32. ART/ MUSIC/ FILM
the creative and
Art and music, film and dance, the creative and performing arts, represent a category of inspiration that aids and stimulates the writing of poetry. There is also a fascinating interrelationship, interconnection, juxtaposition between the history and teachings of the Baha’i Faith and developments throughout history in these domains of creative endeavour. The following poems attempt to illustrate this.
Twelve weeks after the start of the first Seven Year Plan in April 1937, the composer George Gershwin died. He was 38. He was one of the immortal American composers who typified eternal and highly successful youth in strident and awakening America of the Jazz Age. Gershwin, in his own way, had a certain autobiographical aspect to his music; that is "he made up his own mind what he would say and how he would say it." During those hiatus years, 1917 to 1937, before the Tablets of the Divine Plan were implemented in that Seven Year Plan, 1937 to 1944, George Gershwin composed and improved popular music and awakened interest in the contemporary composer and his music. -Ron Price with thanks to Isaac Goldberg, George Gershwin: A Study in American Music, F. Ungar Pub. Co., NY, 1958(1931), p.355.
In that strident and awakening America
he put the initial package together
for the new and emerging global world.
While jazz and Gershwin got the press
he developed their national consciousness
from an informal network of groups.
While Gershwin was making up his own mind
that dapper man across Twin resplendent seas,
that pearl, a hair's breadth from despondency,
worked out how he would say a great deal.
And he said it with such force and brilliance
that his music will be heard for centuries to come
as he helped to awaken the planet to New Music.
July 11th 1937.
6 October 2002
The music of a composer is often and clearly an expression of their life. Mahler's Eighth Symphony, for example, is "undeniably a heart-broken farewell to life, but a loving, not a bitter one." Mahler faces fate boldly and goes down fighting courageously. He was forty-seven when the symphony was written, four years before his death. Mahler was often tormented and had "a destructive inner stress." He could not resolve it through Christianity. Still he loved and praised life. Mahler's Ninth Symphony, composed in his last years, stands as a "musical equivalent of the poet Rilke's-'praising life in spite of everything." -Ron Price with thanks to Deryck Cooke, Gustav Mahler: An Introduction to His Music, Faber & Faber, London, 1980, pp. 103-115.
Poetry is without doubt
the words of life, my life,
and its joys, fatigues,
tranquillity and dark anxiety
largely and, at last, dissipated,
with that quickening wind,
that rampant force,
with the Source
of my light and life,
with a fullness of
and celebratory joy.
Thanks to an anti-depressant that counters the residual features of my bi-polar disorder after forty years of experiencing the very dark side of this emotional disorder.
7 October 2002
ENERGIZING THE WORLD
Leonard Bernstein became the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1957, within weeks of the passing of Shoghi Effendi. He was the first American conductor of that orchestra and he brought to that orchestra and the music world a sense of magic, energy, humanity, magnetism, soul, vitality and emotion in what might be called 'the tradition of ecstatic music.' Burning, he often burned out with his need to share and connect with his audience. He found composing lonely, hard work and frightening. He had an immense concern for the human condition, for social issues, for peace and expressed it through his effervescent and extravert personality. He had no singing voice but felt as if he sang through the voices of others. He battled his demons: depression, self-doubt and not being taken seriously. He was the controversial, outrageous, adventurous ambassador of classical music in the media and in society in the late fifties and sixties. He is famous for many things but particularly the music of the play/film West Side Story(1957) and the 'peace orchestra' in 1989 at the Berlin Wall playing Beethoven's 9th Symphony. -Ron Price with thanks to "Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note," ABC TV: 10:35-12:40 am, 16 September 2002.
Were you energizing his soul,
a soul which battled like your own,
struggling with your faith,
your depression and self-doubt,
each in your own way,
leading the Americans
as you lead the Americans
for so many years
with the music of your soul
and your waves of energy.
Burning out and burning out
and lighting your fire yet-again.
All-embracing with universal appeal
each in your way:
you with Mahler's music and
he the music of the prophet's spheres,
His fragrances of mercy,
all-the-same infinite Source
and Its interweaving of melodies.
Such a stream of consciousness
waiting for me when I was young,
such a breath of air, of love,
of a partnership for my soul
just as the tenth and final stage
of history was about to open,
a Day so blest that past ages
and centuries can never hope to rival it.
16 September 2002
THE VAST GARDEN OF PARADISE
For many years, but more frequently in the years since my retirement and especially since the completion of the Arc sixteen months ago, it has interested me to draw comparisons between the musical life of Beethoven and the spiritual life of Shaykh Ahmad from, say, 1792/3 to their deaths within months of each other in 1826/7. This morning, in the early days of a Tasmanian spring, I was listening to Beethoven's Eroica, his Third Symphony first played in public in April 1805. Shaykh Ahmad was at this time on the point of entry into Iran and Nabil writes that "He was filled with eagerness to unburden his soul and searched zealously for those to whom he could deliver the secret which to no one he had as yet divulged." -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 30 September 2002.
