Some poems-------an essay------and some more poems----------:
QUITE AT HOME
By the time Price was in his fifties, he was quite at home just about anywhere he went as long as certain preconditions were present: he could speak the language of the people; he had enough money for food and lodging; he was able to write and read books or material on the internet. When he was younger, before he was married and in his early twenties, he liked to have the companionship of a girfriend and of friends. After he was married he came to enjoy his wife's and son's company. He also liked to have gainful and pleasureable employment and the company of friends. By his fifties, though, he found he could live on his own, but still he preferred the domestic comforts and familiarity of his marital home and hearth. By the age of fifty, too, and even more-so by sixty, writing came to occupy the centre of his life and at the core of his writing was a complex of themes involving self, society, religion and the creative and living nature of the writing itself. He was happy to leave his corporeal self and others behind and with the self that was thought he could live and try to resolve what was incomplete. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 31 March 2002.
There is no reason why
this interesting subject,
abundant with life,
should be made boring,
although I only cover
such a small portion
of the greatest drama
in religious history.
I try to fuse many
into a complex,
the poetry of places,
the love and tension,
the nature of the time,
the historical process
and the meaning,
the mystery of my life.
For there's an art here
the finer meanings
of what exists
with this new centre,
far away, but connected
everywhere and here
with all that I am and see
and have been and will be.
And so I map my world
through words and a feeling,
a stretch of the big story
with lines of light radiating
everywhere, a cord,
a special line to the Quiblih,
and myself unfolding
in a process of immense
1 April 2002
WEAVING THE MACRO AND MICRO TOGETHER
The articulation of spaces, the naming of places, allows us to move, to come to grips with the world. At least that is how Australian writer David Malouf sees it. What is involved is a mapping of place through language. History is a subjective defining of communal understandings of space by weaving an explanatory narrative around events. There is a linear macro-history and a micro-history, a hidden history, which for the most part is not recorded. It contains repeatable and unique events of daily existence, movements of the heart, intimations of what is often close and inexpressible. It is what goes on under the noise and chatter of events. It is a private history and must be fitted to the macro-picture, to the rest of the world, so that you know where you are. The history of a place, of a life, is not static or settled. For each of us it is a different thread of meaning through space and time. There is the history in our books, the one we share, the common core. Then there is the multitude of competing and cooperating, highly diverse and differentiated individual narratives. They are the tangled wings, the inconsistencies, the conflicting interpretations of events on the birds of relationships. They are the strands, the threads, of love and compassion that everyone places as carefully as they can through the eye of the needle to sew the garment of our common and not-so-common existence. -Ron Price with thanks to Amanda Nettelbeck, Reading Malouf, Sydney UP, 1995
This one, this poetic, weaves
the two together--
the macro and the micro,
takes the Guardian and Nabil
and our own precious days
and tries to make a tapestry.
I come back again and again
to the same preoccupations,
the same things that make up
my world. I people it with words,
with the familiar and make it different
because no one wants to read
the same poem over and over again.
In the process I keep my knowledge
of the world, of my being in the world,
real, at the edge of some imaginative
invention, at the edge of a journey,
an exploration, a creating. I find out
who I am. For at the edge there is
always someone and, if I am alone,
there is always the Friend, Life
and an eternal grace.
1 April 2002
Reading about the death of the father of poet Les Murray and how that death freed Murray from juvenility made me ponder my own freeing and not-so-freeing in relation to my father and my mother. It made me ponder the very nature of adulthood and my success thusfar.-Ron Price with thanks to Les Murray:A Life in Progress,Oxford UP, 2000, p.265.
I think his death1 freed me
from any lingering juvenility,
although I think I went on
hankering after it for years.2
I always seemed to need
a mother or was that just
my wife's perception?
I hope I never find out---
Adulthood rushed at me
or was it just my hormones,
or civilization's tornados?
Perhaps the rush was from
that evening when I first
felt firm warm breasts
under a star-studded sky
and bra beside a lake
in northern Ontario
just after I turned 18.
I've been the serious one
just about as far back as I remember,
even when the Kingdom of God
on earth began in 1953. I was nine
and I played third base that summer
in the Burlington softball league
and my dad's voice boomed
through the house in the evening,
filling me with fear.
And now I fill my son with fear
down in the Antipodes
after fifty years of trying
to catch the ball.
1My father's: 1895 to 1965
2Even went to dances by myself as late as the age of forty in Katherine, after I had been married for fifteen years.---------Ron Price 16 March 2002
Arnold Toynbee discusses the stimulus of difficult physical environments, the stimulating effect of a hard, demanding place, a region that is unusually troublesome, on the people resident there. He says that the response of people who live in such places surpasses the response of people in easier environments.1 One of the many examples he describes is the Israelites and the Phoenicians. The home of the Israelites was a thin-soiled, uninviting, no-man's land and, although it remained obscure and unknown even down to the time of the Greek historian Herodotus, seven centuries after Moses, it became one of the world's great nations in its spiritual understanding.'2 Civilization and great difficulty, Toynbee argues, seem to go hand in hand.
