Read: Autobiographical Poetry 1997

After 30 years of writing occasional pieces of poetry(1962-1992), I have now written poetry 13 years much more extensively and intensively(1993-2005). The poetry here comes from just one year. It does not represent all the poetry I wrote that year. I hope, in the months and years ahead, to place all the poetry I wrote each year in the respective location at BARL.                                                


As the Revelation which flowed out from the souls of these twin manifestations pierced the atmosphere of the nineteenth century a new poetry began to find its way into the souls of other men. This Revelation gradually unfolded over a period of half a century. Bahá'u'lláh's creative energies witnessed an unbelievable expansion over some forty years. Poetry during these years went through a radical redefinition. It slowly became a large domain, containing multitudes, contradictions, a spaciousness, huge possibilities, hidden languages, unnamed strangeness and a newness that touched old words with difference and fresh diversity.

      -Ron Price with thanks to Ed Folsom, "Introduction: Recruiting the American Past", A Profile of Twentieth Century American Poetry, editors, Jack Myers and David Wojahn, Southern Illinois UP, Carbondale, 1991, pp. 1-22.

And not just in the world of poetry.

Perhaps the process started in the

mind and heart of Shaykh Ahmad

in those years 1753-1793, those years

of gestation before his journey, his years

of anguish and expectation, his dream of

Imam Hasan, his perfumed and honeyed

tongue, an inward light, some revolutionizing

Word about to begin its transmission trans-

forming all of creation to its very depths and

unveiling signs of universal discord. Perhaps in

his irrepressible yearnings he could see that Hell

itself was about to blaze and Paradise made visible

to people's eyes. A new romance was in the air.1

Ron Price

8 January 1997

1 Bahá'u'lláh refers to these images of Hell and Paradise in Prayers and Meditations, USA, 1969(1938), p. 296. The worlds of music and poetry, politics and the writing of history, industry, science, etc. saw a quickening, an increase in pace and change. At the same time, I am more than a little aware of the whole metaphor of change beginning with the Greeks as outlined by Robert Nisbet in his History and Social Change, 1969; and his critique of developmentalism in The Making of Modern Society, Wheatsheaf Books Ltd., Sussex, 1986. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's description of the role of religion in the origins of western civilization in His The Secret of Divine Civilization cannot be ignored here.


Ring Lardner* was a popular humorist, the funny-man of the 1920s, an authentic commentator on American society in its frantic flowering. He was the chronicler of a moribund social order, of the diversions of a period bent grimly on pleasure. While he was chronicling the material successes of the wealthiest nation on earth, the Bahá'í Cause evolved into a distinctive and exclusive religion under the guidance of Shoghi Effendi. -Ron Price with thanks to Maxwell Geismar, Writers in Crisis: The American Novel 1925-1940, E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1971, pp.3-36; and Peter Smith, "Reality Magazine: Editorship and Ownership of an American Bahá'í Periodical", From Iran East and West: Vol.2, Kalimat Press, 1984, pp. 135-155.

You told of the complacency, Ring*,

that kept a generation, an age,

from getting even close to the new light

that had cast its first rays of Order

over a western sky.

You told of a vanity, of an incapacity

to learn, even survive, as people jumped

into chasms that over-confidence had hidden,

into a narcissism that closed down

the bigger picture, hid the light of that Order.

You told us of the Jazz Age, its myths

and beliefs, your anger and disillusionment,

your hatred of aggressive American capitalism,

its final covered wagon, camping ground

and an outrageous individualism

always covering the light.

Such an emptiness in your portraits;

no deeper answers found here,

no historical perspective, spiritual stability.

The whole scene was all too fast, too new,

fleeing the Calvanist fires, on a merry-go-round.

A cultic milieux of religious esotericism

and inclusivism had given us a sense of being part

of a forceful current of social change

not some small religious collectivity, but slowly

organizational exclusivity changed that ethos.

You could say we became a religion back then,

Ring, not just a spiritual attitude;

we acquired a communal cohesion

and distinctiveness, throwing off

an extreme epistomological individualism

and any cult of personality

as an undesirable heterodoxy.

Ron Price

4 March 1996

                                                            STARS OF THE MOST GREAT GUIDANCE

All my beautiful safe world blew up....

-F. Scott Fitzgerlad,Tender is the Night.

It is truely breathtaking to contemplate the devising(26 March to 22 April 1916) of the Divine Strategy for the redemption of the planet in the midst of the din and destruction of the old order.

      -Amin Banani, Tablets of the Divine Plan, 1977, p.x.

After fifty-two slaughterous months

that changed the world another kind

of place emerged and with it a new poetry

of war. All the poetry since then has been war

poetry.* It was about this time that a new Order

was visibly emerging, its white buildings and its

poetry of war for the spiritual conquest of the planet.

