Read: Autobiographical Poetry 1998


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.

                                                                  1926


A decision of the Supreme Religious Court of Egypt, announced on 10 January 1926 in a letter of Shoghi Effendi, may be regarded as an initial step taken by our very opponents in the path of the universal acceptance of the Bahá'í Faith as one of the independent recognised religious systems of the world.


      -Ron Price drawing on Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, Wilmette, 1968(1928), pp.100-101.


In 1926 Uum Kulthum began to sing with professional instrumentalists to back her up. Up until this time, from 1919 to 1926, she had male family members on the stage behind her when she sang. Initially, she sang disguised as a boy.


      -Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times, 17 October 1997; and ABC Radio, 15 October 1998, 11:05-12:00 noon.





Unobtrusive events in Muslim lands,


freeing from the bonds of tradition,


these stars of the east.


At variance with the accepted doctrines


of Islam; the implications of these events


were unknown, then.


Pure, clear voices, as if from on high,


singing during these embryonic days


of a new Order.1


You have both become models now


for an old world in disarray and your


voices will sing out:


your clarion calls, like sweet, sensitive


birds, traces of gold in centuries to come.


Ron Price


16 October 1998


1 Uum Kulthum sang from 1926 to 1975


2 Bahá'u'lláh's voice and 'Abdu'l-Bahá's sang out through the translations of Shoghi Effendi within the nucleus of a future world Order known as Bahá'í administration.





                                                            A BALANCING ACT


I believe it is too often forgotten that self-criticism is part of the creative process. Indeed, it is essential for creative artists who must be painfully honest with themselves. Escaping from self-knowledge, seemingly part of the everyday life of everyman, must be limited for such artists. This is especially true for the autobiographer who is involved in the complex balancing of reticence and immodesty.


-Ron Price with thanks to R.S. Thomas, Autobiographies, J.M. Dent and Sons, London, 1997.





In these words I say too much


and too little, performing the


impossible and complex balancing


act of reticence and immodesty


to tell a life, to play out my dreams


with my eyes wide open, defining


ever more precisely, the reality,


the dream, the gap, the something


conceived and composed in the depths


of my being. Perhaps, just perhaps,


what I have here is a work of art,


passing through me like a storm-wind,


flinging open the doors of perception,


pressing upon the architecture of my


beliefs with its transforming power


and enriching my inheritance1 in this


critical stage of an immense historical


process2 with its energy and creativity.


Ron Price


28 June 1998


1 George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoesky, E. P. Dutton and Co., NY, 1971, pp.3-4.


2 Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message BE 153.





                                                            A BALANCING FACTOR


The writing of a poem is, to me, a task of construction following on from an impulse, an inspiration, an idea. It's like an energy source that turns on a light and the poem is an attempt to give that light form, containment, a compartment from which it can continue to shine when it is brought out and read. Sometimes the light that is turned on is faint and the poem a simple narrative conventionalism; sometimes the light shines more strongly after experiencing an intense dialogue with silence; and sometimes the light is so bright I have the opinion it can bring light to the world of its readers.


      -Ron Price with thanks to Dylan Thomas in Dylan Thomas: The Poet and his Critics, R.B. Kershner, Jr., American Library Association, Chicago, 1976, p.193.


This may be a simple narrative


conventionalism, a story of a day,


a part of a day that occupied my


inner life, my silence, my conversation


with myself in the early hours of this


morning when I am given to endless


chat, down low, sucking the guilt,


the shame, the ugly, the dark, the


twisted, the inadequateness of what


I am, what I live, breath, seek during


the spinning moments of my life: where


I bring myself to account ere I am


summoned to a reckoning. I would


not want to be judged by God in this


mood of darkness for I would always


be found wanting and would descend


to the lowest abyss day after day, perhaps


simply due to a chemical deficiency,


imbalance that sends me into the most


profound state of feeling and thought


amounting to a sickness unto death,


pure physiology, a balancing factor


that keeps my ego from being that veil


which, in the end, will shut out the Light.


Ron Price


10 May 1998


                                                            A BALLET OF STILLNESS


So much of our life is passed in a fuzzy, undefined feeling state that an encounter with the form of that fuzziness-is shocking, thrilling, beautiful.


-J. L. Borges in The Invention of the Real, Richard Stern, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1982, p.32.





Your1 red beards deceptively smile


at me from outside the window


and your red pistils or anthers,


the female part, always cocked,


ready for action at the end of


your long green stem, protected


in a pot, on this brick pavement


on this first Saturday in spring.


In the breeze you lift your


white and yellow petals in


the gentlest dance, all stepping


in unison through the air in


coloured choreography,


a professional parade here


in the theatre of this garden,


a ballet of grace and charm,


cool, pure delight, lifting,


swaying and stillness.


Ron Price


5 September 1998


1 orchids


A BALLET OF STILLNESS


So much of our life is passed in a fuzzy, undefined feeling state that an encounter with the form of that fuzziness-is shocking, thrilling, beautiful.


-J. L. Borges in The Invention of the Real, Richard Stern, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1982, p.32.





Your1 red beards deceptively smile


at me from outside the window


and your red pistils or anthers,


the female part, always cocked,


ready for action at the end of


your long green stem, protected


in a pot, on this brick pavement


on this first Saturday in spring.


In the breeze you lift your


white and yellow petals in


the gentlest dance, all stepping


in unison through the air in


coloured choreography,


a professional parade here


in the theatre of this garden,


a ballet of grace and charm,


cool, pure delight, lifting,


swaying and stillness.


Ron Price


5 September 1998


1 orchids


                                                A BOUNTFUL DREAM


Writing involves a becoming of the self, a creating of the self, of a life as a work of art. It involves a passage, an entrance, an exit, a dwelling place filled with desire to know, to do and to be,a soaring, a production of thought and an account of life. It involves a reliving of old images and memories, their reverberation and redefinition. Writing is an attempt to create a bracing effect on readers so that they, too, see an image, an idea, as if for the first time.


-Ron Price from Passionate Sociology, Ann Game and Andrew Metcalfe, Sage Pub., London, 1996.


To brace the reader like a cold wind


on my face as it cuts sharp and dumbing


is too difficult to do most of the time,


unless the reader shares some deep intensity


and I can make of my words some entrance,


some passage, some dwelling place for their


soul where it can crystallize around my flickering


presence and enjoy a profound engagement


with my articulate self as it seems to meet


the insides of another human being and their


private, colloquial world of light amidst their


outer world of darkness. 'Tis a vision pondered


long. