,p.164)
Autobiography, then, becomes like a monument to defeat or an expression of acceptance of defeat. Sometimes it is simply an oversimplification of the complexities of personality that defeat any therapeutic aim of the writer. The wholeness of personality, the realization of its totality and fullness, Jung argues, is impossible to attain. It is only an ideal.
Much of modern autobiography has grown out of religious introspection and the soul's struggle with despair. Protestantism made the individual responsible for his own spiritual development and this resulted in an inner conflict and search for wholeness amidst psychological aridity, neurosis, depression and endless analysis as well as the joys and pleasures of life. History has now given us nearly half a millennum of Protestantism with its emphasis on the individual. Democracy, too, growing obtrusively and unobtrusively, perhaps for two and a half millennia has been a seedbed for autobiography. The historical story of this literary form, autobiography, is long and detailed. It is not my purpose to provide such a detailed examination here.
In the twentieth century ‘religious' became ‘psychological', at least for millions. Perhaps, as Jung states, "the spiritual adventure of our time is the exposure of human consciousness to the undefinable and indefinable."(ibid.,p.208) An autobiography like my own is the account of that exposure.
Finney notes Roy Pascal's view that the brief half-century from 1782, when Rousseau's autobiography was published, to 1831 when Goethe's was written, "there was a feeling of trust and confidence in the spiritual wholeness of the self. There was a meaningfulness, then, that disappears from later autobiography"(ibid., p.209). Modern autobiographers seek to recapture this trust and confidence, but for the most part they are not successful. Some, like Powys, achieve a measure of success by sheer verbal exhuberance and shapelessness in an attempt to capture the evanescent quality of life(Powys, Far Away and Long Ago, 1934). Here is how Powys puts it in a confessional autobiography that is moderate in tone, but delightfully revealing in parts:
It is most important in writing the tale of one's days not to try to give them the unity they possess for one in later life. A human story, to bear any resemblance to the truth, must advance and retreat erratically, must flicker and flutter here and there, must debouch(come out of the woods) at a thousand tangents(ibid.,p.221).
Writing so much of what I do in poetic form I achieve this flicker and flutter here and there, the thousand tangents. But I would not want to use Powys as my only model because he derives a satisfaction from parading his neuroses, phobias and darkest fantasies, his sacred malice in the form of caricature and excess, as if he is a magician and a near mad-man. What the reader gets, some may see, as the idiosyncratic outpourings of an egocentric and demented eccentric. Of the many tendencies since those peaceful years from Rousseau to Goethe this is but one of the many subjective approaches to understanding of the self. There is some darkness, some of the mad-man in my poetry, my autobiography; but I think it is far from a parading of my neuroses, my eccentricies, although I'm sure some will disagree. The writer takes this risk in the world of autobiography.
Erik Erikson says autobiographers are concerned with the present, the past and the historical context of the times in which they live. Some writers show a fear of narcissistic self-indulgence in writing their account and, like H.G. Wells and Arthur Koestler, spend a great deal of time on the context of their times. I feel I have erred by spending too little on my times. This has not been out of fear, but the simple difficulty of balancing the three time frames and all that autobiography can contain. It can contain so much and, in the end, overwhelm the reader--and the writer! For years I held back myself from writing anything to publish because I was frankly overwhelmed by the massiveness of the content that always loomed ahead of me: gargantuan, amorphous, unmanageable.
I like Koestler's emphasis on directing his writing to the unborn, future reader; directing the many levels of truth, the many subjectivities of his life to a future age. Certainly a large part of my own motivation for entering this field of autobiography is for a future age, for those not yet born. But even as I say this, I feel a certain pretentiousness in even admitting to such an interest. This seems to be Koestler's central drive. I think, too, that for some autobiographers, like Storm Jameson, writing is an escape into words, an escape from society, a society she did not feel at home in. This is partly true of me as I have got older. She says that noone can write the story of their life; there is an inevitable impersonality, a partial and unavoidable lack of control for the author. Perhaps that is why each autobiography is so idiosyncratic, a work of art unto itself. We are each unique, each idiosyncratic, each a child of God. My story is just one child's account.
There are endless ways of telling one's story. For this reason poets and writers like Roger White and Bernard Shaw may be wrong to think that the passive nature of their lives disqualifies them from even attempting to write their autobiography. Roger used to say that he did not think it was possible for a biographer to make anything at all interesting out of his life. I think time will prove him wrong. He, like Shaw, thought his life was in his writing, or as he once put it, quoting Rabindranath Tagore: "the poem not the poet."
If one does write autobiography, as I do, one can not tell one's whole story no matter how one tells it. As I look back on that relationship I had with that delightful young woman, Kit Orlick, who, for a short time, gave to me a physical delight I had never before tasted, I am disinclined to reveal what parts of each other's anatomy we caressed and for how long and where and when. It's not that I think the event, the experience, does not matter; on the contrary, it mattered a great deal then and, in retrospect, it still 'matters.' While one tells one's story, as Montaigne said, one's story makes oneself and there is so much of tedium, chouder and trivia in life which one simply edits out, out of pure necessity. If you put it all in you'd have a mountain of garbage that even the most assiduous reader could not plough through. You take form as you write and it is fascinating to watch. It feels to me a little like sculpting or painting must feel like to the artists in these fields. It's part of the magic of writing autobiography. As William Spengemann emphasizes, autobiography is synonymous with symbolic action. Writing is symbolic action. The implications of this idea revolutionizes the experience of writing autobiography. One sees the whole exercise in metaphorical terms. While not possessing the freedom of the novel or the facticity of writing history, autobiography does contain enough freedom and enough truth to give it the best of both worlds.
"Autobiographers", Brian Finney notes in his introductory words to The Inner I: British Literary Autobiography in the Twentieth Century(1985, p.21), "appear to have as many different conceptions of what constitutes the truth about themselves as readers have different expectations of them." So, in the end, what I write about those intimacies with Kit Orlick nearly forty years ago is in my hands, in my head and, as in the life of a conversation, one decides what one is going to say to whom and when all of one's days. And it is no different with the written word, with the autobiographical word.
If parts of our nature are unknowable, if our degree of confessionalism is in our own hands, if others see us quite differently than we see ourselves, there is going to be only a certain aspect of the truth and only a certain degree of it that opens up for the autobiographer. Even if autobiographies are lies, as Shaw said; if they are not to be trusted unless they reveal something disgraceful, as Orwell hypothesized; if they reveal one's mendacity as Freud emphasized; if they focus on our personal myths as Jung would have put it--they at least pursue the human, the personal, story from within. Even if autobiography is a caricature of sorts, it cannot deny the tyrannical power of basic facts, however interpretive or subjective. There is an inevitable and, to some extent, naive trusting in memory. And there is always the question of what one wants to disclose, its timeliness, its suitedness to the hearers. There is tact and frankness; there is a judicious etiquette of expression and there is the relaxation of restraint.. There are words which have "the influence of spring" and there are words which are "like unto blight" and cause the blossoms and flowers to wither.
There is both historical veracity and artistic creativity, then, in autobiography. The self-portraiture, the process of writing, transmutes one's life into a verbal artifact. It is difficult to reveal one's private self to the world; some aspects of that self are better left unrevealed and an ambivalence regarding the revelation of some of that inner life is, it would seem to me, unavoidable. Each person has his or her ambivalences, areas they want to evade, be diversionary and euphistic. Evasion, euphistic language and diversionary tactics are all part of a process of saying what one wants to say and not saying it all.
George Orwell talks about a certain amount of exaggeration in the process of selection and narration and a type of meaning that emerges by the way one retrospectively chooses to order events. In the process of his own analysis Orwell attempts to come to grips with his buried and not-so-buried motives for writing his autobiography. Subjective self-discovery and the capacity for objective reportage are related; factuality and self-awareness seem to walk hand-in-hand. The reader, too, can often correct the unperceived distortions of the writer when the autobiography embraces fully this subjective element. For the reader and writer become more intimate through this style, this tone, of writing.
Memory is notoriously unreliable; it is like a minefield; it is also the great artist, as Andre Marois once put it. Some see memory as a pandering to the ego; some point out that being told by others what happened is not the same as one's own account: so that all one really has is memory. "There have been episodes in my life" says A.E. Coppard "which not even the prospect of an eternity in hellfire would induce me to reveal."(ibid.,p.46) But even then it is very difficult for the writer to hide his true nature. I see all of my own effort as quite a transparent, honest exercise, an exercise which is conscious of a good degree of probing, conscious of style, language and form. I am conscious that my own life has nothing of the great adventures and incredible stories that are at the heart of many autobiographies. Hopefully it has an interesting yarn at its centre and material that will be useful to the Bahá'í community as it unfolds its contribution to the globe in the decades ahead. I hope, in aiming to achieve something useful, that I have not poured out a pile of dirty laundry, that I have at least kept the pile tactfully small. Vanity is as common as air and I trust this ubiquitous folly is at least kept to a minimum in the process of all my navel-gazing. The desire to give the reader pleasure and contribute something original and probing lies in the matrix of my motivations to write. Moliere said that what he tried to do was correct men by amusing them. I would like to be able to achieve this, but I am not conscious of much success. I hope I get better at this style of writing, at this comic autobiography. At this stage of my life writing, an autobiography seemed to be something I could do, something I would enjoy doing from among the options one has available in life, something for which there was a place in the burgeoning Bahá'í literature of this new millennium and might even find a place in the decades surrounding the emergence of the third century of the Bahá'í Era.
I trust, too, that my writing is not characterized by that romantic flavour that Frank Harris writes with in his My Life and Loves published in England in the 1920s in all its 1100 odd pages. There is romance in my life: a sexual aesthetic, a sensitivity to the beauty of the feminine, of nature and of the intellect; and I trust that it is not removed from the real world, that it is simply part of my experience and not over-emphasized in my narrative, just a part of the intentional and unintentional revelations that add complexity and fascination to the text. The theatrical, the dramaturgical, is present in my work, but hopefully not unduely so. The mock-heroic, the lofty sentiments, the literary and thematic exaggerations and postures I hope are not overly done, stretched too far with too much religiosity as George Moore tended to do in his Hail and Farewell.(1911)

and Jung argued, though, that we gain only a partial understanding of our early life and indeed of life itself. There is an inevitable incompleteness, blindness. There are countless subsidiary happenings that don't get in to our story due to the genre's pressure to create shape and meaning, and to be bony and bare at the perifery outside that shape and form. George Bernard Shaw admitted this when he wrote that his "story has no plot and the problem will never be solved."(ibid.,p.164)
Autobiography, then, becomes like a monument to defeat or an expression of acceptance of defeat. Sometimes it is simply an oversimplification of the complexities of personality that defeat any therapeutic aim of the writer. The wholeness of personality, the realization of its totality and fullness, Jung argues, is impossible to attain. It is only an ideal.
Much of modern autobiography has grown out of religious introspection and the soul's struggle with despair. Protestantism made the individual responsible for his own spiritual development and this resulted in an inner conflict and search for wholeness amidst psychological aridity, neurosis, depression and endless analysis as well as the joys and pleasures of life. History has now given us nearly half a millennum of Protestantism with its emphasis on the individual. Democracy, too, growing obtrusively and unobtrusively, perhaps for two and a half millennia has been a seedbed for autobiography. The historical story of this literary form, autobiography, is long and detailed. It is not my purpose to provide such a detailed examination here.
In the twentieth century ‘religious' became ‘psychological', at least for millions. Perhaps, as Jung states, "the spiritual adventure of our time is the exposure of human consciousness to the undefinable and indefinable."(ibid.,p.208) An autobiography like my own is the account of that exposure.
Finney notes Roy Pascal's view that the brief half-century from 1782, when Rousseau's autobiography was published, to 1831 when Goethe's was written, "there was a feeling of trust and confidence in the spiritual wholeness of the self. There was a meaningfulness, then, that disappears from later autobiography"(ibid., p.209). Modern autobiographers seek to recapture this trust and confidence, but for the most part they are not successful. Some, like Powys, achieve a measure of success by sheer verbal exhuberance and shapelessness in an attempt to capture the evanescent quality of life(Powys, Far Away and Long Ago, 1934). Here is how Powys puts it in a confessional autobiography that is moderate in tone, but delightfully revealing in parts:
It is most important in writing the tale of one's days not to try to give them the unity they possess for one in later life. A human story, to bear any resemblance to the truth, must advance and retreat erratically, must flicker and flutter here and there, must debouch(come out of the woods) at a thousand tangents(ibid.,p.221).
Writing so much of what I do in poetic form I achieve this flicker and flutter here and there, the thousand tangents. But I would not want to use Powys as my only model because he derives a satisfaction from parading his neuroses, phobias and darkest fantasies, his sacred malice in the form of caricature and excess, as if he is a magician and a near mad-man. What the reader gets, some may see, as the idiosyncratic outpourings of an egocentric and demented eccentric. Of the many tendencies since those peaceful years from Rousseau to Goethe this is but one of the many subjective approaches to understanding of the self. There is some darkness, some of the mad-man in my poetry, my autobiography; but I think it is far from a parading of my neuroses, my eccentricies, although I'm sure some will disagree. The writer takes this risk in the world of autobiography.
Erik Erikson says autobiographers are concerned with the present, the past and the historical context of the times in which they live. Some writers show a fear of narcissistic self-indulgence in writing their account and, like H.G. Wells and Arthur Koestler, spend a great deal of time on the context of their times. I feel I have erred by spending too little on my times. This has not been out of fear, but the simple difficulty of balancing the three time frames and all that autobiography can contain. It can contain so much and, in the end, overwhelm the reader--and the writer! For years I held back myself from writing anything to publish because I was frankly overwhelmed by the massiveness of the content that always loomed ahead of me: gargantuan, amorphous, unmanageable.
I like Koestler's emphasis on directing his writing to the unborn, future reader; directing the many levels of truth, the many subjectivities of his life to a future age. Certainly a large part of my own motivation for entering this field of autobiography is for a future age, for those not yet born. But even as I say this, I feel a certain pretentiousness in even admitting to such an interest. This seems to be Koestler's central drive. I think, too, that for some autobiographers, like Storm Jameson, writing is an escape into words, an escape from society, a society she did not feel at home in. This is partly true of me as I have got older. She says that noone can write the story of their life; there is an inevitable impersonality, a partial and unavoidable lack of control for the author. Perhaps that is why each autobiography is so idiosyncratic, a work of art unto itself. We are each unique, each idiosyncratic, each a child of God. My story is just one child's account.
SOME MORE ESSENTIAL THOUGHTS ON AUTOBIOGRAPHY

A man is a teller of tales; All men are invisible to one another.
he lives surrounded by his stories and Experience is man's invisibility to man.
the stories of others; he sees everything Experience used to be called the Soul.
that happens to him through them, -R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience
and he tries to live as
if he were recounting it.
-Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

This whole autobiographical exercise is like being an artist or poet-in-residence. The finest work you produce is yourself. The life you live and the life you tell are inseparable: in some respects they are twins, in other ways they are like friends, members of the same family or, indeed, hardly comparable. As we live, we organize and reorganize our story; we create ourselves as we go along. Charles Hartshorne, a process philosopher, says this is the ultimate reality: self-creation, making ourself, self-construction, self-fabrication. Your life story happens on several levels: the outside story, the story at the level of existing, the events; the inside story, is your interpretation of these events, your meaning, your creation; it is what you do with what happens to you. The third level is the level you project to the world. This level for me is my autobiography. The fourth and final level is the impression my story creates on others. It is their reading of my story, my life as I write or tell it and their reading has a thousand meanings from something profound to something quite meaningless.
Beyond these four levels, as Gregory Bateson argues, life for most of us is an improvisatory art; we make it up as we go along. Although it may be that the world is in-between stories, the Bahá'í feels he is part of the new story, part of mankind's one great story, the grand symphony that this world is, as Joseph Campbell calls it. My own story, told in many forms in this autobiography Pioneering Over Four Epochs, is an attempt to relate my small micro-world to the grand opus, as it is enviseaged in the Bahá'í literature. It is also a linking of past, present and future in some story-form, some alluring sequence. "All serious work must be at bottom autobiographical" says Thomas Wolfe: novel, poetry, autobiography, essay, etcetera. And we continually edit this story, we continually confer meaning and purpose, thus rescuing our story from randomness through some simple narrative lust. But, as I said above, for the Bahá'í there is still a master plot, a master theory, within which our life is but a sub-plot. However tedious, mundane, routine, repetitive, boring, uninspiring, smoothly ticking our life may appear there are tensions and conflicts which never go away and which, unresolved, are one of the major sources of our meaning and purpose. The reader of autobiography, of my story, gets a neat package, gets some equilibrium, with passions spent, even though life is not so neat. The equilibrium is dynamic and passions are far from spent. Life often appears in the end like a daydream, "bearing the mere semblance of reality."
There is a pattern of build-up, climax and relief, a sense of what's next. These are found in the world I create as much as the plot that is developed. This is especially true due to the multiple-genre format to my autobiography. No matter how meaningful, how accidental, how significant or insignificant my story I can not help but be concerned with the literary. In fact, my guess is that most people never write their story because they are beaten by the literary. The literary dimension is simply too much for them. They really prefer gardening, or reading, or sewing or one of a thousand things. They are beaten by the idiosyncratic, by the endless sense of life being in transition.. Life, too, as we get older, gets longer, bigger, deeper, thicker and, thus, harder to put down. It seems to elude logical meaning, directionality, obvious and unquestioned improvement. It's all too complex, too beyond definition and the simple story.
"This world is not conclusion", says Emily Dickinson, "a sequel stands beyond". Perhaps those who have no sense of sequence or a sequel beyond find the whole idea of writing their story depressing. For me, Emily's words are so appropriate to my own story and I weave that "sequel which stands beyond" as best I can into the texture of this life. It is not conclusion; it is continuity. The neat chapters in my life, even my view of the afterlife, are culture-bound and held together by a sub-culture, the sub-culture of my religious beliefs, attitudes and values.` Whatever the chapters, whatever the sequel, the origin and end of autobiography converges in the very act of writing. Everything collapses into the act of producing the text. That which does not collapse, does not find a place and is left in the home of the nameless and traceless, an oblivion which the world will never locate.
The various people mentioned in my text are infinitely more complex than those who appear in novels. Although they are known to me more intimately than the myriad strangers in my life, than my friends and associations, these ‘best known' remain enigmatic, elusive, shadowy, incoherent, contradictory. None of them occupy the central place in the story, though. It seems to me that the Bahá'í Faith occupies the pivotal position. As central person, my role, my circumstances, my character changes. I am especially conscious of this for I am storyteller, character, audience, narrator and reader all at once. My identity then is quintessentially biographical not biological. It is the answer to the question: what is your real, inmost story? What took place in those 64,000 hours, 4000 days and eleven years of real autobiographical data? According to Lewis Thomas this is all we have after the trivia are eliminated. The past develops like a plot; it thickens. That is why I can write a poem about an early childhood experience and then write it differently next year. Raccontio ergo sum. I want things to come out right, I suppose; I'd like to be saved, especially from myself, my lower nature. Thus, I am religious in my persistence to tell my story, to create and define my world, to write a Grand Unified Story. I am also trying to get back time but, alas, it is unredeemable. The memories I draw on connect what happened once upon a time with what is happening now in a process of synthesis which is quite mysterious, quite delightful and often immensely frustrating. At the core of the frustration for me is what I feel is an inability to make my story live as much as it lived in the act of living it. I read the words and they often seem flat, beyond reification. I am also conscious of just how brief the entire narrative is: some eighty pages. The poetry is one simple, yet effective, way to overcome these frustrations. It conveys in quite apt, quite fitting, quite emotionally satisfying ways both my personal experiences in pioneering and the heady days in these earliest years of the Universal House of Justice's assumption at the apex of the Bahá'í administrative system.
"Without forgetting" says Nietzsche, "it is quite impossible to live at all." The autobiographer must forget a great deal and use it, perhaps, as Graham Greene says "as compost for the imagination." We define our world very much by what we forget, by the nature or type of personality we have: gloomy, poetic, sentimental, joyful, melancholy, etcetera. Mine I might call Priceland. I'm not conscious of the type of land it is, not yet; I'm too immersed in creating this land at the moment. We also define our world against what we might call a gestalt of pastness which is partly a prelinguistic darkness. Writing explodes this darkness and creates a new gestalt. What goes on the page flows mysteriously out of the incomprehensible moods of the present. Whatever anecdotal brilliance is created is derived from these moods, from simple literary skill and from a host of other factors. It is these moods, this multi-factorial writing situation, as much as anything, which creates whatever wholeness comes into existence in the text. This wholeness draws more on the present, then, than it does the past.
I do think my life has a certain direction, integration sub specie Bahá'í Faith. Obviously, too, there are contradictions between my personal goals, aims, purposes and what I actually do to acheive these. Until I die, though, I will try to make a comprehensible story of my life. I will try and tell if faithfully, fully and solely. For I am conscious that the extraordinary lingers just behind the ordinary and I want to bring it out in my life and in the lives of others when it can serve as some form of meaning therapy, what Victor Frankl calls logotherapy. My imagination has been feasting for years on a diet of rich and diverse experience and rich and diverse ideas. This richness is in a narrow range of activity involving: people, places and books. "Rich", "diverse", "narrow", I could add other adjectives, adjectives which suggest a certain epistemological ambivalence. The autobiographical act, like life itself, generates this ambivalence. It also generates lived facts, lived events, as artefacts. This poetry is part of, an expression of, these lived facts in these darkest hours before the dawn while the Arc on Mount Carmel is being completed.
I should say something about self-deception, since there is in narration an inherent straying away from what actually happens, however slightly or innocently, a quiet but discernable progression from fact to fiction. Self-deception, lieing, secrecy, forgetfulness, confusion, gaps: they are all part of the story and our processing of the story. Everything we communicate, some analysts argue, is an orientation towards what is secret without ever telling the secret. As Henry Miller puts it: "I am I and I have thought unspeakable thoughts and done unthinkable things."(1) We aim in our autobiography to monitor our hearts for self-deception. We aim for artistic coherence and ethical satisfaction as we attempt to integrate, analyse and identify the countless versions of our story and their inevitable secrets. This is unending work-poetic work-and it is central to self-creation. In other ways the self-deception is accidental, incidental. As Yeats put it: "I have changed nothing to my knowledge; and yet it must be that I have changed many things without my knowledge; for I am writing after many years and have consulted neither friend, nor letter, nor old newspaper."(2)

There were three men went down the road
As down the road went he:
The man he was,
The man folks saw,
The man he wished to be.
-Source Unknown

Our ultimate aloneness in the universe is a truth which some find frightening. This aloneness is a part of the core experience in writing autobiography, part of its very raison d'etre. It may just be that one of the best routes to self-forgetfulness, which ‘Abdu'l-Bahá says is at the heart of self-realization, is through self-understanding on the road travelled by means of autobiography.