Explosive tensions and energies, at hysterical intensities,

formerly bottled up, were released and canalized into His

Plan sending people all around the world which many saw

as a wasteland and which others saw as a garden about to

bloom at new thresholds, new anatomies, as millions sought

to escape from self and others a framework for their self in a

world where God was clearly dead but being born anew with

stars of the most great guidance.**

Ron Price

3 June 1996

*Francis Hope in A Profile of Twentieth Century American Poetry, Jack Myers and David Wojahn, editors, 1991, p.54.

** 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, 1977, p.5.

                                                                  HISTORY IN THE SHADOWS

As the world's great Depression was beginning to let up and as that apocalyptic second war was becoming a tangible reality in the late 1930s, in those few years between two kinds of hell, with humanity entering the outer fringes of the most perilous stage of its history, a stage we have not yet left, the Bahá'í community turned its energies toward worldwide expansion, its first organized international missionary campaign.

      -Ron Price with appreciation to Loni Bransom-Lerche, "Development of Bahá'í Administration", Studies in Babi and Bahá'í History, Vol.1, editor Moojan Momen, Kalimat Press, 1982, p. 295; and Shoghi Effendi, "Message to 1936 Convention", Messages to America 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.6.

We had the pattern for our Order, our instrument ,

for Administration, in place, we in North America;

we had the fear of God stirring in our soul due to

that devastating crash and wondering when the next

great shake-up was coming---when this vast Plan was

sprung on us from his teeming brain from which sprang

just about our whole conception of what it was all about,

for so little was the little that we knew in that first century.

This wondrous pearl, born from Twin resplendent seas,

having swum in His ocean1 of vision, of mystic intercourse,

our brother who comforted us, though we did not comfort you,

through your books, letters and translations we gained deeper

understandings of the spiritual base of our embryonic order, while

history's hunkered spectre brooded watchfully in shadows as

millions died chrysalis-birth to an order the world still scarcely knows.2

Ron Price

5 June 1996

1'Abdu'l-Bahá was like an ocean in the sense that he could receive and give without any sign of disturbance, Priceless Pearl, 1969, p.21.

2 In the dozen years 1933 to 1945 millions perished in Stalin's purges and in the battles of WWII: the greatest bloodletting in all of history.

                                                                        PROSECUTED, AT LAST      

...Prosecute uninterruptedly teaching accordance with Divine Plan.

      -Shoghi Effendi, "Message to 1937 Convention", Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p. 9.

I love this process by which each passing day is captured, not only its impressions, but also, at least by suggestion, its intellectual direction and content as well, less for the purpose of remembering...than for taking stock, reviewing, maintaining awareness, achieving perspective.

      -Thomas Mann, 11 February 1934, in Thomas Mann: Diaries-1918-1939, Andre Deutsche, editor, London, 1983,

While Hitler was getting very serious

and Stalin was mowing them down;

and Scott Fitfgerald was moving to

Holleywood. Dorothy Parker was

working hard for the Communist

Party and the Screen Writers Guild.

Ernest Hemingway was making a

film about the Spanish Civil War;

the New Deal was speeding through

its second phase; physics was

deciding the age of the earth and

producing its immortal work--the

international teaching plan was

prosecuted, at last, throughout the world.

Ron Price

4 October 1995


1 September 1962

This was the first day of my pioneering life, although I could take it back to about August 20th when I left Burlington to go to a Bahá'í camp at Kashabog in northern Ontario. I was eighteen and I was about to start my matriculation year at high school. The world was warming up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 1 September 1992.

When I started pioneering,

wandering as I was

between two worlds:

one dead, the other

having just been born,

seeking my own identity,

trying to give birth to myself,

so tentative, so new, so fragile,

so alone and by myself

in a vast and spacious land:

marginal, inferior, inadequate, mute,

invisible, just-about-non-existent,

dissolving, a nobody. That's how

it was back then at the end

of the Ten Year Crusade

when I was 18.

I felt like some quintessence of nothingness,

some empty shell, cavity, social vacuity,

humanly crippled, passive,

like a water colour

which does not exist,

at the end of a conversation,

an after-thought,

with a tongue half in shadow

and half like a frozen bone.

I passed through groups

like a breeze at room temperature,

unobtrusively blank,

could be a missing person

noone missed, modest,

in the picture somewhere,

difficult to say where precisely,

but you can find me if you look

long enough. I'm that fellow

you can hardly see, right there--see?

PS Thirty years after pioneering, at the age of 48, my world had been transformed so many times. I was a different man, different person.

So many had come out in these years:

women, blacks, ethnics, lesbians, gays

and another generation of pioneers.

I'd been crushed and blown

to the ends of the earth,

but a new man had been born,

a new gold of some worth,

a chalice of pure light

had made me drunk

from far up in the north

way down to places that stunk.

