30. CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE

I have been inspired by many of the writers in the last three millennia going back to Homer among the Greeks and the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. There have been so many writers, poets, prophets and singers along the line up to and including the period of my own life, post-WW2. The modern, the contemporary, period of literature I shall define as the period after 1844, although it is variously defined in terms of the nineteenth and twentieth century, all or part thereof.

I have divided the history of literature into modern and pre-modern and based my analysis around a variation of the ten stages of history, the model of history used by the Guardian in his 1953 letter. I adopted the following pattern after discarding several alternatives.

A. The pre-modern I have divided into several stages:

A.1 Greece and Rome: 1000 BC-500 AD

A.2 Middle Ages 500-1400 AD

A.3 Renaissance and Reformation 1400-1600 AD

A.4 Early Modern 1600-1844 AD

B. The modern period I have also divided into several stages:

B.1 Modern Phase 1: 1844-1921

B.2 Modern Phase 2: 1921-1963

B.3 Modern Phase 3: 1963-Present

The interview below discusses some of this literary influence, although no attempt was made in the interview to survey all the major influences. The above historical schema, of pre-modern and modern in stages, was adopted three years after the interview below.

INTERVIEW NUMBER EIGHT

After using the electonic typewriter for a decade(1976-1986), the computer for word processing for a decade(1986-1996) and for emails for half a dozen years(1990–1996), I began to go onto the world-wide-web, the internet, in 1997 and 1998. My first website was designed by my son, Daniel Price, in 1997. I have seen, read or listened to 100s of interviews in the print and electronic media and especially in the particular sub-category of interviews that examine the lives of writers and the process of writing. These interviews, especially those in the 1990s during which I kept notes and opened files for future reference, have provided more material for an understanding of aspects of my own approach to poetry and poets. This understanding is reflected in this series of simulated interviews, interviews which have embellished my booklets of poetry.

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

Dante....an influence from A.2 The Middle Ages......

Not a 'modern' poet but a model for moderns in some ways. He saw himself as a poet of "justice." Justice can only be attained, he argued, through the means which God in His providence has placed at man's disposal. This is the true subject of the Divine Comedy. Of course, the Baha'i has at his disposal the nucleus and pattern of a future World Order in the present day Baha'i Administration. He has the Book and the Interpreter of the Book as the central underpinning of this System, this 'means which God has placed at (his) disposal.'

(interview contined after these two poems)

 

SEISMOGRAPHIC RECORD

Dante had at his disposal a comprehensive and intellectually consistent image of the cosmos and its relationship to God.-Harold L. Weatherby, The Keen Delight: The Christian Poet in the Modern World, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1975, p.5.

In an age profoundly infected with philosophical scepticism the problem of writing sacred poetry, the great song, requires that we recapture a genuine science of invisible things. This can be done through a grasp by the poet of both the external and internal worlds. The poet conveys his creative intuition into a receptive intuition. -ibid. pp.123-149.

The poet, who is a member of the Baha’i community, has before him every atom in existence and the essence of all created things1. There is no break between nature, art, poetry, science, religion and personal life. It is all one, a dynamic unity amidst multiplicity, amidst an organic body of ideas. On the basis of a vast corpus of sacred Writings this same poet has before him a massive body of religious literature. Its frameworks of systematic theology, philosophy, epistomology, ontology, aesthetics, theophanology, history and psychology are, for the most part, in their early stages of development. But the foundation is there for a rich and fertile global literature to evolve within a fusion of opposites, on some ladder of reflection and, inevitably, amidst a complex cross-fertilisation. -Ron Price, The Emergence of a Baha’i Consciousness in World Literature, Unpublished Manuscript, 1996.

You get enough principles here

to build a cosmos in your brain,

to wander with Dante

through his world of keen delight,

to rebuild his model,

a reconstructed universe.

 

This is far more than mere living,

of simply amusing yourself

like some restless dilettante spectator

on the lounge room couch;

this is appreciation, deep and full,

far beyond a momentary touch of sorrow;

this is some vortex spinning with ideas,

driving its readers into their own memory,

back into a reverie, past depths

and the vagueness of past-times

into a oneness

that is slowly sweeping the face of the earth,

a search that is self-expression.

 

This universe, this cosmos, this self,

its likes and dislikes, comings and goings,

faults and weaknesses

are one entity,

even in its contradictions:

the oneness of a microcosm

in its egotism and limitations,

walking backwards or forewords,

in some new Rome at the crossroads,

in some solitude and aloneness

which is necessary and unavoidable,

bringing the past and the future into now,

with delicate scents, pulsations,

unnameable tactile sensations,

with an anxiety surrounding

my moments of tranquillity

but with light as the basis of structure

and darkness always at the periphery,

on an inner lifeline of such complexity,

such a seismographic record and sensibility,

such a breadth of compass

within the distilled sphere of these words

and their fusion of opposites.

Ron Price

18 August 1996

1Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words.

 

DANTE’S CANTO 1: REVISITED

Dante’s The Divine Comedy has inspired many writers over the centuries. I have, here, in this poem, done a rewriting, a revision, a reworking of Dante's Canto 1, drawing on my own experience and thought -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 27 December 1998.

