2006 was the 12th year of placing poetry at Baha'i Library Online. It contains poetry written in the last four months of the Five Year Plan (2001-2006) and the first eight months of the following Five Year Plan (2006-2011). I wrote poetry as far back as the first year of my pioneering life in 1962. In 1980 I began to collect and archive my poetry.
Pioneering Over Four Epochs:
Section VIII: Poetry 2006
published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography
Note:The following prose-poetry needs to be written out in the conventional poetic form and I will do so when time and the inclination permits.
John Keats and Emily Dickinson among others used letters to transmit poetry, to formulate letters as poetry, to exploit the poetic and epistolary so that they inflect, enrich, even become one another. The blending of genres in various ways and for a wide range of purposes resulting in an even wider range of effects has become a popular sport in recent decades. I have come to see some of my own letters in a collection now spanning 50 years as a blend of genres. Indeed poetry and prose have become somewhat indecipherable in my mind's eye.
My poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements, echoes of the literature of the social sciences and humanities and a steady stream of references to and influences from Baha’i writings, history and teachings. This evening I was reading about the English poet George Byron(1788-1824). I was particularly struck by the fact that all of Byron's poetry is a blending of autobiographical elements and echoes of the literature he had absorbed over the years. And so I felt a certain affinity to Byron for this reason.
His poem Don Juan is considered the most autobiographical of Byron’s works. Almost all of Don Juan is real life either Byron’s or the lives of those whom he knew. Byron started writing Don Juan on July 3rd 1818, eight months after the birth of Baha’u’llah. He continued working on the poem in Italy and on his death in 1824 the poem remained unfinished. Don Juan was a, perhaps the, poem that the working class took to heart in the mid-19th century, so Friedrich Engles informed us in 1844. This poem reached the urban and rural poor and, for many, it was all they read besides the Bible. It is very likely that most of these readers did not read any of Byron's other works. As early as 1819 the work was regarded by the bourgeoisie as filthy and impious, although it was not fully published until 1901. He was regarded by Eliot as having contributed nothing and by Goethe as the greatest genius of his century. -Ron Price with thanks to Galit Avitan, “Publication Histories: Byron’s Don Juan,” Ashes, Sparks and Hypertext, 2000.
I came across an online seminar organized by the National Library of Australia entitled ‘Private Lives Revealed: Letters, Diaries, History’1 and was particularly struck with an article by a Peter Read: Private Papers and a Sense of Place. The article was an analysis of the verse of the nineteenth century English poet John Clare. Read saw Clare’s verse as an interesting example of what he called ‘private papers.’ Clare's poetry was so eclectic, his language so personal, his personal involvement so touching, that Read thought 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. However akin to private papers Clare’s poetry was, Read still thought Clare could have become one of the best-known poets of the nineteenth century. In discussing why Clare did not become such a poet, Read quotes the cultural historian John Barrell’s views on 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 as writers present about a particular place, event or person. The world view and life experiences of writers needs to find resonance with readers, if their writing is to be successful. Private papers often reveal such private emotions, and private emotions often reveal intense, ungeneralised concerns for particularities which hardly ever surface amongst the published, fictionalized and/or poetic works of professional writers. -Ron Price with thanks to 1“Internet Site,” National Library of Australia, 2006.
Some things, some qualities, some achievements, we wrestle from Fate and some we do not. It would appear from a cursory study of the writings of Baha’u’llah that there is nothing in life worth our wrestling from Fate. Fortunately, not all of life is Fate. “The Will of God,” Baha’u’llah writes, “is manifested in the world of being.”1 Humankind is continually changing the world of being, transforming it, cultivating it, studying its genes and molecules, its chromosomes and atoms with the view to improving the human condition.
