Music, theatre, dance, dramaturgy, the graphic arts, cartooning, the performing arts, film, publishing, galleries, museums, and the visual arts have played an important part in the life of humankind--and in my poetry.
I take the 1740s as the starting point for the themes discussed here in a prose-poetic fashion. Shaykh Ahmad, one of the two critical precursors to the Babi-Baha'i messianic experience of the 19th century, was born at this time. In some ways the Babi-Baha'i story goes back to the life of Shaykh Ahmad. At least it did for Nabil in his account, and it does in my variegated poetic tableaux of the arts. By 2015 I had retired from all FT, PT and casual paid-employment, and had re-created myself as a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, reader and scholar, online blogger and journalist.
In the year 1742 Handel's Messiah was first performed in Dublin and one could list many events from the first decades of this story of the arts since this first performance. Readers will find poetic and prose accounts of various types of artistic, musical and intellectual experience in the last two-and-three quarters of a century integrated into a Baha'i and a personal perspective, 1740 to 2015.
The events and the themes discussed within these fields of the creative and performing arts continue until 1992, an auspicious juncture in the history of the Baha'i community, the Holy Year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah in 1892. These events then continue on (a) to the opening of the Terraces and the Arc on Mt. Carmel in 2001: the opening of the 21st century, the opening of the third millennium in the main calendar of western civilization, and (b) to the present, to 2016, as a new Baha'i culture of learning and growth had been developing for two decades.
There is no attempt to be comprehensive, sequential or authoritative. For the most part what follows is a serendipitous and prose-poetic rendering of my own experience and interests as well as my little knowledge of the burgeoning fields of the arts and the Baha'i Faith over the period in question up to this year: 2016.
275 Years of the Creative and Performing Arts: 1740-2015:
Pioneering Over Four Epochs, Section VIII Poetry
published in Pioneering Over Four Epochs: An Autobiographical Study and a Study in Autobiography
SOME COMMENTS ON MODERN HISTORY
Modern history, also referred to as the modern period or the modern era, is the historiographical approach to the timeframe after the post-classical era (known as the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period, beginning with the Renaissance, and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. The following prose and poetry is relevant to this late modern period.
Historians consider the early modern period to be approximately between 1500 and 1800. It follows the Late Middle Ages period and is marked by the first European colonies, the rise of strong centralized governments, and the beginnings of recognizable nation-states that are the direct antecedents of today's states. The 60 year period: 1740 to 1800 I take as the transition years from early to late modern.
In this early modern period Africa and the Ottoman Empire, the Muslim expansion took place in North and East Africa. In West Africa, various native nations existed. The Indian Empires and civilizations of Southeast Asia were a vital link in the spice trade. On the Indian subcontinent, the Great Mughal Empire existed. The archipelagic empires, the Sultanate of Malacca and later the Sultanate of Johor, controlled the southern areas. In Asia, various Chinese dynasties and Japanese shogunates controlled the Asian sphere. In Japan, the Edo period from 1600 to 1868 is also referred to as the early modern period. And in Korea, from the rising of Joseon Dynasty to the enthronement of King Gojong is referred to as the early modern period.
In the Americas, Native Americans had built a large and varied civilization, including the Aztec Empire and alliance, the Inca civilization, the Mayan Empire and cities, and the Chibcha Confederation. In the west, the European kingdoms and movements were in a movement of reformation and expansion. Russia reached the Pacific coast in 1647 and consolidated its control over the Russian Far East in the 19th century. Later religious trends of the period saw the end of the expansion of Muslims and the Muslim world. Christians and Christendom saw the end of the Crusades and end of religious unity under the Roman Catholic Church. It was during this time that the Inquisitions and Protestant reformations took place.
The above story is long and complex and I leave it to readers with the interest to define for themselves just what constitutes modern history.
Messiah is probably the oldest work to remain consistently in the repertory of so-called "classical music." I take the first performances of Handel's famous work in Dublin and then London in 1742 and 1743 respectively as a possible beginning point for this particular document at BLO. The birth of Shaykh Ahmad is sometimes seen as 1742/3, but more usually in 1753. He began his travelling and teaching in the 1780s or, perhaps, the early 1790s.This is the starting point for this long posting, these musical, these artistic, these aesthetic juxtapositions. Ostensibly Handel's Messiah functioned to tell ordinary people who could not read the story of Jesus. Messiah has always seemed to me to be the most fitting piece of classical music as an announcement for the coming drama of the Babi and Bahai Revelations in history.
The 1754 performance of Messiah at a hospital is the first for which full details of the orchestral and vocal forces survive. The orchestra included fifteen violins, five violas, three cellos, two double-basses, four bassoons, four oboes, two trumpets, two horns and drums. In the chorus of nineteen were six trebles from the Chapel Royal; the remainder, all men, were altos, tenors and basses. Frasi, Galli and Beard led the five soloists, who were required to assist the chorus. For this performance the transposed Guadagni arias were restored to the soprano voice. By 1754 Handel was severely afflicted by the onset of blindness, and in 1755 he turned over the direction of the Messiah hospital performance to his pupil, J.C. Smith. He apparently resumed his duties in 1757 and may have continued thereafter.
The final performance of the work at which Handel was present was at Covent Garden on 6 April 1759, eight days before his death, and 200 years before I joined the Bahá'í Faith one October evening in 1959.Any comprehensive history of classical music goes well-before the 1740s but, again, I lave it to readers to excavate those earliest beginnings.
The birthdate of Shaykh Ahmad seems debatable, as I say above, with various years from 1742 to 1753 as various possibilities. In some ways the Bahai story could be said to begin with the birth of this great religious figure, leader, mystic and precursor of the Babi-Bahai revelations. I hope readers who come to this site find some of the material which follows of interest. It is a pot pourri of stuff. The creative and performing arts: music, dance, theatre, drama, literature, poetry, inter alia, are an industry with many branches. Only a few twigs on these branches are examined here in a prose-poetic fashion. I wish you happy travelling.
In addition to the prose found here, readers will find much devotional poetry. Devotional verse takes many forms. George Herbert, perhaps the greatest devotional poet of all, contemplates the limits of the self, and human life. I contemplate all sorts of things and, although I am aware of Herbert, I do not try to imitate his style and content.
Publishing has burgeoned since 1740, and even moreson since, say 1890, 150 years later.Technically speaking: radio, television, cinemas, VCDs and DVDs, music systems, games, computer hardware and mobile telephony publish information to their audiences. Indeed, the marketing of a major film often includes a novelization, a graphic novel or comic version, the soundtrack album, a game, model, toys and endless promotional publications. Some of the major publishers have entire divisions devoted to a single franchise, e.g. Ballantine Del Rey Lucasbooks has the exclusive rights to Star Wars in the United States; Random House UK (Bertelsmann)/ Century LucasBooks holds the same rights in the United Kingdom. The game industry self-publishes through BL Publishing/Black Library (Warhammer) and Wizards of the Coast (Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, etc.). The BBC has its publishing division that does very well with long-running series such as Doctor Who. These multimedia works are cross-marketed aggressively and sales frequently outperform the average stand-alone published work, making them a focus of corporate interest.
A SUMMARY OF RON PRICE’S INTERNET PUBLISHING
“HIS CUP OF PUBLISHING TEA”
I have outlined below(in 1400 words and four pages(A-4 font-14) several categories of my writing and of my writing projects of varying sizes, genres and subjects on the internet. Readers can gradually get into whatever categories of my work they desire, if at any time they do in fact want to read any of my work today or over the next few days, or over the next few weeks or months, years or decades. The following items went onto the internet in the period, the dozen years from 2003 to 2015. The following outline is a presentation of what might be called my marketing strategy, my business plan, a plan and a strategy given the limitations of my technical internet skills and, of course, as time and personal circumstances permit. I noticed that "Mike C" suggested I post a link. That was a good idea and I will do that in future posts which are, like this, a long one.
I sometimes refers to this plan as my modus operandi, my MO as they say in the who-dun-its. It is a strategy that has evolved during the 18 years that I've had my own personal webpage: 1997 to 2015. In some ways what I write below is an outline of this small literary business, how I operate it, how I have built it up, its raison d’etre and where it seems to be going if, indeed, it is going anywhere at all—and certainly from my several perspectives it is. I had no idea back in the last years of the 20th century, as I was finishing by career as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator, that I would come to have millions of readers. It would have been inconceivable then, and it is hardly even believable now.
Of course, as that famous poet of the 20th century, T.S. Eliot, who wrote was is perhaps the most famous poem of that century--The Wasteland--has emphasized: a poet and author should be prepared to see, in the end, that of all of his writing has been a complete waste of his time. Fame and wealth will elude me, but with 32 years in classrooms as a teacher and another 18 as a student, I've had enough recognition and positive feedback to last me a lifetime. Half a century in classrooms interacting in a host of ways with literally 1000s of people over those 50 years has been enough interaction for a lifetime. Cyberspace and a little interaction in real space is enough for me now.
Half a century in educational institutions has been a relevant background for my present and various roles of writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, online journalist and blogger, scholar and my own personal office assistant. These are roles in which I have reinvented myself in these years of my retirement from the job world: 1999 to 2015. Most of my writing is free of any cost, although some of my self-publishing material costs anywhere from $3 to $20 at self-publishing sites like Lulu and eBook Mall. I have made about 10 cents/per annum since I first self-published and so this is no money-making exercise...nor is this post intended to help other writers make money. If I was interested in making money, and if that was my aim: I would starve and never be either rich or famous.
There are three general categories of printed matter, of my own writing, that I have placed on the world wide web. These categories are:
1.1. The Emergence of a Baha’i Consciousness in World Literature: The Poetry of Roger White. This 300 page ebook is available at Baha’i Library Online at this link: http://bahai-library.com/price_poetry_roger_white Parts or all of this book can be accessed at many places on the internet.
1.2. A paperback edition of the above book is available at Lulu.com for $11.48 plus shipping costs from the USA. This self-publishing site also has a five volume, four book, work. That work is a study in autobiography entitled Pioneering Over Five Epochs. It now totals some 2600 pages, or four 650 page books. It is available as an ebook in three parts at: http://bahai-library.com/author (Readers have to type my name 'Price' into the search box to access my writings) It has now been reviewed and approved for publication as an ebook by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.
1.3 My internet set, also entitled Pioneering Over Five Epochs at: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/index.html ...has some 60 books at 80,000 words per book. The site is in the 5th year of its 4th edition. Readers need only google the words: Pioneering Over Five Epochs to access my website or, as I say, go to this link: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/
2. Internet Site Postings:
Essays, poems, parts of my autobiography or memoir and a wide variety of postings, of my writings, in smaller, more manageable, chunks of a paragraph to a few pages are all free and can be accessed by simply: (a) going to any one of approximately 8000 sites or (b) typing some specific words into the Google search engine as indicated in the following:
2.1 Approximately 8000 Sites:
I post at a wide range of poetry, literature, social science and humanities sites, physical, biological and applied science sites across a diverse mix of subjects, topics and intellectual disciplines in both popular and academic culture. The list of these sites is available to anyone interested by writing to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. But a simpler method for readers to access many of my postings would be to:
2.2 Type Sets of Words At Google:
There are literally hundreds of sets of words now that will enable readers to access my writing at various sites. If you type, for example, Ron Price, followed by any one of the following words or word sequences: (i) poetry, (ii) literature, (iii) religion, (iv) Baha’i, (v) history, (vi) Shakespeare, (vii) ancient history, (viii) philosophy, (ix) Islam, (x) Australia Baha’i and (xi) pioneering over five epochs, et cetera, et cetera, you will get anywhere from a few sites to over 150 sites arranged in blocks of ten internet locations. This last site, “pioneering over five epochs”, is a particularly fertile set of words to type into the google search engine, although there are other sets of phrases that will yield a fertile list of my writings in prose and/or poetry.
The main problem with this latter way of accessing what I have written is that my work is side by side with the items of other writers and posters who have the same name as mine and/or the same topic. I have counted between 4000 and 5000 other Ron Prices and I'm sure there are more. You may find their work more interesting than mine! There are some wife bashers, a pornographer or two, car salesmen, evangelists, media celebrities, indeed, a fascinating array of chaps who have different things to sell and advertise, different life trajectories and claims to fame than my life and my offerings. If you type/google the words Ron Price followed by some topic/word of an academic, literary, poetic or subject of personal interest, you will: (a) eliminate some of the other Ron Price’s and (b) have access many sites with my writing.
3. Specific Sites With Much Material:
Some sites have hundreds of pages of my writing and these sites are a sort of middle ground, a different ground, between the two major categories I have outlined above. The Baha’i Academics Resource Library(BARL) (or Baha’i Library Online), for example, has more of my material than at any other site. My writings are listed there under: (a) books, (b) personal letters, (c) poetry, (d) biographies and (e) essays, among other categories/listings. The Roger White book is at BARL under “Secondary Resource Material>Books>Item #changes. I find this site useful personally, but some of the poetry is not arranged in a visually pleasing form. Readers should click on “By author” at the top of the access page, then type “Price” into the box and some 50 articles/documents will appear/be accessible.
There are some sites at which my writing is found in a very pleasing form with photos and pictures and general settings to catch the eye. Some site organizers have their location beautifully arranged. I leave it to readers to read what pleases them and leave out what doesn’t. When one posts as much as I do, one often writes too much, says the wrong things or upsets an applecart or two. It's part of the process. In cyberspace, as in the real world, you can't win them all. The pioneering over four epochs word sequence is, as I’ve said, a useful word package to access some 150 sites with my writing and has no competition from other ‘Ron Prices.’
I had no idea when I retired from full-time employment in 1999, from PT employment in 2001 and from much volunteer work in 2005, to write full-time that the internet would be as useful a system, a resource, a base, for my offerings as it has become. There are, as I say, literally millions of my words in many a genre now on this international web of words that I have written in the last dozen or so years (2002-2015). From the early eighties to the early years of this new millennium I tried to get published in a hard or soft cover, but without any success.
My guess is that in the years ahead the world will be awash with books and various genres of printed matter from millions of people like me posting various quantities of their writing. In some ways the world is already awash with print as it is awash with audio-visual products. The print and electronic media have got something for everyone these days, probably more than most people can assimilate.
What I write will not be the cup-of-tea of all readers. This goes without saying. If that is the case readers are simply advised to drink someone else’s tea from someone else’s cup. There is something for everyone these days in both hard and soft cover and on the Internet. If readers don’t like my work or someone else’s go to sources of printed matter they like.
For those who already do or may in the future come to enjoy my writings, I hope the above is a useful outline/overview. For those who don't find what I write attractive to their taste, as I say, the above will give you a simple handle to avoid as you travel the net. I wish you all well in your own endeavors in the path of writing or whatever path you travel down.
FOLLOWING THAT STAR
The philosopher Goethe wrote that Hamlet is a play that depicts the story of a soul on whom a great deed is laid. The tragedy, he went on, is that this soul is unequal to the task.1 It seems to me that Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the story of you and I. Baha’u’llah says that no task is given to us which is beyond our capacity. Nevertheless, life’s task often seems beyond us especially if that task is in the context of what to many of us who work within the Baha’i system often seems like an “impossible dream.” We seem to be unequal to life’s burden, its apprenticeship.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Goethe in John Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor, Michael Morrison, Cambridge UP, Cambridge, 1997, p.126.
John Barrymore played Hamlet in New York in 1922-1924. “Barrymore heralded,” said Morrison, “the dawn of a new age of theatre.”2 Barrymore’s view of Hamlet was the same as Goethe’s; namely, that the task laid on man was more than he could handle. The play opened on November 16th 1922, just four weeks before Shoghi Effendi returned to Haifa to take up the burden of the Guardianship, a task, a role, which his wife said called him by the 1950s, thirty years later, to “sorrow and a strange desolation of hopes into quietness.”3 Being equal to a task does not mean one does not get discouraged, does not feel defeated. Being equal to a task is, among other things, a philosophical position which, for the Baha’i at least, is rooted in theological doctrine and means that one keeps on going, keeps on following that star “no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.”4–Ron Price with thanks to 2 Morrison, op.cit., p.304; 3Ruhiyyih Rabbani, The Priceless Pearl, p. 451 and 4 “The Impossible Dream,” Man of La Mancha, Musical 1965.
You both arose to be artists
of winged imaginations
and reinvented both your
cause and yourselves,
product of resolve, labour
So little was the little
that we knew, then,
and little even now
for the task so few:
heaven’s humble handful.
The crucible of transformation
you took us through, grinding,
joyful, natural, organic, forged
something new, oriented to action,
exegisis evolving with community,
expounding knowledge, arousing
response, satisfying, transcending
the need of the moment, serving
the future’s meaning as well as
the past’s, heightening the horizon,
intensifying the vision of the faithful
for the impossible dream, its idealistic,
its improbable, its quixotic elements
and thousands of practical bits
for the manual that would quide us
through the tenth and final stage of history
which opened just after you led us to
the beginning of that Kingdom of God.b
a John Barrymore and Shoghi Effendi
b This Kingdom of God on earth began, such is a Baha’i view, in 1953.
July 20th 2005
I FOUND A POEM
I found a poem in that conversation.
It was not buried deep in the soil
of my brain.......it just popped-out
really with some juxtapositioning
from one word really of that movie
enabling this mental-scrawling and
stretching across the years, reaching
upwards to those luminous lights
which have been there since the ‘50s.
With new, wonderful configurations
I embellished the movie’s meaning,
gave it a fresh grace, even a splendour
deriving from the power of thought
alone and its dazzling rays, strange
really, the whole process, like some
godlike impulses radiating perhaps.
And yet, I still drift on the wings of
passion and vain desire striving to
obtain more and more of the arts of
living and civilization using senses
and faculties devoted to the service
of the general good and those many
safe strongholds and multitudes of
knowledge’s impregnable fortresses.(1)
(1) This poem was born from two sources: (a) Jessica Wilkinson’s poem “Posy” in philament: An Online Journal of Culture and the Arts, December 2009 and (b) ‘‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970(1875), pp.1-3.
1 January 2010
Before continuing with the above pieces of autobiographical poetry allow me to make a few general remarks about autobiography.
THIS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL POETRY IN PERSPECTIVE
Anyone who has examined seriously the literature on autobiography and memoirs in recent decades, in the very years that this travelling-pioneering story has been taking place(1962-2015); anyone who has attempted to fathom the nature and meaning of both his Baha’i community experience and his own inner life; any pioneers, and especially international pioneers, who have attempted to regulate their lives to the rhythms of sorrow and joy, of crisis and victory, of calamity and the unfoldment of divine power, of personal tragedy and the liberal effusion of celestial grace---in their lives and the life of their Faith and tried, in the process, to become the fundamentally assured and happy people they are asked to try to become—these souls will immediately recognise complexity at all levels: global, community and their own inner life. They will recognise the contradictions and paradoxes in their behaviour and the divergent identifications which barely ever fuse to make one coherent and continuous self. The ever-elusive and evanescent quality of experience makes so much that is life difficult to grasp, apprehend, define and formulate into some logical pattern and plan, design and device for acting. Not everything can be understood or put into words, as Bahá'u'lláh has written, and this is certainly true insofar as these rhythms of life and our efforts to regulate our lives according to them is concerned. This hardly needs to be said.
Slowly one comes to understand some of the meaning and the secret intent of one’s personal myth, with its shadow side and its upside, as Jung and others have called the inner core of one’s life. One must be conscious of underlying and often unconscious tendencies to invent the story of one’s life. To write one's story is a type of invention. The power of words to create and to define the reality of one’s life, to make that life as we reflect on it become the words on the page is a strong power. That power can cause the writer to twist the truth and to alter the focus from time to time in a direction away from the facts. Just as a stage director employs stagecraft for the production of a drama, a life-writer uses his life’s craft, the tools of his journey, so to speak, to shape the way that he or she recreates the story, the description, of their life experience. Seizing the authentic story of our lives is for some, and certainly for me, an essential goal and aim of autobiography and autobiographical poetry, particularly if one is trying to tell the tale, the narrative with some sense of historicity, of history, of facticity. That might be how the psychoanalytically oriented and other psychologically inclined theorists, among other theorists, might put the process.
William Spengemann asserts that in autobiography, "self-revelation is in fact self-creation" and the autobiography is not just a manifestation of the self but its very embodiment. As the self becomes identified with the autobiography, moreover, the autobiography becomes the subject of its own allegory; the autobiography becomes a work about itself. Spengemann laments in his comment on the literature about autobiography that "the more the genre gets written about, the less agreement there seems to be on what it properly includes.” For quite some time, he says on the same page, scholars have quarrelled "over the admissibility of letters, journals, memoirs, and verse-narratives.” I utilize all these genres in my autobiography. I see the entire corpus of my writing as part of my autobiography and, should some biographer arise in the future to tell my story, he or she can use all this writing. I am going to die, in all probability by the end of the second century of the Bahá’í Era(1844 to 2044), and my life is the repository of so much that I can tell and I will do my darnedest to tell it. Much, of course, will never be told because I can't find a way of communicating it yet or I haven't the time to communicate it or I don’t know what it is that I can or should communicate.
There is little doubt that what we experience in life we process, we elaborate, in unending sequences of images and acts and my autobiography, written during the last quarter-century, 1984 to 2009, has become as Spengemann asserts, “a work about itself.” One thing we could call this exercise is: thinking out loud or, at least, thinking in written form. New experience becomes ordered and integrated as part of this unending process and I will continue to order it until the end of my journey, or the end of my capacity and interest in writing while on my journey. I try to fit pieces in without straining and disquieting the self and I accomplish this aim in part.
We all want to know who we are, how we should behave and how to achieve order, coherence and continuity in our lives. Autobiography deals with all of these processes, all of these fundamental questions, at least this is how it works for me. These fifteen essays on autobiography, written over 20 years(1994-2013), aim to help me and my work be understood. To be understood by both oneself and others is one of the greatest things in the world in the world of existence. Intellect and wisdom are just two of its expressions and these expressions usually are found in the realm of words.
There is the ‘me’ and the model I am trying to emulate is the person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. And there are extensive elaborations of this model in the writings of both the legitimate successors of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the multitude of interpreters in the Bahá'í world. And there are, of course, other models, mentors, inspirations and sources of emulation. Unity and consistency, aims and goals, degrees of self-mastery and loss of control of self, telling it all and resistances to the telling of certain stories whose confessional nature makes resistances a normal and necessary event---these are all part of my search for the authentic and idiosyncratic self at the centre of my written, my autobiographical life. There is much philosophy, especially Bahá'í philosophy, in this autobiography and there are ideas from many others like these two sentences from famous Americans: “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die,” from Edward Kennedy; and “if you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it,” from Calvin Coolidge.
There is an inevitable selectivity to my reporting, to anyone’s reporting. True and indigenous autobiography is only a narrative inchoate, as the psychologist Frederick Wyatt calls the fragment of our lives we convey, that we put into words as autobiographers. Anecdotes are chosen for their illustrative power, to further a line of thought, for their narrative smoothing effect. Augustine was the first to do this in the western tradition.
That is why I have chosen poetry as the main autobiographical genre with journal and narrative, letter and essay as the back up, as poetry’s critical support staff. My million word, five volume, narrative tends to hover unevenly over my four million word corpus of poetry in the attention I give to story, to life-narrative, as a tool to come to grips with my autobiography. Poetry tends to plunge and even to crash. It is difficult, even undesirable in some important ways, to make one’s story smooth. Life is far, far from smooth.
Now in the evening of my life, in these middle years(65-75) of my late adulthood as the human development psychologists call the years in the lifespan from 60 to 80, I would like to have the help of an archivist and personal assistant to help me smooth out the immense pile of words, get it all into some framework. But, alas, I think it unlikely that this assistant will come my way for I am not famous, not rich and, if I did have the money for such an exercise in narcissism or self-absorption as my wife would rightly call it, I would spend that money on other things.
It is I who must give order to the immense pile of words that have come to exist in my study in these middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80) and the years of old age(80++), if I last that long. The multitude of times over the last 65 years that I tended to fire from the hip, get upset and come out with things I really didn’t mean or, on reflection, should never have said, made of my life something quite different than what it would have been had I been a more moderate and reflective person who, like my son, thought before he spoke, engaged his brain before the words came out. This is all part of the uneven nature of my life. I am sure this is as true of my writing in prose and poetry as it is of my verbal contribution to the many social settings, the millions of them, in my life.
Narratives, like those of biographies and autobiographies, which purport to tell the truth have had limited value in American psychology and, indeed, in the psychologies that have emanated from other nations. Although I must say that this is a complex idea and theme and needs much more working over, more reading, than I am prepared to invest in this short essay. Science has never been able to deal with autobiography’s complexities, some writers argue. I would argue, as many do now, that hermeneutics and reconstruction both are useful tools among the many in the social sciences when examining autobiography. They can bring out its meaning, delve into cultural-historical contexts or indeed a host of other contexts and examine inconsistencies, biases, textual distortions, dishonesties, basic assumptions, omissions, errors, the power of perspective.
With some 7000+ poems, many millions of words, thousands of letters, three hundred pages of journal, some two thousand five hundred pages of autobiographical narrative and some three hundred essays: there is at the very least a base for analysis and interpretation of my life, my society and my religion. More importantly, there is a solid foundation for future Baha’i historians to gain some clarity of insight into these four epochs of the Formative Age and especially the experience of one pioneer within the first century of this sequel to the Heroic Age which ended when my father was but 31 years old, had just married and had three children, and my mother was 17 and living at home with her parents.
I like to think there is a balance between the two autobiographical poles of an enthusiastic and positive spirituality and a more restrained and moderate skepticism that have been part and parcel of autobiography in the last 1600 years. Autobiography does not enjoy convenient literary labels, does not possess various schools and movements with explicit definitions and literary boundaries. But writing it is a craft and the exercise possesses certain conventions. Since the early 1950s these conventions have been questioned and writing autobiography now has a new complexity, as Spengemann informs us.
The 1950s and the 1960s, which the Bahá’í community considers to be the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth, certainly marked the beginning of a whole new set of directions in autobiography. My work is written, to some extent at least, in the context of these new patterns and processes. When people ask if maybe I'd like to write something other than autobiography, autobiographical poetry and autobiographical essays, I look them in the eye and gently tell them I haven't yet begun to explore the complexities of writing autobiography in the several genres in which I write. These literary excursions allow me to look into my community, into my beliefs, into my heart and into much else. These aggressions, regressions, digressions and retrogressions allow me to write about peoples, places and things, ideas, values and concepts that stimulate my mind and my feelings. And this is a delight. What more is there than delight and joy, wedded as it is in these years of the evening of my life, with a solemn consciousness, the wellspring of that joy, that delight.
The autobiographical endeavour has endured and will go on for as long as the eyes can see due to its base in human diversity, human activity. With so much of life and even our identity beyond our personal control, we cling all the more fiercely, perhaps, to an institution which offers us at least one remaining area of symbolic power over our destiny as individuals. Much of life and our experience of it is fragmented and formless. People so often experience a sense of failure, guilt, meaninglessness and a wide range of negative emotions as well as a wide range of very positive ones. Autobiography provides a window, a home, for the expression of these experiences in words. This expression finds its form in a congeries of varying selves, in multiple subjectivities, not one fixed, static, self where one starts and finishes. The autobiography becomes the story of a personal phenomena which is itself a continually emerging self that is not so much “out there” but, rather, something within that reflects the writer’s inner life.
The dominant autobiographical truth, then, is a writer’s vision of the pattern and meaning at the moment he or she writes. It is an ongoing process of self-definition. What so often happens for the popular culture that reads the material, the autobiographies, though, is an experience of some formulaic or even non-formulaic literature that percolate downward, outward into bookshops and onto the internet. The immense field that now explores the complexity and reflective thought about this genre and that is now available in the social sciences and humanities is never read or even contemplated.
But these are still early days in this new culture of learning and understanding of the genre of autobiography. The last half century has opened up a wide vista of opportunities for us all. The story of the journey of autobiography which began, arguably, several millennia ago, has just begun.
24 December 1995 to 9 May 2015
BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR THOSE HIATUS YEARS
George Gershwin composed popular songs from 1919 to 1938, from the time the Tablets of the Divine Plan were made public to the beginning of the International Teaching Plan, the Seven Year Plan, of 1937 to 1944. His music was made for the multicultural world of the 1920s, the 1930s and our world today. His compositions combined: blues, Afro-American, jazz, broadway, classical, gospel, opera, among other musical forms. It manifested so beautifully the philosophy of the Bahá'í teachings.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, Gershwin: They Can't Take That Away From Me, 17 October, 10:30-11:25 pm.
You gave us a background music
for those hiatus years1
when an Order was being born
and taking its first form.
You gave us sounds we'd never heard
while he2 gave us that leviathan
with beautiful curves so that we
could swim forever in the sea.
Your song form was a serious craft
as the Cause was for him a place to
define those interpositions of Providence.
You gave us songs, eternal, sweet as
Summertime, telling us of our lives
and their transcendental oneness amidst
the trivial and the everyday; while he
defined that global form in a language:
composer, director, producer, inheritor
of an Epic Script for all humankind.
17 October 1998
1 these were the years of waiting before the Tablets of the Divine Plan could be promulgated in the first organized international missionary campaign in 1937. During this period the national Bahai administrative system was defined and developed. See Studies in Babi and Bahai History, Vol.1, "Development of Bahai Administration", pp. 255-300.(Kalimat Press, 1982)
2 Shoghi Effendi gave the Bahai community a wonderful exegisis of 'Abdul-Baha's, Bahaullahs and the Bab's writings.
The following poetry needs to be edited to remove the excessive spaces that exist. I hope to do this editing in the years ahead when time and the inclination permit.
On 29 March 1951 Shoghi Effendi referred to the "rise of the World Administrative Centre" of the Bahai Faith and "the spiritual conquest of the entire planet." In that same letter the Guardian described a system of nine concentric circles and their heart and centre on Mt. Carmel. Jack Kerouac began writing seriously about this time.-In Citadel of Faith: Messages to America-1947-1957, Shoghi Effendi, Wilmette, 1957, pp.91-98; and ABC TV, "On the Road to Desolation", 1 November 1998, 2 pm.
You1 began to churn out words,
a stream-of-consciousness that
brought you fame after he2 died,
exhausted by a labour that had
worn him to the bone, another
writer, shy, another reserved
observer, on a different road,
a different desolation of a world
wholly and spiritually glorious
and made him a culture hero for
generations to come, while you
toyed with Buddhism and jazz,
drowned in alcohol, went West,
becoming TV's first writer-celebrity.