Complex and mysterious,
a titanic force,
universal emotion, poetic,
telling of the complete full man
with the greatest abundance
…product of inner states of being
and a desire for self-expression,
drama, conflict and resolution,
mystic states of mind,
revelation, the divine,
vague and not-so-vague
ideas of the perfect society.
And soon would come
the wondrous tongue
and the vast garden
of all of Paradise.
30 September 2002
SOME INNER PROMPTINGS
Composed and published in the last dozen years of the life of Siyyid Kazim, 1831-1843, Chopin's Ballades are the result of an obedience to his inner promptings. This is also true to my own poetry. The Ballade was originally a vocalized poem and, Chopin, whom Liszt called 'the most poetic musician,' followed no set form, no definite programme when he composed his Ballades, except that dictated by his own musical instincts.1 Such is the case with my own largely unvocalized poems: the instinct I follow is what Shakespeare calls my "own sweet skill," a structure of language, ideas and experience and varying degrees of inspiration, with an immediate and sincere impulse.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Harold Lawrence, "Record Cover," Chopin Ballades: Jeanette Doyen and 2A.L. Rowse, Shakespeare's Sonnets, MacMillan, London, 1964, p.vii.
There's been a flowering here,
calm idyllic themes
with stormy, complex passages.
Some thoughts I come to
again and again, obsessed,
with some opening phrase
seeming to create
a narrative mood
on which I ride to the end.
Do these poems have
some destined end1
begun in loss and fatigue?
Now each to each they loop and twist,
tugging at one and tightening another,2
distilling some essence of it all
that, perchance, I may live beyond the wall
of death whose voice calls quietly down the hall.
1"Every species of poetry has its destined offices." Voltaire on Shakespeare.
2Paul Ramsey, The Fickle Glass: A Study of Shakespeare's Sonnets, AMS Press, NY, p.3.
28 July 2002
BACK FROM THE BRINK
While watching a TV documentary, The Man They Made God, on the famous guitarist virtuoso, Jimi Hendrix, scenes from Woodstock in August 1969, before the sharp decline of Hendrix to his death in September 1970, reminded me of my own life in the late sixties. Hendrix was always pushing the envelope of his life, going to extremes, to the brink. His death was partly, perhaps significantly related to this quality of unbalanced behaviour. This poem is based on this period of the late sixties and my own extremes and draws on the 1969 Ridvan Message for some Baha'i perspective and orientation. -Ron Price with thanks to "The Man They Made God," ABC TV, 11:25-12:30 am, 25 July 2002.
I was getting ready(in August '69)
to teach in Cherry Valley
after a comeback from the edge
with its ECTs
and after going to the moon1
with its Swiss cheese,
continuing as I was
as a Baha'i warrior2
into the fourth phase
of the Nine Year Plan,
with my own extremes.
I had come back from that brink,
slowly finding my inner self3
with the wellsprings of action
oriented toward His example,
ever so slowly, so slowly.
1The moon landing occurred in July 1969 and the Woodstock concert took place a few weeks later.
26 July 2002
HIS MAJOR WORK WAS HIMSELF
The great artist and sculptor, Michelangelo(1475-1560), was also a poet and highly rated among his contemporaries. He had four major poetic periods in his life, as I did. Mine were 18-21, 22-35, 36-48 and 48-to the present. The bulk of Michelangelo's poetry was written during his fourth and final period(1530-1560), as was my poetry(1980-2002+). Michelangelo wrote poetry "to give articulation to certain fixed ideas."1 There were a great range of emotional colourations and poetic moods in his work and my own.2 Michelangelo's restless mind found authority in antiquity and Christianity for both his aesthetic canon and his intellectual and spiritual base. I found mine in a new religion, the Baha'i Faith.3 He experienced an "increasing uncertainty about the values he had adopted for his life and his career."4 I experienced a great sense of certainty from faith but I did experience in my latter years the same instability and doubt, although not to the same degree of intensity, that was part of Michelangelo's experience in the evening of his life. -Ron Price with thanks to Robert Clements, The Poetry of Michelangelo, Peter Owen Ltd., London, 1966, 1p.11, 2p.28, 3p.38, and 4p.40.
Your religious convictions
shine through your work
and, of course, your major
poetic work was yourself.
Just as it in one's nature
to paint oneself
and manifest one's mood,
so is this true of the poet
who is empowered by God,
the fountainhead of art,
to complete His task.
This is why so much
of my poetry
is a comment on my work
and there is little interest in
and less stomach for
the politics of church and state.