Part of a new race of men

slowly coming to birth;

it's gone on to great progress

in these first decades

at the end of this tenth stage of history.

We're mapping the cosmos

and the human brain

as knowledge expands

beyond what anyone can attain:

the fruit of these years

with the rain coming down,

in a dark heart of transition

with a whole world of new sound.

The journey's been swift;

the journey's been long,

on a tortuous road

with my paths yet to lift me

up and away to a world quite beyond,

to that sweet undiscovered country,

far away from this abyss.

Ron Price

1 September 1992/

16 June 1996

                                                      QUITE A BIG YEAR: 1963

The pulsar's most vital function seems to be to serve as an empyreal enzyme inside the quasar, which in turn must ultimately...nourish the cell-plasm of the greatest celestial outburst ever dreamed: that of the whole exploding universe. Since the 1960s astronomy has developed so fast that thousands of quasars are known and ten million are estimated...all of life seems to have passed at some stage through the cauldron of the stars.

      -Guy Murchie, The Seven Mysteries of Life, Houghton Mifflin, 1978, Boston, pp.396-402

We came from the stars by some

vast and circuitous route of exploded

stellar material, super-nova, some

extraordinary sequence of events for

atom-rich molecules. So the astro-

physicists tell us and the molecular

astronomers as they study star dust,

ice crystals and tiny diamonds by the

quadrillions in the 200 billion star

families in this Milky Way. As if in

some giant maternity ward stars are

born, celestial swaddling stars, have growing

pains and childhood diseases and in some

exploding brilliance they shoot out whole

worlds at 100,000 miles a second in crucibles

of brewing life, mystic sanctums of the universe

and exploding galaxies, a thousand supernovas

blowing up in one great chain-reaction which

were called quasars in 1963: the most astounding

astronomical development since Galileo saw the

moons of Jupiter.

Ron Price

16 March 1996

                                                                  1963 WAS A COMPLEX YEAR

The Bahá'í community in 1963, when the apex of its administration was elected, had about half a million adherents. The deep conservatism of society just about everywhere was beginning to undergo a tremendous shift. The question and the issues in relation to this shift are immensely complex. The last several decades are, among other things, the story of this shift. This poem is written from a perspective looking back thirty-four years to London in 1963.

      -Ron Price with thanks to Spencer Pearce and Don Piper, editors, Literature of Europe and America in the 1960s, Cambridge UP, NY, 1989.

The Beatles, the government and

the flower children got it wrong

back then in '631: it was a thousand

times more complex than they ever

imagined and right outside everyone's

perspective—except for a few—as the

tenth stage of history opened as if in

some second generation Garden of Eden.

This grand design2, a million miles from

the Profumo affair, obscenity issues3 and

confessional poetry, 4 was so much more

than Adam and Eve could ever be, a new

beginning with new forces to deploy as

history pursued its predestined course.

Ron Price

26 July 1997

1 The Beatles released their first LP in 1963: Please Please Me.

2 The Universal House of Justice refers to Shoghi Effendi's vision as 'the grand design' in its first letter 30 April 1963, in Wellspring of Guidance, Universal House of Justice, USA, 1969, p.1.

3 In the summer of 1963 a sex scandal dominated English news, the Profumo affair. In 1960 Lady Chatterley's Lover was established as 'not obscene'; in 1962 the Vassall case, involving obscenity and homosexuality, titillated English sensibilities.

4 The New Poetry was published in 1962 by Al Alvarez. It contained a strong confessional element.


...we must applaud the good sense of the Christian princes, who viewed with a smile of contempt the last struggles of superstition and rapid, yet so gentle, was the fall of Paganism that only twenty-eight years after the death of Theodosius the faint and minute vestiges were no longer visible to the eye of the legislator.

-Edward Gibbon, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chatto and Windus, 1960, p.421.

The wind blew fiercely through those days

while some obscure Light began to shine

in the smallest corners of a vast and sprawling

world: warm and quiet, hardly seen, opening

up some kingdom of heaven to minds afflicted

by calamity's firey scourge while worldly wise

continued in doubt with their vain superiority.

Sages, a long list, rejected this new perfection,

or overlooked in silence or contempt, what

was then diffusing itself to the remotest and

fairest regions of those dominions through the

efforts of obstinate and perverse enthusiasts

who persisted in their submission to a simple

Truth and revelation which excited the wonder,

the curiosity and devotion of that chosen few.

And even now, in this latter day, when winds

blow cold over a larger land and calamity's

unprecedented violence runs its scourging

fires through new seasons of pacem et

circenses1, a new force insinuates itself

in all the corners of this global politic and

establishes its holy seat with supernal splendour.

Ron Price

27 December 1996

* line from a popular folk song in the 1960s, "Four Strong Winds".

1 bread and circuses

                                                                                                      5 AM ON A RAINY NIGHT

Those who feel compelled at some time in their life to embark on autobiographical writing do so because they have no choice: they must do it.

