26. THE WRITING PROCESS

One of the obligations of the storyteller, the bard, the poet, is to tell his own story, tell who he is and tell it intelligibly. To put this obligation another way: he has to share his own story, his interests, his perspectives, his seeds, his loyalties, his beliefs, his loves, his frustrations. For all he has is his story. Some writers tell their story through novels or short stories; some through poetry. At this site, I write what is openly autobiographical poetry, narrative, essays, interviews and book reviews. This is how I tell my story. My poetry is tugged this way and that by a host of visible and invisible presences. Like a fish in a stream I am deflected this way and that by currents, by the presence of other fish, by depth of the stream bed. Unlke the fish, I am able to describe the stream. Unlike the fish, too, I try to describe the nature of the life that presents itself to me in all its complexity and wonder, its tedium and frustration.

__________________________

 

THE QUOTIDIAN AND SO MUCH MORE

By 2002 American poet Louise Gluck wrote and published nine books of autobiographical poetry. By 2002 I had written, but not published, fifty books of poetry. I trust I had not made in my poetry a fetish of my life, that I had not caught myself in a cul-de-sac of my own subjectivity. Brian Henry described Gluck's work in his review of her The Seven Ages(2001) in Contemporary Poetry Review(2002). Henry wrote of Gluck's predilection for portentous repetition, her inability to embrace spheres beyond herself, to enter into any rich, encompassing and imaginative realm. He says she "ruins ideas with prolixity and overexplanation" and her sense of "crippling self-importance plays itself out in the dreariest ways." Her poetic project, he concludes, is a flawed and trivial self-narrative.

I wondered, as I read Henry's analysis of Gluck's work, if my poetry was guilty of this same obsessive self-reflection or self-love, of the same over-indulgent, self-scrutiny, "ridiculous in its perseverance." My personal life was certainly the subject of my poetry. Like Gluck, I saw in the quotidian a source for my poetic art. Yes, I was guilty of some of Gluck's faults. I had to admit it. Self-love is part of the very clay of man. But--my poetry was so much more. Such was--and is--my claim. Let the reader and future critic decide. -Ron Price with thanks to Brian Henry, "Louise Gluck's Monumental Narcissism," Contemporary Poetry Review, 2002.

 

There is repetition, prolixity,

obsession, perseverance, self-love,

the quotidian here--but, oh, oh…..

so much more

over these four epochs

when the trustees

of that global undertaking

set in motion

more than 100 years ago,

inherited the mantle

of a charismatic authority.

 

I was eighteen during that

great transition point,

that conveyance of authority.

The times were a changin',

as Bob Dylan sang it.

I was starting university

and about to experience

my first episode of

a bi-polar disorder.

 

Ron Price

23 September 2002

 

PRICE'S PLAGIARISM

Some artists are plagiarists. The composer, G.F. Handel, used the material of other composers and passed it off as his own, sometimes improving on it. Of course, T.S. Eliot said that one of the qualifications of a great poet was the ability to use the work of other writers. I certainly draw on the ideas of others, often like some sort of patchwork quilt. Sometimes I quote phrases, sentences and paragraphs without acknowledging the source. It does not always seem necessary, appropriate, desirable or fitting to do so. My poetry, as it is, is loaded with quotations and acknowledgments in both the epilogue and at the end of a poem.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 29 September 2002.

This story is my unique blend

and plagiarism is just not an issue,

especially now that I do not occupy

an academic chair, lounge-suite

or pillow in the corner of a cloister.

 

I have put together my own package

with the help of thousands,

the ideas of more than I can count.

Just how much of me is me

and how much of me is not me

is impossible to tell

in the instance writing.

 

It's not all new,

just a changing landscape

in the great quest

for identity and how to live

in and through community

as we rise from obscurity

in these several epochs

and play our role in this

immense human family.

 

This surge forward

in the tenth stage of history,

the days of my maturity,

heading down a track

no one can foresee,

such a long struggle

these forty years

for the redemption

of humankind and

my own healing.

---Ron Price 29 September 2002

 

SOME COMPARISONS

Mozart's description of what happens to him as he composes has some similarities to the process of writing poetry as I experience it. "Once I have my theme another melody comes,"1 Mozart begins. And so it is, for me, with writing poetry. I get the germ of an idea, some starting point, a strong note or theme. Then, another idea comes along linking itself to the first one in a similar way to the linkage of that melody Mozart mentions to his theme. By now there is emerging "the needs of the composition as a whole" both for me and for Mozart. For both of us, too, the whole work is produced by "melodic fragments," by "expanding it," by "conceiving it more and more clearly." Mozart finishes his work in his head. The composition comes to him in its entirety in his head. I finish my work on paper and I have no idea of the ending until the end. The poem below is an example, drawing heavily on the contents of a book.2 -Ron Price with thanks to the 1ABC Radio National, The Science Show, 10.1.98; and 2Chloe Chard, Pleasure and Guilt: Travel Writing and Imaginative Geography 1600-1830, Manchester UP, NY, 1999.

Even the most uninteresting,

trivial and repetitive,

when seen at a distance

with a lively fancy

and a determination,

with purpose and system

to make the most of life,

can find a mysterious charm,

an entertaining commentary

in the hands of a good writer.

 

This is not the work of a tourist

and its trivial, pointless diversion,

innocent gratification,

pleasureable indolence,

gratifying excitements,

gastronomic indulgences,1

relief from responsibility,

and identity: escape.