It seemed to me that there was a message here for the Baha'i community. The following poem explores this message. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. 2, Oxford UP, 1962, pp. 31-73; and 2ibid.,p.55.
They would bring into being,
would be an agent,
for global civilization,
some mysterious force,
some means of grace,
some fresh influence
amidst the tangled fears,
the massive complexity
the endless pundits of error,
the forecasts of doom,
the phantoms of a wrongly
The darkest, most frightening
time in history, stimulating,
transforming this scattered
collection of people
into a global, unified
and harmonious civilization.
1The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 156.
BEGINNING AND ENDING IN THOUGHT
For Baha'is in the West, and certainly for this Baha'i, the challenge of the physical environment, which Arnold Toynbee describes for over forty pages in his A Study of History1, has been replaced in recent generations by the challenge of the psychological environment. From the start of my pioneering venture in mid-1962, the challenge for me has been mental, inner, psychological, spiritual. Even Arctic and semi-desert environments, with temperatures exceeding + and - 45 degrees C, respectively, did not present any special challenge to me due to the advances of modern technology which made the physical experience quite comfortable. But on my inside, my emotions and thoughts were challenged as much as any of my predecessors were challenged due to the physical environment. -Ron Price with thanks to Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol.2, Oxford UP, 1962, pp. 31-73.
You won't find much that is
glassily impermeable here,
perhaps a little pedestrian
here and there and a little
of that bland diction
of American suburbia.
You won't find sentences
that have forgotten their
beginnings before careering
to their ends or poems
that defy explication.
You will find all that
we think about when
we start thinking,1
for my work, my life,
my struggle, my mental tests2
begin and end in thought.
1Famous poet John Ashberry says his poetry is about "all that we think about when we stop thinking." His poetry, he writes, begins and ends outside thought. The Australian, "Higher Education," 29/11/00.
2Mental tests inevitably sweep over His loved ones in the West. Shoghi Effendi, Letters to NZ and Australia, p.1.------Ron Price 7 March 2002
AN INVITATION TO MY POETRY
Often when people, students and actors, are asked to give a summary of a play or a novel their words are banal, boring, dull, like some history textbook that put you to sleep long ago in school. Reading something out loud must strive to excite, ignite the imagination, make the mind soar. When I read my own autobiography, the story of my own life which I completed in narrative form in 1993, I felt that it did not have that aliveness which it had to possess if it was to really live in the minds of others. Over the next eight years I added several appendices to this autobiography: essays, quotations, updates, periodic analyses of portions of my life, nearly as many pages as the original autobiography. Some life was engendered; there was some inner vision, some stimulant to my creativeness but, somehow, my imagination had only been partially turned on, had only set me in motion in a limited way. I had had a rich and varied life but the approach I took to telling the story certainly did not awaken my interest and, I thought, it would be unlikely to awaken the interest of anyone else.
I loaned it to several people and my intuition told me that, although their responses were courteous with a degree of interest expressed, they did not find the account ‘grabbed them,’ to put it in the vernacular.
Slowly, somewhat insensibly, it seemed that, to go deeper into my spiritual, my psychological, life, to get to what actors call the subtext, below the superficial actions of my life, I became compelled to write poetry. My narrative autobiography had established the facts of my life with some degree of appraisal and facticity, but poetry allowed this appraisal to attain the required, the necessary, depth. Some of this depth involves an appraisal of the facts by means of my own feelings, my personal, living relationship to them. It involves discussing my own inner life, gifts and shortcomings, desires and needs. It involves getting a sense of my life. It involved a clarification of both the external and internal conditions of my life, the crystallisation and recrystallization of the images of my life, the attaining of a certain angle of vision with which to view of life or some portion of it.
Some parts, some incidents, in my life are warmed by my feelings; others remain fixed in my intellectual memory. With the former there is often tenderness, excitement, buoyancy; with the latter the feelings are cold and lacking in expression. The one is congenial; the other alien. After a ten year warm-up in writing poetry and, now, eight years of extensive writing there is a certain coalescence of poetic fragments; the points of light are growing and spreading, filling out an entire life. It is as if the venetian blinds of my life are slowly being opened, filling, flooding the room of my days with light and throwing into relief, the contrasting areas of darkness in the other rooms of my house.
Poetry allows the reader to come to my life bit by bit; if its spiritual essence is deeply embedded then the reader can dig it out gradually, poem by poem. In some ways a life is a puzzle and a poetic autobiography allows the reader to unfold its structure, however confused and intangible, anatomically, piecemeal. Frequent readings allow such a reader to solve the puzzle.
Sincerity of feelings, feelings that are true in a given circumstance, are essential in poetry. For the most part I think I acheive this, although at certain points rhyming patterns induce a feeling of artificiality; at other points I think I try to say what I would like to feel but don’t really feel; at still other times I simply fail to go to the centre of the issue, the feeling, the idea. Honesty and directness is sometimes very difficult even after living for over a quarter-of-a-century in a country which prides itself on these traits.
Artistic ardour, enthusiasm, provoke creativity. This in turn provokes understanding which evokes and reinforces the initial enthusiasm. Since 1992 such an ardour has characterized my writing, a writing that had lost its first fires in the narrative begun in the 1980s. But the emotions are themselves silent. They have provided the fuel for the mind which acts as a scout, a pioneer, cutting new paths for my creative forces, intuitions and feelings. My pioneering mind goes out in many directions, searches everywhere for stimuli and leaves it to my feeling systems and their intuitive paths to choose whatever is most appropriate for each poem. My mind plumbs the depths of my life, past and present, even future, goes over its several layers, tries to get down to its essence, tries to dismember it, subjects each portion to study and then allows the creative ardour of life, my feelings, to provide the stimuli that will result in the writing of a poem.
Poetry is a moulding of the dry facts of a life into spiritual form and content. This is done through artistic imagination. It involves the creation of inner circumstances by means of analysis and infusing life into material already collected, the facts of life. Some call this the "I am" state, where the poet feels himself in the thick of things, where my life coalesces into one organic whole. This state is achieved gradually, periodically, episodically. I am a participant observer as the ethnologists call it. One must avoid the falsities, the accidental imaginations and emotions, the forced and mechanical expressions.
The more a poet has experienced, the more he has observed and known, the greater his accumulation of live impressions and memories, the more subtly will he think and feel, and the broader, more varied, and substantial will be the life of his imagination, the deeper his comprehension of facts and events, the clearer his perception of both inner and outer circumstances. I came to poetry in a serious way at the age of nearly fifty. This is later than most poets but my many years have certainly provided the opportunity for the accumulation of the experience and comprehension suggested above.
9 June 2001
The pattern in so many fields of knowledge is the story of an explosion in the last two hundred years and especially the last hundred. In my lifetime, 1944 to the present, astronomy and astrophysics, to choose one example, have allowed man to map the universe to an extent undreamt of in the past. In my pioneering years, 1962 to 2002, there has been a particularly impressive expansion of knowledge due to the race into space beginning in the early sixties, international communications systems, Intelsat, beginning in 1969, the Mars and Venus probes, indeed, the list is long. But by the 1990s millions could read books and magazines or enjoy programs in the electronic media about the solar system and universe with an absolutely incredible examination of sizes, shapes, processes and contents of our immense world and its extension into infinite space.
For me, this vast universe, is my landscape as much as the place where I live and the many places where I've lived. I try to make connections with a very wide 'landscape,' a very wide memory base where ideas are as central as physical space. Of course, the place where I live has an intimacy that comes from daily association. But the awe and wonder associated with the landscape of our Milky Way and the stars, more numerous than all the grains of sand on the beaches, has a different intimacy. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 27 February 2002.
Listening to poets talk about
their identification with landscape,
with place, with the land, the water,
makes me reflect on the sources
of my poetic identity.
My landscape is my life
and what I think
as much as where I am
and where I've been
and it takes me into
the great universe of space.
And now, I organize
all that I am,
all that I have been,
all that I've thought
and read and done
into one multifaceted,
fascinating and mysteriously
I seem to need to do this:
to immerse myself
in timelessness, pastness,
the infinite, the chaos,
to give birth to that dancing star.
26 February 2002.
Without life's struggle and its sharp edges, there would often be no poetry. Paglia writes about this in her analysis of Emily Dickinson and her poetry. Dickinson's struggle, Paglia writes, is with God and with society.1 The following poem takes the theme of struggle from Dickinson's poem number 928 and turns it into a product of my own experience, understanding and struggle. My poetry, without doubt, profits from the great disparity between the Baha'i ideals and practice both personal and community, on the one hand, and between the immense beauty and complexity of this religion I have been associated with for over forty years and the discouragingly meagre response of my society. I have whisked this discouragement and disillusionment into abstract poetic and not-so-abstract poetry. I whisk it, not into the frigid, godless universe that the great poet Wallace Stevens conceived it, nor into the empty and absurd one as Kafka defined it. I whisked these and other tensions of life into a form that Baha'is all around the world are creating--a new world Order. I try to sort it all out drawing on "new faculties"2 created by the writings of Baha'i Scripture. While I do this whisking, I sometimes feel a great weight and a fatigue and sometimes I feel a sense of wonder and awe. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Vinatge Books, NY, 1991, p.653; and 2 Horace Holley quoted in The Ocea of His Words, John Hatcher, Wilmette, 1997, p.3.
The heart sits quietly on the shore
just above the waves.
Sometimes it's calm; it does not stir.
There is a peace it saves.
It saves that peace for troubled times
when devastation hits the heart
and then one waits mysteriously
for that divine power to impart.1
With this aid one reconstructs
that place along the shore.