10 April 2002
Jazz in the 1980s and 1990s has become highly individualistic, autobiographical, with many jazz musicians producing quite distinctive, idiosyncratic sounds.1 This kind of specifically personal stylistic development has also taken place in the creative arts: composing, play writing and choreography; and the performing arts: dancing, concertizing and acting.2 In some ways this is not surprising because the artist's social context is now global. The immense variety of styles, although at times perplexing and bizarre, is part of the delight of diversity. It is part, too, of a slowly emerging world culture of the arts. I find it useful to see my poetry in this individualistic and this planetary context. -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, 10:30-11:30 pm, "Jazz: Final Episode," 7 February 2002; and 2 Tudwig Tuman, "Toward Critical Foundations For A World Culture of the Arts," World Order, Summer 1975, p.8.
I feel I got in at the beginning
just as this vast, global, culture
was taking its first steps.1
You can go way back, say,
to the 1840s when global's
feet were in embryo.
Perhaps it really all began
with the Primal Point,
the years of that great Precursor.
And you will find in this poetic,
which underlie what I write
and the way it mediates
between man and man.
As I draw ideas from
the immense diversity
of phenomenal existence,
synthesis goes hand in hand
with the ongoing process
that is at this poetry's heart.
And I define
with increasing specificity,
my cosmology, my mythology.2
1 This global culture, like the Baha'i Faith, really began to take off: 1950-2000.
2"Creative mythology springs...from the insights, sentiments, thought, and vision of an adequate individual, loyal to his own experience of value." Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology: The Masks of God, Viking Press, 1968, pp.6-7.
8 February 2002
THAT SUBLIME VISION1
When I listen to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, opus 35, which he began to write in 1878 and which was not performed until 1881, I think of some of the major events in the life of the Baha'i community at the time, in those four years. A great deal happened in those four years. Perhaps the major event was Baha'u'llah's move to the mansion of Bahji. There were many martyrdoms during this period among which were the martyrdoms of the 'King of Martyrs' and the 'Beloved of Martyrs.' In 1881 the Ridvan Garden was purchased and Baha'i pilgrims began to bring flowers from Iran to plant there. -Ron Price with thanks to Glenn Cameron, A Basic Baha'i Chronology, George Ronald, 1996, pp.110-112 and 1 Bahji was 'the most subline vision of mankind' wrote Baha'u'llah,GPB, p.193.
Everyone had suffered by then,1
to the bottom of their souls.
This Violin Concerto cost him
much effort and pain, too.
Is this his story as the violin strings
dance in harmonic tension?
Is this his musical autobiography?
Indeed, could it be some of
that Prisoner's autobiography,
His story in that foul place, Akka,
where the doors of majesty and true
sovereignity were flung wide open,2
when the tide of misery
and abasement began to ebb,
after the cup of His tribulations
had become filled to overflowing.
And when the finale bursts in3
He is in that lofty mansion.
His mighty and wondrous spirit
can work with invisible
and ever-increasing force.4
1By 1878, when this violin work began to be written, the Baha'i community had suffered immensely and so, too had Peter Tchaikovsky. Baha'u'llah had just been released from His nine-year confinement within the walls of the prison-city of Akka. Tchaikovsky, a shy and melancholy man, had begun to suffer the pains of a long and very unhappy marriage.
2'Abdu'l-Baha in God Passes By, p.193.
3The very last part, perhaps 30-40 seconds.
26 September 2001
A MYSTICAL PROFESSION
Conducting is a mystical profession says Zubin Mahta, former conductor of several major orchestras. So, too, is writing poetry. Like the conductor who guides the construction of his pieces of music, the poet guides the construction of his pieces of poetry. Mahta says he is always in the presence of genius when he is conducting and when he is listening to the great composers. I can say the same; for in writing poetry I am always in the company of great writers, people of literary genius, literary talent and capacity. My small study is filled with so much that is the western intellectual tradition and its interpreters. I draw on the works of other authors, writers and poets; I explore reality, where God, love, beauty, life and death are seen in truer proportions and where the desires of my heart are brought within sight. -Ron Price with thanks to "Zubin Mahta: A World Full of Music," ABC TV, 3:00-4:00 pm, 6 January 2002 and Robert Lynd, 'On Poetry and the Modern Man,' The World Of Poetry, Clive Sansom, editor, Phoenix House, London, p.1.
There's serenity here
for the troubled mind
as the world continues
its crumbling path
through a sea of torments.
There's loveliness here.
It shines like flowers after rain,
dots of sunlight in bubbled wonder
and again mystery charges on
its never-ending path toward
an ecstasy and joy
that I can scarcely admit
which floods my being,
growing in the soil of
a solemn consciousness.
And so my complex life,
fretting over appearances,
netting in with anxieties,
half smothered in drifts
of tepid thoughts and feelings,1
hungry for what poetry has to give,
enjoys a fusion of relaxation
and excitement without
the penalties of either.2
1Walter de la Mare, Behold This Dreamer, 1939
2Babette Deutsch, Poetry in Our Time, 1956.