      -S. R. Suleiman, Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature, Harvard UP, London, 1994, p.212.

This poem was written on getting up on a rainy morning at 5 am in the last weeks of autumn in Perth Western Australia.

      -Ron Price

The night is dark; the wind blows

a driving rain onto the roof and eves.

I hear the trees, like generations of

men tossed, lonely and alone, again

and again until, at last, silence falls

and the leaves and branches of lives

are at peace again, still, tranquil,

at ease, in a great quietness that

descends on their bones and marrow.

This night world is often bathed in moonlight;

even the stars seem to carry an easy glow.

But tonight all is blackness, only the faintest

street-lighted zone; only a cold, wet, darkness,

one that I have often known. And so the

world waits out this darkness; soon the rains

will cease their pelting down. Shortly the trees

won't blow in blackness. The sun will shine

on a blue sky, tinted white, one we know as home.

Ron Price

8 May 1996

                                                            A BEAUTY THAT ELUDES ME

I draw in on myself in acute joy, again to ransack the self for the dispensable. Today-ah, today, the clamorous will, hardest to relinquish.

      -Roger White, "Letting Go", Occasions of Grace, George Ronald, 1992, p.60.

Another blazing beauty dazzling

in the sun by the ocean,

golden hair falling

on athletic shoulders,

perfect everywhere

before my eyes.

Tell me this is not

a gift from God,

a gift of such intense loveliness

yet cannot be touched,

does not touch

my concupiscible appetite

on its long journey to

the acme of mature contemplation,

reminding me that

walking humbly with my God

in this universe

presents me with endless signs,

doors, symbols, tokens and means

to access His flawless beauty,

irradiated by blue-perfection

and a brightness that fills existence

with gleaming, radiant, burning, light.

Tell me, this aging man,

flawed from head to toe,

stomach distended, false teeth,

balding, far, far, from such radiance

and beauty, that this creature

does not touch my soul.

She fills my upturned branches rapturously

with light and the roots of my tree

gorge silently in her brown

and solid soil, but alas

it does not fatten nor appease the hunger.

For this creature of perfection

has a beauty close to soul,

could raise me to the music

of my real existence-presence-                                          

dearest ingot, gold. But, somehow,                              

that beauty eludes me,

as love rages to subdue me,

hazards all around me.                              

I hear her say with head turned,

hair golden with trapped sunlight:

ignore your dreams, forget the rainbow.

Ron Price

28 December 1997

This poem was written while ballots were being cast at Unit Convention Area Number 56 held in the Woodlupine Family Centre in Forrestfield, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia.

      -Ron Price, 2:30 pm, Saturday, February 15th, 1997.

In the shade of a garden

far off near the sky a new

tree is blooming. I can see

it growing now, glistening

in the sun, the leaves dancing

in the brightness. It has a small

place in the corner garden; the

rains have come and there are

more, so much more, to come:

life-enhancing rains, clouds and

thunder, soon to come in this long

spring, soon to come the flowers and

fruits of our consecrated joy, soon to

come that sweet new life, tasted full.

They tell me it rained a billion years long ago,

filling our oceans and making our rivers run.

Ron Price

15 February 1997

                                                            A BITTER SWEETNESS

But suppose that one of those men of aspiring spirituality were to be confronted with the reality of the aspiration of their lower self by living out some of that aspiration, that desire, that lust, in some everyday-life setting, in some theatre of passion, would they feel condemned for eternity? Would they, then, hang on to those instruments of redemption, as we all must if we but knew it, instruments forged just recently in history by the tribulations of One of those luminous Gems of Holiness?

-Ron Price with appreciation to the Universal House of Justice, "A Tribute to Bahá'u'lláh", 28 May 1992; and Roger White, "The Death of the Lady Killer", Occasions of Grace: More Poems and Portrayals, George Ronald, Oxford, 1992, p. 73.

It was on this night, a Tuesday if I recall,

that the sinewy blond with the longest of

smooth legs accepted his verbal overture

and the light from his never-fail Dunhill.

She was all acquiescence as he gazed into

her blue lids against the curling smoke and

her long golden hair flecked with diamonds

in the soft red-light of the plush piano-bar just

off downtown. In the heat of conversation they

left and took a taxi as the rain cast fleeting green

tints which struggled on her smooth skirt and in

the curls of her hair falling like trapped starlight.

This would be a night, he mused, as he took a

furtive look onto her many pastures of pleasure.

Her smooth chest deepened into that dark river

where his hand would soon drink of long awaited

pleasures. Soon, she stood by the mirror of his room,

in a black slip, smoothing the silk fabric over her breasts,

more perfect than anything he knew amidst his world of

paper and books. Soon, his hands ran where hands must

when such beauty offers itself on a dry desert and he took

his full as she gave what was her custom, what she knew best.