1 November 1998
1 Jack Kerouac died at the age of 47 after writing ten books between 1951 and 1957, his most famous book being On the Road. He was one of the central founders of the 'beat generation.'
2 Shoghi Effendi died exhausted with "a strange desolation of hopes" at 60.(Ruhiyyih Rabbani,The Priceless Pearl, p.451). Kerouac spent 63 days on Mt. Desolation in 1957. Hoping to have a spiritual experience, he had instead an experience of abyssal nothingness in his confrontation with himself.
“Rejoice, for the hour of your departure is at hand.” Muhammed said this in a dream to an Arab. The Arab was instructed to say these words to Siyyid Kazim, telling of his death which was to take place soon. -Nabil, Dawnbreakers, p.44.
When he came out of Bahrain1
and began preparing the way
a whole new age was
about to have its say.
And sound, what sound could be heard!
Paganini took Europe by storm
after Siyyid Kazim had come to the throne2
with his special kind of power,
his immense struggle,
his spiritual virtuoso,3
his spell, his miracle, his message,
his romantic star
which would enter that chamber4
redolent with flowers
and the loveliest perfume,
see the light fall on that lap,
warn of the world’s fleeting
and beguiling vanities
in subtle and covert phrases
and learn of his own death
from an Arab in a wondrous dream.
18 October 1996
1 Shaykh Ahmad left his home at some time in the 1780s to tell people about the Promised One to come.
2 Siyyid Kazim began his leadership of the Shaykhi community in 1826 and two years later Paganini, the great violinist, began his famous concert tour of Europe.
3 Siyyid Kazim and Paganini are similar in some respects, in the sense described by Richard Sennett in The Fall of Public Man, Cambridge UP, 1974, p.200.
4 It was in such a chamber that Siyyid Kazim visited the Bab.
The Quartets of T.S. Eliot are concerned with the exploration of experience. ‘The Dry Salvages’ describes our need to choose to perform action or abstain from it, fully aware of what we are doing. The poet here seems to be “struggling with something like a partial failure or drying-up of the creative impulse.”1 This poem describes, too, the person who has given more and has, therefore, received a corresponding measure of insight into being, being fully alive. The rest of men, for most of men, there is ‘the moment in and out of time’, the fugitive, or not-so-fugitive, glimpse of Revelation, hints and guesses and processes of reflection. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Derek Traversi, “Dry Salvages”,T.S. Eliot: The Longer Poems, Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovitch, NY, 1976, p.152.
Light and distant, over there,
it comes up, ever so gently,
like a soft breeze on a summer night.
Tells me it’s there but I never know
quite what, drifts in like starlight,
clear, but oh so far away, mysterious,
won’t say any more unless I keep asking,
drifting into those faint clouds,
like a dream, cirro-stratus, cumulo-nimbus,
ground swell, when time stops
and it keeps going on and on, distant notes,
granite specs, more than dust, going home
on my curiosity as it searches past and future,
clinging to an awakening I can almost touch,
an intersection of time and the timeless,
ardour, selflessness and self-surrender
beneath the diamond sky with one hand
waving free, silouhetted by the sea,
miles of desert and that icy tundra.
So much music, top 40, classical, a little jazz,
programs, programs, endless programs.
Prayer came, of course, irresistibly,
in the green book and the other books
and fasting nearly killed me, well it did;
I don’t think I could do it again.
And those meetings and minutes
until it was all so dry, heart sucked,
blood gone right out and brain burning
on low heat or right to the edge of some
crazy oblivion which psychiatrists
have special names for
which kept changing, but not anymore.
People came, more and more, beautiful ones;
I could have made love with dozens of them,
so young and sweet and sensuous they were,
but they just came and went, smiled and talked
intensely at my desk or in the open spaces.
Some wrote me poetry and sang
and I planted those heavenly bestowals
as far as it was possible. By my 36th year
I had grown immensely weary of the endless words
drying on my tongue in the evening
and wished for death as the river had gone
to the sea underneath dark clouds.
Banks of flowers alongside farmers’ fields
and lush gardens adorn my day but by night
the river, a strong brown god, sullen, untamed
and intractable, overruns its banks and floods
my shores with its grey-brown and deathly waters,
familiar now, like an old friend.
In some places the summer flowers and golden leaves
of autumn have withered, dropping their petals
and a stillness has entered so that my tongue sings
such a different song, lower more meditative notes,
in praise of its Lord, a faded melody of wistful regret
pressed between the yellow leaves of my song-book.
I am not the same person who left the station bound for Chicago
back in, what was it, ’65? Who will arrive in Launceston
in, what, ’99? Haifa in the year 2000, on that pilgrimage?
5 April 1998
REPORTING WHAT WE SEE
In my poetic work I feel a strong identification with the poet Horace(65-8 BC). The twin platforms of his writing were simplicity and unity. He also argued that poets should know themselves and their capacities as they attempt to inform and delight. The best poets are the wisest ones. Just as there are many Horaces, so there are many Prices. Whatever self is fashioned in my poetry and in Horace's is provisional; it is a self in the process of becoming; it is a poetry of self-portraiture.1 Both he and I look out on the world and report what we see "with all the imagination, artistry and honesty"2 that we can command. -Ron Price with thanks to C. Martindale and D. Hopkins, editors, Horace Made New: Horatian Influences on British Writing From the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century, Cambridge UP, 1993; and W. R. Johnson, "Foreword," in an Unknown Source, p.viii.
There is still that counterpoint
between despair and rejuvenation
in what I write, this music of the
wasteland and the new land.
I, too, see the death of an old world,
the shredding of the social fabric,
but I see the birth of the new which
you missed out on by a hair. Both born
into a world of tempest: give me your
versatility, your stamina, your adaptability,
your civility and your autobiographical mode,
your poetry of presence, Horace, Horace??
19 September 2001
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
TURN! TURN! TURN!
This morning I listened to a radio interview with singer and songwriter Judy Collins now in her late fifties. Margaret Throsby interviewed Collins on her ABC Radio National program, 6 December 2006. Collins informed listeners that her mentor Pete Seeger had written the words and the music to the song Turn Turn Turn as early as 1954. He did not release the song until 1962. The year 1962 was the beginning of my pioneering life in the Bahá’í community. Judy Collins sang the song on her 1963 album, Judy Collins #3. This was the year of the formation of the first Universal House of Justice. There was some significant turning going on in the Bahá’í community.
Seeger had adapted the words from chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes, 3: 1-8 at another turning point in the history of the Bahá’í community and my own life. The words and that book of The Bible are often interpreted as conveying a spirit of fatalistic resignation. The words of Seeger's song have also been criticized as just being a series of over-simplifications.
The Byrds' released a version of the same song in October 1965. Their version possessed, some felt, more optimism than previous versions. One analyst of the song said that The Byrds' release in that October of 1965 captured the zeitgeist of the time. It was in that same month of 1965 that I decided to pioneer among the Inuit in Canada. I had, indeed, at last made a decision, a specific, a directed, a difficult decision to pioneer, to turn.
This anthem of the peace movement and the civil rights cause, Turn Turn Turn could have been the anthem for my own decisions and some significant turning poitns in the life of my spiritual community, first at the age of 10, then at 18 and then again at the age of 21, as I finished high school and entered my last year of university, to finally get a specific direction to my vocational career as a teacher and to my role as a pioneer at that time in the Bahá’í community. -Ron Price, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Wikipedia, 6/12/06.
They were hot days back then in '65.
Depression had lifted and those initial
erotic excitements or, perhaps it was
some quite mysterious body chemistry
had sent me into the manic phase
sufficiently below the hypomanic
to cope with life and limb and libido.
Somewhat serendipitously, it seems,
looking back after more than 40 years,
I chanced to go to Chatham--the end of
The Underground Railway--it happens--
where they came to a world of freedom1
as I--looking back--was going to my world
of freedom; or, perhaps, it was a prison,
the Most Great Prison of my life,
little did I know then in '65 when
I was just starting out on the road, Judy.
1 This town in southern Ontario was the last stop for Negroes escaping from the oppressive racism in the USA in the 19th century.
7 December 2006
UNTOUCHED: A NEW MUSIC
Electronically-produced music was first experimented with during the 1870s when Bahá'u'lláh was in the prison in Akka. One of the earliest fully electronic musical instruments was invented in 1919 by Russian Leon Theremin in the same year as the unveiling of theTablets of the Divine Plan. But it was not until the early years of the Ten Year Crusade(1953-1963) that the first synthesizer was built at RCA in the USA.; and in the first years of the NineYear Plan(1964-1973) that the first record based only on synthesizer-produced music was released: Switched On Bach in 1968. The story of synthetic, electronic, music, theremins and synthesizers, in the forty years since the Beach Boys tried to get the use of electronic teachnology in the production of their 1966 song Good Vibrations is full of the names of the inventors and developers of aspects of electronic technology like Robert Moog and the names of musical artists who used this musical technology. This forty year history is also filled with the names of films and TV shows where electronically produced music provided background sounds.-Ron Price, “Internet Sites on the Synthesizer” and “Into the Music,” ABC Radio National, May 10th 2006, 5:00 p.m.
Those forty years have been
busy ones since I left home
in ’66 and the Beach Boys
began churning out songs.
All this synthetic, electronic
music has been on the edge
of my life, quite peripheral
to the main flow of what it
has all been about from ’66
to ’06 in this new century.
But that Plan, initiated away
back in 1919, has been at the
centre of it all, it’s a symbol
of another synthesis much more
peripheral to the world’s agenda.
A new world that is played in by
a few and not touched by the many,
just like that synthesizer-theremin,
an instrument which produces
music without being touched.
The principle of heterodyning
oscillators, allows a theremin
to generate an audio signal and
the capacitance of the human
body affects these signals too.
The complexity of teaching in
this Plan is also as mysterious
and as difficult to understand
and implement but, however
difficult, a new music is being
produced in the background of
this new age; though we may
at first be unaware of its affect
yet the virtue of the grace vouch-
safed unto us will sooner or later
exercise its influence on our souls1.
1 Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Prayers.
May 15th 2006
THE MUSIC OF THE LOVE GENERATION,
Late at night, after midnight and before I go to bed, I often watch the TV. It helps me turn my brain off, get into a somnambulant state. For me, TV has always been the best forms of meditation late at night after my mind has been active for many hours, usually about 16 during the day. Many practitioners of the diverse art of meditation emphasize that one of the main aims of this discipline is the achievement of a no effort attitude, of a remaining in the here and now, an avoiding of cognitive analysis, a stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, a relaxing of muscular tension. I achieve this watching TV, but only sometimes.
From time to time there are ads by Time-Life Inc. for a set of CDs. Last night I watched the ad “Flower Power: Music of the Love Generation.” Those who watched the ad could buy 8 CDs, 164 hits, digitally remastered for $150 all up. As much as I had enjoyed the music of that generation of flower-power hits and during those years had bought many of the records from the mid-1960s until the mid-1970s, raising children on the salary of a teacher from about 1976/7 on made buying records too expensive. I had no intention of buying this package of music. On a disability pension in the early evening of my late adulthood, I was in no position to make this purchase.
The short segments of a few seconds of songs from many artists-musicians-singers-songwriters from the 1960s and 1970s were stimulating, I must say. I was 15 in 1960 and 36 in 1980--the generation of the first of the baby-boomers, children born in and after 1945--the first of the rock-‘n-roll enthusiasts. Music was an integral part of my life in those years, although listening to music slipped back a few notches as I came to focus on: (a) career, family and community life and its responsibilities, (b) health and the quixotic tournament of issues in the wider society as well as (c) TV and radio programs and my life in the last years of early adulthood and middle age from the late-1970s until my retirement from FT, PT and casual/volunteer work in the years 1999 to 2005. Now in my early sixties I am rediscovering music in its many forms.-Ron Price with thanks to Time-Life Inc on WIN TV at 1 a.m., 15 July 2008.
Where did it all go all those
sounds beginning in the ‘50s
on that little blue radio in that
little bedroom in that little house
in that little town in that little world
that exploded all that small town
smugness all its complacent trinity
of Catholic, Protestant and Jew
and their genuine One True Faiths.
That world was so safe and so
familiar. Indians got creamed
at the movies on Saturdays, yes,
dying copiously amidst popcorn
and candy wrappers. Canadians
like me were always good guys
who did not start wars, were thrifty
and had virtuous sunlit wheatfields.
Ours was a good town; the Chamber
of Commerce told us in the newspaper.
I played baseball in the summer and
hockey in the winter and then a real
winter hit my life in my teens, the cold
was surrounded by music everywhere,
but the music did not warm the winter
cold as it stripped my young tree with
its blasts from the north and the west.
The music was not large enough to house
my impulse to believe—a need which lay
quiet, unhurried and insidious as a seed.
The music, so very often, was for me
and about me—these flower-power
songs of my generation, empowering,
psychadelic: it’s not surprising that my
poetry should turn out autobiographical
thirty to forty years later, fed as my life
was in those formative years, on that diet.
21 July 2008
DANCING WITH THE BUTTERFLY
As a poet I write on a number of disparate landscapes and I try to bring them, through my poetry, into some relation with each other. I try to convey some developed understanding that penetrates to the realm of my feeling, for without some feeling it is impossible for me to write poetry at all. Part of my motivation is the desire to get away from the surface, the ordinary, the everyday perception and its endless and rugged literalness into a more intense understanding, beyond the world of swimming thought and images which move around in my mind endlessly, restlessly, compulsively, randomly. The act of writing poetry establishes a creative milieux where my faculties can transform the meaning of my world and the thought that assails it around a cluster of themes and within a condition of belonging to community.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Nisbet, Sociology as an Art Form, Heinemann, London, 1976, pp.5-29.
One of the last of my poems,
some 5200 in forty booklets
over thirteen years,
as an inhabitant of a structure,
which presupposes a centre
with its point of origin,
its meaning, its being,
its presence, with established
of truth, consciousness and essence,
tells of life, my life, my experience,
with its many overlapping
and intersecting layers,
its truth as relative, fluid,
changing and caught inextricably
in history’s and language’s reality,
like some will-o’-the-wisp,
some butterfly dancing.
And, by God, you’d better
dance with the butterfly
in his unpredictable path,
holding onto that great
or you will simply
never learn to dance
in this cognitive world
of never-ending oppositions,
of psycho-linguistic yin-yang.1
1 See “Post-Structuralism or Nothing,” Internet, 2000.
27 December 2000
This morning I was listening to an ABC Radio National analysis of jazz music. There was much discussion of improvisation as a technique, a style and a method in the production of this twentieth century hybrid music. I mused: “There has also been a strong element of improvision in my poetry.” I write in what has come to be called free verse, a poetry in which (i) utterance is only an intermittent emergence from speech and (ii) complexity is derived from both multiplicity of tone and meaning. Free verse also is dervided from poetic prose and the very idiosyncractic approach to writing poetry which emphasizes the poem as an emotional or psychological event for both writer and reader.