 

I have never been a tourist.2

Always there is the work,

the object worthy of life,

of commentary:

always the profusion

of the incomparable,

so much intensification,

excess, the delights,

the dangers, the restlessness,

a reaching out

beyond the mundane,

the observable.

 

The danger of hyperboles,

accepting, as I know I must,

jarring encounters,

the destabilizing,

troubling elements

than can't be kept at bay,

when calm benevolence

can't be maintained

and the necessary distraction.

 

1 Except, perhaps, on my two 'honeymoons' for several days in August 1967 and December 1975; and travelling to and settling in to some new places of residence and employment.

2 Tourism in the modern sense began, according to Chard, about the time of the birth of Baha'u'llah. There are some parallels between tourism and pioneering but they are limited.

Ron Price

27 June 2002

WHAT IT MEANT: THE BALANCE

Russian poet, Boris Pasternak(1890-1960), had some views of the poet and poetry which resonate strongly with my own approach to the poetic process. Pasternak felt the poet must respond submissively "to a high and lonely destiny." He must "contribute in some vital way to the life of the times." At the same time, he must not project himself as a poet or be consumed by the fact of his being a poet. I like to think I achieve this balance between contributing in a vital way and not projecting myself, or at least I try to, by, on the one hand, sending my poetry formally to various Baha'i libraries and individuals and creating a website; and on the other hand, by talking about the role of being a poet about writing poetry as little as possible, but going on with my employment, my life and my activities with a serious industriousness and light-hearted humour.

Being a poet was, for Pasternak, mysteriously connected with destiny. Pasternak was seized by an irresistible urge to write poetry. The act of writing poetry took possession of him in his early twenties. In my case I was nearly fifty when this 'urge' this 'possession' grabbed me strongly. Poetry seemed to come naturally, although whether others found it natural or meaningful was another question. The pitch of intensity that my emotions and perceptions had been brought to in my earlier days was challenged into education, career, marriage and family and building Baha'i communities. Now, the impetuous flow of language, intensity and energy was released into a poetic eruption of several million words in the years 1992 to 2002. -Ron Price with thanks to Olga Ivinskaya, A Captive of Time: My Years with Pasternak,Collins/Harvill, 1978, Introduction.

You1 wanted to give an account

of the revolutionary era

you lived through,

what it meant,

the years of terror.2

 

I wanted to give an account,

within my personal limitations,

of the revolutionary era

I lived though,

when an insignificant

and obscure movement

moved unobtrusively

onto the global stage of history,3

what it meant in the dark heart

of an age of transition.4

 

1 Boris Pasternak

2 1936-1938, ibid.,p.xxxii.

3 1937 to 2002 in a series of Plans

4 1967-2002

Ron Price

1 April 2002

THE WHOLE PATTERN

Like Montaigne, the sixteenth century philosopher, I retired from the excessive demands of public life and public office. I wanted solitude and tranquillity of mind. Marcus Aurelius had once said that one can find tranquillity anywhere, but one must learn to retire into oneself. While I agreed with this, I found it easier away from classrooms where I was responsible for more than one hundred students a week and away from large Baha’i communities where there seemed to be an endless stream of evening meetings. Like Montaigne, I felt it was important not to give myself up entirely to public affairs, but to have "a back room for ourselves." So it was at the age of 55 I found this back room in a small country town where I could, like Montaigne, live for myself after living for others for so many years. I could devote myself to a modicum of public good, but I could also devote myself to writing, an interest that had developed by degrees for perhaps several decades. -Ron Price with thanks to Peter Burke, Montaigne, Oxford UP, NY, 1981, pp.36-7.

This was not escapism,

but a more challenging

exercise of my talents,

none of that endless prattle

of leg-on-leg and chin-wag

for, what was it, fifty hours

and more every week for years.

 

This is not the stage,

but some inner court

where I was judge and jury

and, of course, my wife

providing a tempering force,

a comfort and a guide

and a few other souls

I met in life’s byways

to confirm my social being.

 

This is some inner direction,

with a small portion of other-direction

so that I could write what I must write

and leave for posterity

a portrait of myself and my times

during these four epochs

for, as Montaigne wrote,

every man embodies the whole

pattern of the human condition.1

 

1 Montaigne, Essays

 

Ron Price

5 April 2002

____________________ 

NOURISHMENT

Reading about how and why the American novelist John Steinbeck wrote, has led me here to define more precisely, if indeed that were really necessary after all this poetry behind me, how and why I write. First the how: Steinbeck wrote 3000 words a day beginning at 8:30 am and he kept writing until he got his quota for the day. He said he had no idea how he wrote his novels. In contrast, I write and read about eight hours a day and I produce, on average, two poems. Each poem averages one page including a prose introduction. That works out to about 600 words a day. Each poem begins for me in an idea, usually an idea that I can plug into an interrelated triangle of forces: my society, my religion and myself.

Second the why: the interrelationship of people and place nourished Steinbeck, provided the dynamic, the inspiration. He found the work and speech patterns, the customs, of his characters were shaped by the local area, its geography, its history, its sociology. What nourishes me, on the other hand, is the relationship, as I indicated in the above paragraph, between my society, my religion and myself, my community. Its a highly interactive triangle of forces and a poem usually arises when I see a relationship I had never seen before--and in all likelihood noone else has either. Some spark presses me, inspires me, to explore what is often, no, nearly always, a complex and fascinating interrelationship. -Ron Price with thanks to Liam Davison, "The Place on the Page," Review: The Weekend Australian, January 26-7, 2002.