It would appear from a cursory analysis of the history of the Baha’i community and the lives of its two chief precursors, Siyyid Kazim and Shaykh Ahmad, a period of more than two and a half centuries(1743-2006) that a succession of performances of a drama of Challenge-and-Response have taken place. Each of the responses was apparently but arguably successful in answering the particular challenge by which it had been evoked. Each response was also instrumental in provoking a fresh challenge which arose each time out of the new situation which that successful response had brought about. This repetitive, recurrent rhythm at the heart of the process of growth of the Baha’i Order is cumulative and continuous. In the context of this vast process over several centuries there is, as Toynbee describes, schism and palingenesia, an outward social disintegration and a regeneration or recurrence of birth.2 Ron Price with appreciation to 1-Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, Haifa, 1978, p.142; and 2Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History,Vol. 5, Oxford UP, 1962(1939), p.27.
Palingenesia is a Greek word
which occurs twice in the New
Testament1 and is translated as
Regeneration in the Holy Bible:
in the Authorized Version, anyway.
Plato first used this word
to describe the fresh start
which has to be made by
human society and it was
used again in 19372 to describe
an endlessly repeated cyclical
movement, a recurrence of
birth, of coming into existence,
of a progressive revelation,
of the periodic appearance
of a divine intervention in
human affairs, of a Cause
and a mysterious Effect—
new, wonderful configurations,
an ever-varying and effulgent
splendour of His Name: Creator!
1Mattxix, 28 and Titus iii,5.
2 At the start of the Seven Year Plan: 1937-1944
19 September 2006
A CURIOUS COINCIDENCE
The American Horror Film is now eight decades old. The genre had its origins in the 1930s just as the Bahá’í community was about to launch its first teaching Plan in the mid-1930s. While it is not my intention to try and survey the broad range of critical and cinematic material that belongs to the horror genre I will make some general remarks of a sketchy and superficial nature and draw some comparisons and contrasts with the evolution of the Bahá’í community in those eight decades. One can examine these eight decades of horror films using a number of fruitful and explanatory paradigms used by film critics and analysts. A study of horror and of Gothic, for example, can easily intersect. An engagement of horror with Gothic scholarship would seem a more or less necessary part of any introductory work on horror. -Ron Price with thanks to Alex Naylor, "A Review of Reynold Humphries' The American Horror Film: An Introduction," (Edinburgh University Press, 2003) in Scope: An Online Journal of Film Studies, November 2004.
As humanity was about to enter
the most perilous stage of its
existence seemingly coincidentally
the horror film arrived on the scene.
As if to counter the world's horrors
a Plan was devised and systematically
pursued across an immense field,
part of a holy, a stupendous enterprise,
a historic, a sublime mission, lending
a fresh luster to the unfoldment of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá's vision of our destiny.
As those horror films succeeded one
another in decade after decade this
vision and destiny were slowly fulfilled
in a series of turning points, with their
joys and triumphs, their brilliant victories
and their crises which from time to time
threatened to arrest the unfoldment and
blast all hopes the progress had engendered.
Ron Price 30 November 2006
A LONG ROAD
In September 1962 I began my life as a pioneer within the Baha’i community. That same month Playboy magazine printed its first interview.1 The interview was with jazz musician Miles Davis. I was too busy at the time starting out in my year of matriculation studies with nine subjects. I was also adjusting to a new town. It was also the last year of the ninth stage of history drawing on a Baha’i paradigm. I knew nothing of Miles Davis and no one I knew knew anything about the ninth stage of history. I kissed the second girl I’d ever kissed that year, but I’m not sure anyone knew about that either. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, April 3rd, 2006 and 1Playboy.com.
We saved the LSA that month,
those two old people, parents,
so long ago when I was only 18.
Miles was talking about being
able to do only one thing, blow
his trumpet and that’s about all
I could do too, studying nine
subjects was enough to keep
any normal man as busy as a
You had your problems with
people, too, eh Miles? Enough
to drive you to the edge like
my mother back about the same
time they elected the first House
of Justice in April of 1963.
You were always curious about
different kinds of music just like
my mother was curious about
different religions: that was
where it all started Miles.
Curiosity killed the cat:
that’s what they say, eh?
You were telling it strait Miles
about the Negroes back then,
about the hard work you did,
feeling empty, pleasing yourself,
the individuality of musicians:
all in Playboy magazine for
the first time. And the Baha’is
were starting to come out, too,
with that big congress in Albert
Hall in London. It was a different
kind of work that the Baha’is did.