Improvisation, with its freedom and spontaneity, its openness to feeling and its receptivity to passing thought, surprisingly possesses a structure. It is a structure that is derived from the very nature of writing itself, writing which has and does generate civilization and history. Improvisation in poetry is the result of signs which exist by virtue of their difference from the writer; they help to determine the identity of the writer, the poet. Signs are fluid, changing, creative entities which function to determine the structure, the very ‘reality’ of the poem. These signs, these words, these often seemingly improvised pieces of language are, in fact, at the centre of the poem and its meaning.
Taken in overview, my poetry relies significantly on improvision, on asystematic thought, on a highly personal introspection and inherent psychology. Sometimes the mind that introspects is calm and passive; sometimes there is an acute tension, confusion and anxiety as I wrestle with the profound enigmas of life and my experience. My poetry requires my readers, should they persist in following the mass of material I have written, to abandon convention and wrestle with their own minds.-Ron Price with thanks to Roger Fowler, editor, A Dictionary of Modern Critical Terms, Routledge and Kegan Paul, NY, 1987, p. 102; and Steven Kreis, Lectures on Twentieth Century Europe, Lecture 2, 1999:email@example.com
I improvise and I play.
For playing is at the heart
of the process of writing
these little mixes of words
which I call poems and which
allow me to dance with the thousand
steps I have moved around in my head
at least as far back as September 1962
when I sat in matriculation class in Dundas
and tried to grasp, then repeat and eventually
write about: the most complex ideas
in the Western intellectual tradition.
It was an exhausting year
and I was only eighteen.
8 July 2000
In the evolution of modern jazz we find the name of Dizzy Gillespie in the early 1940s associated with the beginnings of the bebop era. Dizzy was one of the kings of bebop. The blueprint for this new music was created in the clubs and bars of New York in the late thirties and 1940s, just after my mother and father met, eventually married and I was born. Of course, there were other names found in this era of jazz, names like Charlie Parker and Roy Eldridge. There was a “fast, complex and asymmetrical melody, coupled with offbeat rhythms”1 in the bebop sound. This new music was born and given expression during the first Seven Year Plan(1937-1944). It was consolidated just before and during the second Seven Year Plan(1946-1953). Gillespie gave to jazz an “articulated set of harmonic and rhythmic precepts” and a “dramatic set of recorded examples.”1 He gave to the Baha’i Faith from his mid-life onward, from the late 1960s to his death in 1993, his musical talents as an international ambassador for the Cause he had espoused with such enthusiasm. -Ron Price with thanks to “Dizzy Gillespie,” ABC TV, 3:10 pm, 17 December 2000; and Alyn Shipton in One Country, The Newsletter of the Baha’i International Community, Vol.11, No.2, 1999.
You’ve been around all my life,
well at least until I started going
seriously with my poetry, Dizzy.
In fact, I remember giving you
a poem at the beginning of my
poetic journey in Perth WA.1
You were only twenty when
that first Plan began in ’37.
It would be over thirty years
before you found the Cause
that gave your mid and late
life that depth and maturity.
You joined amidst catastrophic
events and the pain of war.2
I was recovering from my own war
at the time and settling back into
the teaching profession with Judy3
and serving the Cause in Ontario.4
1 Dizzy played in Perth in 1990 and I gave him a poem in his hotel, a poem I wrote that same day.
2 The Universal House of Justice, Letter, 16 November 1969.
3 Judy Price, now Judy Noack, my first wife.
4 I worked in Picton, Prince Edward County, in southern Ontario.
17 December 2000
SOME OF THE "flotsam and jetsam" IN MY COLLECTIONS OF LETTERS, NOTEBOOKS, INTER ALIA
Many of the more famous jazz musicians have “dossiers” that is collections of memorabilia. the following article reminded me of the possible dossiers of the greats in the jazz world in the last century.
This evening I came across the following article: "Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp: In Resonance---The Duchamp Dossier." I found the article in an electronic journal on the internet. The journal was called Other Voices, the issue was September 1998. The "dossier" was on display as part of The Menil Collection in Houston Texas USA from January 22 to May 16, 1999. These were the last days of my full-time employment as a teacher after 30 years in the profession. These were the last months before I began to organize my own "dossier" after forty years as a Bahá’í. Since the "dossier" discussed in Other Voices had similarities to my own massive dossier, opus, oeuvre, or at least to some of the material in my collection of letters and notebooks, I drew on that article to write the following:
The expatriate Frenchman Marcel Duchamp met the American artist Joseph Cornell in New York in the early 1930s. In the early 1940s Duchamp engaged Cornell to assist him in assembling the deluxe editions of Duchamp's new project, the miniature "museum" of his work, commonly referred to as the Boîte-en-valise. At this time Cornell also began to formally assemble his Duchamp Dossier, a work that contains 118 items ranging from Mona Lisa postcards, dry-cleaning receipts, and correspondence, to Boîte-en-valise fragments, readymades, and a study by Duchamp for his Allégorie de Genre. Cornell's Duchamp Dossier thus provides a particularly rich source of insight into both artists' creative lives during several crucial decades.
I'm not sure what would be put in, say, a miniature dossier, a special collection, a set of memorabilia that might stand out quite separately from the general run-of-the-mill of the resources and materials in my files. I would leave that to some executor, some collector, some archivist, etc. if such a thing was desired. I would not even entertain the idea were it not for the significance of the embryonic Bahá’í Order I have been associated with for some 53 years. I write this in anticipation that there may just be some significance in all this paper, a significance I can scarcely appreciate at this early hour in the historical process.
The Duchamp Dossier (c. 1942-53) was discovered in Cornell's studio shortly after his death in 1972. Unlike many of his other dossiers, this one was never shown publicly and remained unpublished in Cornell's lifetime. Cornell compiled most of the material for the Dossier during the years 1942 to 1946, although it includes some items from the 1930s and 1950s.
Were my collection, compiled at various times in my pioneer life, 1962 to 2006, to be discovered and gathered into a separate place, a special dossier, it might possess: lists of articles and internet sites, parking tickets; domestic notes from my wife and son, to do lists, advice pieces from: my wife to me, to my son and me to them; instructions on how to do a,b or c; Bahá’í agendas, newspaper clippings from friends---and on and on this itemized pot pourri might go.
Many items in the Dossier document discussed in this article included: Duchamp's written requests for more Boxes and an improvised receipt based on the cover of a Long Island Railroad conductor's booklet. Individual elements of Duchamp's Box-in-Valise, the reproductions of his early paintings, for example, can also be found in the Duchamp Dossier.
Cornell was an avid correspondent and the Dossier derives much of its flavor from the postal system: stamps, telegrams and postcards, for example. We find several communications from Duchamp, a note from the art dealer Julien Levy, and remnants of envelopes bearing intriguing return addresses such as that of the artist Piet Mondrian. A group of nine letters from Mary Reynolds, Duchamp's longtime companion, reveals her own close friendship with Cornell and her delight in the works of art that Cornell sold and gave to her. With typical brevity, Duchamp relied on a postcard to inform Cornell of his imminent departure from New York at the end of the war: "Au revoir / affecteusement / Marcel." I, too, have my postal items, communications to an odd-assortment of people and brief responses from me to a wide collection of individuals.
The above short amended article, drawing heavily as it does on the article in Other Voices, conveys a context for the substance of some of the flotsam and jetsam of my paper world and I leave it to some future person and future time to give whatever order, whatever place, it deserves, if any.
31 October 2006
CATCHING A MYSTERY TRAIN
The man who was the single most powerful force behind the worldwide domination of rock ‘n’ roll was Elvis Presley. Some say he invented it. Yet behind the music, the concerts, and the best of the movies, is a personality as elusive as the entity that Winston Churchill once described as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” namely Russia. Much of Elvis’ power was in a personality so varied, contradictory and chameleon-like as to be almost unknowable. To try to understand Elvis is to hitch a ride on the longest running mystery train in the entertainment business, so writes Paul Simpson. If both Churchill and Paul Simpson1 are right about this sense of mystery and complexity, then many others in the rock and roll and entertainment business, are even more mysterious and complex. And for many of us and the movements we have joined and left, joined and stayed and those other commitments like family and gardening there are even more profoundly mysterious and complex stories, as the universal and the particular play in their endless eddies.
I suppose, we all hitch our rides in life to different mysteries. The train I got ready to hitch a ride on more than fifty years ago is far more bewildering than all the individuals and nations, far more impenetrable. It is concealed and enshrouded in the mystic utterances of an inscrutable universe. –Ron Price with thanks to 1Paul Simpson, “The Elvis Mystery,”
Elvis Australia, June 12th 2003.
You began hitting the music trail
back in the fifties and your music
slowly insinuated itself into my
life along with baseball, girls and
a new religion in Canada, then.
You had your first hit on the charts
in Australia in ’591 at the same time
I joined this Movement in Canada.
You became a vision straight from
Graceland, a transcendental being,
not in a white robe but in a white
jump suit, with guitar rather than harp.
But you were not for me. My vision
was always elsewhere both then and now.
My land of grace was not from Graceland.
Your most obvious roots seemed to lie
in Dean Martin and Bing Crosby
in those early ‘50s and the roots
of my life could be found in my
mother’s life and in corners of the
Judaeo-Christian Islamic tradition.
Your gyrations simultaneously thrilled
teenagers, annoyed adults, and gave
satirists grist for their parody mill.
You became the King of rock ‘n’ roll,
the idiom’s first superstar. Yet who,
exactly, were your children? Who were
your musical parents? You were a focus,
a pivot, a point of change, a mystery train.
Your train went one way; I caught another.
1 April to October 1959: A Fool Such As I
January 2nd 2006br />
CREATING A NARRATIVE MOOD
Chopin(1810-1849) composed in obedience to inner promptings, dictated by his own musical instincts, tastes, feelings and predispositions. His first composition was in 1817, the year of the birth of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. Chopin infused new ideas into known forms. The Ballade, for example, which had formerly been a vocalized poem, he cast into an instrumental mold. This afternoon, February 15th 2006, I have been listening to Chopin’s Ballade in G Minor Op. 23. Its opening phrase creates a narrative mood, a mood which is forever changing and a mood which the Polish-born pianist Arthur Rubenstein defined as epic grandiosity in 1959. 1
Written at some time in the years 1831 to 1835, this Ballade may have had its origins in a particular aspect of the world of the spirit. Perhaps Chopin was moved by elementrs in a musical ether at the time he fell in love with the 17 year old Maria and as his star was rising in the early 1830s. Perhaps some virtue of a grace was exercising an influence on his soul as an approaching narrative was to be played on the stage of Iran’s religious history. The episode of the narrative I am thinking of was one in which Siyyid Kazim met the Bab in Karbila and in a chamber bedecked by flowers and redolent of the loveliest perfume. The Bab gave him a pure beveridge which Siyyid Kazim, we are told, drank from a silver cup.2 The last stages of the preface to the narrative of Babi and Baha’i history was being enacted. –Ron Price with thanks to 1“Internet Sites on Chopin and Chopin’s Ballades,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, February 15th 2006; and 2Muhammad-i-Zarandi, Nabil’s Narrative, Baha’i Publishing Trust, Wilmette, 1974(1932), p.26.
This narrative mood set upon me
for many a year in obedience to
inner promptings, dictated by
my literary and experiential
instincts, tastes, feelings and
predispositions as they changed
and flowed with an epic grandiosity
as if Arthur Rubenstein himself had
set the stage back in ’591 when some
mysterious dispensation of a watchful
Providence scattered abroad fragrances
uttered elsewhere and exercised some
influence on my soul as I played
baseball, hockey and football,
studied grade ten subjects and
fell in love with Susan Gregory
and half a dozen other girls.
1 Arthur Rubenstein was the first to record Chopin in stereo in 1959. He interpreted Chopin in the context of an epic grandiosity so writes Mark Jordan in “Burkard Schliessmann- Chopin: Ballades,” High Fidelity Review.com.
February 15th 2006
DRAMATIST AND TRANSFORMATION
“This Nobel Prize,” said Eugene O’Neill in his banquet speech on receiving the Nobel Prize in literature, “is a symbol of the recognition by Europe of the coming-of-age of the American theatre. For my plays are merely, through luck of time and circumstance, the most widely-known examples of the work done by American playwrights in the years since the World War--work that has finally made modern American drama in its finest aspects an achievement of which Americans can be justly proud.”1 These were this famous American playwright’s words on December 10th 1936, spoken while the American Baha’is were preparing to launch their first Plan in April 1937, another stage in the greatest spiritual drama in humankind’s history.
Whatever the source of this playwright’s pessimism, his sense of the tragic—and there were many--the line of his development was marked out until his death in 1953. He was political, but not in the partisan sense. O'Neill became by degrees the uniquely and fiercely tragic dramatist that the world has come to know. He appeared on the drama's stage with his first play in 1916. By then the tragic realities of the first 70 years of the Babi-Baha’i experience had set a stamp on Baha’i history, as had the secular history of the previous two years of WW1. His finest play, a tragedy, appeared on the eve of WW2. The conception of life that he presents is not a product of elaborate thinking, but it has the genuine stamp of something lived through. It is based upon an exceedingly intense, one might say, heart-rent, realization of the austerity of life, side by side with a kind of rapture at the beauty of human destinies shaped in the struggle against odds. The Nobel Prize was awarded to O’Neill for dramatic works of vital energy, sincerity, and intensity of feeling, stamped with an original conception of tragedy.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Eugene O’Neill in Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, editor, Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969.
I’ve often felt you were
one of the finest Baha’i
dramatists; of course we
don’t have explicitly Baha’i:
poets, dramatists, artists,
musicians, etc., et cetera.
We just have Baha’is who
are inspired by a new spirit,
in a new age, with a new
cosmology and we have
people like you Eugene
who had died many times
before you even put pen
to paper and documented
the tragedy of our age
as Aeschylus did long
ago in another tragic time,1
a religious dramatist, too,
documenting the verities
of our human universe
when another world was
being transformed before
our eyes--part of the complex
evolution of the history of the
units of social organization
on this dear, dear, planet.1
1 Aeschylus(525 BC-456 BC), the great Greek tragedian and powerful dramatist. This was a critical period when Greece was moving from the family and clan to the city state as the unit of social organization.
February 27th 2006
In October 1957 Hollywood actress and western sex symbol Jayne Mansfield went on a 16-country tour of Europe for 20th Century Fox. She was presented to Queen Elizabeth on November 4th. "You are looking so beautiful," she said to the Queen. The Queen replied, "Thank you very much indeed. So are you." November 4th 1957 was a significant day to Bahá'ís around the world. On that day Shoghi Effendi passed away. Mansfield was at the top of her acting career in 1957 and won a Golden Globe award that year for Most Promising Newcomer: Female thanks to her performance as a 'wistful derelict' in The Wayward Bus. This movie was generally conceded to have been her best acting or so announced the New York Times. Her career from then on was fitful and hampered by her flamboyant image, squeaky voice, "a soft-voiced coo punctuated with squeals" as one writer put it. She had an almost comically voluptuous figure and limited acting range, as another critic put it.
Still, after 1957, Mansfield remained a highly visible personality and, the year I joined the Bahá’í Faith, 1959, she won a Golden Laurel for Top Female Musical Performance for her role in the U.K.-produced movie The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, a western spoof. That same year she appeared in Too Hot To Handle. In the late 1950s Mansfield also generated a great deal of negative publicity due to her repeatedly successful attempts to expose what many felt were Hollywood's most impressive breasts. The year my pioneering life began in the Bahá’í community, 1962, Mansfield appeared in It Happened In Athens. Despite receiving top billing, Mansfield was relegated to a colorful, scantily-clad supporting role.
