32. ART/ MUSIC/ FILM

HISTORY

  and:

the creative and

performing arts

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. 

_______________________________________________________________________ 

THE AWAKENING

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.

Shoghi Effendi

 

Ron Price

6 October 2002

DISSIPATED

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,

that rendezvous

with the Source

of my light and life,

with a fullness of

inner life,

solemn consciousness

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.

Ron Price

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.

Ron Price

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,

fiercely dissonant,

bewildering, startling,

glaring, bizarre,

universal emotion, poetic,

telling of the complete full man

with the greatest abundance

and intensity…

 

…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.

 

Ron Price

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,

an improvisation,

calm idyllic themes

with stormy, complex passages.

 

Some thoughts I come to

again and again, obsessed,

modulations, variations

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.

2 Paul Ramsey, The Fickle Glass: A Study of Shakespeare's Sonnets, AMS Press, NY, p.3.

Ron Price

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.

 

1 The moon landing occurred in July 1969 and the Woodstock concert took place a few weeks later.

  1. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 1969, pp.24-5.
  2. ibid., p.25.

Ron Price

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.

 

Ron Price

10 April 2002

GOING GLOBAL

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,

carefully considered

philosophic premises

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.

Ron Price

8 February 2002

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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

 

1 By 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.

3 The very last part, perhaps 30-40 seconds.

4 GPB, p.194.

Ron Price

26 September 2001

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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

 

1 Walter de la Mare, Behold This Dreamer, 1939

2 Babette Deutsch, Poetry in Our Time, 1956.

Ron Price

6 January 2002

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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.

 

Ron Price

30 September 2001.

 

SERIOUS BEGINNINGS 

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.

 

1 Shoghi Effendi in Wellspring of Guidance, The Universal House of Justice, p.37: September 1964.

2 ibid.p.7.

3 ibid.p.8.

 

Ron Price

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 amplification,

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.

 

Ron Price

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,

subliminal reminders

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.

 Ron Price

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.

 Ron Price

5 April 1999

 

A CATCH-22

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

interregnum years3

and described my apocalyptic world,

its absurd destructiveness,

immense perplexity.

 

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.

 

1 Joseph Heller(1923-1999, still living)

2 I pioneered in September 1962; Catch-22 went onto the best seller list early in 1962.

3 the 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.

 Ron Price

4 April 1999

 

CULTURAL APOCALYPSE*

 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

 Ron Price

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.

Ron Price

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.

Ron Price

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.

Taking humankind..........

 

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.

Ron Price

13 August 2001

SHIPWRECKS

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

Ron Price

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?

 

Ron Price

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.

Ron Price

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.

 

Ron Price

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.

Ron Price

3 November 1996

THE SHARPENING

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.

Ron Price

8 October 1996

1 Baha’u’llah, Fire Tablet.

__________________________

RAIN DESCENDED

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.