(1) Henry Miller in "Confessions and Autobiography" Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, editor, James Olney, Princeton, 1980, p.122.
(2) James Olney, "Some Versions of Memory/Some Versions of Bios: The Ontology of Autobiography", Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, editor, James Olney, Princeton UP, 1980, p.262.
(3) Quoted in The Stories We are: An Essay on Self-Creation, William Lowell Randall, University of Toronto, 1995, p.345.
Ron Price
17 January 1996

SERENDIPITOUS SOCIOLOGY AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY
We all grow old and live in a matrix of groups, networks, institutions and communities. These are the substance of sociology, although even the student of sociology can be guilty of serious omissions and patterned distortions when he or she writes autobiography. The introspector and retrospector in sociological autobiography can give us rare access to inner experience from their position of aloof detachment and passionate engagement.
Beginning with Herbert Spencer's two volumes in 1904, sociology has left us very few intellectual autobiographies. Monopolistic access to my own inner life has found many grooves and at least one or two of those patterned distortions away from sociology toward religion. I hope the time has not yet come, as Virginia Woolf said there can, when I may have forgotten far more of significance than I can remember. Certainly I am far from the position Heinrich Boll was in when he wrote that "not one title, not one author, not one book that I held in my hand has remained in my memory."
The autobiographer is both the ultimate Insider and the ultimate Outsider in applying scientific understanding and insight to the self, the interplay of sequences of status-sets, roll-sets and intellectual development. What results is not so much a condensed description than a step toward elucidation.1 I feel as if I have just made a start in the first decade of my attempt at autobiography. After three decades of dipping in and out of sociology I don't think I was at all conscious of sociology's hermeneutic influence as I wrote my autobiography. If sociology appeared it was accidentally, serendipitously.

1 Sociological Lives: Social Change and the Life Course, Vol.2, editor, Matilda White Riley, Sage Publications, London, 1988.

Ron Price
16 March 1997
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKLET
'THIRTY YEARS OF INTERNATIONAL PIONEERING'

In the sixteen months before the opening of the Seven Year Plan(1979 to 1986), I experienced a recurrence, a debilitating manifestation, of my bi-polar tendencies. At the time I had been an international pioneer to Australia from Canada for seven years. In March 1979 I wrote to the Universal House of Justice requesting their prayers. About a year after receiving their letter informing me of their prayers I was finally treated for this disabling illness.

And so in the first two years of the Seven Year Plan I received the assurances of the House of Justice, their prayers for my 'serene happiness' and eventual healing of my illness. Sixteen months later, in May 1980, I wrote what was to become the first of a series of thousands of poems of which those contained in this booklet are but a few. Writing poetry was to become an important, a major, source of whatever serene happiness I was to achieve.

My poetry from 1980 to 1995 I now see as my juvenilia, an early developmental stage of fifteen years, a warm-up period. I have divided this stage into three sub-stages named after three phases of the construction of the Shrine of the Bab: The Tomb's Chambers(August 1980 to April 1987), The Arcade(May 1988 to August 1992) and The Golden Dome(September 1992 to June1995). This slow and gradual developmental phase led to what I now see as a more mature poetry which, for convenvience as much as anything, I see as beginning in July 1995. I have called these last six years(July 1995 to July 2001) The Terraces.

There are now some 46 booklets of poetry, of between five and six thousand poems and two to three million words in the entire opus. In February of 1997 I sent to you a booklet of poetry entitled Canada's Glorious Mission Overseas. I also sent a booklet of poetry to you in April 2001: Fifty Years From F.O.G. Somehow it was misplaced and for that reason I forward to you this third booklet. This third booklet, Thirty Years of Pioneering, celebrates thirty years of my international pioneering here in Australia from Canada(1971-2001). It also celebrates the opening of the terraces, the Arc Project, in May of this year and the beginning of the Five Year Plan(2001-2006), the first Plan of this new millennium.

These three booklets could be seen as a report to you written during the 26th to 30th years of my pioneering in Australia from Canada. I have also sent two different booklets of poetry to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada during this same period, partly to serve as a report to them. There are now an additional 42 booklets in the Bahá'í World Centre Library sent from 1992 to 2000. Together, all these volumes serve as a poetic expression of nearly forty years of service and experience in the Cause. They may be useful one day as an interesting historical record for a period which, if one draws on the Guardian's ten stage model of history, covers the last years of the ninth and the early decades of the tenth stages of history.

Generally, what I try to do in my poetry is to play with three interrelated themes or topics: my own life, the life of the Cause and the experience of society, the global civilization that is emerging and its history and future. I have found poetry to be more suitable to my literary aims and goals than essays, novels, or indeed other genres of written expression, although I have an extensive personal archive of these other forms and one day they may be useful as historical documents that speak of our time and age.

With six months gone in this the Fifth Epoch I send to you another expression of the spirit of that exaltation with which the Universal House of Justice opened the Fifth Epoch. May your services to the Cause in these opening years of this new millennium be rewarded with His abundant blessings and may we all continue to observe this Faith going from strength to strength in the years ahead. I hope, too, as I point out in the introduction to that first booklet of poetry I sent to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia in 1997, that future generations of international pioneers,1 generations that will see many more individuals come to Australia's shores, will enjoy the richness of experience this pioneer has enjoyed. and come to win, as Shoghi Effendi encouraged Australian Bahá'ís back in 1954, "a still greater measure of fame in the service"2 of the Cause.

1 I have defined a generation as 25 years and the four generations thus far are: 1921-1946, 1946-1971, 1971-1996 and 1996-2021.
2 Shoghi Effendi in Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand: 1923-1957, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia, 1970, p.122.


Ron Price
12 July 2001


CONVERSATION

60

Coming across Samuel Johnson’s essay on Conversation has stimulated this comment on the same subject after the experience of nearly forty years of pioneering over three epochs. “The faculty of giving pleasure is of continual use” says Johnson. Those who are able to give pleasure in this way are frequently envied and when they leave they are missed, he goes on in closing the first paragraph of his useful and pithy analysis. In my early years of teaching the Cause, of employment, of moving from place to place, I was not able, on entering a room, to bring a sense of felicity; when I left my departure was not lamented. My presence did not inspire gaiety nor enliven people’s fancy.