Midway upon this journey of my life

I find myself within a forest dark,

although the straight path is not lost.

 

Good grief! How complex to describe

this forest’s savage, stern and sacred way

wherein my fear lies, embers burning.

 

A bitter taste is here, far more than death,

a kind of poison along with honied tongue.

They walk with me along my days and times.

 

I must say, though, now I am at mountain’s foot,

a tapestry of beauty appears above

and pierces my heart with joy,

consecrating all these devoted years.

It is as if my heart will break.

For what is here will lead others right by every road,

quieten distressful breath and fear of every load.

 

My weary body I will rest here

while the sun mounts up and to the stars.

If any place were one of Divine Love

it is here where I can cry and sense redemption.

 

Life’s long silence, part of source

and cause of every joy, can take my heart,

can finally meet its Maker.

 

He is here, my Master and my Author,

Alone the One from Whom I took the Book.

Such beauteous style that has done honour to me.

 

I followed You and now You are my guide.

You will lead me slowly to my eternal home.

You will lead me through my lamentations.

 

You will lead me through my second death.

Here in this city and this lofty throne.

Happy he whom thereto He elects!

 

Greatest Poet I entreat Thee

by that same God Whom Thou didst know.

Conduct me down the road

that I may see the portal

far beyond these disconsolate gates

 

Ron Price

27 December 1998

 

(interview continued.....

Price: To some extent this is true of my poetry. I try to get a balance between the senses, the rational faculty and the inner faculties of imagination, memory, etc, tradition, intuition and so the senses don't dominate. They are just one of the avenues, parts, in the process of describing truth in all its forms. An American poet, after reading some of my work, wrote to me saying my poetry was too cerebral and did not attend to the senses enough. I think he's right. The TV and the performing arts generally have a high appeal to the senses. Poetry is appropriately cerebral for my taste.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1803-1882

....saw all of his writings as a "single work" which expressed through diverse transformations the unique ardor by which they were animated. That is how I have come to view my own writings. I have felt a strong attraction to Emerson and his work since my mother left a copy of his essays on her last visit in 1974 and since I became aware of his strong interest in the doctrine of 'The Return.'-Ron Price with thanks to Emerson in Emerson and Literary Change, David Porter, Harvard UP, Cambridge, Mass., 1978, p.74.

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

 

Price: I see nothing wrong with what Kunitz calls a 'fierce subjectivity' in poetry. But I would avoid the sense of compulsive exhibitionism I see in much of the poetry today. I think there is the capacity for perpetual self-renewal in poetry so that the poet can be freed from emotional exhaustion and world-weariness. I find myself in a state of great weariness from time to time in life: in the sixties and seventies due to manic depression and in the eighties and nineties due to overwork and what you might call interpersonal problems. Poetry certainly renews my spirit. It is a new tool, a new gift from God. One day I will take the last step in the great adventure. From what I anticipate may be an enormous fatigue I will step into a world of light, my last poetic act.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Price: If one measures relevance by how many readers I have, there is no question that what you say is true. The Baha'i Faith has been emerging from obscurity for decades. The Guardian uses this phrase 'emergence from obscurity' in God Passes By to refer to a process he saw taking place right at the beginning of the Formative Age in the 1920s. This may be the same for me and my poetry. I was referred to as 'an Australian poet' in a Baha'i publication back in June 1994. As far as I know no other Baha'i has received this appellation in an American publication. My essays were published each week in the Katherine Advertiser for nearly three years in the mid-1980s. I think I will always be emerging from obscurity during my life. The attainment of a significant level of public recognition and acceptance which we know the Baha'i Faith will one day achieve may or may not be something I personally achieve in my writing. Time will tell. I am not writing for recognition but, if what I write can help move the recognition of the Cause along, then I'd take all the recognition that might come my way with enthusiasm. At least that is how I feel now. The generations of the Formative Age are all very aware of the problems of popularity, involving as it does the endless machinations of the media, so I won't be too keen for that promotion, that enthusiasm.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 Q: Goodnight.

 

 Ron Price

4 July 1998

Literary Influences from A.1 Premodern Stage 1. 1000 BC-500 AD....

REPORTING WHAT WE SEE

In my poetic work I feel a strong identification with the poet Horace(65-8 BC). The twin platforms of his writing were simplicity and unity. He also argued that poets should know themselves and their capacities as they attempt to inform and delight. The best poets are the wisest ones. Just as there are many Horaces, so there are many Prices. Whatever self is fashioned in my poetry and in Horace's is provisional; it is a self in the process of becoming; it is a poetry of self-portraiture.1 Both he and I look out on the world and report what we see "with all the imagination, artistry and honesty"2 that we can command. -Ron Price with thanks to C. Martindale and D. Hopkins, editors, Horace Made New: Horatian Influences on British Writing From the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century, Cambridge UP, 1993; and W. R. Johnson, "Foreword," in an Unknown Source, p.viii.

There is still that counterpoint

between despair and rejuvenation

in what I write, this music

of the wasteland and the new land.

 

I, too, see the death of an old world,

the shredding of the social fabric,

but I see the birth of the new

which you missed out on by a hair.