6 January 2002
A GREAT DESTINY
John Wayne was a leading actor of the first, second and third epochs of the Formative Age. After nearly ten years in B grade movies, he began to come into prominence at the outset of the teaching Plans. In 1938 he appeared in the film Stage Coach. In the first year I was a Baha'i, 1959-1960, Wayne appeared in a film called The Alamo. He died seven weeks into the Seven Year Plan, on June 11th 1979. He symbolized the conservative virtues of America and made a virtue of being sober, industrious and responsible. He had his weaknesses, as we all do. In some ways he symbolized America itself and what it meant to be a man in all its macho, rugged masculinity, at least up until the 1960s when he began to be out of touch with society and its values--and what being a man was coming to be. Wayne had a strong sense of his destiny and the destiny of Amerca; so, too, did the Guardian. 'Destiny' is a word used frequently by Shoghi Effendi. -Ron Price with thanks to "John Wayne: The Unique American," ABC TV, 3:00-4:00 pm, 30 September 2001.
You were there for fifty years,
the first fifty of those Plans,
riding a horse, shooting a gun,
drinking your grog, womanizing.
You lived in a world of sterotypes,
reinvented yourself as you went along,
to survive: as quickly as drawing your gun.
You were a paradigm of patriotism
for all those long years
when we were taking this Cause
to the uttermost ends of the earth.
We needed your touchness, then,
your industrious sense of responsibility,
your blunt honesty, your easy sociability,
your grace and your charm.
We needed it then and now.
We, too, need to be students
of ourselves as you were
right down to the last gesture
and, like you, we must battle on
despite our insecurities.
For we, like you,
have a role to play
in the great American destiny.
30 September 2001.
The year my pioneering life began, 1962, Bob Dylan put out his first LP. It was entitled Bob Dylan. The following year, the year of the election of the first Universal House of Justice, 1963, Bob Dylan's second LP, The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, contained some "darkly haunting warnings" came onto the music market. Some writers see this album as the rock music industry's first set of songs that got "people thinking about love, war, change, revolution--the important things." They see Dylan as the first rock musician and this the first album that was concerned with protest songs and the serious issues of society. It was followed in 1964 with an album of equal seriousness, The Times They are a Changin'. -Ron Price with thanks to The Internet, "Bob Dylan," 28 September 2001.
It was during these years that
they turned us toward that
inner life and private character1
with the battle outside ragin',
shakin' our widows and walls;
turned us away from the seductions
of society's ephemeral allurements
toward vast spiritual powers released
by the emergence of the Universal
House of Justice,2 riding the crest
of a great wave of victory3 as we were.
And, as Dylan sang it out,
the old road was rapidly agin'.
The line it was drawn
and the slow one now
would later be fast,
for the order was rapidly fadin'.
The first one now would later be last
for the times they were a changin.
1Shoghi Effendi in Wellspring of Guidance, The Universal House of Justice, p.37: September 1964.
28 September 2001
ALONE IN A ROOM?
When people go to the theatre and become an audience they try to create stories about themselves, try to describe their lives and make sense of their experience. This activity is an antidote to the day to day experience of the electronic media which provides people with stories ready-made. Increasingly, too, at least since the 1970s, theatre has been about spectacle, about having the audience become part of the life on the stage, about ravishing the eye, the ear, the soul of those who come to join in and become part of what is a mass experience.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 8 June 2001 with thanks to "Changing Stages," BBC 2000, on ABC TV, 9:30-10:30 pm, 8 June 2001.
One thing about writing poetry, which contrasts it with live theatre, is that the poet creates his own stories, describes his own life and attempts to make sense of his own experience. His poetry, too, is an antidote to the electronic and the print media which fill the world of society today. The stories he makes are not ready-made, do not enjoy any embellishments of colour, sound and electronic communication, are not part of a mass experience. He makes everything himself from the resources of his world. The experience of poetry is not spectacle, not a mass activity, not about having one's eye, ear and soul ravished by someone or something else but, rather, doing the ravishing oneself. I am on my own, alone, in a room. I people my solitude, my world, my entire mise en scene. I am choreographer and director, producer, everyone you see in the credits at the end of a movie. Sometimes I feel ravished; sometimes lonely.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 8 June 2001.
The tickets go cheap here,
but you're all alone on stage,
with no lighting or sound effects,
no song-and-dance band,
no drinks during intermission,
no checking out the ladies,
no massage of the senses,
just an endless creation of stories,
description of a life,
definition of a world,
alone in a room, on my own,
trusting in the leavening forces
to leaven my being
and furnish it with power.