 

Particularities of place

got ironed out over time.

I felt I could have lived anywhere

for where I was was simultaneously

everywhere, anywhere--and no where:

it was the same to me

as long as I had a feed

and a roof over my head.

 

Particularities of place

were the least of my inspirations:

whether a person said cheese

or spat into the breeze;

whether the river was wide

or the mountain had

an accessible side.

 

It was a different particularity

that interested me,

a wider span and take:

could be the Seleucid Monarchy

as bridal chamber for civilizations

and their titanic offspring, a series

of syncretistic religions.

Or the fact that our society

was identical with the whole of humankind.1

and this occurred in my lifetime

and the lifetime of my father

and, while this happened,

a new religion grew so unobtrusively

across the length and breadth of the planet

that it was well on its way to being

the religion for mankind by the time

I was ready to depart this mortal coil.

1 Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol.1. this is one of Toynbee's oft' repeated themes.

Ron Price

28 January 2002

 

THE SEIGE

At the age of twenty-nine the English writer Thackeray(1811-1863) "felt himself to be an old man with the good things in life behind him."1 A biographer, Ann Monsarrat, writes that Thackeray had "some bankruptcy of the heart." Price, although often feeling that sense of bankruptcy due to ill-health, did not feel such sentiments of the heart and mind on a regular basis until he was nearly fifty. It was one reason, he speculated, for his turning to poetry, to solitude. This feeling of the years, this sense of being old, was part of his germination process, Price thought, perhaps the last stage. He did not have that feeling that the good things in life were behind him, as Thackeray did, although he often had the experience, expressed by his father forty years before, of 'here we go again.' Price felt an openness to intuitions, to impressions, to suggestions which required leisure time to assimilate in the jig-saw that was his consciousness. He also seemed to require a withdrawal into himself which, to some extent, took on the appearance of a seige.2 -Ron Price with thanks to Ann Monsarrat, An Uneasy Victorian: Thackeray the Man, Cassell, London, 1980, p.123; and The World of Poetry: Poets and Critics on the Art and Functions of Poetry, editor, Clive Sansom, Phoenix House, London, p.124.

 

I now have endless hours and days

with only casual interruptions

and those I intentionally make.

I have no: ---

classes to teach at 10 or 2,

meetings at 3:30 or 4,

interviews with students at 12:15

and again and again at 1:30 or 4:45,

special meetings at the Smiths' at 7:30,

a weekend seminar, the third in two months,

a regular 200 pages of papers a week to mark.

 

I don't have to think about:

how to package a two hour class

in human services or philosophy,

the agenda for the union meeting

or the minutes that must get typed,

or the LSA meeting on Saturday,

or whether my son or daughter

will get that job or that interview.

 

So, now, I easily find eight hours daily

to devote to this poetic art.

The seige which drove me

into this world of inner contemplation

is now over. The demands of society

have been passionately resisted,

man and poet have been reconciled,

the rhythm of solitude and community,

leisure and activity, the outer and inner---

has been found. ----------R. Price 22 January 2002

 

ONRUSHING INFLUENCES

I could argue that all my creative activity, all my writing, was born in and became part of a process of, prayer for the departed that I initiated in 1978 and 1979. Everything that I accomplished in later life unfolded, I could again argue, from that 'leaven that leaveneth the world of being.' It was a leaven from holy souls who furnish 'the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest.'1 Slowly at first, a delay, a prelude, of perhaps as many as fourteen years, and then an avalanche, a long and, thusfar, unending shower of heavenly rain. This abundance, this consummation of what had been, in fact, a revolutionizing process, a process that had been initiated near the start of the Seven Year Plan(1979-1986), became part of my day-to-day experience, my sensibility, my delight, my rejoicing. It is something ineffable that I feel, I see, with my mind and heart, behind and within the things of this world. I have enjoyed these new sensations now for ten years. The onrushing influences of their informing force2 have yielded thousands of verses and millions of words. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, p.161; and 2Shoghi Effendi,God Passes By, p.152.

 

He called it his mid-life vision quest,1

his daimon and living with its call,

not just a piece of flesh and blood,

a persona and its social mask,

but some deeper self, some healing

and wholeness, some inner voice,

some laying bare of the human soul,

some revelation of inner mysteries,

but still dealing with those ever-present

embodiments of satanic fancy,

what pertains to water and clay,

to shadowy and ephemeral attachments,

those constituents of psychic life

that roam through our wilderness,

our private places of oblivion and error.

 

Reading the book of my own self,

now in these days, I am cast

to the lowest abyss and draw near

to that summit of glory,2

an inner land ushered in a decade ago

by an oft' repeted experience

of emptiness, depression and fear.

Now, for me, the true events,

the battles of history lie buried within me

not in Afganistan or Kurdistan

and I try to know myself again

in all its uniqueness

and singularity, more deeply.3

2 Baha'ull'ah, Seven Valleys, p.50.

1 and 3 John-Raphael Staude, the Adult Development of C.G. Jung, Routledge, London, 1981, p.68 and p.94, respectively.