This inability was not due to lack of knowledge or a proportional lack of virtue; for in the first years of my service to the Cause as a pioneer I completed my high school, my university and my vocational training. I prayed frequently, read the Writings and, indeed, as I often point out to my son, my friends and associates, when the opportunity arises, I felt more virtuous than after these many years of life’s practice. Insensibly, after a decade as first a homefront and then an overseas pioneer, I found myself able to entertain, to give that pleasure which Johnson speaks of and which is, indeed, essential if one is going to be an effective teacher, either in classrooms or in a wide variety of other places promoting the teachings of Baha’u’llah. A forgiving eye, a sin-covering eye, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha calls it, is essential; for noone wants to be under the watchful eye of someone who feels some uncontestable sense of superiority. And I did feel that in those early years in the field. I felt a sense of moral superiority: clear, graphic, open, subtle, insinuating.

I did not possess a “wit whose vivacity”, as Johnson puts it, condemned “slower tongues to silence.” Gradually, I was able to hold my tongue and let others say their piece. My knowledge was not dominant, domineering; my critical eye was not pervasive; my reasoning did not condemn those whose minds were more idle. For to do so, as I was only too well aware, would be to obtain praise and even reverence from my fellows, but I would have been avoided and even feared. My words would not have attracted the hearts which was the essential prerequisite of the teaching process, in or out of classrooms. My aim was to please. And please I did. From February 1972, after ten years in the field, to April 1999 there was a reciprocality in the conversational process, mutual entertainment, but nothing too quick, too sprightly, too imaginative, nothing to distort the face without a deeper gladness of the heart underneath, as Johnson emphasizes in his criticism of the overly bright and enthusiastic.

Of course, there are usually many views of just how one is doing in life. My wife offers a more moderate, a more moderating tone and perspective on just how successful I am and have been, than my own more enthusiastic view. Many of my students found me a gentleman who approached saintliness, extreme knowledgeability and a delightful sense of humour. Other students would have gladly confined me to oblivion as a useless weed. One can not win the day in every way with everyone. We are all many things to many people. At the very least the pioneer must learn the art of loving, of pleasing, of bringing pleasure, reach as many hearts as he can. This was my own aim, my own particular approach. This is a long and extensive subject but, to start, he at least must have gladness in his heart and it is this gladness that is infectious, that attracts by example. But, again, this must not be carried too far, with too much intensity, too much brightness. A certain moderation of tone and demeanor is helpful.

Indeed, as Johnson goes on, a good-natured personality is important to bring to the conversational milieux. To take on board criticism, to be unmoved by whatever confusion and folly surrounds him and to be willing to listen; these are all essential and useful traints. All of this brings, promotes, induces, a certain cheerfulness, and sometimes friendship.

Of course, conversation is not all. Some of the ablest conversationalists I knew over those years, for the most part in the tenth and final stage of history, were people who suffered a great deal and found human interaction very frustrating. Although I was able to connect with hundreds of people in the small country town of Katherine from 1982 to 1986, I was not able to connect with my boss and I suffered a great deal from my inability to deal with him effectively. My talents in Perth did not enable me to work happily with the LSA in Belmont. After a dozen years in Perth I was worn out in spite of any verbal talents I had acquired.

There is a rhythm in life, in both conversations and in the flow of pleasure and pain to our sensory receptors; and our happiness in life depends to a very large extent on the depth of our understanding of this life process and our capacity to regulate our own life to its rhythm. Opportunity without capacity

produces stress. The pioneer is given many opportunities to find out the limits of his or her capacity. Stress is just part of the ride.


ESSAY NUMBER ONE


One never knows just what “the assigned measures of foregiveness”(The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, USA, 1985, p.80) one is provided with in life. I sometimes think, in recent years, that this pioneering account is going to be the story of the long road from belief to disbelief. Although I have discovered an artistic direction in the form of poetry, and although it has enriched my life immeasureably, my experience of community life, the pleasure I derive from reading the Writings, indeed most of my Baha’i experience, seems to be, in the words of Roger White’s poem “Erosion” making its season in my “fevered dreams” from which I “wake aghast” with my “trembling palms gummy with mould and knowledge.”(The Witness of Pebbles, p.72)

I trust with White that: “Neglect will foster, and dismay,
but fertilize its thrusting growth.”

I try not to “...........doubt that love
thrives in the desert
where the resolute verbena
unarrestably insinuates itself
through the socket of despair’s bleached skull.”(idem)

I have never in all my days, with the exception of times when I was ill with episodes of the bi-polar tendency and when Chris and I lived together before I was married in 1974, felt this estranged from Baha’i community life. I have already alluded to this syndrome in one or two of the updates to my autobiography, for it is a pattern that has been present now for several years in varying degrees. I honestly do not know what has caused this development; I have several theories. Like George Townshend who attributed “failure to some lack in himself.”(Hofman, p.186) I can see many personal weaknesses; or I can blame others. Both fields are fertile grounds for explanation.

Perhaps, like Townshend too, I am always ill at ease in some department of my life; and having gained some artistic ease and pleasure I must find a restlessness in some other area. Certainly the very intensity of my writing poetry and the pleasure it brings is difficult to equalize in other areas of life. Being spiritually unsettled seems to be a pattern in so many of the towns and cities of my life: either the belief is strong and centred and the everyday life is troubled; or, as is the case now, everyday life is peaceful and centred but “the resolute verbena unarrestably insinuates itself through the socket of despair’s bleached skull.”(White, p.72) The verbena here is belief itself which insinuates itself through my despairing experience of community life. So often I want to run away, but embarrassment prevents me. It is not unlike the experience I had when a youth and I wanted to run to restaurants as far away from the “conference centre” as possible. The internal attitude is not new.

Here I am at the outset of the 36th year of pioneering faced with spiritual tests that confirm Townshend’s experience that “the ways of Providence have always been, and still are, hard to understand.” (ibid., p.142)We can but observe, marvel at the results and accept what God has destined for us. Townshend’s disposition was, as is mine, “for privacy and poetry.”(ibid.,p.110) The call I hear, and have for years, is to prepare my mind and my tongue to serve the Cause. The place where this has been evident is in clasrooms and I have done a creditable seed-planting job in that domain of life. Here in Perth I have not been able to translate this into community life outside of Belmont. That was my initial desire when I came to perth in 1987; this initial wish has been fulfilled and now that this is so I feel disappointed. Such are the ironic twists of fate, of life, of one’s own doings.

In a letter Townshend wrote in 1929 he describes the influence of the Revelation on the souls of those who admit and welcome it. The letter is a long one and I won’t quote all of it here but simply express how accurate this letter is in expressing my own experience.(Hofman, pp.106-107) There is a pattern of sacrifice, a “foundation of sacrifice”(ibid., p.105) in the many years of my pioneering story. Here in Perth it seems to be manifest primarily in terms of a feeling of strangeness, alienation and distance from the wider community and a feeling of immense fatigue with the administrative process which yields ‘discouragingly meagre’ results years after year. This red and mystic way wears me to the bone and makes me want to withdraw into my poetry and privacy. Years of constant defeat and frustration on the teaching fronts have left their scars on my spirit in spite of all the outward appearances of happiness and success in my profession, in my writing and in my interaction with others.

One thing my cultivated distance and lack of involvement on the many committees and in the many programs in the Baha’i community these recent years-has accomplished is the development of that “well-ordered life of study and contemplation”(Hofman, p.230) which I was able to achieve after the approximately fifty hours a week attending to my various community responsibilities. I have been able to prepare my mind for the intellectual battles ahead, battles alluded to since at least the 1920s in the Baha’i Writings. Whether I will be of actual benefit to the Baha’i community in this way is difficult to know, even at this late hour. I try not to fret over my distance from my goal, the distance I still have to cover. There is plenty to do, to study, to write and, occasionally, to involve myself in the community.