Dissatisfied with her film roles, Mansfield and her husband headlined at the Dunes in Las Vegas in an act called The House of Love for which the actress earned $35,000 a week. It proved to be such a hit that she extended her stay and 20th-Century Fox Records subsequently released the show as an album in 1962. It was called Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas. In 1963 Mansfield became the first American mainstream actress to appear in the nude with a starring role in the film Promises! Promises! Photographs of a naked Jayne Mansfield on the set were published in Playboy. She enjoyed much box-office success in 1963 and was voted one of the Top 10 Box Office Attractions by an organization of American theater owners. For the Bahá'ís 1963 was a year of much significance: the election of its first international body known as the Universal House of Justice. And so began five "decades of struggle…no longer sustained by the guiding hand of Shoghi Effendi."1-Ron Price with thanks to "Jayne Mansfield," Wikipedia Encyclopedia, 11 December 2006 and 1The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, Bahá’í World Centre, 2001, p. 108.
Jayne died seven weeks before I left
home to live on Baffin Island in my
own turbulent life, significantly less
troubled or….endowed than Jayne's.
She had movie roles in those years
at the start of the Kingdom of God,
the years of the first two international
Plans: 1953-1963 and 1964-1973…...
Then, on November 4th 1957,
the day when that shining face
which illumined the horizons
of the world shone no more,
when the offspring of that mind:
interpreter and co-sharer in the
genius of divine interpretation
could direct & guide his trust
no more--Jayne met the Queen,
an event which also satisfied
and transcended her need of
the moment, served the future
as well as the present and met
her insatiable need for publicity--
his insatiable need had always been
a relentless, exacting one for data.1
1 Glenford E. Mitchell, "The Literature of Interpretation," World Order, Winter 1972-3, p. 24.
11 December 2006
While I was teaching at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education in 1974 and at Box Hill Tafe College in Melbourne in 1975, the film Monte Python and the Holy Grail was produced and then released in London. I won't summarize the film's story here because readers can find the story in many places. But this classic satire of King Arthur and his knights has been part of the core of comedy's world in western society now for more than a quarter of a century. This send up of a legend, of courtly love, fidelity and bravery, among other things, symbolized, for me, my getting of humour. I had grown up in a serious household of classical music and religion; I had studied serious subjects in university for four years; I had struggled through the first six years as a teacher, experienced several episodes of bi-polar disorder and lived through a divorce by 1975. These were all pretty heavy-duty items on life's agenda.
By 1975, though, I had had four years living in Australia where humour was a way of life with its slices of skepticism and cynicism, sarcasm and irony, self-mockery and pleasure seeking. During my decades in Australia humour became, as Thomas Mann experienced the process, insensibly and by immeasureable degrees, by subtle and incremental additions and alterations, part of my soul's salvation. Humour was, as Thomas Carlyle put it at the beginning of the Bahá’í Era, "a token of virtue." Self-mockery and humour's light touch became for me, what it was for millions of others, survival tools in a spiritually parched land.1 -Ron Price with thanks to Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Four On An Island, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, p.87.
They've been pumping laughing-gas
into lounge rooms now for over half
a century.1 I remember I Love Lucy
back in the fifties: that was where it
began for me. It's not all bad, Gore.
It's got an important role in our great,
vast brontosaurissmus society, with its
slough of despond and the phantoms
of a wrongly informed imagination.
The laughs have lightened the load,
Gore. I was, like you, once critical
of the whole thing, but I've softened
with the years in this downunder land,
this world that is just not as serious as
Canada which once housed my impulse
to believe, nurtured my imperfections
and let them grow as insidious as a seed.
Laughter came out like a baby, pushed
out, giving birth, born of the pain of life
in a grand and periodic shake-up injecting
a high seriousness with laughing-gas.
Gore, it's not all that bad.
1 A remark made by Gore Vidal in an interview in 2006.
21 November 2006
INTRODUCTION TO MY SINGALONG FILES
TWO-2 RING BINDERS
The first booklets of music in my life, at least those I remember, go back to the late 1940s. But the first booklet of music that I put together myself in order to run singalongs was in the late 1960s. From about 1948 to 2008, a period of some 60 years, I was involved in singalongs in one form or another. In the last ten years, 1998 to 2008, though, singalongs using booklets of songs I or others created took place, for the most part, at the Ainslie House in George Town with residents of a seniors home. In the Baha’i community singalongs became rare events in my last years in Perth and in the first decade that I lived in Tasmania--nearly non-existent occasions. In some ways it was fitting that the last six years of singalongs in my life, 2002-2008, involved mostly senior citizens here in George Town using large-print songbooks published in the UK. I say “fitting” because the content was mainly for a generation born before WW2--in the first four decades of the twentieth century—the earliest years of Baha’i activity in Australia and Canada the religion I have been associated with for more than 50 years.
There is material in these two volumes, two 2-ring binders, for all age groups, although there are very few songs that originated in the period from about 1978 to 2008. The group born in the years after about 1970 will find few songs that were popular in their years in these two binders. I did not listen enough to the music of that generation to be familiar with it and, when I was familiar with the songs, as was the case with the songs of groups like Abba, I never bought the sheet music or learned how to play the songs in some other way. So it was that I did not know the songs of a whole generation well enough to sing them in groups informally in the Baha’i community and in any other communities of which I was a part as a teacher in primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions.
These resources here in these booklets, these files, this collection, are here for singalongs in the groups I am involved with as I head into the middle years of late adulthood, 65 to 75 and, finally, old age, 80++. I have multiple copies of what I have come to call the music of other interest groups for those not familiar with the Baha’i musical experience, booklets of songs I put together for students in classrooms where I used to teach as well as other groups. I have many editions of song books in multiple copy form that I made for Baha’i groups, as I say, as far back as the late 1980s. Songbooks from the previous two decades, the years 1968 to 1988, have all been lost or thrown away.
These musical experiences called singalongs have returned to my life here in George Town. In July 2008 I put together a package/booklet of 75 songs. Who knows when and who knows where and how these singalongs will develop in these years of late adulthood. My wife and son became a little tired of hearing the same old stuff back in the 1980s and 1990s; singing in groups seemed to become passe, perhaps even seen as declasse or lower in social status/standing in the wider society. This form of self-entertainment is far from dead, though, and I feel it will be part of my life in these years before my demise, my passing from this mortal coil.
In some ways it has been fitting that most of the singalongs I have been part of in the last ten years, 1998 to 2008, involved residents of a home for residents of an aged care facility on their last legs. I often thought that American writer William Faulkner's spirit may have been present in those sing alongs. I thought, as I led these old folks in song, that the spirit he had when he wrote his now famous book "As I Lay Dieing" may just be at the back of the leisure-social-room where we had our singalongs. For these people all lay, sat up or palely loitered about, dieing slowly. Each month that I went back to this old folks home during these latter years of these singalongs someone else had died or was on the edge. The term ‘old folks home’ was what we used to call these places for the old and dieing when I was a kid.
The resources in my personally prepared, tenderly fostered, oft-used-and-repeated booklets of material that are here in my files, my collections—were often kept tightly sealed with a big rubber-band for a future time when singalongs would return to my life and to the groups I was involved with in these years of my late adulthood and what would become, finally, old age. Old age begins, say some human development psychologists, at the age of 80. I've come to like that model since the 1990s sometime for it has given me, now in 2008, another 16 years before I'm actually, officially, or shall I say psychologically, old. And I have plenty of years left for singalongs.
3 July 2008
This is a collection of poems that are part of the cultural history of the Baha’i community. Of the general principles of cultural history we still know relatively little. Like other kinds of history, cultural history has its own themes of exploration, settlement, and development, but these themes relate more to a social imagination that explores and settles and develops; that imagination has its own rhythms of growth as well as its own modes of expression. It is obvious that the literature written by Baha’is who are part of this Baha’i community, whatever that literature’s inherent merits, is an indispensable aid to the knowledge of this community. My poetry and my discussion of it participates in1a long and pervasive tradition in which there is a tendency to write cultural history when observing the poetic-literary scene.
By the cultural history of the Baha’i community I mean the study of the artefacts of that community: its imaginative literature, music, painting, architecture, the creative and performing arts, philosophy, science, religion, inter alia. This is a study whose aim is to discover the peculiar or identifying characteristics of the Baha’i community's collective expression or discourse. An important axiom of my study, my poetry and my analysis of the Baha’i community is that human communities possess certain intellectual and imaginative propensities which are proper to the collectivity of that community rather than to the individuals who constitute it. I try to uncover these propensities as well as my own peculiar poetic inclinations.-Ron Price with thanks to Northrop Frye, A Literary History of Canada," in Bush Garden, Anansi, Toronto, 1971, p. 250.
The cultural historian
tends to concentrate his attention
on contemporaneous political,
religious and theatrical circumstances,
with due attention to the revolutionary
changes in a plethora of fields.
The assumption that a culture
must somehow express
the collective genius
of the community
out of which it arises
I have easily transposed
into the proposition
that a literature ought to
formulate that genius
and so I do, I do, I do.
Nothing can so easily come home
to the business and bosoms of men
as compositions which arise
from the contemplation of those scenes
and the investigation of those circumstances
in which they may be placed.
From this natural facility
it may be safely asserted
that a community’s literature
can be the most successful
instructor of the great bulk
of the population of that community.4
How do we acquire cohesiveness?
It must be through the intensive study
of our history, its events and inspiring
personalities, as well as an increasing
devotion to the many manifestations
of our global our spiritual culture.
Here, for better or for worse, speaks
the soul of the Baha’i community;
here is its highway, broad and beautiful,
which shall cross every divide and create
an enduring, a lasting, entente cordiale.
To the Baha’i who is also a poet,
the tradition of his community,
proceeds in a direct chronological
line down to himself and that in turn
is part of a gigantic funnel of tradition
extending back to Homer and the Old Testament
in the West and a serious of other books
and writers in other parts of the world.
This linear sequence has broken down;
the traditions of European civilization
appear as a kaleidoscopic whirl
with no definite shape or meaning.
Lurking in its conflicting patterns
there is meaning but much digging
is required for centuries to come.7
I have a literary preoccupation
with my individual struggle
to accommodate my imagination
and discourse with the new, global
topography, climate and culture
swirling a mile a minute around me.
I assume an indissoluble continuity
with past, present and future,
with truths perennial but not archaic.
The Baha’i socio-political entity
may once have been too vague
in outline and pale in hue to enter
into our literary imagination.
Now, though, a poetic consciousness
Has begun to form within the leviathan
of this global, planetary, culture.
-Ron Price September 21st 2005
Nineteen years after I became a Baha’i, Cat Stevens, one of the most popular artists of the 1970s, the model sensitive singer-songwriter, embraced Islam. As far as I know he is the only major western singer post WW2 to do so. He released his final album one month before I left Ballarat in December 1978. For many of the years I had been living in Australia, 1971 to 1976, Stevens had been on tour. By 1977 he was exhausted and wanted off the treadmill of celebrity, fame and stardom. His two greatest albums were produced as I was preparing to leave Canada and after my arrival in Australia in 1970-71. Tea For the Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat, musical productions about man’s search for meaning in a spiritually empty society, were the result of his introspection during and after being hospitalized for TB in 1968-69.
I had also been hospitalized for six months in 1968 for a schizo-affective disorder. I experienced a series of mental exhaustions during a 35 year period from 1963-64 to 1998-99, for the most part associated with my bi-polar disorder. At age 55 I wanted off the treadmill I had been on. Cat Stevens devoted himself to his new Muslim faith and worked hard or harder than he had with his music. So was this true of my work after 1999. My new activity was different but it was still exhausting. The source of my fatigue had changed.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, “Cat Stevens-A True Story,” 11:30-12:25 am, February 27th-28th, 2005.
I gave myself to this fatigue
with a new enthusiasm---
as you did, as you have
for the last 27 years.
Ours was a search and a finding
and a search and a finding
both before and after
our hospitalizations in ‘68
when whole worlds
opened with their fame,
their success and their
There was so much more
to it all than this celebrity,
this popularity. Vision,
vision creating reality
with form leaving its chambers
of unborn designs where chaos
gave birth to the creative,
to pattern, to new tracts of
the cosmos, intellectual passion
and the pulses of the brain.
February 28 2005
TIN PAN ALLEY
Although jazz is musically distinct from ragtime, traditionalist discourses opposing the spread of popular music made little or no distinction between them in the years from the passing of Baha’u’llah to the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan(1892-1917). To most people “jazz” was simply a new label applied around the end of the First World War to the ragtime menace they had been combating for a generation. An analysis of opposition to popular music early in the twentieth century does not commence in 1917 when the abrupt explosion of jazz into the national consciousness occurred. Opposition to ragtime and early jazz should be seen as constituting an unbroken discursive continuum stretching back into the final few years of the nineteenth century, perhaps back to 1896 which is often acknowledged as the beginning of the ragtime era or 1892 when Tin Pan Alley’s life began.-Ron Price with thanks to Matthew Mooney, “An ‘Invasion of Vulgarity’: American Popular Music and Modernity in Print Media Discourse, 1900-1925,” Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Spring 2004, Volume 3, Issue 1.
The literal and metaphoric centre of the modern popular song industry, beginning in the last seven years of Baha’u’llah’s life(1885-1892) and continuing through to the middle of the twentieth-century, was an area originally located on New York City’s West 28th Street known as Tin Pan Alley.-idem.
He energized our western world
in ways we could hardly imagine
at Tin Pan Alley, can you imagine?
No longer beclouded1 by a human temple
that radiant soul must have had a grand time
in that emergent “culture industry,”
manufacturing and distributing popular music
and a cornucopia of stuff--coming to fruition
as it did just after His passing,
after the dissolution of His tabernacle
where His soul temporarily abided.
Increasingly challenging the past,
traditionalist values, right into my
own time of rap and rock ‘n’ roll
leaving Simpson and Seinfeld
in charge and winning the day.
Turning away as they did
by droves and droves
from uplifting didacticism,
toward uncomplicated pleasures,
a triumph of people’s energy
over elitist, exclusivist tradition
and now in the national memory
as benign, inoffensive artefacts
worthy of cultural veneration
For there was no real assault
of aesthetic sensibilities,
no real moral degeneracy,
abandonment of moral restraint,
no harbinger of cultural decline,
with rock and roll’s, rap’s, progenitors
seemingly inciting a promiscuous life:
was there? did it? is it? will it?
Opposition to this new force
seemed antiquated, irrelevant,
then and now, again and again.
This expression of breathless
energy and activity with its
confused messages of: underwear,
chewing gum, automobile parts,
breasts, curves, rhythmic sound,
the smell of alcohol and an
assortment of mind benders.
1 See Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, USA, 1957, p.244.
April 8th 2005
THE EPI-CENTRE OF CHICAGO
The story of jazz in Chicago goes back to the year 1911-2, to men like Jelly Roll Morton, Tony Jackson and a number of early bluesmen. Many of the early blues singers and guitar strummers came by the dozens in the period 1912 to 1924 from some part of the south. They came to Chicago to better their living.1 This jazz was largely derived from the music of New Orleans and it had one special characteristic, at least the part of jazz identified with the blues, and that was its personal, autobiographical, nature.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1John Steiner, “Chicago,” in Jazz, Albert J. McCarthy, et al., Cassell, London, 1959, pp. 140-143.