 

Both born into a world of tempest:

give me your versatility, your stamina,

your adaptability, your civility

and your autobiographical mode,

your poetry of presence, Horace.

 

Ron Price

19 September 2001

Literary Influences From A.3--Renaissance and Reformation: 1400-1600

The historian Jacob Burkhardt wrote his "The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy"(1878) which he says in his introduction that his book was an examination of "a civilization which is the mother of our own, and whose influence is still at work among us." Burkhardt goes on to say in that interoduction: "it is unavoidable that individual judgement and feeling should tell every moment both on the writer and on the reader. In the wide ocean upon which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the same studies which have served for this work might easily, in other hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application, but lead also to essentially different conclusions." That is also true of what I write here about influences on my own work. I could write of quite influences. I begin with Burkhardt whose literary context was historical and whose influence was at the beginning of my pioneering life in 1964 when I was a history and philosophy student at McMaster University in Canada. "A new fact appears in history," Burkhardt writes, "the State as the outcome of reflection and calculation, the State as a work of art. This new life displays itself in a hundred forms, both in the republican and in the despotic States, and determines their inward constitution, no less than their foreign policy."

 

The central difficulty that undergirds so much of therapeutic language in both humanistic psychology and the social sciences, a language that rests on a variety of individual values from self-esteem to personal liberty and wish fulfilment, is an insubstantial conception of values. Though attractively open-minded, pluralistic and self-releasing, these sciences and this language are, in the end, vacuous, asocial and impoverishing rather than morally fulfilling and politically energizing. For nearly all of us now, who are writers and artists, are facilitators and coordinators in some way or other; we influence but do not order. Psychological persuasion has replaced coercion, at least in most of the places you and I live, move and have our being. It’s about, as Jacob Burkhardt wrote in the nineteenth century, an individual’s "struggle to win the praise of others through contact with them."

POETRY AS HISTORY

The following definitions or conceptions of history enable the reader of my poetry to see it as history. Benedetto Croce wrote that "all history is contemporary history." Given the very contemporary quality to nearly everything I write the reader can not help but taste some of history's story here. Jacob Burkhardt saw history as "contemplation based on sources." This comes even closer to a view of history that encompases my poetry. C.J. Renier saw history as "the experience of men" and R.G. Collingwood saw is as "the history of thought." Leopold von Ranke said "history is concerned with things as they really happened; whereas Toynbee said it was "a search for light on the nature and destiny of man." So much of my poetic opus can be seen in the light of these views of history: my poetry, then, is history in addition to being many other things. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 28 March 2001.

In these thousands of poems

there is but one poem-the search

for what is fundamental,

enduring and essential in my life,

life, experience and understanding

of society, religion and myself.

There is surprise in my words

and I find out what I think

on my pilgrimage toward all

that is eschatological,

toward the discovery of truth

and the production of knowledge.

For I deal with the peculiarities

of my time, place and character

and I transcend these restrictions

only with reference to His sweet-

scented steams and the tasting of

fruits of the tree of His being.

And so I connect a life of facts

with a system of reality making

history speak through me,

somewhat of a craft,

beyond Eurocentrism,1

my part of world history.2

1 This view of history was challenged at about the time the Guardian died. See Geoffrey Barraclough, Main Trends in History, Holmis & Meier Pub., NY, 1978.

2 First mentioned by the Dutch historian Huzinga in 1936, just as Baha'i administration completed its first shaping in the USA for global use.

Ron Price

29 March 2001

______________________

In saying that "the state can be a work of art" Burkhardt is also saying that man’s creativity can come out in his institutions, in the community he creates and in his own role in the process. I see this process at work in the Baha’i community I have been associated with for more than half a century. But the process is slow, arduous, even tortuous and the road is stony and long.

A second influence from the years 1400 to 1600 is one, Frances Bacon. Bacon makes an interesting observation in his Essays, published in the 1590s at the same time Shakespeare was writing his Sonnets. Bacon says, writing about his friends, that it is his hope that they will "draw a veil" over the "frequently unsavoury career" which he had struggled through. My mother writing, or perhaps it was talking, about my father a decade or so after his passing, expressed her appreciation for him. Was this love? I think it was; in the long run, now that they have both passed away and for many years, I see them as loving people, loving each other and loving me. Like the Australian playright David Williamson, I worried about my mother and, in good times, felt warm toward my father. And now, thirty-five years after his passing, I understand him, at least more than I did in 1965 when he died. It's difficult, perhaps impossible, for sons to write about their fathers without revealing a good deal of themselves. Even though my life is unlike my father's in so many ways, so full of academic, of bookish, life, the power of his character portrait, one I can draw easily after living in his house with him for 21 years, gives to me a very rich and simple link. If Jorge Louis Borges is right when he says that "to an extent, the death of the father is a natural prerequisite to attainment of Selfhood," that natural prerequisite began to come into play in my life in 1965. -Frances Bacon in Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon, Lisa Jardine and Alan Stewart, Gollancz, 1998, p.524.