For she was alone in a universe of absurdity that was beyond

her understanding. And he was starving on that desert: partly

of his own making, partly destiny, partly an obscure reality that

would remain an unknown factor forever, clouded by the moment,

clouded by a taste of things done and things undone, a fragrance

soured with a bitter wine, bitter only because it was his life.

Ron Price

28 March 1997

                                                A BLINK'S SPAN

I gained it so-

By Climbing slow-

By Catching at the Twigs that grow

Between the Bliss-and me-

-Emily Dickinson, Number 359.

These were years for all those Hands

who served the King and we his thralls,

the many dancers who came and went,

and some in special meriment, incandescent

was their glow. With a blink's span some

still come and go into our lives, and just as

sharp as knives. They trotted far across the

globe; over all those years they were like Job.

Their long-suffering tells of sacrifice, of the

little time left and of a special ransom as they

tried to awaken a sleeping world to this new

heaven. Now mostly they sleep where simple

stones are arrayed, a hovering presence in a

cradling shade where in the future much will be

made. A constant motion, even to the end, unable

to ice their wings, or in stillness unable to fit any

distraction into their fleeting days they succumbed

in quiet valour, undramatically, in some suburban bed,

blunted by nonimmortal domesticity, not all, of course.

Ron Price

20 January 1997

                                                      A BURNING-CRYSTAL STREAM

The maturing process is the gradual realization of one's vocation, the acceptance of God's design, freeing oneself from idle fancies and vain imaginings, from one's lower self, finding one's lifelong, defined, firm and focused purpose, actualizing one's potential, as expressed in the multitude of definitions in the sacred Writings. In the process one must impose order and stability on one's wayward impulses, free oneself from life's seductive traps, from the anarchy below the surface of one's own nature, a prison of the wrong kind, not the Most Great Prison which is the only one worth entering.

-Ron Price with thanks to The Picturesque Prison: Evelyn Waugh and His Writing, Jeffrey Heath, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1982.

I have found some liberating home,

a prison of my own making, intensely

serious for so long, painstaking care,

darkened periodically by illness and

melancholy and despair's bleached skull,

on the run for so long, criss-crossing two

continents, as if fixed and predetermined,

and some fortunate star shone as I came

to dwell in a quiet garden where I could

serve that Ancient Beauty, as if God's

gentleness and favour hemmed me round

so I could spend my days in gladness, writing

poems, with fire's cool flames, using me

up like a candle in a burning-crystal stream.1

Ron Price

28 September 1997

1 Nabil-i-Zarandi, Bahá'u'lláh's poet-laureate, possessed a poetic gift like a crystal stream.

                                                                  A CELESTIAL COMPANY

Sunday, all day nothing.

-Samuel Beckett in ABC Radio National, 23 November 1997, 7:00-8:00 am.

He breaketh the cage of the body and the passions, and consorteth with the people of the immortal realm.

      -Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys, p.12.

Writing at the end of an age,

the beginning of an age, a stage.

So much was, as you1 said,

inexpressible, inarticulatable;

and we must go on; we will

go on, even if we do not move;

even if we sit and gaze; for we

must see, as Camus said, Sisyphus

as happy; we must go on, indeed,

we do go on in one way or another,

for there are many ways, even if

the plumber comes at 9 and Sunday

looks and feels like nothing. For

the Kingdom of God on earth has

become, in an institutionalization of

charisma, which is quite a distinct form

of the incarnate God Who will remain

forever and ever beyond the learning

of the learned and the comprehension

of the wisest of the wise. And so we wait,

as you said so many times and as we must,

and fill our souls with a celestial company,2

a people of some immortal realm.

Ron Price

23 November 1997      

1 Both Beckett and Bahá'u'lláh wrote a great deal about the inability of words to define reality.

2 Memorials of the Faithful, p.122; Seven Valleys, p.12.

                                                            A CERTAIN OTHERNESS

In the end poetry rests with the poet, at the end of some long line of cultural influences, culture in the widest sense as defined anthropologically. In the end poetry is what we are, and what we are has a great deal to do with culture—and genetics of course. Poetry is a celebration of life, of the intellect and the feeling, of the whole man; it is an expression of the whole man and of a time in h istory. It can not be imparted in a three credit course; it is the slow accumulation of endless acts, thoughts in a wonderfully mysterious interaction with a biological-genetic input.

John Metcalf, a Canadian writer, says that little poetry is taught any more in high schools. What was taught before about 1950 rested on an architecture of hierarchy and authority, a hierarchy that was in its last days. He says his own writing attracts few readers; he does not worry about his readers at all. Poetry, he argues, tends to be elusive, difficult , hard to pin down, baffling sometimes.

      -Ron Price with thanks to John Metcalf, Kicking Against the Pricks, ECW Press, Downsview Ontario, 1982.