I wonder if ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s laying the foundations of that world-embracing Administrative system in Chicago in 1912, a system designed to evolve into a World Order which posterity would acclaim as the promise and crowning glory of all the Dispensations of the past, played some serendipitous role in the early history of jazz in Chicago.- Ron Price with appreciation to Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Wilmette, 1957(1944), p.329.
All those career and itinerant bluesmen
who composed and sang songs on street
corners and all those Baha’is who by their
acts enlarged the limits and swelled the ranks
of the avowed supporters of this new Faith;
all those boogie-woogie players who
brought that form of jazz to fruition
in Chicago not far from the north shore
of Lake Michigan where He had dug
the first hole and brought to fruition
the strongest building in the world,
the most beautiful structure on the planet,
made of Chicago one of jazz’s epi-centres
and for the newest of the world’s religions.
August 21st 2005
NEW EPICS AND NEW CYCLES
There exists in the Homeric epic a group of lost poems known as the Epic Cycle and some students and scholars view the individual poems of this Epic Cycle as quite independent of each other, having no particular relationship to one another or to the Homeric epics in general, that is the Iliad or the Odyssey. We know about this Epic Cycle indirectly from the historical record of fragments, prose summaries and various visual media. Some scholars also go on to argue that the now famous Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the poems of this Epic Cycle stem from a common heritage of story and myth rather than having any kind of direct relationship one to another. I have drawn on this idea, this argument, outlined in Jonathan Burgess’s book on the Epic Cycle because my own literary epic of some 6000 poems and two million words has something in common with both the Homeric epic and the poetry of that Epic Cycle.
While not being pretentious enough to compare my poetry with these famous epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. I would have to be as disabled as that colloquial figure Blind Freddie not to see that my poetry, the Homeric epic poetry and the poetry of this ancient Epic Cycle all have their origins in heritages of story and myth. One heritage is the Greek tradition and the other heritage is the Baha’I tradition. One is part of an old cycle; the other is part of a new one. Each poem in the Epic Cycle and each poem of my own opus written in the Baha’i Cycle is part of a tradition or system of myth. Each poem is also quite independent of the other poems or, to put it another way, each poem has no necessary relationship to any other poem. -Ron Price with thanks to Jonathan S. Burgess, The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Calm and completely detached--
now that’s the way to write epic
and portray the scene with gusto
as Keats would have put it back
at the dawn on this new age.
A poetical character with no self--
to be everything and nothing,
to have no particular character,
to enjoy both light and shade,
joy and sorrow, purity and sin--
and with that gusto, John….
did you do it, John? Did you
do it before your early death
just as the most wondrous being
ever to have lived was born?1
1 The American writer John Faulkner was impressed by the words of John Keats that he found in one of Keats’ letters. Keats wrote about calm and completely detached writing that portrays its contemporary scene with gusto. "Poetical Character has no self; it is everything and nothing. It has no character; it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto...."-John Keats in The Letters of John Keats,Vol.1:1814-1821, Hyder E. Rollins, Hyder E. ed., Harvard UP, Cambridge, 1958, p.387.
All of this is quoted in: Toshio Koyama, “‘Flora and Old Pan’ to Human Agonies: Faulkner's Early Literary Career,” The Faulkner Journal of Japan, June 2000.
July 3rd 2005
THE DIALECTIC OF TRIUMPH AND DISASTER
Tennessee Williams( 1911-1983) in 1962 was regarded as the world’s greatest playwright. By 1969 Life was describing him as a burned-out cinder. He had been the winner of every theatrical award. He was the author of America's two most celebrated plays. He was a realist whose memorable characters enacted traumas in deftly constructed scenes and whose unerringly true dialogue was always written with an exquisitely lyrical touch. But by the mid-to-late ‘60s Williams was tired of the strain of Broadway and of being expected to produce another Streetcar Named Desire. ? He was physically tired.
He had been writing since age fifteen and, after reaching fifty, a play took him twice as long to compose. He had written his symphonies, he said; why couldn't he be allowed to experiment and write his chamber music. Williams sought in art what could not be found through the media, an outlet for aspects of his life that might considered confessional Such was the case with Moise—where he renders disparate experiences from his years 1930-1972, combining snippets from this four-decade experience into one long, incomplete sentence.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Bray, "Moise and the Man in the Fur Coat." The Southern Quarterly 38.1 (Fall 1999): pp.58-70; and The Tennessee Williams Annual Review.
Some called his vision decadent.
Loneliness, evasion, role-playing,
wastage, sexual reluctance-excess:
preoccupations of a homosexual
sensibility evolving steadily from
the gay soul of his Memoirs
into the psyche of a troubled,
guilt-ridden man with fragmentation
and incoherence that mark his plays
from the late 1960s, his coming out
until his death when I was north
of Capricorn and the historical
dialectic of triumph and disaster
were operating in my life and the Cause.1
Williams writes about people who
are not trying to evade communication,
but crave it obsessively to break out
of the self and make contact, to overcome
the aloneness that is the human condition
and to enter into a saving communion
of shared humanity.2 Was he writing
about me and my life in these epochs?
1 Ridvan Message 1983.
2 Adler, Thomas P. "The Dialogue of Incompletion: Language in Tennessee Williams's Later Plays," Quarterly Journal of Speech 61 (1975): pp.48-58.
July 1st 2005
WITHOUT CELLULOID SAFETY-2
In 1987, twenty-five years after I played the last game of baseball in my teens, Ron Shelton a former minor league player wrote a screenplay called Bull Durham. In 1987/8 it was made into a film by the same name and it starred Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. Bull Durham received many nominations for awards and won: Best Film, BMI Film Music Award and Best Screenplay. It was nearly 11 p.m. when I started to watch this film as cool autumn evenings were starting to descend on northern Tasmania. It was 19 years after Shelton wrote the screenplay.
By 11 p.m. in the evening I’ve had a 14 or 15 hour day and am on my last physical and psychological legs. Watching TV at this time of the evening is like a sedative. It helps me shut my brain off. I did not find the film as inspiring, as moving, as great a sports film or all-round film as most critics seemed to find it. Susan Sarandon was, as one critic put it, ‘sizzling.’ To my tired 60 year old eyes Sarandon has always had an appeal. But I found the story-line somewhat simple-minded and tedious. If I had not been so tired and unable to write and read any more, I think I would have turned this movie off. I won’t summarize the story-line here; you can read it yourself on the internet if you are interested. But the film did remind me of the everyday details of baseball, a sport I enjoyed as a player from 1954 to 1962 and it led to the following prose-poem.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, April 16th 2005.
I never found baseball metaphysical,
profound or paradigmatic back in those
halcyon years, although I must confess
there was a reverential feeling in my bones
about the game: I loved baseball as a
pee-wee, bantam, midget and juvenil
the leagues that organized my time.
I was concentrated and relaxed, mostly,
you'd be happy to know, Susan, so right:
they were always useful skills
in the metaphor of baseball and life.
And by God could I hit a ball, even got
an award or two and pleased old Dad
who was about to retire after more losses
than he had ever dreamed of through
two wars, two marriages and two sons
taken from him back in '42 in that war.
Yes, there are greater glories than youth,
as you say, Kevin, in age, in maturity.
Those youthful years which I summon up
now in remembrance of things past,
in sweet silent thought, I do not sigh
for the lack of things I once sought,
nor waste my time in wailing on old woes,
although a sadness sometimes coats my brow.
They were minor virtues garnered
in a sweeter time with trophies
trivialized by time, with imperfections
not so epically egregious as once I thought.
Yes, there are friends hidden now in death’s
night with their long-cancelled dateless sorrows.
There are so many vanished sights
and grievances long gone--forgotten,
but some new wind began to blow in
my playing fields unbeknownst to me.
Some new and thrilling motion
permeated the life of that young boy
even then in those hot summers
and now I’ve put it in my script,
flawed and plausible, ordinary,
without that celluloid safety, but...
some predictable wonder, even awe.
April 16th 2005
SEND IN THE CLOWNS: 1
In the generation that was born as the Baha’i Administrative Order was taking its first shaping in those hiatus years 1917 to 1937, the years before the implementation of the first teaching Plan in 1937, Stephen Sondheim was, arguably, consider as the greatest Broadway composer and lyricist. Born in 1930, Sondheim’s first significant work was for West Side Story in 1957. A song from Sondheim’s repertoire that had the biggest impact on me was ‘Send In The Clowns’ which premiered with the musical ‘A Little Night Music’ in 1973. I think I first heard that song in Melbourne in 1975. The story this song was based on was originally set in Sweden in 1900 and Send In The Clowns was sung “as two former lovers once again split up.”1 At the time, my own personal life seemed a perfect analogue for this song. This prose-poem explores my life, Sondheim’s work and the Baha’i Faith in my teens and before. -Ron Price with thanks to 1 “The Songs of Shirley Bassey: Send In The Clowns,” Internet Site, January 2005.
Your beautiful writing, Stephen,
may not have been so accessible,
but it was there for my generation,
the first in this final, this tenth stage
of history right from your delights--
West Side Story and A Funny Thing
Happened On The Way To The Forum
in those years when I was getting
warmed up for this pioneering life,
getting a kick start back in Ontario
back at the beginning of this dream,
when a tiny seed was planted,
when minor virtues were garnered
in that sweeter time and those now
nurtured imperfections are not seen
as so epically egregious to embarrass
the seraphim ruefully yawning
at their mention, nor will that shame,
as once I thought, topple the cities
and arrest the sun’s daily climb.1
1 Thanks to Roger White, “Lines From A Battlefield,” Another Song Another Season, George Ronald, Oxford, 1979, p.111.
January 23, 2005.
RAISING FAIR MANSIONS
In the summer of 1966 a music group called The Floyd, later known as Pink Floyd, began to attract popular attention by playing at clubs in the U.K. That summer I sold ice-cream for the Good Humour Company, drove a Studebaker car with hardly any brakes and spent my last days with my mother in Hamilton Ontario. Pink Floyd went on to be one of the most successful rock groups. The man who wrote their first songs in the mid-1960s, Syd Barrett, burned out on a combination of LSD, mental illness and a bizarre life-style that was common in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I, too, went through my own burn-out in the late sixties and, attracted as I was by the eccentricities of Syd Barrett, I wrote the following prose-poem.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, June 27th 2005.
You were getting launched
at about the same time as I
with my sociology, Baha’i
and my Eskimo trip in that
summer of ’66 when I was
selling ice-cream and you
were writing their songs.
Then it got pretty heavy
for you and for me as we
burnt-out in our respective
spheres with our drugs,
our mental illness and our
bizarre worlds. You went
back home to live with your
mother and I went to Australia
with my new medications
and you, I hardly knew you Syd
in those years as I was trying
to raise the fair mansions of
God’s Own Kingdom wherein
humanity could find surcease
from its confusion and ruin.
June 27th 2005
By 1973 I had had twenty years of listening to products of the rock ‘n’ roll industry. By 1973 rock ‘n’ roll had fractured, splintered into many sub-genres and hardly meant anything coherent. Still, it was big business and had come to mean many things. I, too, had come to mean many things by the late 1960s. I had had my period of total incoherence before rock ‘n’ roll came to enjoy its incoherence in the years ahead. The first manifestations of a bi-polar disorder kept me busy in the sixties. I had splintered and fractured and was trying to put myself, like humpty-dumpty, together again. It was about this time, in 1973/4, that punk and disco music had their embryogenesis. By that time I, too, was experiencing an embryogenesis. This rebirth, this getting it together, as we used to call it, was taking its primary forms in an impressive job as a senior tutor in human relations at a College in Tasmania Australia. I was also getting something else together as a husband and step-father, roles insensibly acquired as a result of an incalculable blend of id and super-ego.
I don’t think I ever had any idea of what was happening in the overall picture of the music world in rock, in jazz, in classical, indeed, music in any form. Life had kept me busy with sport, studies, relationships, jobs, Baha’i life and its attendant communities, health and with moving from the land of the Inuit to the land of the Aboriginal. It was impossible for me to keep up on who was singing what in: soft-rock, hard-rock, country-rock, folk-rock, punk-rock, shock-rock, disco; who the artists were and what record was coming onto the charts. My emotions and intellect were chocker-block full of other stuff and music remained something it had always been, sweet and stimulating, but something on the periphery of my life.-Ron Price with thanks to “Songs That Changed The World,” 1:00-1:30 am, SBS TV, August 8th, 2005.
I got it with my mother’s milk
and my father’s ear—a man
who could tune a piano by ear,
self-taught, strong Welsh voice,
choirs, singing around the piano,
my little blue radio, 2nd generation,
bringing sound into my bedroom
night after night; TV, 1st generation
watching sweet sounds generated
for the eye and ear more than any
generation in history, a kaleidoscope,
a cornucopia of stuff to keep the senses
as busy as little beavers, to keep our search
exceeding our grasp more than ever before,
hopefully dissatisfied more than ever before,
but not necessarily a divine discontent and
with no idea what heaven was for any more.
All part of a universal servicing and supply
system for the private realm and community
just about obliterated by individualism’s place
where no community can be constructed.
Democracy may lead to a sterilisation
of differences, as some argue, and here,
in this new Order differences are a spice
we have only begun to learn to deal with—
community building has only stuck its head
above the ground and music, man, it’s everywhere.
As Neitzsche once said: we can drown in its rhythm.
August 11th 2005
POETRY MUSIC AND THAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES
Composer Ellen Zwilich once said in an interview that she wrote because she had to. “I compose,” she said, “out of some need in myself.”1 Richard Meale, another composer, said that writing music was a personal adventure, a continuous personal obsession, an explorative experience.2 One writes certain music at certain times and, to Meale, its an expression of his very existence. He says music often has the effect of cutting him off from normal life. Peter Sculthorpe, yet another composer, says that writing music occupies long hours and is often not appreciated by the public.3 –Ron Price with thanks to Andrew Ford, Composer To Composer, Hale and Iremonger, London, 1993, p. 15; 2p.33; 3p.41.
I find these comments on the art of musical composition by these particular composers very true of the art of writing poetry for me, for this particular poet. Some composers listen to very little music and I find I read very little poetry. Over many years I come to read a good deal, but in the day to day grind of life I get very little poetry read. The British composer Sir Harrison Birtwhistle says, in talking about composing, that the creative process is only partly controllable; context plays a big part. That is certainly the way I experience writing poetry. Also, the process, for Birtwhistle and for me, has a monolithic quality; as the music and the poetry advances, great changes take place and no plan has gone into it.4 Finally, the meaning of the music or the poetry is in the writing, the composing. Often the great majority of people don’t enjoy it or never know of it. -ibid., p.56.
Making demands on oneself
is critical to the net result,
to satisfying oneself.1
Some like talking or writing
about the process; some don’t.
All time comes into the moment
when you write, eternity and
timelessness or, should I say,
pieces of that eternality, pieces
that you need to say your piece.
I sit all day in my room and
a good part of the night3
with a strong consciousness
of the leaven that leaveneth
the world of being, furnisheth
power through which the arts
are made manifest and compass
me about like a great cloud of
witnesses, freeing me from
the prison of self—at least a little.2
1 Sir Harrison Birtwhistle, op.cit., p.59.
2 Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. 12: Reconsiderations, Oxford UP, London, 1961. 3 I usually average 8 hours a day, sometimes 2 or 3 and sometimes as many as 12.