To heal a heart convulsed,
is often like trying to win a war.
Often on one's journey long
a tempest violence heaves,
demolishing all the calmest walls
like a pile of wind-blown leaves.
1Shoghi Effendi, God Pass by, Introduction.
24 February 2002
A FALLING INTO PLACE
The Dean of Architecture, Planning and Conservation at Columbia University, Bernard Tumey, was talking this morning about his identification with cities and apartment blocks. He has lived most of his life in Paris and New York and he identifies with these cities much more than the countries in which they exist. Listening to this radio interview made me think about the equivalent sources of my own identity. Apt blocks are quite periferal to my sense of identity and place. I have lived for perhaps two years of my life in apartment blocks spread over three towns. The vast bulk of my life has been spent in houses and large complexes of buildings associated with my places of work.
As I scan my memory horizon and collect about myself the accoutrements of my sense of spacial identity: perhaps four dozen houses, some two dozen schools and other places of employment, an equal number of towns and cities, two countries and this planet earth occupy the solid ground of my spacial identity. The pilgrimage, the journey, that is my life dwells in this physical architecture, in these physical places. The religion I have espoused is one not so much of origins or destinations but one of journeys, paths, roads, valleys, processes. At least that is how I have come to identify with it, with its meaning and with life's meaning. -Ron Price with thanks to "Arts Today," ABC Radio National, 10:05-11:00 am, 3 January 2002; and John Gillis, A World of Their Own Making: A History of Myth and Ritual in Family Life, Oxford UP, NY, 1997, p.62.
There is something about
the entire universe that
seems humanly significant.
This is not audacious;
it's just a natural falling into place,
a natural part of that Oneness
which is at the centre of my journey,
the one I travel in my head
in what often seems an ephemeral,
fragmentary existence with its convoys
of people with whom I have shared my life.
And yet, yet, this journey has brought
sacred and resplendent tokens
which have attracted me
to some mysterious place, some road
of holiness, and nearness and beauty1
which seems to have no connection
with any and all of the landmarks
of my life, these towns, cities, houses
where I have lived my days, my hours.
1Baha'u'llah, Seven Valleys, USA, 1952, p.3.
3 January 2002
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Canadians, like Australians, like to take the mickey out of pompous idiots. But they do it in a gentler way than Australians because Canadians are "nice." Canadians are also solemn. They are much more serious and solemn than the Australian for whom humour is a way of life. I like to think that, at fifty-four, with half my life spent in Australia, my personality now combines the best of the Canadian and the best of the Australian. That’s what I like to think.
Canadians treated their Indians and Eskimos very much the same way that Australians did their Aboriginees. In the last ten years Canadian writers have been mapping their territory and becoming popular in the process. It has only been in the last ten years that I, too, have begun to take writing seriously, although I am not yet popular. Indeed, I may never be 'popular.' That is not my aim, although I’ll take it if it comes my way and not complain. I am also a Canadian who is living in Australia. Canadians live between two forbidding giants: the USA and the frozen tundra. Australians live between the forbidding desert regions of the interior and vast oceans stretching in every direction. We have much in common. -Ron Price with thanks to Mordecai Richler on Books and Writing, ABC Radio, 25 April 1999, 7:40-8:15 pm.
I had a pretty solemn start,
as serious as can be,
as normal as it can be
for someone born,
raised on Canada’s shield,
the oldest rock in the world.
Then I moved to
where humour was, and is,
a way of life and I learned to laugh
and be the entertainer, the talker
and I talked with the best of them.
After twenty-seven years on one side
and twenty-seven years on the other,
I find myself sitting here
in my fifty-fifth year enjoying
Australia’s light and spicey air.
Canada’s solemnity sits there
like some gentle weight
balancing the brew, steadying the stew.
This mix I shall take to the grave
with whatever else life makes me save.
25 April 1999
SO YOU TALK OF IMAGES
Writers, poets and novelists, begin with a view, an image, of themselves, their countries and the world. Peter Carey, in 1981, saw Australia as a pet shop, with people living in cages, well-fed, thinking they were happy, but denying the nature of their prison. Carey saw Australia as a theme park filled with people who lived with a bleak sense of powerlessness and imprisonment. Randolph Stow, another Australian writer, saw Australia as a childish country filled with people disappointed in love and, consequently, full of hate. The poet, Les Murray, saw himself and his fellow Australians, as tapping and probing "the future/And the great past for legends, patterns, tales/In which to see, and move, and know our nature/And be complete." Price prefers to start at the global, the planetary level in his explication of images and views.-Ron Price with thanks to Anthony Hassall, Peter Carey’s Fiction: Dancing on Hot Macadam, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 1994, pp.106-117.
And me, how do I see this great pad of land?
And that other land where I was born and raised?
And the rest of this my great maternal parent,
actually breathing, faintly sighing in her sleep,
ever so slowly winking and wimping in the
benign light of the sun while her muscle-like
clouds writhe in their own meteoric tempo
as veritable tissues of a living thing?