There's a certain otherness I find

when I pick it1 up again, a kind of

"who was this?", a distant cousin,

intimacy, definition, from those days,

occasional embarrassment, surprise.

This going back amidst tons of reading

is a part of my digging in for the long

siege that, hopefully, will finish out my

days, ordering my life as I must amidst

the endless acts and thoughts of thirty

thousand days and a flow, clear and right,

from, within , a vision, nourishing and

ongoing, life in the rivers and streams,

the rivulettes and creeks, not yet dry.

Ron Price

86 Fitzroy Road

Rivervale WA6103

30 August 1997

1 my poetry from days gone by.

                                                      A FRESH INFLUENCE

In the last year archeologists have discovered a rich heritage of rock art in northern Australia, in the Northern Territory and in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, which is rewriting the history of human settlement in Australia and the world. During this same year the human community has arrived on Mars, discovered an ocean on one of Jupiter's moons and spread out a tapestry of beauty on Carmel's mountainside.

-Ron Price, A Survey of the Last Twelve Months, 1996-1997.

As we go out into the universe

we are mapping the past: back,

back into archeological and

geological epochs, finding

carboniferous and jurassic

anomolies and Aboriginal

rock art by brilliant artists

portraying dynamic musculature

and interpretations of the past

unveiled by ferro-luminescence,

as tremendous forces latent in the

inmost reality of this precious Faith

exert daily a fresh influence1 and my days

like unto a gentle breeze2 in the Antipodes.

Ron Price

20 September 1997

1 Universal House of Justice, Baha, 154 B.E.

2 idem

                                                                  A FRIEND YOU NEVER KNOW

There are no pat formulas for mapping out a poem or for living a life, or for finding a trace of the Traceless Friend. There are words of guidance, suggestions, descriptions of the ways of others for both how to live and how to write poetry. Life is like an uncut diamond in the earth. Our job as people who would 'live the life' or 'write poetry' is to learn to facet the diamond, to find its proportions and angles, its cleavages, so that its beauty may be revealed. Diamonds exist under great pressure and cutting diamonds is a skill that must be acquired if the beauty of the diamond is to be revealed. This is equally true of 'living the life' and 'writing poetry'.

When two people meet the interaction is a dance. 'Writing poetry' and 'living the life' are equally a dance. It is best to say a prayer before you dance.       -Ron Price with thanks to Jimmy Santiago Baca, Working in the Dark: Reflections of a Poet of the Barrio, Red Crane Books, Sante Fe, New Mexico, 1992.

Your allowances to let me become

whom I wish and give me advice

when I need it-is this the mark of a friend?

Aristotle says "there is no friend." I

say "except the true Friend."

He Who possesses my whole soul

and cannot admit of a rival.

He is the hardest thing to find.

You have no need of another,

but you never know the proximity

of this Friend. Friendship is enjoyed

proportionally as it is desired

and should I not behold His beauty

even after a hundred thousand years

I would not falter, for there is

only One Friend ever to find.

Ron Price

5 October 1997

                                                      A GENERATIVE MATRIX

Bahá'u'lláh's Writings, indeed the works of all the Central figures of this Faith, and the Universal House of Justice, represent a powerful institution of self-reflection slowly becoming embodied in the central cultural practices and ideological milieux of an emerging global civilization, a civilization still in its infancy but barely visible in a model of community that has just stuck its head above the ground. This vast corpus of print will one day come to saturate humanity's social life with imagery and self-representation as the Homeric epic came to saturate Classical Greece.

The miracle of Greece, the Hellenic spirit, found its origins, its source, in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The miracle of this new Order, now just in its embryonic form, its nucleic spread, finds its origins in the Twin-Manifestations of the nineteenth century, the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh.       -Ron Price with thanks to Barry Sandywell, The Beginnings of European Theorizing: Reflexivity in the Archaic Age: Logological Investigations Vol.2, Routledge, NY, 1996, p. 50.

We codified our sense of identity,

idealized vocabularies of conduct

in the generative matrix of a Prophet's

art, a unique enterprise, effectively

inaugurating a global act that would

translate a spiritual kingdom into a

physical form, begin a new type of

communicative institution, at the

beginning and end of civilization,

a brilliant supernovum of a collapsing

galaxy, history's supreme monument

of Revelation writing, of jewel-like

emanations and effusions from an

indefatigable pen, God's artistry.

Ron Price

13 December 1997

                                                                        A HERO-MISSED

In 1852, several months before Bahá'u'lláh had the first intimations of His revelation and station in the Siyah-Chal, Hadji Murad died in a war between the Russians and the Muslims of the Caucasus. Murad became the source and model of Tolstoi's greatest hero and novel.

-Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, Harcourt, Brace and co., NY, 1994, p. 338.