September 10th 2005
IT’S THE MUSIC THAT MATTERS
As the decades have rolled by I have come to view the politics of Bob Dylan back in his heyday of the sixties as closer to my politics back in the sixties than at first I had imagined. Recent books on Dylan, like Chimes of Freedom: The Politics of Bob Dylan’s Art by Mike Marqusee, 2003; Ron Jacob’s essay “The Politics of Bob Dylan,” Counterpunch, October 18th 2003 and a 3 ½ hour television documentary “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” screened on SBS TV, 10:00-11:50 p.m. November 8th and 15th 2005 all support the view that Dylan was always non-partisan. He was nobody’s spokesman. He wrote songs in order to play, in order to work out his feelings and thoughts. He wanted to be recognized and he wanted to influence. He wrote a content and in a style that was unique and he wrote a great deal. This had always been my aim, but music was not my main means of influence. Over the years other forms of influence came my way like gifts from some mysterious dispensation of Providence.
Dylan’s approach to politics was similar to the Baha’i non-partisan approach. In the same way that the Baha’i political position has been one in which issues are dealt with at the level of political theory and macro-systems rather than within the field of practical politics and political parties; in the same way that the Baha’i deals with issues by means of basic ideas and concepts not through existing partisan political approaches, Dylan places issues in the context of systems. The approach is, it seems to me, a more intellectual and philosophical one, but one which possesses its own particular punch or bite. Of course, there are differences between Dylan’s politics and my Baha’i politics both now and back in the sixties-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, November 9th, 2005.
There was a symbiosis back then
between folk-singers and the Left.
The connection was invented
just as my pioneering life began
in ’62 and it was the ruling paradigm
for many a moon. It was taking its form
in ’59 at the first Newport Folk Festival—
the year I joined the Baha’i Faith.
I was still into baseball, hockey
and schoolwork in those early days
living in suburbia in my mid-teens
without a girlfriend and a cosmology
just scarcely formed, embryonic.
It would be thirty years, a hiatus
of more than three decades, before
the process of writing my feelings
and thoughts, wanting to influence,
could really take off. After more
setbacks than you can imagine,
after realizing that my expectations
were simply unrealistic, after moving
from one end of the earth to another,
I kept singing, as Dylan kept singing.
My triumphs and those of the Cause
I had been associated with, now, for
over 50 years, had not been Dylan’s.
We each had our music, our message
and it was this music that mattered—
he and we and I have been saying this
again and again all those years.1
1 Peter Stone Brown, http://www.peterstonebrown.com
November 9th 2005
IT’S ENDLESS, MR. KEMP
Composers, writers and poets share certain personality syndromes. They are not all the same, of course, but they possess what might be called certain measures of central tendencies. In an effort to understand myself and my poetic inclinations, to examine my writing life, I read parts of a book yesterday in the University of Tasmania library. It was called The Musical Temperament: Psychology and Personality of Musicians by Anthony E. Kemp(Oxford UP, 1996). It was an examination of the personality types, temperaments, behaviour patterns of composers.
There is a high level of introversion, a self-contained independence, great concentration and bursts of energy that characterize the composer. Composers possess a strong sense of obligation to their work and generally have little desire to influence others. But they possess a sense of commitment to the group and to shared enterprises as well as a burning conviction in the worth of both their task and themselves. They often live in obscurity, have an above average level frustrations and difficulties, are obsessed about their work, turn their energies inward, prefer solitude, have a preoccupation with things and ideas rather than people and a preference for complex ideas. In addition they possess a tolerance for ambiguity and have a basic need to express their deepest feelings about life. They also have a compulsion to renewed creativity every day because self-knowledge is a never-ending process and because the struggle between the individual and society never ends. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, September 27th 2005.
The disengagement theory,
the activity theory of aging1
both apply to my story
in these early years of late
adulthood, Mr. Kemp.
You’ve described much
of the way I am, but
there is so much more
of what I am, why,
when and where,
how dreams and memories
come into it, meaning,
the bigger picture of
society and history
and all the phases of
my development from
cradle to grave.
Then there is purity,
independence and freedom—
it’s endless, Mr. Kemp, endless.
1 –Ron Price, “Individual Differences and Personality,” Psychology Notes, Personal Library, 2005.
September 27th 2005
FACADES AND TREACLE(font on “auto”)
Percy Grainger, Australian pianist and composer(1882-1961), “consistently presented a façade of childlike lightheartedness and jollity.” So writes John Bird in his preface to a biography of Grainger. Bird goes on to say that this façade was Grainger’s “natural defence against what he felt was a hostile world.”1 Grainger rarely let others perceive his social sense of tragedy and his personal self-torture, although more than a little of it is in his music. –Ron Price with thanks to John Bird, Percy Grainger, Faber and Faber, London, 1982(1976), p.xii.
Grainger composed Lincolnshire Posy in 1937. It was considered his masterpiece and was based on some of the 500 folk songs collected. He was completing this work when the Baha’i Seven Year Plan began in April 1937. Grainger saw art and music in his time as a form of protest against the inhumanity of man, an expression of woe and doom. His personal qualities of immense personal kindness, striking curiosity and exuberant energy were remembered by friends and strangers alike. He could not hide these from the world. Grainger died 18 months before I pioneered. One of the century’s most interesting musicians, one of its most candid about his domestic life, one of its most prolific composers(1200 pieces), I hardly knew in 1961 when I was 18. I am making up for it now.-Ron Price with thanks to Thomas P. Lewis, A Source Guide to the Music of Percy Grainger, Internet Site, 2005.
Percy, you heard the music
of your age and ours--and--
put it down in all its tragedy
and sorrow as our teaching
plan began and your musical
our efforts, little did we know.
Particularly fitting were those
lines: “I never lost any battle
but won great victory.”2
You opened a vast musical
world suffused with energy,
but how little was the little
that we knew of you then—
even now and how little
was the little that we knew
of that other world opened
to our minds and hearts
as we travelled through
that tempest with all its pain
and woe smeared like some
poisonous treacle across
the face of our earth.
1 Country Gardens was written in 1919 when the Tablets of the Divine Plan, the foundation document for the teaching Plan, was first unveiled in New York.
2 Lincolnshire Posy, from which these lines were taken, was conceived and scored in 1937 for wind bands. This work was an offering of “musical windflowers,” as the literature on Grainger describes this work. It has become his best known composition for a band. It used six folksongs from the county of Lincolnshire as its thematic material. As early as 1937, too, Grainger completed his first “free music.”
July 27th 2005
COUNTRY MUSIC AND THE BAHA’I FAITH: 1920-1970
According to one history of Country Music1 this popular form of modern music had its official beginning on August 1st 1927. On that day in Bristol Tennessee Ralph Peer signed Jimmy Rogers and the Carter Family to recording contracts with Victor Records. At the same time, in 1927, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States was developing greater stability and greater respect for its authority so that nine years later, in 1936, it was ready to implement a global teaching program.2 1Roughstock Productions, “History of Country Music,” Internet Site, September 11th, 2005; and 2Loni Bramson-Lerche, Development of Baha’i Administration,” Studies in Babi-Baha’i History, Vol.1, editor, M. Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp. 255-300.
They moved beyond just fiddle tunes
in those entre des guerres years-----
a thing called Country Music was born;
and they moved beyond small pockets
of ingrown and amorphous groups
into a well-organized religion.
Gradually a subtle thing was born---
so slowly, so unobtrusively,
hard to define---national consciousness:
in Country Music and the Baha’i Faith.
The first singer to have a nation-wide
country hit in May 1924 was Vernon
Dalhart’s The Wreck of Old ’97.
And the first use of the term Assembly
for an elected body was in 1925
as he instructed: exegisis evolving
with community serving the future
as well as the present oriented to action.
Then that band ‘The Sons of the Pioneers’1
got going in the Seven Year Plan where
another set of pioneers got going too
and Nashville became one permanent home
and an administrative order the other.
In the 1960s Country Music became
a multi-million dollar industry
and the Baha’i Faith won a unique,
quite incomprehensible victory,
institutionalized the charisma
of Its remarkable Founder while
the trustees of the global undertaking
set in motion a century before
set about the NineYear Plan.
1“CountryMusic,”Wikipedia, Internet Site, 2005.
12 September 2005.
CHICAGO, JAZZ AND THE BAHA’I FAITH
In the nineteenth century in Congo Square in New Orleans, in other places across America and especially in New York, the first stirrings of what came to be called jazz could be heard. It has long been recognized, at least since histories of jazz began to be compiled, that so much of the history of jazz in New Orleans “took place in Chicago.”1 By the early 1920s, writes Ted Gioia in a recently published history of jazz, the centre of jazz had clearly shifted from New Orleans to Chicago. A general African-American diaspora called the Great Migration saw at least two million people in the teens and twenties from southern black society leave for the north--to a more tolerant community. By the 1920s, too, the Baha’i temple in Chicago, only then in its early planning and construction, possessed a lure of spiritual beauty with “masses of the lay public enthralled by its magnetism.”2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Ted Gioia, The History of Jazz, Oxford UP, NY, 1997; and 2 Quote from a newspaper in Bruce Whitmore, “Temple of Light: The Quest for a Design,” World Order, Fall 1983, pp.19-36.
Jazz and the Baha’i Faith grew
together in America: minstrel
shows, black musical theatre
were right there at the start
in the 1890s when the first
notes of a new Faith were struck
in NY, in Chicago and in Kenosha.
Both jazz and the Baha’i Faith
have timelines going back
to embryonic influences
of previous centuries,
but the origins of jazz
and this Faith in America
go back to the late 19th
and early 20th centuries.
When that Product of a mystic
Intercourse1 travelled West
for three years, a turning point
of the utmost significance,
burst the cage, the shackles,
asunder with an outburst
of activity in many worlds:
Virginia Woolf said the planet
changed in December 1910—
He had left for Egypt on
an afternoon in September 1910—
and jazz moved north to Chicago
unobtrusively and obtrusively
where the first stirrings, foundations
of this Baha’i Administrative Order,
were then being laid in a world
largely oblivious to its taking place,
in a temple of light not yet built.
1 ‘Abdu’l-Baha son the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah
September 10th 2005
CAPTURING AN IDEA
The greatest 20th century American composer, Aaron Copeland, said that it was his custom to sit down at the piano and begin to improvise. Whether his spirits were sad or happy, serious or playful he would make the effort. Once he had captured an idea during the improvising process, he strove with all his might to develop and sustain it in conformity with the rules of art. Generally I found this approach to be true of my writing, whether poetry or prose. The key was to capture an idea. But when I was so deeply melancholy, so tired my eyes wanted to shut, so hungry I could not concentrate, so in need of attending to some bodily function, so in need of attending to some domestic or local activity, so distracted by the sound of visitors in the house, so disturbed by some aspect of my wife’s concerns, so tense from hours at the computer-keyboard, I was not able to write. At all other times writing and its associated activity reading were so well-integrated I was usually able to put in an average of eight hours a day in the first years of my retirement, 1999 to 2005, at this interactive, integrated pleasure.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, December 3rd, 2005 with thanks to Composers on Music An Anthology of Composers’ Writings from Palestrina to Copeland, edited by Sam Morgenstern
Pantheon Books Inc., 1956, p. 69.
Yes, Aaron, I may seem to
the casual onlooker to be
doing nothing more than
placing black marks on paper
but, in reality, I am concerned
with one of humanity’s unique
achievements: the creation of
an art which absorbs entirely
my mental-emotional function.1
This work’s future is not its past:
in fact, these lines have just begun
to live in a future bright with promise.
Relegated now to a fringe, a periphery,
with hardly a voice in the world, a pall
of indifference, a poetic conventionalism
hangs over the sky, the clouds, the horizon
of all my work unable to compete with
the products of those electronic media.
1 Aaron Copeland, “Music As An Aspect of the Human Spirit,” The Aaron Copeland Collection, ca 1900-1990, Internet Site.
December 3rd 2005
AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND THE BLUES
Autobiography, like blues music, is a comment on the social scene from a purely personal point of view. Blues has been described as “a selfish music, selfish and self-centred.”(1) At the same time blues has developed as a blend of individual elements. So is this true of my autobiography which, with its some 2000 references, is clearly a blend of all sorts of ideas from a host of writers and thinkers. Blues is also an improvised musical form and essentially transitory. If preserved on a record blues lasts and, like a written autobiography, attains in the process some sense of permanence. Both mediums utilize a stock in trade of forms and phrases, of content and styles, of what might be called stereotypes. In spite of the personal nature of both blues and autobiography they both possess a curiously objective, sometimes even brutally realistic content. They are sung and written “as a statement of fact” to get the content off the mind , in some ways. The blues singer and the autobiographer are both individualists who sing primarily for themselves. Whereas Mississippi is the most frequently sited birthplace of the blues, autobiography has been born all over the world. -Ron Price with thanks to (1)Nat Hentoff & Albert J. McCarthy, Jazz, Cassell, London, 1959, pp.86-91.
I have often felt
since those early days
when I first heard about
those birds in Akka
falling to their death
that I needed a language
for the new mode of life
I was trying to cultivate,
for the new race of men
whom we were all trying
to create the world over.
I don’t want to place
too much emphasis now
on the pioneer origin
of this new music
any more than, say,
the African origin of
the American negro
and his birth of the blues.
But I would like to place
some emphasis on the
peculiar position of
the pioneer in his new
homeland where he has
no special status, has
a sacred responsibility,
where he is partly one of
those spiritual conquerors(1)
like those blues singers who
partly conquered tragedy by song.
(1) I have drawn here on Paul Oliver’s study of the birth of the blues in Jazz, as above.
August 21st 2005
A LITTLE TRAVELLING MUSIC, RAY2
(one of the first on-campus students)
Between the time Beethoven first performed his Eroica Symphony in August 1804 and when it was published in October 1806, Shaykh Ahmad left Iraq where he had become a mujtahid and where he had been living since 1793 after leaving his childhood home in northeast Arabia. He journeyed to the city of Shiraz early in 1806, as far as we can ascertain. Shiraz enshrined a secret which only Shaykh Ahmad was privy to, namely, that this centre was to be the home of the Herald of a new Manifestation of God. By late 1806 Shaykh Ahmad had travlled to Yazd where he would remain until 1814. In time and, for the most part after his death in 1826, a controversial mystical Shaykhi order came to be established. Out of this matrix of the Shaykhi school of the Ithna-Ashariyyih sect of Shi’ah Islam, the messianic Babi movement and the Baha’i Faith with its radical potentialities would later develop.