8 June 2001
AN EXPRESSIVE PATHOS
Within several months of the passing of Baha’u’llah, Peter Tchaikovsky wrote, while in Odessa, his Pathetique, his Sixth Symphony. It has always seemed to me to be the piece of music that was the most appropriate in the global repertoire of musical creation to express the sadness and the joy of the Baha’i community as it commemorates the passing of their Prophet-founder, Baha'u'llah. Tears rained from Tchaikovsky’s eyes in composing the work. There was "a spiritual commotion set up in the world of dust" in late 1892 at the close of what was a period "unparalleled in the world’s religious history."1 There is an unsettling elusiveness and there are anguished harmonies in the music: as if to say the world has just lost something precious but what, where, when, how, why?-Ron Price with appreciation to 1Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp.222-223.
It came to him so furiously,
at such a speed, just after
the Sun of Baha had set.
It gave him great bliss,
torments that were beyond words,
as it came note by note.
It would be an enigma to all,
this Pathetique, with its subtle,
of what had happened
and the line:
With your saints, O Christ,
may the soul of the departed rest in peace,
would end in a mood of despair,
a resignation which in London
in '94 would bring the house down
with its unsettling elusiveness,
its ‘can’t quite figure where we are’
tone, its sheer exuberance,
its breathtaking, anguished harmonies,
its expressive pathos, the spiritual agony.
15 May 1999
GIFTS FROM MY LORD
Biography has a number of ways of teaching you things about yourself, exposing you to others who have the same or similar qualities, and introducing you to exemplary others. The musician and conductor, Andre Previn, who was comfortable with people, found a room of strangers a daunting experience of discomfort. I, too, who have enjoyed the company of thousands of people over my adult life, have often found a room, indeed, any place where I have to interact with many people I don’t know well, uncomfortable, sometimes in the extreme. Previn also had failed marriages due to his devotion to his work, among other reasons. Finding the balance between my work and my private marital life I have also found difficult. Finally, it was interesting to observe that eight years after Previn left the Los Angeles Philharmonic as their conductor, he still had a distaste for the place and had no desire to go back to its environs. I had the same experience about many places I lived in my life. A fundamental distaste would not have inclined me to visit: South Hedland, Katherine, Frobisher Bay, Whyalla and certain places of employment at certain periods of time. Certain groups of people especially in large cities like Melbourne and Perth and perhaps other places and other groups also left a distaste. But these distastes eventually disappeared. -Ron Price with thanks to a documentary on Andre Previn: A Modern Maestro, ABC TV, 4 April 1999, 10:25-11:15 pm.
Previn was also a specialist,
a musician, a maestro,
music was his whole life.
Machinery, cooking, gardens,
the mundanities of life
he had little interest in.
A Mr. Charming, he won the hearts
through a world of sound
as I do, too, and have done with words,
although never in the major leagues
like Previn, rather, in a league of pioneers
with gifts from my Lord,
as if from some sweet-scented streams
of eternity and fruits of a tree of Being
which He has allowed me to taste.
But a strange distaste, an alienation,
arises from place to place, from group
to group, from person to person,
from time to time,
as easily as a drop of a coin.
Were it not for those sweet-scented streams,
the waters of life would be muddied,
stale and clouded forever in my soul.
5 April 1999
A year before I went pioneering on the home front(1962); and a year before I went pioneering overseas(1971) Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was released, first as a book(1961) and then as a film(1970). This release, I could argue if I was inclined, was more than simple coincidence. This book reflected the culture of our time in the West: its apocalypticism, its absurdity, the red tape and often meaninglessness of its bureaucracies, the extremely perplexing nature of society, a certain distance from religion. During the last four decades of the twentieth century, during the dark heart of the age of transition, these cultural realities combined in various ways to produce an "either-which-way-you-lose" experience in everyday life and a healthy sense of the absurd, one of the critical underpinnings of that saving grace which is humour.-Ron Price with thanks to Diane Armstrong, "Come Heller High Water" The West Australian, 3 April 1999, Big Weekend, p.3.
You1 made the best seller list
the same year I went pioneering2,
in the last months of those
and described my apocalyptic world,
its absurd destructiveness,
You say you find women more beautiful
than they ever were
and that your yearning for love
persists into old age
and has outlasted your capacity for sex.
The former I find to be true,
but it is too early to report on the latter.
Either way, Joseph,
I think it’s a catch-22.
1Joseph Heller(1923-1999, still living)
2I pioneered in September 1962; Catch-22 went onto the best seller list early in 1962.
3the years 1957 to 1963 are often referred to as the interregnum years, the years between the death of the Guardian and the election of the Universal House of Justice.
4 April 1999
In the first dozen years of the second Baha’i century(1944-1956) an American artist, Jackson Pollock(1912-1956), became the most famous abstract impressionist in the world. A celebrity, Pollock would literally pour his paint onto the canvas. His technique was revolutionary, unique, audacious, controversial. His private life was filled with suffering and disarray. Some refused to call what he did art. It was all part, from whatever perspective one views the Pollock phenomenon, of that: "apocalyptic upheaval marking the lowest ebb in mankind’s fast-declining fortunes"1, that "testing period....different from but recalling in its severity the ordeals which afflicted the dawn-breakers"2, that "inception of the Kingdom of God on earth"3 and an art form that coincided, it could be argued, with the earliest stage in the process of entry by troops, a prelude to that long-awaited hour of mass conversion.4-Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.58, p.69, p.66 and p.117. * APOCALYPSE=a prophetic disclosure or revelation of the end of the world.