Ron Price

9 January 2002

 

LIFE-GIVING FACT

The philosopher Ayn Rand(1905-1982) had a conception of art that has some parallels to my view of poetry. Both of us see artistic expression, and hence poetry, as the concretization of the widest metaphysical abstractions and of our own particular philosophy; as broad brush strokes that assist in developing an integrated world view; as an exercise in contemplation; as an art form which depends not on the extent of our knowledge but on the means by which we acquire it; as a form whose value lies primarily in the process of cognitive integration it affords, as the mechanism, the means, for providing an integrated view of existence; as an art form whose sense of life is the product of philosophic conclusions; as an art which offers "life-giving fact" and "moments of metaphysical joy and of love for existence," which confirms our view of existence;" as something which satisfies the needs of our cognitive faculty; as an indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal; as an activity in which one can learn a great deal about life; as something that induces a sense of life through the work itself; as an act whose roots lie in the nature and requirements of our mind and in an objectification of our view of man and of existence. -Ron Price with thanks to Michelle Marder Kambi and Louis Torres, "Critical Neglect of Ayn Rand's Thoery of Art," The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol.2 No.1, Fall 2000, pp.1-46.

 

Seeking a quiet place

and, then, a quieter place

for this profoundly satisfying

bit of philosophy made concrete,

point of sanity in an anarchic world.

With my broad and fine brush strokes

trying to bring it all together

in what you might call

cognitive integration,

with a sense of finding

life-giving-fact,

moments of metaphysical joy,

of love for existence,

satisfying my cultural sensibilities

and the requirements of my mind

defining that integrated world view

that I became associated with

insensibly in those years

when Lenny Bruce was writing

about how to talk dirty and influence people.1

and the average American family

was consuming about 1000 cans

of food each year and new teflon pans.2

1 Bruce, a popular commedian of the time, published a book by this name in 1962.

2 Teflon pans went on sale in December 1960.

 

Ron Price

25 October 2001

AN ESSAY ON THE WRITING PROCESS

The titles of each of my booklets of poetry(some 46 by mid 2001 and 60 by 2007) are drawn from recent experience in the Baha’i community often in connection with the Mt. Carmel Project. What is happening on Mt. Carmel is very much something that is happening to me. For community, shared community, no matter how extensive, does not replace the intimacey experienced alone. No matter how much of our experience is shared in group interaction, much of our time in life is by ourselves. Edward Gibbon put this concept in a positive spin when he wrote: "I am never less alone than when I am by myself."

In this poetry the reader will see how I people my solitude, how I am alone in a crowd and how I achieve that degree of virtue proportional to what I am worthy—always an unknown quantity—but some still make the attempt. Readers will also see how what other people say and think subtly alters the shape of the self and how it is presented to the world.

copyright: Marco Abrar

Behind the writing process in which I am engaged is a search for patterns, a clarification of patterns, a desire to understand patterns in both the meganarratives of life and the micronarratives. Also behind the writing process, or underneath it, is a belief that I am that one who must make the world real, meaningful, purposive, who must see and shape the visions of reality I find in the world, who must experience the timeless unity behind the appearances of change. In some ways, my poetry is part of a continuous inner monologue, telling the story of my inner being and that of many others I have come across along the way. It is but one form in which I give of myself which the famous writer Somerset Maugham said is the only thing a writer has to offer.

What the reader will find here is a single persona which expresses my thoughts and feelings, although it is a persona with many outer appearances, colours and shapes. The reader will also find an attempt to uncover truth, for poetry is about the revelation of truth if nothing else. I have found a voice, for these last two decades of writing poetry, that tells the story, tells my story, that bears witness, that speaks the meaning of my being, that nurses that meaning as something sacred. Along with the religion I have been associated with for more than forty years, I find poetry helps to rescue me from the indignities that life is capable of visiting upon itself.

And so my poems are often argument and assertion: assertions explained, justified, questioned and countered. I think my writing shows more conscientiousness than openness; and, at best, my writing compresses original insights into forceful phrases. That is what I'd like to think. Of course it is the reader who will tell. It is difficult for readers to miss my general thrust: to tell the story of self, of religion and of society, to veer away from mere documentation to actual experience, to tell, too, of ideal selves and worlds.

Part of what I write is beyond my control. The end result of my writing is a vision partly forced on me unwittingly by my own nature and more than forty years of conviction and commitment in the context of the Baha'i Faith. What I write, to put it another way, serves a larger purpose than mere recounting of experience, the telling of a story. There is here a critical view of life, some positive, some negative. There is a particular twist I give to life in my wriitng. I impose patterns on the facts I recount. I distort things somewhat in order to make them clear.

 ______________________

UNLEASHING THE INFINITE

Price's poetry, indeed all that he had written, was a testament to the enduring presence of the past, of its power to create and shape the future through a marriage of imagination and memory. For words had driven him, at least since August of 1962 the late summer when he had given up playing sport. Words had defined him. He was undoubtedly drawn by his passions as well.. But all of this, all that had driven him, was subsumed under the rubric of his religion.

 

Like the famous Australian poet, John Shaw Neilson, Price was sensitive to what people thought of him but, even after the passing of ten, and perhaps as many as twenty, years of writing poetry so few seemed to have any opinion of his work and fewer still expressed it. Poetry was largely a personal and private utterance for Price as it had been for Neilson in those days when Shoghi Effendi was laying down the basis for Baha'i Administration in the 1920s. Neilson had a strong urge to write in his early thirties after overcoming his nervous troubles. I had that same urge in my late forties after getting out of mine. -Ron Price with thanks to Cliff Hanna, Jock: A Life Story of John Shaw Neilson, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 1999, p.129.

 

Once our reasoning minds

try to judge works of art

one can prove anything one wishes.

 

And what we say is bounded

by a frontier of ineffability,

by that which absolutely

can not be said by anyone.

 

But still, I try to catch

the world's mystery and surprise,

to identify it is my duty,

if I would unleash the infinite.