You1 found yourself a hero you could

create as you while you were dieing in

your final hours so few. And while this

hero did his thing Another, agonized,

received the Sacred fire, but somehow

you missed His hour of birth in His place

of stygian gloom. Once the Maiden had

descended He became quite worthy of your

rich characterization, your dramatic sympathies,

vividly individualized, His intricately defined

ethos, His fate overly determined, confronting

impossible odds: triumphant in His radiance,

His creativity, His maturation at the Hand of

Destiny. For He did indeed love, this most

precious Being ever to have lived. His desires

were increasingly to leave this world so that He

could energize this place much more than He was

then able, to a degree unapproached on this earth.

Ron Price

27 September 1997

1 Tolstoi


I don't like good byes; they are always sad; somehow you can never quite say it all, what needs to be said, I mean, but for some reason, can't.

      -Overheard on a train, or was it a bus or a plane?

Our departures are choreographed clumsily:

from those slow exits when your organs of

sight and speech are put on shutdown and

you lay about becoming someone else whom

you can't even recognize; to those simple

goodbyes in one of those towns you lived in

after several years of tightly-packed life. A

perfunctory wave, a moist kiss colliding

distractedly, with a touch of embarrassment

and a don't forget to write! And you do and

you will, but after ten or fifteen towns they

all somehow slip into a grey, not-quite-oblivion.

There is much less choreography of departure

now in these middle years. You can carve a good-

bye in the hazy air as quick as a wink, merge with

the pedestrians in another delirious street, flag a cab

and slip into anonymity as fast as James Bond in yet

another incarnation, but you don't and you won't for

this hello is one that will endure forever. You are no

longer bored with safety; your world is no longer dense

with unarticulated motives; you are no longer keen to

populate your world with private mystery, become yet

again an inexplicable stranger climbing a ladder, moving

through ambition's corridors, the fresh ambience of

another town where you can make a name before hitting

the road again, in this wide world and another mise-en-scene.

                                                                        A NEW TRIBAL POETRY

Pound had believed for his whole life that the world had come to an end. He thought he could actually "restart civilization" by inflating the poet's role, especially T.S. Eliot's, by trying to make the world possible for poetry. In a way he was right: the old world did end and a new one was spread out in its stead. A new global civilization has begun; a new order was taking its first shaping just as Pound was beginning his poetic inflation. While he wrote his Cantos(1917-1967ca) an age ended, the Heroic; and a new age, the Formative, moved through its first half-century.

      -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Ryan, "Poetry and the Audience", Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1994, p.166.

And the world did, but so differently

from the way you thought it would.

Civilization has started again and a

new Order just as you began to sing

your song, your Cantos. I trust your

endless song, your tortuous road, was

not all in vain as you gave poetry a new

start, but it has stayed on the edge in

the West never really meeting the person

in the street with much at all to say, with

little importance to our happenings day-to-day

and it has been that way since Gutenberg's1

invention when poetry was heard not read.

But slowly, maybe since Wordsworth's day,

there's been a binding force in great humanity,

beyond the egotistical sublime, beginning in

the wondrous Poets2, far beyond all other men,

giving birth to a thousand, million poets of the

mass who have absorbed the earth as the earth

has absorbed them as they looked it squarely in

the eye with the subject again the tribe, a global

tribe, one tribe on the wings of electric aesthetic

and an inevitable: communitas communitatum.3

Ron Price

19 October 1997

1.Gutenberg's press was invented in the 1440s. The Gutenberg

Bible was issued in 1456.

2 The Bab and Bahá'u'lláh

3 One great community of communities.

                                                                                          A NEW VOICE

Price wanted his poetry to be of use to the Bahá'í community. For this community had been a part of his life for more than thirty years. He believed he was developing a unique rhetoric, a refreshing individual voice, a concern for a special set of issues that were shaping the nature of his poetry and charging him with a renewed sense of his poetic function. The slow introduction of this voice, this poetry, into the Bahá'í community, first in the 1990s, allowed the inevitable connections he had come to make with people, connections that were both empowering and unnerving, to be made gradually and be more easily coped with. After five years of extensive writing he was still hardly known and read even less.

Price could continue to relish in the simple pleasure of writing, of naming things and experiences in the spaces of his many-lived self. Life, he found, had many secrets and silences and poetry provided a channel for his passions to transform them. Truths and discoveries, he also found, he made in the process of writing. They helped him accept his failures in ordinary human interaction, failures which were sometimes burdensome and debilitating and failures of connectedness with the wider world.

-Ron Price with thanks to Claire Keyes, The Aesthetics of Power: The Poetry of Adrienne Rich, University of Georgia Press, London, 1986.