Literary Influences from A.4 'Early Modern : 1600-1844'

 

DIMINISHED TONES AND FLATTENED EDGES

John Keats said that when he went into a room full of people he was in a very short time annihiated. This was partly why he could say he had no identity. Poetry was for him, as it was for all the romantic and post-romantic poets, largely a self-referential body of work which responded to monuments of its own magnificence as much as to personal experience.-In Australian Poetry: Romanticism and Negativity, Paul Kane, Cambridge UP, 1996, pp. 119-140.

I get the distinct feeling I have been away for awhile,

that I have disappeared in another,

that I have become this to that person

and that to this person,

the interlocutor

the transmitter, the blender,

the facilitator,

the manager of words.

 

I have been a hundred thousand people now,

a tincture of this and a touch of that

and now I want to be me;

in the deepest solitude

I want to reach the other;

with yearning’s keenest note

I want to reexperience past moments

of pause and epiphany,

to renovate and redeem

the diminished tones,

the flattened edges of existence:

with books, with nature,

with the sweetness of my own melody.

 

Kindling my own soul

with the dance of language,

His and mine and others;

exploring my vision

I will regenerate

through poetry’s powers,

seize the meaning of the moment

with intense imagination

and translate, as best I can,

into words that otherness

which is my soul.

 

Perhaps, God-willing,

I will see things afresh

in this new cosmology

and speak for others

through my world

of emotion and mind.

 Ron Price

6 March 1999

 

THE PLAY OF FEELING AND REFLECTION

In Shakespeare's Sonnets the poet struggles to overcome existential exhaustion and a sense of spiritual strangulation that goes far beyond amorous disappointment. Part of this exhaustion is a lust which turns into an addict's remorse and revulsion. This lust is a kind of humiliation which he would happily not have to contend with. The poet's weaknesses betray him: his lust, a fatigue that has come with age, his passions, depression. There is a sense that he is recording his life as he writes the poems, as events change, as the undercurrent of time alters, as he assembles his themes in a cycle, a majestic cumulative vision. But all is not lost, amidst these problems, this suffering, there is a dignity, a certain endurance, a high-mindedness, a love "which alters not with his brief hours." We see in these 154 sonnets "the play of feeling and reflection in things seen and felt....what every human being is forever doing in his inmost thoughts and responses."1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 Madeline Clark, "the Eternal Self in Shakespeare's Sonnets," The Internet, 29 September 2001.

It was this same exhaustion

that gave rise to this poetic1

with all its force in that holy year,

that auspicious juncture

in the history of this Cause.

 

I struggle, too, William,

a battle not unlike your own.

I have become, like you:

shy of involvement,

curiously apart,2

as I try to write

for Everyman

in these several epochs

of a dark heart of an age of transition

when a tempest blew,

a quickening wind

and a new Order began

to slowly radiate and crystallize.3

 

1 In the winter of 1992 I began to write a great deal of poetry, having exhausted myself on several fronts.

2 Anthony Burgess, The Listener, April 23, 1964.

3 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 1992.

Ron Price

1 October 2001

 

Literary influences from B.1 'Modern Stage 1: 1844-1921'.........

 GRADUALLY AND HALTINGLY

From 1837 to 1848 Emily Bronte, the author of the famous novel Wuthering Heights, wrote a collection of poetry known as 'the Gondal Poems.' These poems were peopled with heroes and heroines. They tell of the life of the imagination, the place of her retreat. These poems were a hymn to the imagination, to her private world. It was a world where she expressed a vision of the essential oneness of life. It was a vision, too, that came to find its apotheosis in Wuthering Heights. It was a vision gradually and haltingly articulated of a radiant world "marred by her growing awareness of humanity's misery." These years were a decade, for Bronte, in which the unity of the individual with the universe formed the basis for her intuitive sense of humankind's oneness. -Ron Price with thanks to Winifred Gerin, Emily Bronte, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997, pp.144-154.

Your vision, too, was one of death

to which we all advanced

with those wild-eyed charioteers,

our day-to-day hours,

drawing us to be with those we love,

undivided, all and only one--beyond the veil,

where finally our sleep was lifted in eternity.

 

Your vision, too, brooding as it was

on the nature of things,

had a converse with angels,

holy, heavenly, surely a leaven

that leavened your world of being

and furnished the power

through which your art

and its wonders were manifested.1

1 due in part, at least, to the new forces emerging in the world in the 1840s. Perhaps Bronte experienced what the Bab had prayed for during these years; namely, for that which will bring comfort to their minds, will rejoice their inner beings, will impart assurance to their hearts.(The Bab, Selections, 1976 p.179.)

1 there is no question, too, of the great power released into the world in the 1840s: all the world's which the Almighty hath created benefited through the power released by the Babi martyrs of the 1840s.(Gleanings, p.161)

Ron Price

6 July 2001

 

Literary influences from 'Modern Stage 1: 1844-1921'..... continued.....

SILENT SPIRITS

My temperament seems to need tranquillity to grow. Like Emily Bronte, I do not seem to require intellectual exchanges, art galleries or museums, or special study programs to satisy my longings. There is no place that seems to liberate my mind like walks in the bush, on the beach or along quiet suburban streets in the evening. Culture and the arts, places where people gather in groups also stimulate my poetic emporium; but so too does solitude, especially after years of extensive and excessive human interaction in places where people gather.