I wonder if I have got my second wind, or if I am in the process of finding it.


Ron Price
8 October 1997


55

GOING HOME

This is a story about going home. But we all seem to go home in different ways. And for many home gets lost somewhere along the way. It was not hard to get lost or rather, should I say, the road is hard and long and, really, it is quite easy to get lost. But this is my story in the main with small parts of other people's stories thrown in for variety and to diffuse any impression of an incipient egotism or narcissism. My story is a type of autobiography with a little poetic license thrown in to keep the story smooth and appealing to my readers. Of course, I don't really know if I'll have any, readers I mean, but I prefer to start out with the assumption that I will. It makes writing the story easier: to know one will have readers that is. I suppose it is a bit like talking. You hope someone is listening.

Quite simply I could get on a plane and head for Canada and be back home in a few hours, to the place I grew up. This is the place which is without question "home". There would be the inevitable changes; there would be the continuities: the trees, Lake Ontario, the houses, the streets, the street names. I could walk around, and one day I will, and soak up the familiar places which have a certain magic in my brain, which play with images not seen for thirty years. There is an inarticulate melancholy associated with thinking about these places. But there is peace, a certain tranqillity, a sense of the completed that renews itself in a curious way when my memory brings it back. There is a loneliness and movement associated with these memories like trains you hear at night with their lonely whistles. There is also something strangely social, uniquely harmonious, about these distant images of people long since dead in places long since unvisited.

But, dear reader, this place on Lake Ontario is most likely not your home, unless you live somewhere in the Hamilton-Burlington-Toronto complex. You would most likely describe some other place; and if you are young it is quite possible that you are still living in the place of your birth. We all have such different perspectives on this place called home. My experience can only be yours in the broadest of senses. My story is, in many ways, quite ordinary, like your own. I can not spice it up with murders, rapes, violence, intrigue, special excitements, only the special quality that makes me who I am. Maybe you can get a flavour of the something special that is you as you read this story.

I don't need to go back to Canada, though, to go home. Home is the many places I have been, some twenty-five towns, the many places I have yet to go and where I am right now. Home and I are what you might call a "web of sensibility". What I will be communicating with you in this story is the changing web of this sensibility. I trust you will find yourself in this web. I won't be creating someone to believe in. This is no novel of heightened sensibility with the necessary techniques of impression management to keep you on the edge of your seat, or simply just reading more. In some ways this is just the ordinarily ordinary, the humanly human. There is nothing larger than life, no excessive vitalism, no injected emotionalism here. There is an envelope of private experience here which I think is sufficiently similar to the envelopes of others that some of them will enjoy opening the envelope and reading the contents.

This envelope contains loneliness, joy, sorrow, estrangement, the sexual, the cruel, the kind, the sensitive, the insensitive, the social, the private, indeed most of what it is to be a human being in these last decades of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first. I'm going to take my story back, make a beginning, in the lives of my great-great-grandparents who lived in Wales, England and France. There is very little, if anything, I can actually say about them. My grandparents wrote or said little to nothing about them. I can not with any absolute definiteness of detail link my great-great-grandparents with these three countries.

But during the period when the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh unfolded their respective Revelations in the years from 1844 to 5 August 1872, the day when my grandfather was born, one Alfred Cornfield, I have no knowledge of my family's history. There are twenty-eight years without a trace of information to draw on to construct my extended autobiography, extended back to the first information about my family. In 1872 Bahá'u'lláh was confined within the walls of the prison city of Akka where he had been for four years. Here and at Bahji nearby He would remain for the rest of His life. My family history begins at this point, although my own personal story would not begin for another 72 years. By the time my own autobiography would begin only my grandfather, from that generation, the generation born before 1900, would still be alive.

This grandfather was my mother's father. He has written an account of his life up to 1900, the year of his marriage. That account was finally typed and copies sent to family members in 1980 under the title A.J. Cornfield's Story. This grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, died in 1958, five years after writing the forward to that book, nearly 400 pages in length. I was nine when he put the finishing touches to that book and the Bahá'í community was launching what it called the Ten Year Crusade: 1953 marked the beginning of the Kingdom of God on Earth. The mother temple in Chicago was completed that year and one hundred countries were opened to this newly emerging world religion.

The period after the marriage of my grandparents in 1900 until my birth in 1944 is not well documented. Indeed there is very little to add to the brief summary I have already written in the first volume of my Journal. Anyone wanting to know what has been written about my family for the period up to 1944 can examine both A.J. Cornfield's Story and my Journal, Volume 1. Such a person will seek in vain for much information on my father's side of the family, or my mother's mother and her family. Thanks to my grandfather and my mother there is at least a sketch going back to 1872.

One day I will summarize that sketch and attempt to compose a autobiographical narrative built upon that summary. For now, the above will serve as a tentative introduction to that autobiography.




Ron Price
3 October 1998


39


Usually I tell my classes that I am a Baha’i and in a typical year that means about three hundred students from late teens to late forties. Occasionally someone follows up my statement with a question to tell them more. Needless to say, I eagerly respond. In twenty-six years of teaching this has meant some six thousand students hearing of the Cause directly and having a Baha’i for a teacher. Thousands more would have heard of the Faith since usually I was the only Baha’i in the school. Each level: primary, secondary and post-secondary has had its story of various seed-planting experiences. Looking back over nearly three decades what surprises me and saddens me, somewhat, is the lack of response. Except for one year in a primary and one year in a secondary school, in 1970-1 and 1972 respectively, I can’t think of anyone actually joining the Baha’i Faith. There seemed to be something in the air in the early seventies.

I’m told there is something in the air again but, as yet, there is no evidence of it. One does get sad because of the gap between the expectation and the reality. I have for years developed a close relationship with my students. I know they have a high degree of respect for me. I know I am one of the most liked teachers. After an initial mention that I am a Baha’i, placing that mention in a context relevant to the discussion, I occasionally mention the word ‘Baha’i’, or the Baha’i Faith, hoping to get some response. Using the platform of a teacher in a school to promote the Cause is not something that I have ever regarded as a wise line: a gentle and appropriate, an occasional and fitting mention is all that seems wise.

Thusfar, the climate just does not seem conducive to a fruitful and extensive entry by troops. First, it would seem, the Cause must “become part of the consciousness and belief of the people that hear them.”(Entry By Troops, p.6)

Over the years when I bring the Cause to the attention of a class of students the word goes onto the soil but one gets little idea of just what the response is. Students seem to be largely disinclined to talk about my religion. They will talk about religion as a subject and the themes that are raised seem endless. But the Faith seems to awaken no special interest, at least no interest that students are generally willing to discuss. Occasionally I talk to one of my fellow staff members. Here one of two questions are raised, but rarely anything of a substantial nature. It has been this way for all of my teaching life as a pioneer, since 1962, except as I say, those two years in the early 1970s when some two dozen students actually joined the Cause. I have described this in my autobiography and it is not my intention to do so here.

The first memory I have of ‘entry-by-troops’ is in the mid-fifties. oF course, at the time the term was not used in the west. I think the Guardian first used it in a letter just before he died. An Arab friend of mine informs me that it is an Arabic expression. Whatever it’s origins it has been applicable to the Baha’i experience in the West for four decades, but not to the experience of many individual Baha’is. Most of the response has been, as I’ve said on numerous occasions quoting the Universal House of Justice, discouragingly meagre. At one level I have made an enriching and significant contribution to the spread of the Cause; at another level I have just been one of the thousands of souls who have planted seeds without much visible response. The classroom, although a potential source of future converts, has yielded very little. At least the exercise has been an enjoyable and happy one, if tiring.