What music are you tuned to?
What unseen ferment stirs
your geostrophic consciousness?
What unimaginable tides of motivation
drive your evolution on, as yet,
unfathomed scales of time?
I thirst to quaff, to savor, to scrutinize
the entire sweep of life,
in full draught, undiluted, undoctored,
down to its deepest marrow
and tune in to its profoundest spiritual potentialities.
Fine threads, called rivers, braid themselves
and glisten among the slower-pulsing mountain chains,
their meandering loops grinding gracefully
downstream at so many miles a millennium,
never letting their channels stay comfortable
long enough to doze.
And finer threads, no, flames, called people,
like candles go out, a puff of wind, an ounce of poison,
a bullet, a relief from tension, even the tension
of organic molecules tied together too long.
The candle is out, unlighted;
the symmetry is complete,
the waxing and waning of a single curve,
all much the same age:
infinity minus x equals infinity: ¥ -x = ¥ 1
12 January 1999
1 Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life: An Exploration of Science and Philosophy, Houghton and Mifflin, Boston, 1978, p.530.
A SERIOUS GAME
To be a Canadian, who has lived half his life in Australia, is to be conscious of a particular variety of mind-set, a mind-set characterized by psychological failure, by victimization, by a certain fracturing of personality, by nostalgia, by exploration of the past to confront and understand the present, by an affirmation of selfhood and power, by a magic power to cure, to comfort, to enhance life, to transform, if one is an artist.
Such a person, divided as his life has been between these two countries, is inhabited by a world of images: silence, emptiness, dreariness, desolation, a vast immensity with a touch of melancholy, much solitude and with a canopy of stars that touch him with their magic and fill him with a quiet delight; a white frozen heart, snow, wind, feelings of threat; a desert-bush with a red firey heart; and yet another world of city images: endless streets, lights, cars, industrial and manufacturing sites. The search, within these interacting and contrasting images, is and has been for spiritual adjustment and identity, for a voice, a language to proclaim and express my identity. -Ron Price with thanks to Margaret Atwood, Women Writers: Margaret Atwood, Barbara Hill Rigney, Barnes and Noble Books, Totowa, NJ, 1987, pp. 1-10.
There’s a humour and a seriousness
which play with each other to lighten,
make gentle, the tragedy
and with this new religion
there’s been a wealth, a language,
an ethos, which has made for friendliness,
openness, receptivity, an adventurousness
and, after these several decades
of seemingly endless chatter,
an immense weariness
about talking to anyone at all.
For, let there be no mistake,
this has been a serious game, a war,
with its losses and victories
and these contrasting images, this humour
and seriousness will fill, now, a mind-set
and fertilize this new magic power
to transform these hours in middle years,
this dust, this substance of my days,
to fruits of holiness on trees of wondrous glory1
in gardens of unfading splendour
where I walk and refresh my spirit.
Ron Price 13 February 1999
1Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words. There is an immense loftiness and majesty to so much of Baha’u’llah’s imagery that I think it often leaves the palate satiated. I found in my early years as a Baha’i I would come to the table of His words without the ability to ‘get a good feed’. Poetry has helped me utilize Baha’u’llah’s Writings. It has been a means of deepening my own understanding and a means of feeding on His words from a fresh perspective, to help overcome sameness.
MANY TYPES OF INVOLVEMENT
Price liked to think his poetry was contributing toward a growing Baha’i consciousness in world literature, a growing literary identity in the Baha’i community and its religious, cultural and intellectual tradition. There were, and are, unquestionably in this tradition incredible, haunting images of martyrdom and oppression, what the Canadian novelist and critic Margaret Atwood would call, images of victimization. But these images were, and are, largely dynamic, illustrating the nature of the bonds, the glue, the distinctive qualities of community that only manifest themselves in times of crisis.
The central idea generated in American literature is the sense of adventure and excitement on the frontier and those who made it. In Canadian literature the central image is about making it back from the frontier, surviving the aweful experience. Survival is the triumph, the gratitude. This is also true in Australia, but with more than a tincture of humour and less of the Canadian seriousness. In the Baha’i community, with its essentially international geography, where its international identity is as important as, or more important than, its local existence, the central idea is neither frontier, nor survival, but unity. Cohesiveness in diversity is the watchword, the catchphrase for Baha’i identity.-Ron Price with thanks to Margaret Atwood in Women Writers: Margaret Atwood, Barbara Hill Rigney, Barnes and Noble Books, Totowa, NJ, 1987, p.223.
The act of writing is my commitment,
or part of it, my inescapable, intense, connection.
This language my ultimate affirmation
of my own revolution:
word after word, after word.
I tell, therefore I am.
I tell from my world of mirrors,
mirrors which define the I, the I am,
where involvement has burnt my edges,
given me a type of burn out
where even staying by myself most of the time1
is a type of involvement,
a part of an inclusive community
where belief, conscious knowledge
and the practice of good deeds
can take many forms in this universal brotherhood.