 

Emily Bronte "gained a vision of the essential oneness of life which she gradually and haltingly communicated in her poetry."1 Drawing on the teaching of Baha'u'llah so, too, did I. Division, in Bronte's philosophy, was at the root of suffering. Joy was the result of unity.2 In March 1844 Bronte wrote a poem about this mystical experience of unity. The poem which follows draws on this same rhyming poem and adds a personal perspective. 1 Emily Bronte, Winifred Gerin, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997, p.149; 2 p.152. ---Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 4 July 2001.

On a sunny day alone I lay

one winter afternoon......

 

I thought the very breath I breathed

was full of something fine,

something brighter than the shine

from the sun......

a feeling so divine.

 

The wide earth around me echoed, rang

to this minstrelsy of wine.

And silent spirits sang,

on prayer that afternoon: I dined.

 

I prayed for over one hundred souls

who had hastened beyond life's tale.

'Twas the closest I would ever get

to that glimpse beyond the veil.

 

That gathering place of splendours

would one day be my fate

and while in this place I hungered

for His running mercies of that date.

Ron Price

4 July 2001

 

Literary influences from B.1 'Modern Stage 1: 1844-1921'..... 

ONE HAD TINTED CRIMSON

In the year after the Bab was martyrd Herman Melville published Moby Dick. Some have regarded this book as the greatest work in American fiction. Melville began writing this book in the late 1840s, perhaps 1849 at the earliest. He said he loved all men who dived. Any fish could swim near the surface, but it took a great whale to go down five miles. Melville also thought that comfortable beliefs needed to be discarded. While I have found my Baha'i beliefs, for the most part, intellectually comfortable, there has been an uncomfortableness that derives from several sources and, it would seem, this uncomfortableness may be with us for some time. Melville could not himself believe and he was uncomfortable in his disbelief.-Ron Price with tnaks to Colliers Encyclopedia, "Herman Melville." Me

Melville must be henceforth numbered in the company of the incorrigibles who occasionally tantalize us with indications of genius.....Melville has succeeded in investing objects.....with an absorbing fascination...Moby Dick is not a mere tale of adventure, but a whole philosophy of life, that it unfolds. -Henry F. Chorley, in London Athenaeum, 25 October 1851; and London John Bull, 25 October 1851.

My Revelation is indeed far more bewildering than that of Muhammad....how strange that a person brought up among the people of Persia should be empowered by God....and be enabled to spontaneously reveal verses far more rapidly than anyone....-The Bab in Selections from the Writings of the Bab, Haifa, 1976, p.139.

They both went down deep

into the ocean of mystery,

some mystic intercourse

had possessed them

with subtle and penetrating grandeurs,

intensities, strangenesses,

absorbing fascination,

profound reflections,

a whole way of life in their words,

a certain eccentricity of style,

an object of ridicule,

a kind of old extravagance,

bewildering, the quintessence of

the transcendental tendency of the age.

 

But One had musk-scented breaths...

written beyond the impenetrable

veil of concealment...

oceans of divine elixir,

tinted crimson with the essence of existence...

Arks of ruby, tender....

wherein none shall sail but

the people of Baha...1

----Ron Price 18 February 1999

1 The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, Haifa, 1976, pp.57-8.

________________________ 

SO MINISCULE A PART

Richardson knows that all the mental affinity, the mutual kindness, all the respect in the world will not hold together a relationship that is not firmly based sexually, unless both the parties value some other interest, such as their work, more than they do human feeling....Louise’s sexual needs are complex and it is no reflection on Maurice’s virility that he is unable to meet the subtler aspects of them.-Dorothy Green,Henry Handel Richardson and Her Fiction, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1986, p. 217.

So much of what we are, what do do, what we think and feel, is a result of the culture into which we are born and develop. A small percent, perhaps only five percent, is based on the ideas and ideals of our religion, our Baha’i religion.-Ron Price, a paraphrase of the words of Firuz Kazemzadeh, heard on a cassette tape many times in the 1970s and based on a talk he gave in the 1960s.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 27 February 1999.

 

It would appear from even a cursory examination

of the massive Revelation of Baha’u’llah

that sex does not occupy the same position,

was not given the same emphasis

that Dorothy Green and many others

have given to it this century.

Sex does not have the same place

in human loving that I strove for for years,

student as I was,

product that I had become,

of the culture that made me what I thought.

For, no matter how hard I tried,

I seemed to be so miniscule a part,

such a small per cent of the religion

I came to espouse so long ago.

 Ron Price

27 February 1999

STEEPED IN LIGHTS AND COLOURS

With half his life spent in Canada and the other half spent in Australia, Price found two sensibilities--and a third, a Baha'i sensibility--produced a certain tension, a certain jangle or jungle of voices, sensibilities and, clearly, an international theme. He found himself in a world of quickened possibilities and heightened perceptions to which he gave lasting expression in his poetry and in his letters. Like Henry James during the three epochs of the Heroic Age, Price over three epochs in the Formative Age, combined aloofness and participation, detachment and alert curiosity. Like James, too, after a restless period of travel, he settled, but not in England as James did. Rather, it was in Tasmania that he finally struck a root and where he wrote both poetry and prose prolifically. Like James, Price was a copious letter-writer and his letters have been preserved, like James, from his mid-twenties to his death.1-Ron Price with thanks to Harry T. Moore, Henry James and His World, Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1974, Inside Cover; and 1The Letters of Henry James: Vol.1, editor, Percy Lubbock, MacMillan and Co., London, 1920, p.xiv.