Ron Price

4 October 2001

__________________

PARALYSING BLISS

I feel myself drawn to the poetic underpinning of life, the way life turns back on itself, twists and winds its way through an immense labyrinth of complexity and throws up images for me to adhere to. I adhere to them, to that complexity and that underpinning of life through writing. Writing poetry evokes life's mysteriousness, its elemental truths, its basic patterns. It brings to bear on the written word and the process of producing that word all of my life, all of my past, all that is my self and those weird swirlings of the psche that I call my imagination. Everything I do, everything we all do, reveals who we are and this is especially true for me in my writing poetry. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 30 September 2001.

It came up like a great ground-swell,

from somewhere in the earth,

as if it had been there all along,

silently stirring under the soil,

not telling anyone it was there.

 

Fed by underground streams,

great aquifers of eternity,

while my soul often staggered

beside life's humblest work

slowly one blessing came to me

much larger to my eyes.

I did not need to gauge at all,

this one enchanted prize.

 

It lived at the limit of my dream,

a perfect, paralysing bliss.

It gave new value to my soul;

'twas supremest earthly sum.

Floods of heaven served to me

in bowls more than I can see.

Ron Price

30 September 2001

___________________ 

A MORE HUMBLE EPIC

The way I have designed my poems, with their often extensive introductions or preambles, with lengthy commentary on their process, their intention and their content, provides a clear record of my evolving, shifting, complex artistic aims and their controlling design. This controlling design, this ‘figure in the carpet’, which contains and clarifies all my sub-designs and patterns, possesses an essential unity in the midst of a vast multiplicity. This essential unity surrounds ‘a life and a religion’, a life with relatively few years remaining, a religion with a profound role to play in the future of humankind. -Ron Price with thanks to A. Walton Litz, The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Oxford UP, NY, 1961, Preface.

 

By the time I began to enter

the heart of middle adulthood;1

by the time I had begun that rendezvous2

on the content of my days,

I sensed the epic nature of the journey

that was my life,

like Ulysses in the Odyssey,

or that more modern epic of God-men,

sent from prison to prison for more than half a century.

 

Mine, of course, was a more simple, humble, tale

whose controlling design slowly becomes

more precise, more monumental,

a product of unceasing labour,

with closer texture, more organic form,

a work I will never finish,

although I will one day abandon it.3

 Ron Price

21 February 1999

 1 Middle adulthood consists of the years from 40 to 60 according to one major human development model. The heart of middle adulthood would be, then, the age of 50.

2 In the Ridvan message of 1992 the Universal House of Justice referred to a

rendezvous of the soul with the Source of its light...a time to retreat to one’s

innermost being....to turn thy sight unto thyself....

3 Paul Valery in ibid., p.7.

___________________ 

TURNING

My views about ultimate literary success are a combination of the thoughts of W.H. Auden, an American writer between the wars, and Ian Fairweather, an Australian artist after WW2. Auden says that "there are only two kinds of literary glory that are worth winning." But, he goes on, the writer who achieves this glory will never know if he is a winner on either front. To be successful is to be useful to "some great master generation later" in "solving some problem." The other form of success is "to become for someone an example of the dedicated life...placed by a stranger in an inner sanctum of his thoughts...a hallowed mentor."1 So much for what you might call "the anonymity position" of W.H.Auden.

Ian Fairweather says of posterity and its generations that "it will take what it wants from the artist, if it takes anything at all; and it will look after itself." His view was to give no thought to the future and what any of its societies might do or not do with an artist's or poet's work.. "To hell with posterity," would epitomize Fairweather's thoughts and feelings about his own work.2 So much for the "who cares position" of Ian Fairweather.

My finer spiritual muse aims at Auden; it is a more socially responsible, idealistic, even utopian, stance. My tired self which gets depressed late at night is sympathetic with Fairweather's very solitary position and his philosophy of individualism. -Ron Price with thanks to 1W.H. Auden in W.H. Auden: Forewards and Afterwords, 1979, p.366; and 2Ian Fairweather, "Arts Sunday," ABC TV, 3 June 2001.

 

I write the way I see it,

feel it, think it,

for my contemporaries

and generations yet unborn

but, for the most part,

they are not around,

not moved, immoveable,

not really accessible,

for the most part,

and so I turn

unto the leaven that leavens

the world of being

and furnishes the power

through which poetry

is made manifest.1

1 Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, p.161.

Ron Price

4 June 2001

THE MOST GREAT ABSORPTION

Price found in his poetry a form of expression that more and more absorbed his meditation and imagination. It was not a substitute for religious faith, home and hearth, or employment, but it certainly made major intrusions into these respective time frames. In some ways what Price was doing was a continuous effort to endow his life with significance, a significance which might have meaning to others now and in the future. Just how long Price would be able to assimilate significant new experience into his artistic imagination he did not know.-Ron Price with thanks to A. Walton Litz, The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Oxford UP, NY, 1961, pp.121-127.

 

So many things had led to this

Most Great Absorption,

just at a time when I wanted out

of what had given me most meaning

and while I was realizing that

‘this was the best I was going to get,’

in all likelihood.

 

And I got out more and more

because I had dried out worlds,

dessicated my emotions,

needed to recoup, gather strength,

get a refreshing perspective,

a new life, a new way, a new stage,

heading as I was into late adulthood

and its inevitable sequel: old age.