13 February 1999
1 Mirza Muhammad Quli in Memorials of the Faithful, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p.71.
9 September 1995
THE OUTER SUBURBS
We might be told to ignore our dreams
and discount the rainbow.
A cold, winking star, nameless and infinitely remote,
might be given us as sole comfort,
or a dull black stone.
-Roger White, "Question", Occasions of Grace, George Ronald, 1992, p.61.
The answer is not that it is difficult
not that there are hazards abounding,
but that an empty, bland, yawning gulf
drifts and we call it liberation:
the great gap between an old authority
and a creative substitute;
how to make use of our new freedom-
bright-coloured patches and grey-
black patterns in symbiosis.
A cavernous abyss, tall precipice,
yawns before us as we sleep,
as we try to find the canvass
on which to paint the picture-
from drift to mastery-with our lives.*
Patterns of feeling and meaning
can only fill some of the infinitely cold spaces
from here to eternity, distant stars,
nameless planets and the miles and miles
between us along roads that I keep travelling
and will never do again.
Perhaps this emptiness is for the heart
where inner mysteries unfold and
love and hate must not take root.
Perhaps it is in these cold and barren
places that truth unwinds and error is defined.
Perhaps here it is that the lamp of search,
earnest striving, devotion, rapture and ecstacy,
find their home, their roots, their spacious dwellings,
in these cold, clinical and distant planes
where the City of God finds its outer suburbs;
where the heart begins its slow, infinitely slow
journey to the brighter lights of some downtown;
where there is satisfaction
that fattens and appeases the hunger;
where the fragrant trees and flowers,
the familiar friends and sublime embers
warm me by the fire; where You lay waiting
with love, more than I have known.
10 September 1995
STILL THE RIVER FLOWS
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! Then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations!
-William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey, lines 141-146.
I cannot paint what then I was
in all its plain details, but I can grasp
some scent of time and what has since prevailed.
When I think of all those years and
all that has flowed by, ‘tis like an endless murmer,
nearly silent, falling, from a height, a river trail.
There is a charm, remote it comes
quite distant back in time, fed by thought,
some aching joys, some mourning,
an abundant recompense and gifts
come descending through her secret springs.
Sometimes in quiet rooms when all alone I sat,
in a dozen towns and cities where I slept
to prepare for yet another day,
sensations sweet swept from the past
and dwelt along the spine,
entered brain and through the vein
providing tranquil restoration in
a language, voices and pleasures shot
like lights from lover’s eyes and I saw
what once I was before ecstacies matured
and pleasures sobered in memory’s
mountain, valley and plain whose spaces
have allowed my heart to cool, my mind to feed
endlessly in quiet places that come back to me
alone in my room, old now, and
still the river flows.
2 July 1995
JOY AND PITILESS RAVENS
From Nature and her overflowing soul
He had received so much that all his thoughts
Were steeped in feeling....in all things
He saw one life, and felt that it was joy.
One song they sang, and it was audible,
Most audible then when the fleshy ear
...slept undisturbed. -William Wordsworth, Pedlar, lines 204-222.
..While I see that there is nothing wrong in what one does, I see there is something wrong in what one becomes. It is well to have learned that. -Oscar Wilde
Looking inward as You asked
I see something of what I am
defined in memory, in some
original impression of delight
or sorrow, or simply nostalgia’s
warm bank of images, a quality
of excitation, a pulse of sentiment
that beats within in all shades and
colours controlled at whim or simply
drifts across my screen from unknown
places in my brain. And I see, too,
through perception’s mirror judgements
made both good and bad and to-be-made
by an ebbing and a flowing mind reminding
me what I have done and might yet do
and hence the possibilities of what I am
and might become: so beautiful, so bright,
so reverent in mystery which cannot die,
and which can be felt so close, so near,
a greatness still revolving, infinite...
but also defiled can be, in infernal fire,
thornlike fetters, imprisoned in the talons
of owls with pitiless ravens lieing in wait.
3 July 1995
These apocalyptic elegies are indeed not conventional expressions of consolation but triumphant outbursts directed...to the dead and Emily Dickinson’s own anguish...an anguish distilled...into triumph.1 Here, in this poem below, is my own triumphant outburst with my usual cautionary note derived from Baha'i theology regarding our final moments. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Benjamin Lease, Emily Dickinson’s Readings of Men and Books: Sacred Soundings, MacMillan, London, 1990, p.xvii.
All across the world they lie
behind grey stone
and obscurest graveyards
in places noone’s heard
on the edge of town.
Yes, heaven’s humble handful
among simple stones
Hardly heroes, hardly known:
servants, gentlemen, ladies,
every conceiveable type,
they're all here behind stone.
Words carved by unknown hands:
Pioneer Canada Nine Year Plan.
He’d planned his. Knew who he was.