There is a Regional Teaching Conference today on the process of entry-by-troops. I decided several weeks ago, when I first saw the notice in The Eagle, I would not go. I do not think I could bear all the enthusing and I would not want to be a damper on these enthusiasms. We, Baha’i communities, have been talking about this process for six or seven years; I have been involved with this Cause for forty years. It has all been a slow process with little overt response and I have become tired of talking about teaching. I do the best I can; at least I say I do, I suppose one never really does one’s best because one can always do better. Some thirty LSA meetings annually for seven years, a multitude of special committee meetings, interminable discussions at Feasts, RTC exercises, conferences and informal conversations since coming to Perth in late 1987, added onto thirty years of more of the same in a host of other places, and one gets a little worn thin to put it mildly and utterly exhausted with the subject to put it boldly. In some ways it is not so much the subject itself that is the problem, it is that so few show any genuine interest and the few one does get into a conversation with present such a ‘mess of intellectual pottage’ for the brain that one often wishes one hadn’t raised the subject in the first place.

I find teaching the Cause is a little like sharing my poetry with people. It often requires such an elaborate explanation and rational processing that, by the time one has finished ‘explaining things’, one often wishes one had kept one’s poems in the file. From time to time I read a few poems to a group. They don’t know what to say; a gentle murmur of interest is expressed, perhaps out of kindness, and I wonder to myself it has been worth it. Sometimes a deep-and-meaningful conversation results, a conversation that goes down a labyrinthine channels where the Cause gets waylaid on the side of the river or falls quickly to the riverbed near the start of the journey.

Surely, it is not all as bad as that. Well, actually it is. It is far worse, but we don’t like to admit it or talk about it because we need the enthusiasm to keep on going and honest talk seems to put people off. People see one as a dampener of enthusiasm, a negative thinker, one of the unfaithful. As I said above, except for those two years in the early 1970s few have joined the Cause in the west. I can point to one here and one there: one in four years in Katherine, one in Zeehan, one in Launceston, one or two a year for seven years in Perth. My wife became a Baha’i in 1974 in Launceston. If I was a door-to-door salesman I would have been fired long ago. Thankfully, I’m not and the approach is more gentle. Inevitably, one battles on in classrooms and on the road. And joy comes trickling down the stream because there is a pay-off. However meagre the response, however frustrating the effort, the battle must be waged. Teaching must be attempted and the angels of heaven give us their hidden and not-so-hidden graces.


45

SHORT ‘EULOGY’ ON RAY MEYER: 5 MINUTES: AT PRAYER EVENING AT SHARAFIZADS ON 19 NOVEMBER

I don’t recall ever saying more than a few words to Ray over the many years we served the Cause, as we all serve the Cause in our different ways, in Australia. I didn’t know him well. I do know he was for many years the head of the department of Social Sciences at the Goulburn College of Advanced Education in NSW. As far as I know this is the highest academic/administrative position held by a Baha’i in a College of Advanced Education in Australia.

Ray was also on the NSA of the Baha’is of Australia for many years in the 1970s and 1980s. The exact years he served in that capacity I do not know. On two occasions I heard him give a talk; on two or three other occasions I attended a Baha’i function in one of the eastern states which he also attended. I was always impressed with his kindness. I always thought he would have made a good Canadian since ‘Abdu’l-Baha said that was a quality the Canadians possessed.

I remember receiving from him a letter in 1989, when he was the Australian Children’s Education Task Force secretary. He thanked me for a paper I had written for the Task Force on Education that had been established at the International Teaching Centre. He did not say a great deal but his generous praise, in a footnote, to this formal letter put the stamp of his kindness and generous spirit on what would have otherwise been but a routine letter.

I was told that after he retired from his employment and from his Baha’i work on the NSA in the early 1990s that he wrote some poetry, in these the evening years of his life. It is difficult for poets to get published in these hours and days when Baha’i publishing houses have other publishing priorities. I look forward to reading his poetry one day. I’m sure it will represent the mature thoughts of a kind and sensitive man, a man who served the Cause in the third and forth epochs of the Formative Age, a man who served the Cause with distinction and who earned the admiration of many of his fellow believers throughout this land.

I’m sure a study of the dozens of back issues of the Australian Baha’i Bulletin, the NSA minutes, the Australian Children’s Education Task Force minutes, and other committee minutes and correspondence, unbeknownst to us here, would reveal a more detailed record of his many years of dedicated service to the Faith in Australia, a record I am not able to dig up at this time.

In the last letter written by the beloved Guardian on 19 July 1957 to the Baha’is of Australia, about three and a half months before his passing, Shoghi Effendi summarized, in the last paragraph of that letter, the first thirty-six years of the Australian Baha’i experience. The Guardian referred to “the undimmed vision”, the “redoubled vigour”and “the unwavering fidelity and constancy”1 that had been at the core of Baha’i experience in Australia. It was his expressed hope, in these his last words, that these qualities would continue to characterize Baha’i experience here “as the days go by”.2 Ray Meyer contributed his part to justifying the Guardian’s hopes.

We trust Ray, called now to that “undiscovered country” as ‘Abdu’l-Baha referred to the next life, will be enjoying that “garden of happiness”, cleansed “with the most pure water” and beholding God’s “splendours on the loftiest mount.”


Ron Price
19 November 1996

1 Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand: 1923-1957, NSA, Australia, 1970, pp.139-140.
2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, USA, 1985, p.46.


INTRODUCTION


When I first came to Perth in 1987-8 I began a series of biographical sketches. By 1992 I had ceased making these sketches. On May 17th 1991 I sent three volumes of notes to the Darwin LSA and ceased any work on the “History of the Baha’i Faith in the NT and Northwest Australia”. That effort had contained a good deal of biographical material I had written from 1982 to 1987. About one decade, then, of biographical work came to an end in that Holy year.

There were several reasons for this: (I) the response to what I had written seemed so far from enthusiastic as to be possibly determental to the Cause, in spite of the best of British intentions; (ii) my new interest in autobiography, essays and poetry, emerging clearly by 1992 and (iii) the difficulty of getting material from the people I did get to know in Perth. There seemed to be a positive disinclination on the part of most people I met to have anything about them written at all. Over the first five years in Perth I wrote approximately ten pages of material on several people I had got to know.