 Ron Price

21 February 1999

________________________ 

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A POETIC FORM

Insensibly, over several years from about 1988 to 1992, there developed in Price’s mind the idea of a poetic autobiography, a single, virtually unending work that would continue at a greater depth the narrative autobiography he finished in May 1993. This poetic form allowed more spontaneity and the deeper expression of ideas, of words, that he had been playing with as far back, perhaps, as 1962 when his whole pioneering venture had begun. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 20 February 1999.

 

As Price’s art developed,

the process of accumulated,

ripening vision intensified,

expanded, it seemed,

in infinite directions,

around several basic concepts,

several recurrent themes,

a vast and commanding religious philosophy,

a stream-of-consciousness mode,

a definite fragmented chronology,

a sequence of motifs that, hopefully,

stimulated the reader

and thickened the narrative,

all part of his search, his exploration,

for a poetic form, a fusion into a new style

with a dominant structure,

that would best tell his story

and that of his religion

in modernity.

 Ron Price

20 February 1999

 

A CHEWY BIT

Price was heading for Tasmania free from the trappings of teaching, students and employment and the various responsibilities of Baha’i community life. He wanted to serve the Cause he had espoused forty years before in some new way, some way that would fill his heart and mind as his previous forms of service had done for so long, but had clearly ceased to do in recent years. He was heading for late adulthood and, eventually, old age; his sense of adventure seemed to be waning. He felt tired with a certain tedium vitae and the fires, the energies, seemed to burn more slowly. Perhaps he would define his new service by extending his writing; perhaps self-expression and the liberation it provided to pent-up feelings and thoughts would happily fill his days, sitting alone and undisturbed, with the company of his wife and the occasional Baha’i activity in a small group.-Ron Price with thanks to Dorothy Green, Henry Handel Richardson and Her Fiction, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1986, pp.101-105.

When one possesses a gem of unsurpassed radiance, of great clarity and beauty, when one has it in one’s pocket, in a special case or even around one’s neck, wrist or finger for over forty years; when one shows it to others time and time again in as many ways as it is humanly possible to do; when the response is clearly indifference, disinterest, occasionally mild interest and on only the very rarest of occasions enthusiasm: a certain energy builds up, a certain anxiety, a certain obsessiveness, a certain frustration, some sense of impotence. One keeps seeking ways and means to give expression to the wonder, awe and lustre of the beauty in one’s possession. Some find the quintessence of this expression in their careers, or their marriages, or in the arts, or in some skill of use to humankind. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 25 February 1999.

I became the best there was

in the little circle that was my world,

year after year, turning them on,

turning them out, psyching them up,

close, intimate, right on, a real buzz,

the he’s a great guy scene,

being popular, took me to the top.

I mean, where do you go

after you’ve been a hero,

a wise one, one of the tops,

for so many years,

even if you do it for the Cause,

for the teaching work?

You run out of gas,

the old go, go, umpah, umpah!

 

You say, hey, I want out of here,

out of this spin, this ride, this trip.

That’s enough of this and that.

You’ve1 given me all I could ever want

in the fame and popularity department,

dear God, but enough’s enough,

my emotions are dried out

like some kind of fruit

they sell without its moisture:

thin, hard, chewy bits.

 

Has a new purpose, function, use,

still healthy, but the lusciousness, the fullness ----1

God it's gone, transformed into a dry sweetness.

-Ron Price

25 February 1999

_______________________

POET AND TEMPEST

Tonight I listened to an interview with Geoffrey Hill, the 66 year old English poet now living in Boston. He said that a certain energy of mind shapes the writing process that is very pleasing. He said he often sounds pessimistic and melancholy but, in fact, he is an optimist. He sees those at the centre of history as people who slip to the perifery after their death; and those at the perifery come to the centre of history’s stage, eventually. -Ron Price with appreciation to Geoffrey Hill, ABC Radio National, 19 April 1998, 7:30 pm.

 

You sound so serious, heavy,

English, old, putting together

an optimism out of history and

its tortured, stoney, twisted road;

putting together an identity out of

your place, your England, your

perceptions, your words, your

education, your pre-war and post-

war life in this twentieth century

with the tempest blowing in its

unprecedented magnitude, its

unpredictable course and its

unimaginably glorious and ultimate

consequences across the earth’s face.

Ron Price

19 April 1998

_____________________ 

THREADS

Some writers, some people, do not have a strong sense of privacy. They are quite comfortable in talking about virtually anything, public or private, that enters their head. They also seem to have a great need for being with people, a sort of inherent gregariousness, partly due to an essential loneiness, partly due to a simple need for and liking of people. You also find combinations of the above: people who like their own company best and spend much time by themselves, but when they are with others they seem to loose all their reserve. These types often seem impulsive and exhibitionistic and/or outrageously and immorally invasive.

When I examine my own life, especially since 1962, there is a strong thread of the private running right back to September of that year when I began matriculation and had to study four hours a night. Now, thirty-seven years later, I seek out solitude due to a personal predilection as well as so many years spent with people, talking and listening in classrooms, meetings and social settings. The social domain has certainly had a dominant place in my life, just how much that will continue and in what way remains to be seen. There is something about the writing process, though, that makes one’s reality, defines the past, provides pattern and meaning, identity, focus, is a bursting into a cosmos where one creates the constellations as one goes along from the very stuff of the universe, one’s own universe. -Ron Price with thanks to Diane Wood Middlebrook, Anne Sexton: A Biography, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1991, pp.61-65.