Holiest dust on the holy mountain,

nine-sided silent teachers in the cities

and mountains of the world, Bahji,

Akka,Tehran, Shiraz, Tabarsi, back,

back past Siyyid Kazim to Shaykh

Ahmad-an intense spirituality radiating

out from this gestating, fructifying life

whose implications are far more radical

than the world has come to appreciate

and which is slowly and unobtrusively

changing the face of the earth amidst

black darkness etched in memory with

a brimful chalice of calamity and the

face and eyes in despair's bleached skull.

Ron Price

5 August 1997

                                                            A PERSONAL HERMENEUTIC

Poets are tempted by fantasies of totally unified organic societies, freed from the burden of differences inescapable in actual political life. But, if their work is to last, they must help to provide that luminous background, an interpretive paradigm, an idea of order, a community of ideas, against which we can project all our experience

      -Ron Price with thanks to Painterly Abstration in Modernist American Poetry: The Contemporaneity of Modernism, Charles Altieri, Cambridge UP, NY, 1989, p.383.

Giles Gunn, The Interpretation of Otherness: Literature, Religion and the American Imagination, Oxford UP, NY, 1979, p.174.

If what I have seen so far of this

organically unified society is any

indication, there will be enough

differences to keep us all busy,

each with their own burden, forever.

Whether this world I am describing

will last, will remain alive in a future-

present, in some historically transmitted

web of meaning, some eternal network

of consciousness and experience, familiar

and yet new, fundamentally different, fresh

food for thought, new habitual modes, unified

by common thoughts, aspirations and feelings,

infinitely varied around one unchangeable pattern:

is entirely a question involving a personal hermeneutic.

Ron Price

12 August 1997

                                                      A PIONEER SEED

David Suzuki described the beginnings of life on Hawaii some two million years ago, with a pioneer seed.

      -Ron Price with thanks to David Suzuki, "Cracking the Code", September 4th, 1997, ABC TV, 11:05 pm.

He was a pioneer seed, founder of

a botanic dynasty, two million years

ago in far-off Hawaii, on a bare and

desolate scape, now lush and variegated

for us all to see and enjoy. And I, a

pioneer seed, part of the earliest days

of a Formative Age,1 that will, in time,

produce an Order that will reverberate

through this world, this cycle, this era,

far, far into the future, a future dominated

by the political and religious unification of

this planet: so I see this seed, its home. The

gradual accumulation of changes, the leap

and thrust, occasionally, of its majestic beauty.

Ron Price

5 August 1997

1 The Formative Age began in 1921 and my pioneer days in the 41st year of that Age.

                                                            A PREDICTABLE WONDER

It is not enough to marvel: the sea asks more.

It does not casually strew enticing shells

or call the bronzed athletic family lightly.

There is calculation in its murmur,

frothed treachery laps its shore.

-Roger White, "Lines for a New Believer", The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, p.95.

Sparse nourishment the slow years gave,

told timeless feast hereafter and in foreign

places: a province of India, an island of the

Pacific, a youth explosion or among an

indigenous people somewhere, somehow.

And so we grew, maybe, thirty times1.

Still, we were hungry, most of us, in the

west; we'd been hungry for most of those

forty years, like years in the wilderness

before our home in Canaan came, before

settling in the mountains and hills, home.

We were warned not to stroke too swifly

toward the green opposite shore where death

rehearsed and where the pearl-promising waves

told us of the wet danger, but some ignored the

warning and drowned, energy depleted; others

thought the big bird had lied and had not told

them of the torn pinions and the bloodied head.

Many I'd seen had shouted Land! Land! when

only another long wait, another voyage, inching

their consequential and necessary way through

some miasmal ooze leaving them with dry throats,

puzzling faith and the predictable wonder of their

ordinary lives, unscripted, flawed and plausible.

Ron Price

20 January 1997

1 the numerical strength of the Bahá'í community in 1957 was about two hundred to three hundred thousand; by 1997 it was about six million.

                                                                  A RACE IN THE MIDST OF SIN

The eyes of the spirit begin to grow sharp only when those of the body begin to fail. The soul burgeons and comes into full flower as everything slips away and dissolves-life, memory, strength and courage. The body wanes and the soul rises to its epogee but only through perpetual recoveries from defeat, only as a lukewarm weariness drains our faculties and the spirit of life, little by little, goes out, after being the source of a deep spring feeding what we are and what we say.

-Ron Price with thanks to Simone de Beauvoir, Old Age, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1972.

Like some indefineable point, unseeable

epogee, after a lifetime of sharpening the

pencil is now unseen more than ever; and

that lukewarm weariness drains it all away,

everything I have ever called life. The deep

spring waters, feeding my active and concupiscible

self, slowly run to the sea and I am left with that

soul, that acme of mature contemplation, to nourish

me from things unseen, to assist me to manifest virtues

and perfections to the end of my days, even should my

mind cease to show the light, or not yield the fruit

contained in the tree of my soul, that lamp from which

is born all the light of my life and the patience to run

the race that is set before me in the midst of my sin.

Ron Price

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