I began collecting notes and photocopies of information about biographies and, by early 1996, I had collected some sixty pages of interesting resource material. Biographies began appearing, about the time I began writing extensively in the early 1980s: in the Baha’i community. I was not interested in taking on any serious book-length exercise, but I was interested in writing short character sketches. Most of what I was reading about biography applied to major studies.
Like Andre Maurois, perhaps the world’s greatest biographer thusfar, I was searching for the formula for the short character sketch. Perhaps I should read collections of essays. I have and I will. In the meantime some of the literature on biography is useful to me in defining my perspectives. J.A. Symonds, for example, says there is an “undefinable flavour of personality...which repels or attracts, and is at the very root of love or dislike.(Virginia Woolf, Collected Essays, Vol.2, The Hogarth Press, London, 1967, p.273) Virginia Woolf says we get glimpses of that personality, but never really find it. The vast majority of lives remain nameless and traceless to history, she goes on.(p.221)
She traces a brief history of biography, but it is not my intention to review that history here. I think I have, to some extent, acheived in some of the sketches I have written, the intensity of poetry and something of the excitement of drama in the context of fact. Perhaps I will rediscover this process in future efforts. I am only at the beginning of my efforts, as biography itself, as Woolf points out, is only at the beginning of its journey. I shall strive, in the years ahead, to make some good mini-biography, if that is an appropriate term for my end products, my outlines, sketches, my fertile facts, my creative facts. Perhaps something can live on in the depths of the mind, some bright scene, some startling recognition. Perhaps something useful, significant, can be found; perhaps, like Boswell, I can invest the ordinary facts with “a kind of hyperactuality and heightened import.” (Wimsatt, Images of Samuel Johnson, p.359)
Perhaps a man should not live longer than what he can meaningfully record; like a farmer, he should plant only what he can gather in. Writing biographies can give me another feather in my bow, so to speak. Thusfar, the initial enthusiasm has become a laborious drudgery and so I have discontinued the exercise of writing biography. I am so disinclined to participate much social intercourse that it is not surprising that writing biographies does not take place. I felt a strong affinity to Nathaniel Hawthorne and particularly the description of his life in The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Vol.xvp.61) Here George B. Loring discusses Hawthorne’s anti-social proclivities which may be a useful basis for novel writing but not necessarily for biography writing.
The above will serve as a general introduction to my efforts to write biography and one day, when the need arises, I will revise the above.
10 January 1996
PREFACE TO THIS ESSAY COLLECTION
Most of the material in this collection falls into the category of essay. A small portion of what is found here belongs to other genres: short-story, letter, indeed an odd assortment of this and that. Some has been published and but most not so. All of it is useful insofar as the autobiographical thrust of my writing is concerned. What I’d like to do here is make some introductory comments about essay writing, the major genre in this collection of material.
In 1580 Montaign published a selection of his essays. My first published essay was in 1983 in Katherine, four hundred and three years later. Essays, I realize now, a dozen years later, are autobiographical, particularly in the sense that they tend to prescribe a certain philosophy of life. The essayist’s truths are “for me” and “for now”, personal and provisional as Graham Good says in his The Observing Self: Rediscovering the Essay(1988). There is an unsorted wholeness of experience which can only be held together by the concept of the self, Good argues. The essayist communicates as himself. Montaign did this four hundred years ago and I do this in my essays. The study of one man is one way to study humankind. The essayist is typical of how we experience ourselves as untypical. He is typical insofar as he focuses on experience. The intellect is part of that experience. For some, like Montaign, the cultivation and pleasure of the intellect stands out in the essay. So, too, does a humility and unassuming quality. Whoever the essayist, the human being behind the words stands revealed.
William Hazlitt possesses an extreme skepticism in all things. The more evidence we accumulate about others, Hazlitt would argue, the more complex and difficult the assessment of others. His preference is for the solitary. Company inhibits spontaneity. Bacon is a practical man whose essays serve as counsel to harmonize self-interest and public interest. Dr. Johnson is an acute observer and offers up essays like TV programs or newspapers. Henry James is guide, interpreter and provider of vicarious experience. The detailed describer of settings, James did what I do very little of, except on rare occasions. Virginia Woolf sees the self in socio-historical terms as part of one large piece of art and moments of being are the crucial centre pieces. Each essayist has their own particular perspective, philosophy and style. And I have mine. In some of my essays I allude to my aims and philosophies.
The essayist goes out into the foray anticipating anything, seeing virtually everything and anything as fodder for his pen, his essay. The basis of his involvement is disinterested curiosity, contemplation, spontaneity, eagerness. The essayist accepts a basic fluidity to his self, his experience, his understanding: what he records is provisional and any truth he sees is part of his relationship with his reader. This relationship is characterized by friendship. Essay writing began for Montaign as a substitute for conversation. It was a friendly dialogue. It shows the process and flow of thought, open, receptive and often untidy. This is true of me, of my essays, which function in part as a substitute for conversation which I have grown tired of for various reasons.
There is an intuitive intensity in the essay that is directed toward the mystical moment of union between outer and inner, between soul and form. It is this which makes for refreshing autobiography. In the essay it is the process of judgement that counts not the judgement. The essayist is a combiner, a producer of configurations who declares a direction after a play of ideas and images, after presenting a constellation of material. The essayist is a coordinator, a crystalliser, an interweaver, an interpenetrator. At the heart of the essay is a moment where the self, the writer, finds a pattern in the world and the world finds a pattern in the self. Essays are unquestionably a useful extension of the autobiographical focus in Pioneering Over Three Epochs.
The first essay in this collection is an ‘introduction’ to the published essays I wrote in Katherine between 1983 and 1986. These essays appeared in Katherine papers and may be the first extended series of serious essays in the popular press by a Baha’i in Australian Baha’i history. I do not know. I sent them to the BWCL several years ago. Now the essays have a fitting introduction, one I am happy with anyway.
These essays, in the pages that follow, might one day appear in a collection of published essays. For several reasons they are not the kind of writing that Baha’i publishers are interested in putting on the market. Other publishing priorities are paramount. They contribute to my story in ways that my poems do not and so I include them here in this booklet. With the unpublished essays I have already sent and the published ones this should bring the total number of essays to two hundred, or about one hundred and fifty thousand words.
Ron Price<

31 January 1998
PIONEERING OVER FOUR EPOCHS



SECTION VI.1
UNPUBLISHED ESSAYS/WRITINGS
VOLUME 1: 1979-2002
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
These essays were first gathered together in 1996, some 17 years of mostly unpublished but also some published pieces. There were, of course, essays written before 1979 back as far as 1962 and before, for many years before the first essay appearing here but, except for a small handful of pieces, none of them has survived here or in other collections of my writing. I continued adding essays to this collection after 1996 and, by the end of 2002, I needed to open a second volume since there was no more room in this arch-lever file. That second volume contains essays for the period 2003 to the present. A great number of the essays in the second volume were placed on the internet and I consdier these in the ‘published’ category.
In 1979-80 I found myself unemployed for at least half of the time. After five years teaching in post-secondary education(1974-78), six years in primary and secondary education as a teacher(1967-1973) and five years as a student at the start of my pioneering life(1962-1967) when I wrote or read an uncountable number of essays none of which has survived, I began writing essays that, for various reasons, I began to keep. The first volume of essays(1979-2002) contains some 125 pieces. I was 35 years of age when I wrote the first piece for The Tasmanian Mail and 58 when I wrote the last piece here for the Australian Baha’i Bulletin. Some of the pieces here, like the last one named, did get published.
Ron Price

January 2003.
PIONEERING OVER FOUR EPOCHS
SECTION VI
VOLUME 2: PART 1
UNPUBLISHED WRITINGS/ESSAYS
A. 2003-2005
B. 1993-1994
Volume 1 of this two-volume set contains essays I wrote beginning in 1979. These essays were never published. In 1996, seventeen years after writing that first essay, I gathered together in one place the unpublished essays that I had written during that period. I have since then added to that original collection. The essays now total some 150.
After being treated for my bi-polar disorder in 1980, three strands of my writing began to emerge more fully: essays, poetry and novels. The third strand has been unsuccessful thusfar, although a dozen efforts can be found in Volume 3. The first two literary forms have gone ahead by leaps and bounds. In 2003 I opened this Volume 2: Part 1 for the essays written in that year and continued the volume to March 2005. Although this Volume 2 contains ‘unpublished essays,’ many of them appeared on the internet in a published form outside the hard cover. Volume 2: Part 2 began in March 2005.
Ron Price

March 9th 2005
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