 

Poetry took over your life,

except for those therapy sessions,

as it has taken over mine,

with a sense of vocation,

a trance of explorative meaning

that appears from a milieux,

rises from the depths, the paper,

like a phoenix from the ashes,

from my dalliance with print

and a lifetime of searching.

 

But I don’t belong to the poets;

I belong to my Lord

and whatever He should bring

my way out of some Divine necessity

and His mysterious dispensations.1

-----Ron Price 15 May 1999

1 A meditation on Anne Sexton’s poetic milieux.

A FRESH GRACE

Most writers, according to Doris Lessing, are mildly depressed. When asked what her most joyous moments were she said "at the beginning of each book."1 I agree that a certain melancholia, a certain pensiveness, a certain level of emotion recollected in tranquillity, are present during the writing process. But there is also: intensity, pleasure, a celebratory joy, on rare occasions tears born in a commingling of sadness and joy, a solemn consciousness, a thankful gladness. I know what depression is like from years of suffering from a bi-polar disorder. I know all the gradations of depression from the death wish with blackness to the death wish in a quiet grey, to the mild depression that Lessing tells of. I know despair, a frenetic hypomania, immobilizing fear, mental chaos and, when I write, none of this is present. There is a culture of feeling which I am in quest of and which I find before I write or during the writing process. There is a freshness of the emotions, a connecting of this freshness with life, with my own heart and with the world around me. It does not always occur with the same degree of intensity, but it must occur to some extent, or writing for me is impossible. When I try, without these oils present, it is like dry, thin, black, soil out in the hot sun: no life, no vitality, no freshness, no heart, a meagre mind.

-Ron Price with thanks to Doris Lessing, "Books and Writing",ABC Radio National, 16 January 2000; for his Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000.

No, Doris, ‘mildly depressed’

does not really describe it for me.

There’s a fusion of life and death

instincts, now, after dieing

so many times in this life

and praying for friends

and loved ones in the kingdom

of immortality over so many years.

This is at the heart of my creativity

and Eros, too, with its culture-building

capacities, its attraction passionee,1

its flowing in love, friendship and sociability,

making reason more sensuous

and happiness a bi-product of a fresh grace

infusing the power of thought.

 

This, Doris, comes a little closer

to telling how I tell it,

what goes on in my inner life

where these new and wonderful

configurations seem cast upon

the mirror of creation.2

Ron Price

17 January 2000

1 For a discussion of the interrelationship between the life and death wish, instinct, I draw on Anthony Giddens,The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1993, Chapter 9.

2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1971, p.1.

_____________________

COMMUNION

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

The desire, as I see it, Mr. Miller,

is to obtain His bounty and tender,

so tender, mercy; to be a recipient

of a leaven that will leaven

the world of my being,

furnish it with writing power

and to be given the honour of His nearness.

The dark side of existence, indeed,

my corrupt inclination

is due to my failure

to achieve this communion.

It is a hopelessly appauling process,

Mr. Miller,

quite beyond the profoundest reflection.

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

Ron Price

20 June 2000

________________________

RISING TO REALITY

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

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

I think you’re partly right, Joseph,

but the sense of unreality is no more

than in any other activity

when one is tired, depressed,

warn to a frazzle or engaged

in the more unpleasant side of life,

when sadness and despondency

touch our brow. Vanity, emptiness

and the mere semblance of reality

are part of life’s many currents

that make up the river of our days.

 

And so, Joseph, one must not deny

that the glimmering, superficial

and ephemeral surface of life

we will always have with us,

as we strive to rise above

the words and letters,

the syllables and sounds of His Word

and especially as we watch movies

like the one I am about to watch.

Ron Price

20 June 2000

__________________

SPIN CITY

While we were on pilgrimage our friend: the artist, teacher and now preserver of books, working at the Baha’i World Centre, Edward Broomhall, gave my wife a copy of a newly published book of the writings of Bernard Leach. Leach describes his philosophy, his approach, his understanding, of the process of making pots in this book Spinning the Clay Into Stars. As the potter spins his clay, life spins man. This analogy is not unlike the writing process. The poet forms his poems and life forms the poet. I gobbled-up as much of the book as fast as I could one evening and morning, before Day Five of pilgrimage came to occupy my time and attention.

Leach writes about the importance of the potter following his intuition, however mysterious it may be, if he is ever to fulfill his inner needs and be an innovator in his field. This is equally true of the poet. The artist, the potter, the poet must be able to "reach down into the centre of nature," of their life. This is, indeed, heaven. The man who creates is already in heaven. For Leach, and for this poet, emotion has a quintessential role to play in the evolution of art. -Ron Price with appreciation to Bernard Leach(1999, pp.40-46.) for these ideas.

Is the beauty here inseparable

from utility? It is all one, I say.

Is this surprise I find in creating

but unexpected perception

of some latent reality? Oh yes!

 

Is my imagination masculine

and my reason feminine?

I simply do not know.

Is imagination a synthesis

of sense and spiritual energy?

Sounds like a good hypothesis.

 

I write about what I feel.

I try to organize my words

to produce feeling and, yes,

necessity seems the mother

of any of my poetic inventions.1

 

1 ibid., p.47.

Ron Price

9 June 2000

____________________

THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

Bernard Leach describes his philosophy, his approach, his understanding, of the process of making pots in his book Spinning the Clay Into Stars. As the potter spins his clay, life spins man. This analogy is not unlike the writing process. The poet forms his poems and life forms the poet. Leach also says that the potter must follow his intuition, however mysterious it may be, if he is ever to fulfill his inner needs and be an innovator in his field. This is equally true of the poet. The artist, the potter, the poet must be able to "reach down into the centre of nature," of their life. This is, indeed, heaven. The man who creates is already in heaven. For Leach, and for this poet, emotion has a quintessential role to play in the evolution of art. -Ron Price with appreciation to Bernard Leach(1999, pp.40-46.) for these ideas.