The name of Beethoven’s symphony, Eroica, suggested something out of the ordinary, something heroic, grave and melancholy. Beethoven had Napoleon in mind when he started composing, but he later rejected this interpretation, this inspiration, this meaning, this basis for the symphony. What Beethoven did know was that with this symphony he wanted to “take a new path.” The symphony was stunning in its epic scope and emotional impact one commentator has written. Little did Beethoven know that the first notes of a nineteenth century millennialism were being sounded in 1803 when he began to compose this work. Shaykh Ahmad had been on his mission for ten years by 1803, namely, to prepare men’s hearts “for the reception of the more complete truth shortly to be revealed."1 Beethoven knew nothing of these millennial enthusiasms that would come to characterize the ninetheeth century or the extraordinary heroism that would come in the theological, the spiritual, the grave, the melancholy train of this Shaykh’s thought in the decades ahead and the dissonance it would cause.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, May 23rd, 2005 and 1T.K. Cheyne, The Reconciliation of Races and Religions, p.15; and 2This title is a tribute to the blind singer, Ray Charles. See: John Aiello, “A Review of Michael Lydon’s Ray Charles: Man and Music,” Electric Review, April/May 2005. See No.5 below.
A new path you said in 1803
while that heroic, fearless man1
was striking terror in the hearts
against overwhelming odds,
aware of a crushing responsibility
and so a tortured, a grave mood
of melancholy, a dissonance,
an epic scope, a breaking
from the mold,2 daring and dramatic,
heroic, the thirst always unallayed,
fate’s decree always irrevocable,
wholly resigned to destiny,
to deafness, to St Helena,
to remarkable Siyyid Kazim
and his own resting place
in the holy city of Medina.3
1 Shaykh Ahmad(1753-1826)
2 Mozart and Haydn’s tradition of composition; or expounding Islamic Holy Writ.
3 Richard Wagner saw the hero, at the centre of this Eroica symphony, as “the complete, full man, who possesses all purely human emotions—love, sorrow and power—in the greatest abundance and intensity.”4 Perhaps Shaykh Ahmad was a sign of this and a sign of such Men to come.
4 J. Schmidt-Gorg, “The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven,” Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: Conductor Herbert von Karajan, 1962. Karajan first recorded the Eroica in 1944, the year I was born, and again on the eve of my pioneering adventure. So it is that this piece of music has come to be my theme song, my travelling music, my musical call to heroism in a lifelong and glorious adventure with all its gravity, melancholy, strain and stress, sturm und drang, sombre and tragic. There is even a funeral march in the Eroica.
5 "Ray rode across the Carolinas and red-dirt Georgia, the Mississippi delta the Bayous of Louisiana ...he rolled through the hazy heat of southern mornings and the thunderstorms of southern afternoons, and he played deep into sticky southern nights, driving the band, igniting the crowd, his feet splayed and dancing, his head thrown back and sweating, his mouth wide-open singing..." During the decade of the Ten Year Crusade(1953-1963) and during my first musical experiences in the 1950s until his death in 2004, Ray Charles recorded a 100 albums. On the eve of my pioneering venture in 1961 he formed his first big band. He travelled with his music, his blindness, his frustrations and his joy.-Michael Lydon, op.cit., pp.130-131.
May 24th 2005
1909 WAS A VERY BIG YEAR!
Romantic ballet was created in the early to mid 19th century. I leave it to readers to draw the many parallels between the Bahá'í Faith and the modern history of ballet. Ballet was reintroduced to western Europe on the eve of the First World War by a Russian company, the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev, who ultimately influenced ballet around the world. Diaghilev's company became a destination for many of the Russian-trained dancers fleeing the famine and unrest that followed the Bolshevik revolution. These dancers brought back to their place of origin many of the choreographic and stylistic innovations that had been flourishing under the czars. In the 20th century, ballet had a strong influence on broader concert dance. For example, in the United States, choreographer George Balanchine developed what is now known as neoclassical ballet. Subsequent developments include contemporary ballet and post-structural ballet, seen in the work of William Forsythe in Germany. Also in the twentieth century, ballet took a turn dividing it from classical ballet to the introduction of modern dance, leading to modernist movements in both the United States and Germany.
The year ‘Abdu’l-Baha was set free from prison, 1908, the famous ballet dancer Nijinsky was introduced to Sergei Diaghilev, the noted dance patron and member of the Russian nobility. Diaghilev took a group of Russian dancers and singers to Paris in the spring of 1909. Nijinsky was the principle dancer of the troupe. Their first performance was on May 17th 1909. Fifty-seven days after the Bab’s remains were entombed on Mt. Carmel, the ballet world in Paris was taken by storm--by Nijinsky’s technical skills, the expression and beauty of his body, his steel-like strength and featherweight-lightness, his great elevation and incredible gift for rising and seeming to remain in the air. The Ballets Russes was born part of whose aim was to unify dance, music and painting through the medium of ballet. The West had seen the greatest ballet dancer in history. -Ron Price with thanks to DanceWorks, 2001-2004.
While You sobbed aloud that day,
while You slept not-at-all that night,
a troupe of singers and dancers
were heading for Paris and half
a world away the site was chosen
for the construction of that Temple.
The roots of faith in the west
and the roots of ballet were
watered with a vision and energy,
a showmanship and iconoclasm
without which a new history
could not have been rewritten.
My mother was five that year
and my father fourteen;
my grandparents had just had
three children who have flowered
into my extended family in Canada
in the last century; the Canadian
department of external affairs
was also formed that year
and Anne of Green Gables
came into print: while in the Antipodes
Christopher Brennan was recording
in poetry one of the few mystical
perceptions of creation written in
that remote dry land after
Baha’u'llah’s passing: 1909--
it was a very big year!
January 30th 2005
1817: A BIG YEAR FOR JAZZ AND THE BAHA’I FAITH
The Congo Square in New Orleans is now seen by jazz scholars as the originating locus of American jazz. In Marshall Stearns’ history of jazz the beginnings of jazz are situated in Congo Square. Dancing and socializing was permitted to African slaves in antebellum New Orleans from economic motives of the New Orleans establishment. The dances, which records indicate began as early as 1817, became an important tourist attraction for the city. –Ron Price with thanks to Marshall Stearns, The Story of Jazz, Oxford Univ. Press, NY, 1956, p. 50.
Most recent narrative jazz histories begin their discussions of the music at a much later date, during the rigid, post-Reconstruction imposition of Jim Crow in New Orleans. The subsequent enforced musical fraternization between light-skinned, high-caste Creoles of color, who favored European styles of music, and the Africanist music making of darker-skinned, working-class blacks has also played an important part in most histories of jazz. But Stearns’s work, though in some ways superceded by efforts of contemporary jazz scholars, remains important. His discussion of Congo Square, while often ignored, has not, to my knowledge, been disputed. The Congo Square dances began “at a signal from a police official” that “summoned” the slaves to the square. –See Herbert Asbury, The French Quarter, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1936, p. 269; quoted in Stearns, The Story of Jazz, p. 51. In a later study, Stearns notes that the Congo Square dances were “a tourist attraction that had the sanction of the city government.” -Marshall and Jean Stearns, Jazz Dance:The Story of American Vernacular Dance, Da Capo Press, NY, 1968, p.19.
1817 was a big year for the Baha’is.
Six million of them celebrate the birth
of Baha’u’llah every year--November 12th.
The 1st American school for the deaf opened
Construction began on the Erie Canal.
Alexander Lucius Twilight was the 1st black
to graduate from a US college.
John Quincy Adams became Secretary of State
The 1st Mississippi "Showboat," left Nashville
on its maiden voyage
The1st sword swallower performed in the U.S.:
indeed 1817 was a very big year.
The year I began my pioneering life, 1962, a rock-group known as The Neurotics began their career with a smash U.K. album, "Please Please, Oh Please Please Me(Please)." I remember the song even now as I harken to the sounds of more than four decades ago that rang out of the small blue radio in my bedroom at home in southern Ontario, as the world crept closer to oblivion.1 The Neurotics had a wild new music which they dubbed "rock and roll." It was a music that since the late 1950s was taking the world by storm. That year, 1962, I graduated from grade 12, started my matriculation, tried to make it with girls--unsuccessfully--and, with my parents, helped the Bahá'í community of Canada establish "a light-house of Bahá'u'lláh"2 in Dundas Ontario. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, March 20th 2004.
1 For 13 days in October of 1962 the world was, indeed, as close to nuclear war as it ever got in our time; and 2R. Rabbani,Messages to Canada, NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada, 1965, p.68. September 3rd 1962 could be said to be the start of my pioneering life, on the edge of oblivion, little did I know.
I knew there was something going on
in the music world back then
when a fellow like David Mickie1
could play the music he did
and talk the blue-streak that he did,
but I had no idea what it meant
because I was too busy with life.
In the blooming-buzzing confusion
of life it is so hard to know
just where you are, where society is at
for life always must be lived, touched,
tasted, loved and angsted-over.
And the big-picture simply eludes
just about everyone--even as this poet
patiently presses his familiar cliches
into some poetic shape with his
steady and powerful hands,2
shaken as they have been
by those slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune which
are now softer with the years
and leave me time to ponder
the big-picture, at last, at last.
1 David Mickie was a DJ on Radio CKEY in Toronto. He talked faster than a speeding bullet, played rock and roll music and drove adults crazy. And I listened to him in the evening in 1962.
2 George Frazer, Essays of Twentieth Century Poets, Leicester UP, 1977, p.173.
20 March 2004
GOING MY WAY OR HIS WAY
Bing Crosby was singing when the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly was taking its first shape in the years 1922 to 1926. His career went from riches to rags and back to riches in the next 18 years. The biggest box-office attraction in America at the end of the Seven Year Plan in 1944 was Bing Crosby and it stayed that way until well into the next plan, 1946-1953. The year the National Spiritual Assembly was formed in Canada, 1948, Bing won an oscar for his role in the movie Going My Way. His most popular, best-selling, song was White Christmas which Bing first sang in 1941 and the song was in the top-30 for 16 years. It remained the best selling song until 1998. Crosby is considered the most successful musical artist of the twentieth century. In the first months of my life, in the fall of 1944, Bing entertained the troops in Europe. Crosby made this tour in the months just after God Passes By was published.-Ron Price with thanks to “Bing Crosby Internet Sites,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, December 17th 2004.
While Bing was getting them to relax
in the midst of the darkest hours of history,
getting them to play it cool, take it easy,
reminisce on the sweet tastes of nostalgia
the champion warriors, thusfar undefeated,
in the army of Baha’u’llah, were arising
resolutely, voluneering to fill the defenses
and register total victory in another war,
dealing as it did with the stupendous forces
of a divinely impelled Plan, the weightiest
spiritual enterprise in recorded history and
yielding the fairest fruits, glittering prizes
for its votaries, the vanguard of its pioneers,
to garner on a long, thorny and tortuous path.
December 17th 2004
Right from the start of rock ‘n roll in the mid-1950s musical artists copied technique, style, words, whole songs. Plagiarism was simply not an issue.1 That is also true of my poetic idiom. While most of what I write is mine, still I borrow a great deal as well: ideas, concepts, techniques, styles, phrases, philosophies. When I read Einstein who wrote that he had only one idea that was all his in his life, I can appreciate that perspective. In the end, it seems to me, what is uniquely mine in my poetry is: my experience, my way of conveying my experience, indeed the overall specificity of my thousands of poems. This overall poetic work, in toto, the way I put it together, it’s quantity and quality is all mine. It’s value, well, that is another question.-Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, “John Lennon’s Jutebox” 9:30-10:30 p.m., November 8th 2004.
What makes this oeuvre mine
is a voice, a body, a set of words
which flow through me but often
not from me, are often not mine:
they are the sons and daughters
of life’s longing for itself.
They tell of a life lived,
like everyone else under
a blue radiance, like millions
of others: born into a family,
schooled, married, kids, jobbed,
retired, three squares a day,
et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But the pages of my book,
while looking the same as others
have a unique set of marks, words
on a page, words that make the me
that is me----me.
November 8th 2004
"The most satisfying, historically accurate, reconstructions" of Handel's Messiah "generally date from the early 1750s."1 On May 15th 1754 the Messiah was produced in London for the first time with the vocal and instrumental ensemble that one often finds in productions today.2 At this time Shaykh Ahmad, the great precursor of the Babi and Bahá'í Revelations, was one year old. -Ron Price with thanks to 1David Vickers, "A Sacred Oratorio," Internet, 2003; 2ABC FM Radio, December 23rd, 2003, 12:30 pm.
The greatest single musical production
in the history of humankind,
in one epic music-poem,
the whole of human experience
in a blend of elegant melody,
with its capacity for self-renewal
was ready for the world,
the world as text, mystical tree.
And so there was born
in eastern Arabia--
as these melodic tones
entered the air--
of another ilk
which saw the world as text
and the melody of a new
Revelation as its sine qua non
and what was coming next.
24 December 2003
THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
When the rock groupPink Floyd had the first successes of their career in 1967 I was on my way to life as a primary school teacher among the Eskimo on Baffin Island; when their greatest LP, The Dark Side of the Moon, was released in 1972 I had Aboriginal kids in my classes in Whyalla South Australia; when Pink Floyd went on their last tour, the Division Bell tour of 1994, I had just finished 25 years as a teacher/lecturer, was working in Perth Western Australia and was ready to retire, although retirement did not take place until 1999. -Ron Price with thanks to SBS TV, "Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon," 8:30pm-9:25 pm, October 12, 2003.
My pioneering life from
Eskimos to Aborigines
went arm-in-arm with
your musical career
and we both kept going
and going and going.
When I arrived at the other
side of the world, you arrived
at the dark side of the moon.
We both had our:
early adult disenchantments,
hanging on in the English way.
(for hanging on in desperation
has clearly been the English way)
The era of the guitar played
itself across two continents
and social processes pursued
their erratic and unpredictable
course and their prelude
to that long-awaited hour
when the fortunes of humankind
would be revolutionized.1
1Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.117.
October 12, 2003.
THE SONGS I WAS SINGING
Poetry, song and autobiography have been interlinked for millennia. In my pioneering life, beginning in 1962, the music and words of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, the culture of the sixties and my own autobiography come together in an interesting cross-fertilization. Bob Mason's unpublished PhD Thesis on 'The Dialogue Between the Beatles and Bob Dylan'1 illumined, for me, this triangle of relationships. To take but one of many possible examples, the very month I decided to pioneer among the Eskimo, October 1965, The Beatles' hit "Nowhere Man" was released. Most of their songs were about their coming to terms with autobiographical issues, about changing society, about drugs(after 1965) and about a dialogue between these megastars. Paul McArtney said, in a song he wrote in the 1990s, that the members of his group, The Beatles, always came back to the songs they had been singing because these songs told them, and everyone else who was interested, where they were at. This is quintessentially true of my own poetry.-Ron Price with thanks to 1"Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 16 January 2002.
I was finally knowing
where I was going to
and feeling as if I could
finally see some light
at the end of the tunnel,
thinking for myself:
none of this bourgeoisie
normality for me,
going where noone
had gone before----1
at least from my corner,
doing what noone expected,
nothing to do with drugs,
helping to change the world
in a way none else could see,2
on my own, breaking the umbilical chord,
no more of the family Christmas and Easter
and endless birthday scenes for me,
no more of the 'daddy,' 'mommy'
and all the old friends for me:
this was my own response to existence.
This was a starting new
and working out my way of being
my take on the world and its load.
I was not a 'Nowhere Man.'
I was 'doing what I wanted to do,'
thinking what I wanted to think,3
or so I thought.
1 Going to live among the Eskimo, away from family and friends, had an absurdity to it in 1965 in the conservative climate I grew up in in southern Ontario.
2 Outside the small circle of Bahá'ís I knew then.
3See the George Harrison song: Do What You Want To Do.
16 Jan. 2002