Your art told, as art does,
of things to come
in this cultural apocalypse
where freedom went riot,
anarchy was loosed upon the land
and ordeals afflicted a generation,
spiritual descendants of the dawnbreakers
in the earliest epochs
of the Kingdom of God on earth.
You told of a world,
convulsed by agonies,
receding further from its Lord,
a suicidal carnage,
a smitten civilization
in the embrace of doom,
breaking up beneath the avenging wrath of God,
into which I was born and lived
in the second Baha’i century.1
12 April 1999
1 Pollock’s paintings seem now, after half a century, fitting symbols of the very language the Guardian was using in the forties and fifties to describe the nature of modern society in his time, and ours. This apocalyptic language of the Guardian I have borrowed from quite freely in this second stanza of the above poem.
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
In the several years before the Beatles first gained popularity, in the months of late 1962 when "Love Me Do" began to sell well in the British market, they practiced and played a great deal. A chart showing their 'cumulative performances' indicates how they began to practice and play more and more in late 1959 and until 1963 they practiced and practiced, played and played. Their success, R.W. Weisberg argues, from 1962 oinwards was partly due to this extensive practicing. While all of this practicing was going on, from late 1959 to late 1962, I joined the Baha'i Faith and began my pioneering life. These foundation years for the Beatles, their rise to fame in this earliest stage of their career, 1959 to 1962, was a note in popular culture played in the background to the most significant development in my personal life from the age of 15 to 18, the first three years of my commitment to the Baha'i teachings -Ron Price with thanks to Robert Sternberg, Handbook of Creativity, Cambridge UP, 1999, p.238.
The Beatles did not exist for me,
back then, in my adolescence
when I was going to school,
getting depressed for the first time,
and sorting out who I was:
Erikson's identity. And I did.
The Beatles were entirely on the perifery,
so far from centre, that they nearly slipped
into non-existence, remote
from the magnetic attraction
of the sun of my interest,
flying into irretrievable remoteness.
This most famous of music groups
in the last half of the twentieth century,
rising from anonymity with a new Faith
which began to occupy my soul,
on the edge of my world,
the other soaking up my soul
at the centre, but still vulnerable,
something that, like the Beatles,
could easily slip into remoteness
and be quite irretrievable, too.
22 April 2001
CONTEXT OF CIVILIZING TASKS
One view of this creative output of poetry is what might be called contextual. Such a view places stress on the social, cultural and evolutionary context within which this poetry is written. Indeed, so this view continues, individual creativity cannot be dissociated from the system, the culture(domain) and the society(field) in which it is written. Another view, another way to understand creativity, is the examination of the events in my life, assuming that my poetic outburst is sufficient to define me as a creative person. Few creative products of lasting value are generated without effort and persistence over long periods of time. This poetry has been written over twenty-one years. Finding out what the conditions are that facilitate my own creative work, what habits, what routines, what self-management and self-evaluative skills I require; taking responsibility for my thinking and learning my strengths and weaknesses are all part of this process. -Ron Price with thanks to R.E. Mayer, "Fifty Years of Creativity Research," Handbook of Creativity, editor, Robert Sternberg, Cambridge UP, 1999, pp. 417- 458.
There's a milieux here
which can be variously described
in terms of the micro and the macro,
in so many terms and conditions.
But I shall be brief, to the point.
A certain tranquillity came in,
partly chemically induced,
but that is no matter.
Lots of time and no rush,
no pressure but the pressure
of my own thoughts and feelings.