But you--and they--had to learn
somehow to please yourself
or you’d go under because
everyone was different and
you often felt just as empty.
It would be a long road for
the Negroes and the Baha’is!
April 3rd 2006
A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS
The New Negro Movement, sometimes called the Harlem Renaissance, took place at the same time as the development of the Baha’i Administrative Order, 1921-1936. The Baha’i Faith in America evolved from a small local group to a national unit of a world society during these years.1 Some writers take the boundaries of the evolution of each of these movements from the late teens to the late thirties. In 1937 the Baha’is launched their first teaching Plan and in Harlem at the Apollo Theatre, the epi-centre for the largest urban centre for Negroes--some 400,000—Negroes were allowed to sit in with the whites for the first time anywhere in the USA—in back rows in upper balconies.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi & Baha’i History, Vol.1, Moojan Momen, editor, Kalimat Press, 1982, p. 255. There has been a relative paucity of scholarship on both the Baha’i movement for this period and the Negro movement; and 2ABC Radio National, “The Harlem Renaissance,” 2:00-2:30 pm, September 16th 2006.
Henry Gates1 said there were
four cultural renaissances for
African Americans and I’d say
they mirror the years of the first
century of the Baha’i Faith
in America: 1894 to 1994.
The Baha’i renaissances are
of a different order & quality.
But there was an optimism in
unrealistically high expectations,
a blinkeredness, understandings
beyond the reach of those times,
those generations but growing
now and underpinning a new
determination to serve a purpose
unfolding within an old obscurity
and a vision of world-shaping trends.
1 Henry Gates, “Harlem on Our Minds,” Critical Inquiry, Autumn 1997.
September 16th 2006
A NEW ORPHEUS IN OCTOBER ‘52
One of the major science-fiction writers of the 20th century was Kurt Vonnegut Jr. He was born right at the start, in the first year, of the first century of the Formative Age, in 1922. Kurt Vonnegut’s first book, a sci-fi thriller, Player Piano, was released in June of 1952, four months before the Ten Year Crusade was launched in October 1952. This was the eve of the Holy Year commemorating the centenary of the rise of the Orb of Baha’u’llah’s most sublime Revelation, the first intimation of His glorious Mission. The year I was born, 1944, the young adult, Vonnegut Jr., was taken prisoner by the Nazis; the year I joined the Baha’i Faith, 1959, Vonnegut published his second novel The Sirens of Titan. Vonnegut’s third major book was published the year of the first election of the Universal House of Justice, 1963. When last I heard, in 2006, Vonnegut had been lecturing at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and at Harvard University as well as being a Distinguished Professor at the City College of New York.-Ron Price with thanks to “Several Internet Sites,” Kurt Vonnegut Jr., June 2006.
You’ve been picking fun at the military,
religion and the establishment all my life,
Kurt—and you’re still at it. I’ve followed
you around ever since I was a kid with your:
skepticism, satire, poking fun at everything
in sight--bleakly comic, despairing of mankind:
you’d do well in Australia with your values!
Your autobiography was there in your books,
your views, your feelings about past, present
and future. You put your life into those books,
your inner struggles, a whole lot of stuff, Kurt!1
Yes, Kurt, you were like those sirens of old,
those sea nymths surrounded by dangerous
rocks—with your enchanting songs and those
who drew near were so often shipwrecked.
Like Odysseus I escaped your cynical songs,
tied as I was to the mast of another ship and,
like Jason and the Argonauts I was saved by
the music of a new-day Orpheus.
You should have heard Him;
Kurt, you should have heard Him!
1 Marek Vit, “Autobiography and Philosophy in the Personal Novels of Kurt Vonnegut: 1968-1979,” Kurt Vonnegut Corner, April 2nd 1998.