Identity grew into stone
that would last a thousand years.
He was going to end this one befittingly;
I mean it was his life, himself,
his mirror of some eternal hyacinth
growing forever in a garden
of eternal splendour, forged,
cut diamond-edged, glittering whiteness
on that snow-white path so close,
touching that Crimson Pillar
and trustworthiness’s pillar of light.
He would, at least, feel it.
28 October 1995
Among those who visited...some were recalled to life...But others, in truth, have simply passed through; they have only taken a tour. -’Abdu’l-Baha
Not on the ocean, on a semi-circular bay,
always impressed me as a rather grotty place
in pictures except for those places on the hill.
Just another noisy, dirty city as far as I could see,
except, as I say, for that garden up on Carmel.
Recently, they’ve been building, building,
excavating, ornamenting, terracing, planting,
putting in more of that Pentelicon marble:
I tell you they’re transforming this old place,
giving it a future--Herzl’s ‘city of the future.’
I’ve never been here, as it would appear;
never touched down at Ben Gurion,
nor moved through the humid summer air.
I’d could be one of those tourists that the
Haifa Tourism Board is so keen on.
This journey has taken longer than I had planned
when I began to think about this place back in,
what, 1955? That’s as long as Moses took to
get to the promised land. Fitting really: the
whole thing tastes of new beginnings.
27 December 1995
THE EARLY BUDS ARE OUT
If this unearthly Love has power to make
my life immortal and to shake ambition
into some fitting portal where I brim
my measure of contentment and with merest whim
search, poorly, after fame, then ‘tis a Love
that I shall keep ‘til the call from above-
-With thanks to John Keats, Endymion, lines 843-47.
These things of beauty will be joys forever
and their loveliness will increase far down
the centuries and ages. Eras will not see these
wonders pass into nothingness. Dreams and
quiet places sweet and still will fill these
marbled-flower gardens binding us to
primal points of holy seat made for our searching.
Such beauty moves us far beyond incipient sadness;
takes this young sprouting freshness canalized
in energy-lamps everywhere in the vineyard.
Such grandeur cools in the hot season and
sprinkles our air with musk-rose blooms,
strengthening our loins in submissive worship.
And such wonder, too, for and with the dead
who have entered the garden of happiness
and now circle ‘round us in mystic intercourse.
It is all so dear, now, all that circles here;
even the moon which haunts then cheers as light
and seems to bind our very souls clear and tight.
This place, I prefer it have no name, its music
brings a joy to valley, mountain, plain.
The early buds are out now, milk in pails
is coming down the lane while lush juicy
fruits are being brought in by sail
in little boats-I’ve got one-I steer
in many quiet hours down deeper streams
where I hear bees hum in globes of clover.
Autumn brings its universal tinge of sober gold
to this world on mountain side wherein I hold
such thought that can only be described as bliss.
The trumpets have already blown and, now, my path
is dressed in green, in flowers, indeed a marble bath.
Those assembled ‘round the shrines had looks of veneration,
‘twould be here for many years to come, each generation
would have its awed face, companions in a mountain chase.
I therefore reveal unto thee sacred and resplendent tokens
from the planes of glory to attract thee into the court of
holiness and nearness and beauty, and draw thee to a station...
And I had been drawn into gardens of such fruit, such orient lights.
For here is the heavenly abode in the Centre of earthly realities
and here I am, as if led by some midnight spirit nurse of
happy changes toward some magic sleep, toward some
soaring bird easing upward over the troubled sea of man.
The words found here sound a strange minstrelsy, have
tumbling waves in echoing caves: a silvery enchantment
is to be found in this mazy world with its new song,
its upfurled wings which renovate our lives. Try them!
You may open your eyelids with a healthier brain.
Some influence rare goes spiritual through this Damsel’s hand;
it runs quick, invisible strings all over the land.
26 May 1995
Here are the early stages of a civilization that will create and experience beauty, that will rise above the cacophony in which the world now seems to be drowning. As TS Eliot looks back to the Greeks, the Renaissance, the creative peaks of the past, Price looks ahead with a vision implicit in the architectural configurations on Mt Carmel. -In appreciation to Alan Shucard, Fred Moramarco and William Sullivan, Modern American Poetry, G.K. Hall and Co., Boston, 1989, p.101.
Perhaps ‘the modern’ could go back to
Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase(1912)
the symbol of the international exhibit of art
in New York, the root of the manifestation
of ‘the modern’ in America(1913)
and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s 239 days in the West.
The big guns had come and changed the world:
Darwin, Marx, Freud, Einstein and
the broidered Robe of Light hearing
the wondrous accent of the Voice
that cometh from the Inaccessible
to our urban, industrial, democratic,
fragmented, scientific jungle of
motion, speed, urbanity, machinery
and human beings.