A natural curiosity,
a dominating passion,
a pondering of seminal events
in recent history
awakening in me rejuvenated fervour
and reconsecrated effort
to perform civilizing tasks.1
1 The Universal House of Justice, Letter, 14 January 2001.
21 April 2001
A UNIQUE TENDERNESS
Shaykh Ahmad arrived in Persia in 1806. By then he had been declared a mujtahid. He would remain in Persia until 1822. In 1807 Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his Fourth Symphony which, one could argue, reflected the life of this 'luminous Star of Divine guidance,' as Nabil referred to him, during His early years in Persia, say, 1806-1816. There is a tenderness in this symphony, particularly in the second movement, unique to Beethoven's symphonies. Perhaps tenderness was part of this great spiritual precursor's way of sowing the seeds. Certainly His way of teaching 'Abdu'l-Vahhab seems the personification of tenderness as does His letter to the Shah shows an equal tenderness of style. In the finale of the fourth movement of this symphony, J. Schmidt-Gorg tells us, Beethoven's listeners must have been "bewildered."1 Nabil, in a similar vein, informs us that the 'ulamas indicated they were "incapable of comprehending the meaning of Shaykh Ahmad's mysterious allusions."2 The parallels between the intentions and aims of both Shaykh Ahmad and Beethoven, namely, "to engage profoundly" the "minds and ears"3 of their listeners, are illustrated in this Fourth Symphony. I found these parallels fascinating, hence the following poem. -Ron Price with thanks to 1J. Schmidt-Gorg, Ludwig Van Beethoven 9 Symphonies, p.9; 2Nabil, Narrative: The Dawnbreakers, p.5; and 3Beethoven Symphonies 1,2 and 4, Otto Klemperer Conducting, World Record Club, Undated Album.
Pure music it has been called,
a drama, an unfolding destiny;
a heart-beat began to thunder then
as they both were urged to reveal
some inner music of the spheres.
Filled with eagerness
to unburden their souls,
explore some inner fragrance
they felt impelled to impart.
The beat, the rhythm, had begun,
whelling-up from deep
in some mysterious realm.
into beauty, harmony,
serenity, lofty thoughts,
heroic virtues, advancing
stealthily and exultantly
and, finally, into......
a smooth song of pure joy.1
1 The essential thing for the listener of Beethoven's symphonies, according to Joseph Hoachim, is "a working-out, a development, a feeling-through, a connection with the heart." This is also true for the Baha'i student in his approach to Shaykh Ahmad.
13 August 2001
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth,
from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
-Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
We had lots of these: east, west,
north, south--along the coast---
the Batavia in 1629, the Orpheus 1863,
grounded on the unseen, unknown,
storms, waves to drown the best of sailors--
out for adventure, experience,
good old human greed. Way back then
for hundreds of years, men, wrecked
on this enormous island continent and others.
Now, in different ways, a different conquest
tests the human brain and heart
to breaking point with such complexity,
to stagger the finest brains, intuiters,
in this brontisaurissmus society,
leaving millions strung out, wrung out,
endlessly sorting the flotsam and jetsam
of a crazy world that has been daignosed
a million times by a million men
in this bewildered, agonized
and seemingly helpless world,
as the tempest blows: unprecedented,
unpredictable--but unimaginably glorious
in its ultimate consequences, as it scowers
the face of the earth and harrows up
the souls of its inhabitants.
Often seductive, unobtrusive, cancerous even,
it blows into the very sinews of our hearts
and we call it a summer breeze; our vessels
never really sail on the Ancient Sea,
never really search for gold, new lands,
or some unknown place far from home
with an excitement that would thrill
our hearts to the uttermost: for the deluge,
folks, the deluge insinuates itself
unbeknownst over centuries, decades,
years and we don’t know where we are
or where we’ve been and-going nowhere-
we sink to the bottom of the sea
drowned in an ocean of misbelief,
skepticism, cynicism and so many isms
that will one day be wasms
while our rafters rot and swell
with barnacles from here to eternity.
1 October 1995
THIS NECESSARY AND JOYOUS TOIL
But yield who will to their separation*
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the play is work for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes. -Robert Frost, "Two Tramps in Mud-Time", quoted in Explorations in Psychohistory, Robert Jay Lifton, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1974, p.130.
To play and work at what you love
and create some mysterious child-like
offspring, the result of serendipity and
pain, of intoxication and great fatigue,
you become what you do; this is what
you are. In the process you become a
performer in the lives of others cast
for parts you know not. Careful of the
Arch-flatterer and your natural vanity
you possess a necessary modesty and the
capacity to look within to find both nothingness
and your self-subsistent Lord. Will I ever overcome
that subtle craving to be appreciated? Will my contentment
ever be sufficient to end this necessary and joyous toil?
10 January 1996
* the separation of work and play.
THIS VIBRATION OF UTTERANCE
Each time the poet writes he names again the world anew, for he is alone and there is only silence, memory and a menacing external vacuity.-Octavio Paz, The Bow and the Lyre, University of Texas, Austin, 1956, p.159.
You can’t tell it all in the theatre of
life where a kindly tongue is the lode-
stone of the hearts of men and your
overburdened mind might weigh the
stage unduly, assault and disturb with
your hue and cry.1 Far better to write
with the ink of your heart on the tablet
of creation where another frontier of
ineffability defines more mysteriously
what can and can’t be said and your
mission is to attract that poetic force,
converting yourself into a high-tension
wire to discharge images and, thereby,
create a memory bank of words & silence.
31 December 1996
1‘Abdu’l-Baha makes an interesting statement on the sorts of subjects that are better
avoided in social settings, Secret of Divine Civilization, pp.56-58.
THE LONG CLIMB
The very concept of history has yet to be constructed. -Louis Althusser in The Althussserian Legacy, E. Ann Kaplan and Michael Sprinker, editors, Verso, London, 1993, p.97.