June 25th 2006
A PRECISIONED INSTRUMENT
In 1970, as I was preparing at the age of 26 to come to teach in Australia, Frederick Forsyth started writing his first novel. His novels were all spy-fiction pieces, thrillers of the first or the second order--or so it is said, for I do not read spy thrillers or, indeed, fiction of any ilk. In 1971, as I arrived in Australia, Forsyth's novel The Day of the Jackal hit the marketplace. It portrayed, among other things, a credible picture of the political landscape in France in 1963. In 1972, as I began teaching high school in South Australia, Forsyth's novel was made into a film. Twenty-five years later, in 1997, this spy-novel was made into a film again starring Bruce Willis as the hired assassin, as The Jackal. My life as a university student(1963-1967) and then as a teacher(1967-2005) has been bracketed by the events in this book and the two film versions that came after it. I saw the film for the second time last night many months after leaving my teaching role. This second viewing of a story that had its beginning at one of the historic junctures in Bahá’í history, in 1963, gave rise to the following prose-poem. -Ron Price, "The Jackal," TDT:TV, 10:30-12:30 October 21st 2006.
I often thought and felt there was
some metaphorical quality to the
themes of this book-film and I was
reminded of it yet again last night
as I watched The Jackal, as another
Five Year Plan slipped into the second
half of its first year and I slipped into
the fourth year of late adulthood.
A precisioned instrument is what one
needs to be as Doug Martin put it back
in '65 when I was 21 and as incapable
then as now of assassinating my lower
self, dispelling the darkness of the world
of nature,1 and driving it far, far, away.
One takes one's attack to the very centre
of the powers of the earth through a
superhuman service2 and a Plan one
carries to one's death in this winter
of unprecedented severity in these
years of gathering storm clouds
and the darkest hours before the dawn.
1 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, 1 p.67 and 2 p.22.
--Ron Price October 22nd 2006
A SINE QUA NON
Harold Pinter opened his 2005 lecture for the Nobel Prize in Literature with the following words: “There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.” He went on to say that he believed that these assertions made by him in 1958 still made sense and still applied to the exploration of reality through art. He said that as a writer he stood by these ideas, but as a citizen he could not do so. As a citizen, he said, he had to ask: What is true and what is false? And so do I. And as a citizen I ask the question and I answer: the Baha’i teachings.
Truth in drama as in poetry is forever elusive. You approach it, but you never quite find the whole of it. The search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly one of the major forces that drives the artistic endeavor. The search is a major task both in life and in art. Sometimes you stumble upon the truth in the dark, sometimes in the light; sometimes you collide with it or just glimpse an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art, as Pinter concluded or in poetry as I must conclude after more than 40 years of writing. There are many facets, angles, views or perspectives on truth. These perspectives on truth challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.-Ron Price with thanks to Harold Pinter, “Nobel Lecture: December 7th 2005,” The Nobel Foundation, 2005.
I have often been asked
how my poetry came about.
I have tried to answer this,
but I cannot say. Nor can
I ever sum up my words.
I often try, again, again.
I have often said that
such and such is what
happened. That is what
these poems have said,
what I think they have done.
I believe that despite the odds
against us, we need unflinching,
unswerving, fierce intellectual,
determination to define the truth
of our lives and our societies.
It is a crucial obligation which
devolves upon us all.
It’s mandatory, compulsory,
a sine qua non of our lives.
If such a determination is
not embodied in our vision
we have no hope of acquiring
1 Harold Pinter, “Nobel Lecture: December 7th 2005,” The Nobel Foundation, 2005.
January 2nd 2006.
A STRANGE AND ELUSIVE THING
As spring approached its mid-point in Tasmania I chanced upon the best library in the north of the state, the university of Tasmania library in Launceston. There I spent a pleasant hour before I started to get sleepy as I so often do and have in libraries in the last couple of decades of middle life. I had just been to the dentist that morning, had my first KFC lunch in three years and, before going home some 50 kms to George Town, I felt a need to do some browsing in the library as I have done in these first years of my late adulthood two or three times a year. It was not so much chance, then, that took me to the library as habit, custom, interest, desire even, as I say, need.