Is the beauty here inseparable

from utility? It is all one, I say.

Is this surprise I find in creating

an unexpected perception

of some latent reality? Oh yes!

 

Is my imagination masculine

and my reason feminine?

I simply do not know.

Is imagination a synthesis

of sense and spiritual energy?

Sounds like a good hypothesis.

 

I write about what I feel.

I try to organize my words

to produce feeling and, yes,

necessity seems the mother

of any of my poetic inventions.1

1 ibid., p.47.

Ron Price

9 June 2000

____________________

A FRESH GRACE

Most writers, according to Doris Lessing, are mildly depressed. When asked what her most joyous moments were she said "at the beginning of each book."1 I agree that a certain melancholia, a certain pensiveness, a certain level of emotion recollected in tranquillity, are present during the writing process. But there is also: intensity, pleasure, a celebratory joy, on rare occasions tears born in a commingling of sadness and joy, a solemn consciousness, a thankful gladness. I know what depression is like from years of suffering from a bi-polar disorder. I know all the gradations of depression from the death wish with blackness to the death wish in a quiet grey, to the mild depression that Lessing tells of. I know despair, a frenetic hypomania, immobilizing fear, mental chaos and, when I write, none of this is present. There is a culture of feeling which I am in quest of and which I find before I write or during the writing process. There is a freshness of the emotions, a connecting of this freshness with life, with my own heart and with the world around me. It does not always occur with the same degree of intensity, but it must occur to some extent, or writing for me is impossible. When I try, without these oils present, it is like dry, thin, black, soil out in the hot sun: no life, no vitality, no freshness, no heart, a meagre mind. -Ron Price with thanks to Doris Lessing, "Books and Writing",ABC Radio National, 16 January 2000; for his Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000.

 

No, Doris, ‘mildly depressed’

does not really describe it for me.

There’s a fusion of life and death

instincts, now, after dieing so many

times in this life and praying for

friends and loved ones in the

kingdom of immortality over so

many years. This is at the heart

of my creativity and Eros, too,

with its culture-building capacities,

its attraction passionee,1 its flowing

in love, friendship and sociability,

making reason more sensuous and

happiness a bi-product of a fresh

grace infusing the power of thought.

 

This, Doris, comes a little closer

to telling how I tell it, what goes

on in my inner life where these

new and wonderful configurations

seem cast upon the mirror of creation.2

Ron Price

17 January 2000

1 For a discussion of the interrelationship between the life and death wish, instinct, I draw on Anthony Giddens,The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1993, Chapter 9.

2 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1971, p.1.

_____________________

THE PHYSICALIZATION OF THE IMAGINATION

Patricia Routledge, the British actress, said that writers who get to know the actors and the parts they are writing for really well find the writing process easy and pleasureable. Acting, she went on, is the physicalization of the imagination, the road, the journey toward a distant spot, toward a speck barely seen. It is a gradual movement, a walking, toward that spot as that spot slowly comes into full view, full form. Writing poetry is not unlike this description, this process, this way of defining acting that Routledge attempts to give detailed expression to after forty years in the business. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Parkinson, Parkinson, ABC TV, 10:00 pm, 26 August 2000.

Yes, Patricia, it’s1 not unlike acting,

this physicalization of the imagination,

this different kind of presence,

this different journey to a spot,

this gradual realization of a form.

 

But you have the edge, Patricia,

the entertainer who makes ‘em laugh.

I’m not even in your league.

To amuse and distract

you leave me for dead

in your empire of the habitual,

your bright world beyond the glass,

its nowness, its annihilation of time

and its heightening of sensibilities

or is it a narcotizing dysfunction?

1 Writing poetry

Ron Price

27 August 2000

_______________

PRESSING QUESTIONS

Eduard Radvinsky, a Russian writer, was talking on the radio today about the qualities needed by "a real writer": a sense of mission, a sense that writing will involve the whole of life once the sense of mission is acquired, a feeling of happiness even when things are going against you, even when it is obvious you are not going to become a popular writer, or even a published writer. The program went for half an hour at mid-day in its discussion of "Writers on Writing." The winter sun poured in the window of the dining-room where I sat by the radio. The Tamar River sparkled as the voice of some American writer referred to the writing process as essentially a way of understanding life and relationships. He also went on to say that he tried to discourage aspiring writers from getting into the job of writing at all because it was hard work, often with no financial payoff and no popularity. It helps to be a certain type of person, to be able to work day-after-day, year after year, without the promise of external reward in the form of being published, without the company of others, with that self-colloquy and self-communion which is at the heart of the writing process. -Ron Price, "Writers On Writing," ABC Radio National, 12:30-1:00 pm, 25 August 2000.

 

One does nothing as a poet without

some general ideas drenched thick

with the actual. For the solution

to the pressing questions of life

run from wide vistas to the particular:

ideas, subjects, places and tiny nuggets,

their accretions, their sacred hardness,

indestructible on the beach by my foot

where I wander with the mysteries

of the universe spinning in my head

and my heart heavy with a sorrow

that feels as indelible as the marks

on that stone which have been there

for thirty-five million years, having

taken fifteen million years to form.

 

Ron Price

25 August 2000

End of remarks!