The old narratives are proving
distasteful, inadequate, vulnerable,
repudiated, like some change of fashion,
epochal shift, due to the intrusion of new
forms, questions and conceptual frameworks,
incommensurable philosophic or theoretic
perspectives and tapestries.
The resulting factionalism and fragmentation
calls out for a healing connectedness,
bringing the parts together in dialogue
out of which may come the disciplines,
the social sciences, of the twenty-first
century to help us all in the long climb
to the perfection of the human community.
5 October 1996
THAT WONDROUS SCORE
Poets, as few others, must live close to the world that primitive men are in: the world, in its nakedness-birth, love, death, the sheer fact of being alive. -Under Discussion: On the Poetry of Galway Kennell, The Wages of Dying, editor, Howard Nelson, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1987, p. 170.
There’s a beauty and form here, an
order, harmony and direction, as if
a great conductor begeming and
brightening the notes to a pace, a
precision, an incision, a sweetness, a
lushness, arranging a dance like the
infinitude of immensity with the stars
as they shine from their vast emperean.
As Toscanini was bringing his wondrous
virtuosity and grand music to the masses
in 1937,1 another music was crossing the
world, bringing heavenly outpourings and
radiant effulgences to the hearts, resuscitating,
making flowers of divine mysteries grow
luxuriantly and illuminating the world.
As Fritz Reiner, the great stick technician,
was enthralling the lovers of music in Chicago
in 1953,2 the Kingdom of God on Earth was
making its entry and I was learning to become
a heavenly farmer, to scatter pure seeds and to
conduct my own life with the aid of a great
musical Score written by that wondrous Composer.
1In 1937 the international teaching plan was launched and classical music was brought to the mass of citizens over radio on a regular basis in the USA.
2In 1953 Fritz Reiner took over the Chicago symphony orchestra. The temple in Chicago was completed that year and, the Guardian informed us, the Kingdom of God on Earth began.
3 November 1996
How do poets respond to violent social convulsions and great public events? Since the French revolution, since the romantic movement, the effect of these outward events on the poet is internalization, synthesis and transformation. The outer events concentrate the poet’s awareness on his inner resources. The poet also tries to do this for the reader: to strengthen, to sharpen the reader’s individuality in the face of crisis, to help readers define themselves in relation to the whole, to solidarity, the necessary group ethos. -Ron Price with thanks to John Bayley, Selected Essays, Cambridge UP, NY, 1984, p. 116.
There’s a sense here, a perspective,
on the great convulsions of our times,
something familiar, everyday-like,
an understanding enlarged, clarified;
I’d like to think tears to the eyes,
prickles to the skin, fire on the edge
of language, bringing back the details,
the leaves, the cracks and all the beauty
of this new age, the new poetry
for this time aimed at:
that which they have concealed in the inmost
of their hearts, rais(ing) a cry....that all the
inmates of the chambers of Paradise...may
understand and hearken.1
For here, in these chambers of Paradise,
we sharpen ourselves.
8 October 1996
1Baha’u’llah, Fire Tablet.
For him, seeking quietude is the more immediate task.
To extinguish oneself and go into the woods.
-Herman Hesse, "Backward Glance", Herman Hesse: Pilgrim in Crisis, Ralph Freedman, Jonathan Cape, 1979, p.393.
There were several major expressions, influences, in poetry from 1937 to 1963, the first two epochs of the Formative Age. I was not conscious of them until the fourth epoch. This poem summarizes the major movements in poetry in those two epochs and the linkage with the expanding Baha’i community since 1937. -Ron Price
When the Order was taking its
first shaping Pound and Eliot’s
apocalyptic verse was the order
of the day and when this Order
started its vast expansion in 1937
a New Criticism, a precise and logical
scientific poetry without emotion began
to hold its sway. By the early fifties a
new wind began to blow in a poetry of
honesty: New York Poets, Beats, Black
Mountain Men. How did it influence you,
Roger, by then in your early twenties?
When the Confessionals and Robert Bly, et al
arrived in the late fifties and early sixties I was
nowhere near their world. When Sylvia Plath
drove off the road in 1962 I was starting out
my pioneering life; it would be thirty years
before my own revelations began, before I let
down my veil. For, it seems, my battles were
the same as theirs: marriage, mental illness, the
inner life, restlessness and the idiosyncrasies of
farming black and dry soil. Then, then, more
rain descended and the green, verdant plants
sprouted luxuriantly amidst a dark heart of an
Age of Transition; soil was quickened;
variegated flowers pushed forth; radiant
effulgences appeared; a resuscitation of hearts,
a liberation of divine mysteries occurred. It all
seemed so slow, while we were dieing, slowly:
all this scattering of seeds. Throughout the coming
centuries and cycles many harvests will be gathered.*
* ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, USA, 1977, p.6.