 

There is no predetermined course here,

but I like to think that what I write

is the quintessence of what I am.

For my life is no mere succession

of facts, places and happenings.

Rather, deep clusters of emotions

and thoughts, densely knit,

steeped in lights and colours,

making a picture that no one else

could ever dream of painting:

I poetically fashioned my life,

defining it in lasting images

a cycle of vivid and incessant

adventure known only to me.

Ron Price

8 October 2001

copyright: Marco Abrar

ONE HAD TINTED CRIMSON

In the year after the Bab was martyrd Herman Melville published Moby Dick. Some have regarded this book as the greatest work in American fiction. Melville began writing this book in the late 1840s, perhaps 1849 at the earliest. He said he loved all men who dived. Any fish could swim near the surface, but it took a great whale to go down five miles. Melville also thought that comfortable beliefs needed to be discarded. While I have found my Baha'i beliefs, for the most part, intellectually comfortable, there has been an uncomfortableness that derives from several sources and, it would seem, this uncomfortableness may be with us for some time. Melville could not himself believe and he was uncomfortable in his disbelief.-Ron Price with tnaks to Colliers Encyclopedia, "Herman Melville." Me

Melville must be henceforth numbered in the company of the incorrigibles who occasionally tantalize us with indications of genius.....Melville has succeeded in investing objects.....with an absorbing fascination...Moby Dick is not a mere tale of adventure, but a whole philosophy of life, that it unfolds. -Henry F. Chorley, in London Athenaeum, 25 October 1851; and London John Bull, 25 October 1851.

My Revelation is indeed far more bewildering than that of Muhammad....how strange that a person brought up among the people of Persia should be empowered by God....and be enabled to spontaneously reveal verses far more rapidly than anyone....-The Bab in Selections from the Writings of the Bab, Haifa, 1976, p.139.

They both went down deep

into the ocean of mystery,

some mystic intercourse

had possessed them

with subtle and penetrating grandeurs,

intensities, strangenesses,

absorbing fascination,

profound reflections,

a whole way of life in their words,

a certain eccentricity of style,

an object of ridicule,

a kind of old extravagance,

bewildering, the quintessence of

the transcendental tendency of the age.

 

But One had musk-scented breaths...

written beyond the impenetrable

veil of concealment...

oceans of divine elixir,

tinted crimson with the essence of existence...

Arks of ruby, tender....

wherein none shall sail but

the people of Baha...1

----Ron Price 18 February 1999

1 The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, Haifa, 1976, pp.57-8.

 

Literary Influences: B.2 Modern Stage 2: 1921-1963......

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

________________________

AN INTERNAL LANDSCAPE

Often the intellectual and political, sociological and religious leanings of a person are evident very early in their life. As Erik Erikson wrote in his Identity and the Life Cycle(1959), our ego and identity are shaped over a lifetime and especially in the teenage years. To some extent the process of the unfolding of personality is predetermined. Slowly there is a crystallization and consolidation of identity based on certain continuities, certain patterns, over time. My religious and intellectual leanings were evident by the age of eighteen as Franz Kafka's(1883-1924) socialist leanings were by the age of eighteen.

 

The poetic writings that Price produced were not the creation of a concrete imaginary universe of individuals and things as they were for Kafka but, rather, a real universe which contained within it a conceptual system of philosophical and non-partisan political doctrines, a discursive, rambling and digressive, world of ideologies and systems of thought, and a sense, a sensibility, of feelings and attitudes whose intent was, like Kafka, to fashion individuals and situations, situations he had himself lived in and individuals he had known or who would one day read what he had written. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Lowy, "Franz Kafka and Libertarian Socialism," New Politics, Vol.6 No.3, Summer 1997.

 

There is a spirit here, too,

an internal landscape.

I like to see it as Oneness.

There is a sensibility here;

I like to think

the structure of freedom

for our Age

reflecting as it does,

all things considered,

a moderate freedom

found in its fullest form,

this framework of a new

Order and a mutuality

of benefits, a balance.1

 

1 The Universal House of Justice, Letter 29 December 1988.

Ron Price

27 October 2001

__________________ 

COMPELLED

By the time I finished the Prologue to Richard Davenport-Hines's literary biography Auden, I had discovered a friend for life. Of course I had read some of Auden, seen him interviewed, read one or two of his interviews, but for some reason the man had eluded me. This brief Prologue of perhaps twelve hundred words I found gripping. I found some of myself in Auden, this man whose lined face I had seen for years, decades, but had no idea, no knowledge, of the man behind the face, or nothing that had struck me as this brief introduction to a literary biography did.