Here was the nest of the modern in poetry,
where intellectual and emotional complexes
were presented in an instant in time:
containers for ideas and feelings,
poetic sensuousness, hard and clear,
a firey intensity, prose poems, awakening,
some Hellenic turning,
some nature turning,
some turning, twisting, revolving,
evolving trying to describe our world:
bewildered, agonized, helpless, invaded
by some wind into the remotest and fairest
places and wasting as it germinated.
Poetry created aesthetic objects
out of words, reassembling language,
detached and leading anywhere, everywhere:
hymns to possibility, not just gibberish,
idiosyncratic flux, slangy informality,
surprising peculiarity of things.
Eliot advised writers to develop an historical sense,
the entire western intellectual tradition,
my relation to the dead and the unborn:
to escape from the subjective into system, order.
And so I did TS, so I did, a system just being born
back then: 1912, 1919, 1922--goodness, you were
right there, then, at the start with J. Alfred Prufrock:
Let us go then, you and I
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go..(*).
That meaninglessness was being replaced,
paralysis, confusion, social falsity, anxiety
and we see the mermaids singing each to each.
...I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us and we drown.(*)
And we drown, dreaming figures, as in a dance.
Silently adoring, embalmed in awe
and pentilekon marble, released to marvel
the magic Dust that noone ever sees.
23 June 1995
(*) TS Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", in TS Eliot: Selected Poems, Faber and Faber, London, 1954, pp.11-16.
WINDING UP THE CLOCK
You said a few words to a neighbour or an acquaintance, but it was merely for the sake of making a sound of some sort. Just a sound. There was nothing really to be said. The vast continent was really void of speech....Richard found he never wanted to talk to anybody, never wanted to be with anybody....And the rest of the people either were the same, or they herded together in a promiscuous fashion. But this speechless, aimless solitariness was in the air. It was natural to the country. The people left you alone. ...The profound Australian indifference...The disintegration of the social...Rudimentary individuals with no desire of communication....it felt like a clock that was running down. -D.H. Lawrence, Kangaroo, Angus and Robertson, 1982(1923), pp.386-387.
So much of the land was unapproachable;
even the cities had an unreality about them,
as if they were sprinkled onto a darkness into
which it never penetrated. In places the endless
grey-green iron foliage; in other places the empty
bush and all of it waiting, always waiting with a
presence, a wonderful presence, a spirituality.
Now, D.H. Lawrence, the car takes me around
when I want to go, which is not often any more,
except to the beach: sand, wind, sea and sun, or
to a meeting or anywhere that necessity or desire
requires. I can feel that spirituality here, a presence,
while lots of people have no desire to communicate,
just to make sounds with nothing really said.
Now, D.H., there is an endless chatter, on and on
and , if I let it, I could drown in words, words, words.
It’s much more complex now with half the population
migrated here or descended from migrants. Rarely, do
I want to talk to somebody, but others want to talk to me
and in this there is more than an adequate sufficiency.
Now, D.H., the great mass leave you alone, but there is
a determined core who get through to my solitariness
with their needs, their gregariousness, their love, their
kindness and their endless ability to talk, it seems, forever.
I could not be a hermit here; getting the balance right
has become an art that I take a certain pride in maintaining.
Now D.H., that profound indifference, that lack of caring
is still here, but lots of good people have lots of convictions,
too many of them; many of the worst are full of passionate
intensity; a tiresome and exhausting anarchy is loosed upon
the land, but much of which is subtle, complex and utterly confusing.
We seem to accept the absense of a centre not knowing what it means.
Now D.H., the inner life is awakening and the sense
of the tragic is finally finding a voice beneath a brain
full of laughs, for this is a country of laughs,
and that holding back is starting to move up
and tell of an inner life that no one knew, gentle,
soft, tentative, searching, often inarticulate and scared,
but started on the journey that is winding up that clock.
29 January 1996
Army life is not an individual’s life but nevertheless its essential loneliness in the crowd of strange faces is making me more of an individual, driving my thoughts into deeper, rarer places than they have visited before. It is worse for the spirit to be dreary than endangered, that boredom is more dangerous than bombs. The desert, where much of the war was fought, was both temptation and spiritual test....The desert so saturates consciousness that it makes the mind as sterile as itself. Here there is nothing for the senses to rest or distract the eye....The desert was ideal for war because war could so fully take it over on its illimitable ocean of rock and sand.-Adam Piette, Imagination at War: British Fiction and Poetry 1939-1945, Papermac, London, 1995.
There is no loneliness here in this war:
too busy, peopled-out, prefer my own
company, thanks. A dreariness has
entered, no sterility, but a consciousness
so saturated with the analysis and the
events of our time, thoughts driven deeper,
into rarer places than they have visited before.
Yes, temptation and spiritual test on a long,
tortuous and stoney road, a road that is all
there is, that fills the horizon, where I see loss
and failure, crisis and calamity, victory, grace,
unfoldment in an endless war, that is slow
seduction, strenuous, peristent against my own
instincts, natural inclinations and the world’s
allurements and trivialities.
9 June 1996
The last word!