After taking half a dozen books off a shelf in the theatre and film section at the far end of the library, I sat down at a table near the photocopying machine, anticipating some copying of pages from the books I had selected. One of the books I had procured for my small pile was a thick 500+ page tome on the life of John Gielgud.1 I copied six pages from the book on Gielgud seeing the makings of a prose-poem which I would write when I got home. Perhaps these pages would just serve as some interesting information for the two arch-lever files I had on drama in my study. –Ron Price with thanks to 1Jonathan Croall, Gielgud: A Theatrical Life, Methuen, London, 2000.
As you say, John,
getting old is strange
somehow one never
thought it quite possible.1
The theatre was your life,
your hobby, joy, work,
occupation, vocation, habit,
avocation, obsession, your all.
Always you worked, solitary
man that you were, shy, timid,
cowardly, even, as you said,
enjoyed your own company,
aloof, impetuous, modest,
downplayed your successes.
There is much in these traits
that I see in myself, but the
essential admixture was not,
for me, the theatre, but a new
religion—the Bahá’í Faith.
And I, too, found growing old
a strange and elusive thing.
1Gielgud in ibid., p.514. -Ron Price October 11th 2006
A TITANIC UPHEAVAL
British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote that “When we see a creative spirit abandoning the traditional style of his society in any field of artistic activity and seizing upon some exotic style instead, we may suspect that the world on which he is turning his back is a ‘city of destruction’… or, in Platonic language, it is about to suffer the fate of foundering “in the fathomless gulf where all things are incommensurable.’1 Certainly in the arts in which I work, creatively and not-so-creatively, there is much that is, indeed, incommensurable. -Ron Price with appreciation to Plato, Politicus, quoted in Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Volume 4, Oxford UP, NY, 1939 (1962), p.27.
Creation, creativity, Arnold Toynbee goes on to say,1 “is a civilization’s raison d’etre. It has certainly become a good measure of my own raison d’etre. And as the foundering ship of my society has been quivering before her final plunge, I dive into the water of my own abilities and creativity and swim away with all my might. As “the most great convulsion” goes through its darkest hours, as the “blasts of His chastisement”1 beat upon humanity and as the driving power of some tempest sweeps across the face of the earth, I have seized upon many things in my life to bring me and my society alive and safe to our journey’s end. Early in my youth I became a strange passenger on a new, a subtle, a complex and untried craft, a new institutional matrix that had just been born as the tempest began to blow. Now, in the evening of my life, I have developed a style of writing which is not so much exotic as it is an amalgamation of styles in an effort to give expression to the wonderful and thrilling motion that had its inception in the earliest years of my life and is now permeating to all parts of the world. -Ron Price with thanks to 1ibid., p.79.
Long ago I broke out of my
hereditary social framework
in which I could not live and
have my being, in which my
creative powers simply could
not breath, dwell and survive
and I set myself into a new
framework in which my powers
insensibly found and were offered,
an outlet, a goal, a task, to help
bring into being a Wondrous Vision,
the brightest emanation of any man’s
mind and the fairest fruit of the fairest
civilization the world has yet seen.
The powerful operations of the
titanic upheaval of my time have
slowly become comprehensible
to the generations of the half-light.
They see its genesis, its direction,
its necessity, its mysterious processes
and they try to mitigate its fury
while anticipating with undimmed
vision the fears and hopes
it must necessarily engender.1
1 Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, 2nd Indian Edition, 1976, p.2.
April 25th 2006.
WRITING FOR A COTERIE
In the first line of Brendon Gill’s Introduction to The Penguin Dorothy Parker(an updated 1973 edition of the 1944 Portable Dorthy Parker) Gill writes: “There are writers who die to the world long before they are dead.” Sometimes this is a fate imposed on them by others. Sometimes this is due to the passing of a vogue of an earlier popularity and a descent into literary obscurity. The writer no longer effectually exists. It is a protracted life-in-death for them and it is especially striking when the writer’s success was in their youth.