 

Davenport-Hines writes that Auden had a public face, the one that has often been trivialized in literary biographies, that has reduced Auden to a cult of personality with its emphasis on fame and celebrity; and a private one as writer where his self-transformation could be measured by what he wrote. He was, then, a double man. Poetry worked to restore the order and rhythm that the ordinary world marred, destroyed or that he destroyed. He worked behind "doors marked Private", past "pine-rooms" where "telephones ring/Inviting trouble" in a room where his "double sits." In the end he became one of the dramatis personae of the twentieth century in spite of his efforts not to become so. I like what Auden tries to do. I feel he is a kindred poet whose aims and sense of craft are similar, in many ways, to my own. -Ron Price with thanks to Richard Davenport-Hines, Auden, Minerva, London, 1996, pp.1-5.

 

Always striving for integration,

unifying it all in a stroke or two,

a few choice phrases on a page,

synthesizing all the ideas

that came your way from every

conceiveable crevice in existence.

 

Aiming to heal the schisms

that you found all over creation,

through the play, the game, of words

because you felt compelled to write,

kept you from feeling ill, you said.

 

Organizing your scattered thoughts,

relating everything to everything

and making your unique whole.

 

Ron Price

9 October 2001

________________ 

I, TOO, WILLIAM

What is immortal about us, wrote William Faulkner in his Nobel Prize address in 1950, is our soul not some inexhaustible voice that animals do not possess. Immortality is found in this soul or spirit which dwells with man and is capable of compassion, sacrifice and endurance. It is the duty of the poet to write of this reality and to help other human beings endure by lifting their hearts. The poet should also help human beings to attain an understanding of and a glorying in the past. This will help them endure and, in the end, prevail. To achieve this the poet must live with hope and work in faith. -Ron Price with thanks to William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, 10 December 1950.

 

I, too, strive to write from my heart,

William, from a grief that grieves

in and from some universal bone.

And I believe, too, William,

that we will endure, prevail,

no matter how piercing

and appalling what we see;

no matter what desolation

creeps over our outer world;

no matter how lurid the lights

and shadows in our inner world.

Yes William I, too, live in faith and hope:

that the sanctifying breeze of this Revelation

will cleanse my longing heart and spirit.1

 

1 Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, p. 67.

Ron Price

28 June 2001

 

Literary influences from 'Modern Stage 2 and 3': 1921-to present......

YOU NEVER SAW IT, WALLACE

In the mid-1930s, as the Baha'i Administrative Order was taking its first shaping, Wallace Stevens wrote his poem The Idea of Order at Key West. Man's inner rage for order, Stevens argued, is the ultimate force in his universe. It is a rage,a lifelong effort, to transcend and resolve the fickleness, the dissolution, the transiency and the fragility of all physical things. The Baha'i Order, its organizational aspect, is the unique feature of this new and emerging world religion. In 1937 Stevens wrote about the poet contemplating "the good in the midst of confusion," about the poet constructing from the world of sensory experience "a total ediface involving and demanding the whole stretch of human experience." In this way the poet constructs himself.1 Poetry to Stevens was a way of viewing the world; it was the essence of modern art and it had replaced religion. It compensated for the loss of belief. Order arose from the self not from religion; order involved giving meaning, giving point to the life around us. This was the basis for an organic order, for a sense of a wholeness in life.2 For Price, this organic Order began to take form seriously in that same year 1937 when the teaching Plan was initiated in North America. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Louis L. Martz, "Wallace Stevens: The World as Meditation," The Yale Review, June 1958; and 2Geoffrey Morre, "Wallace Stevens: A Hero of Our Time," The Great Experiment in American Literature, editor Carl Bode, London, Heinemann, NY, 1961.

You'd been making poems

out of other poems as this

new Order was only just

taking its first shape

in a confluence

of feelings, thoughts

and sensations in a vast,

transcendent analogue

born in the mind,

part of that Wondrous Vision,

the brightest emanation

and the fairest fruit

of the fairest civilization

the world had as yet not seen.

 

Looking at the world, they were,

through the collirium

of His sweet-scented streams,

through the atmosphere

of His mind, always integrating

the contents of the present

with the predisposing song,

the fruits and blossoms

on His all-glorious horizon,

this new reality and its holy seat.

Ron Price

4 June 2002

EXTRAORDINARY THINGS

In 1937, the year that the first teaching Plan began, J.R.R. Tolkien completed his first book The Hobbit. That same year he also began what became six books known collectively as The Lord of the Rings. The first three volumes of this work appeared during the Ten Year Crusade with revisions during the Nine Year Plan. Tolkein died in 1973 and an additional twelve volumes, collectively entitled The History of Middle Earth, appeared by the hundredth anniversary of the ascension of Baha'u'llah in 1992. Some say Tolkein was trying to create a new mythology for England. His writings became an epic involving the forces of good and evil. He helped us see a richer world of fantasy. Some say his books are the most imaginative work of fiction in modern literature. He writes about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances doing extraordinary things. And so do I in an epic of a different nature.-Ron Price with thanks to "JRR Tolkein," SBS TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, 23 December 2001.

The Plan involved, so often,

ordinary people doing

extraordinary things

in an epic battle

between good and evil

with a new mythology

nowhere known,

hardly defined.

 

And, yet, a new language

in which the fragrances

of mercy (had) been wafted

over all created things.......

(and) past ages and centuries

(could) never hope to rival.1

had been created.