My experience was the reverse of this life-in-death process. When I started writing seriously in the early 1990s, especially poetry, I had already died to the world. I had been a pioneer for 30 years, had a working life of 25 behind me and been a student for 18. Nearly 50, I was feeling a little thin on the ground, feeling a little of that old tedium vitae and wanted to get off the tread-mill of life. So, at the age of 55, with my final child graduating from university, I pulled the plug and when the year 2000 arrived I had begun a full engagement with writing.
My vogue of popularity until this point had nothing to do with writing; I had been, for the most part, a well-liked teacher, student and employee; and at least a reasonalbe parent and husband. I was not looking for any more popularity. Pioneering had brought great variety and challenge, stumulus, failure and success from the tundra to Tasmania. Adventure and the tests of life had been adequate to my growth and my desire for experience. Like Dorothy Parker I had died to the world. Parker did die in 1967 at age 74. I died to the world 25 years later, fatigued with life on that tread-mill. She had taken an unconscionably long time to leave the world. This may be my story, too. Time would tell. –Ron Price with thanks to Brendon Gill in The Penguin Dorothy Parker, Penguin, NY, 1973.
You ended in critical
Disregard for your work
by the sixties when I was
just starting out, why,
I hardly knew you;
you were an unknown.
Your reputation was only
among a coterie, a province
in the 20s and 30s in NY:
eastern, urban, intellectual,
middle class and they did
not matter by the 40s, 50s.
It is my hope that my writing
has your acute understanding
of human loneliness, cruelty,
stupidity, fortitude and absolute
fidelity to life; that my poetry
has your easy style and delicate
ear for speech; and that my
conversation is free of your
reckless and caustic remarks.
February 3rd 2006
Through a close reading of his first autobiographical sketches, dating from October 1798 through April 1799, one can demonstrate how Wordsworth creatively remembers his childhood in terms of the development of the powers of the imagination. In this six month period we find Wordsworth's earliest autobiographical attempt to trace the ontogeny of his imagination back to the dream state, to play, and to perceptual and conceptual blending. One could add the results of cognitive neuroscience, drawing on memory research, sleep research, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology, to add to Wordsworth’s ontogeny a phylogeny or evolutionary history of fictional cognition. The successful unfolding of the imagination, one could argue, is only possible when accompanied by adequate systems of source monitoring, defined as the capacity to distinguish between what originates in perception and what is the response of memory. The resulting tapestry aims to be sufficiently complex to permit the formulation of a neurological hypothesis about the self. There are traces of in a poetical fragment Wordsworth wrote as a commentary on this first period of composition: that the autobiographical self-as-being arises as a virus within the source monitoring system itself and functions to override the action of cognitive proprioception.
WONDROUS LEAPS AND THRUSTS
After three eons, from 4.6 billion years ago to 540 million years ago(mya) on the geological timescale, a scale initially constructed in the 19th century, the Earth entered the phanerozoic eon(540 mya to today). The first period or sub-division of our modern eon was the cambrian period from 540 mya to 505 mya. This cambrian period is divided by archeologists and paleontologists into four epochs. These epochs are geochronological units or chronostratigraphic unites. Periods are grouped into eras and the cambrian period is the first period of the paleozoic era in our modern phanerozoic eon. Epochs are divided into ages.-Ron Price with thanks to “Cambrian-Wikipedia,” Internet Site, 27 August 2006.
The first rocks in which are found
distinctly fossilizable, soft bodied,
marine, multi-cellular organisms,
trilobites, some fifty phyla with
different body plans—Cambrian.
This radiation of animal phyla without
evident precursors, the Cambrian explosion,
with four extinctions in this period due to
inability to tolerate shifts in climate,
this quadripartite structure of epochs
has some interesting parallels to epochs
in our time, an explosion without evident
precursors, without parallel in the history
of the planet—in my time—yes, my time.
The eras and ages, stages and phases,
plans and programs with their wondrous
leaps and thrusts, their dynamic advances,
their auspicious junctures, their incalculable,
their accumulated potential, their onrushing,
quickening winds, a climacteric of rampant,
mysterious, constructive forces, first stirrings
of planetization, new beginnings, fresh initiatives
and a solemn consciousness evoked—
wellspring of an exquisite celebratory joy.
28 August 2006