 

And everything was set by 1937

And even more set by 1963

and more by 1973

and again by 1992:

more and more and more,

a whole new world imbued

by sacred remembrances

from a remarkably dynamic period.2

 

1 The Tablet of Carmel

  1. 1937-1992; see Ridvan Message 1992.

 

Ron Price

23 December 2001

THE GREAT WARM-UP

The great outback, the remote regions of Australia, where I have lived and travelled, which I have written about in my poetry and autobiographical narrative, have been described in outback histories such as Ernestine Hill’s The Great Australian Loneliness(1937) and Mary Durack’s Kings in Grass Castles(1959). Sometimes these places are mentioned with a type of laconic, derisive and racist bush humour as in Randolph Stow’s Merry-Go-Round in the Sea(1965); or with a great deal of psychological and physical violence as in Thea Astley’s A Kindness Cup(1974). Poets, like Kenneth Slessor and Les Murray, are sometimes kinder and more sympathetic. For a Baha’i pioneer to Australia in the three decades beginning in 1971, one who lived in much of the land that was remote in that vast land, there was a great deal that could be said about it all in autobiographical and semi-autobiographical poetic narrative.-Ron Price with thanks to Suzanne Falkiner, The Writer’s Landscape: Settlement, Simon and Schuster, Sydney, 1992, pp. 7-20.

 

It’s going to take some time

to break the code here:

where the roads wind like a snake,1

where they are as straight as a line,2

where the violence is palpable

like on Friday nights down by the pub,3

where religion is seen as a disease,

irrelevant to people’s lives,

something to avoid and is avoided,

has been avoided just about totally,

even a new one like the one

I carried with me everywhere I went

and offered it with humour,

entertainment, with whatever

would swing it, although nothing did,

in that great back-o’-beyond,

that great emptiness,

described by Ernestine Hill

at the outset of the teaching Plans.4

 

For these were the years of

the great warm-up,

when seeds were planted

for over sixty years

like the infinitude of immensity

with the stars of the most great guidance.5

 

1 The West coast of Tasmania

2 The road from Alice Springs to Darwin

3 Katherine

4 In 1937 in The Great Australian Emptiness

5 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p.5.

------Ron Price 31 December 2000

Two literary influences from 'Modern Stage 3: 1963 to present'....... 

EFFLORESCENCE

Price’s poetry was and is one big thought experiment broken up into thousands of bites of memory, of statement, of history, of vision. Imagination and fantasy combine a free-floating quality and a discipline to explore ideas, experience and factual data. The triviality of everydayness and the seriousness of the sublime come together in Price’s poetry as he states, as he describes, his values, his beliefs and attitudes with conviction, with a sense of their complexity and subtlety. There is a power in Price’s poetry that comes from the flickering and rumbling below the surface of his life as he attempts to put into words his story of a bleeding humanity and the fire of the tribulation of its scattered and mutually destructive fragments on what he sees as its inevitable path on a journey to the planetization of mankind.--Ron Price with thanks to Colin Wilson, The Craft of the Novel, Ashgrove Press, Bath, 1990(1975), p. 198.

 

The central experience, emotion, here

has been my journey

to an all-glorious realm

in the neighbourhood

of the ineffable mercy of God

during the early days

of the tenth and final stage of history

when the efflorescence

of that charismatic Force

into a seat,

the last refuge

of a tottering civilization,

finally was completed

and rank, authority, power,

election and appointment

of the twin pillars of that Order

were clarified again and again

for the protection of those

who had to operate

those mysterious

and exceedingly difficult

institutions.1

Ron Price

14 February 1999

1 David Hofman, A Commentary on the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, George Ronald, Oxford, 1982, p. 9.

 

An influence from B.2 'Modern Stage 2: 1921-1963'........

 UNFOLDING AS IT WAS

In the spring of 1937, when the first Seven Year Plan began for the Baha'is in North America, many considered Ernest Hemingway the witness of the time, the finest writer of the hour. He was certainly the most famous writer of the 1930s. He was an icon in the United States. His action stories and his accounts of the news brought readers close to the events he was describing. In March, about six weeks before the beginning of the Plan, Donald Adams wrote a review of Hemingway's latest book To Have or Not To Have. Adams said the book was empty. Adams was not impressed with the cold reportorial aloofness with which Hemingway wrote about everything. Like any author or artist, not everyone liked him or his work. From the first review of his work in 1925 in the New York Times until his death in 1961, Hemingway stands out as a major writer of the first and second epoch of Formative Age: 1921-1963. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, July 27 2001.

 

Like Gibbon's cool observations

on the extinction

of the Empire in the West,

your reportorial aloofness

told of some other disintegration

during the first epoch of His Plan

when they laboriously constructed

the framework of that Order

in a series of spontaneous

and simultaneous plans.

 

In the spring of '37

you were in love with

Martha Gellhorn,

a beautiful blond,

and you flew to Madrid.

Witness of the time,

peerless war correspondent

that you were,

you who helped shape the age,

its unsurpassed artistic achievements

and its untoward violence,

you never saw

any of His panoramic vision

unfolding as it was that spring

in the inauguration

of the initial stage of His Plan,

part of the greatest drama

in the world's spiritual history.

Ron Price

27 July 2001

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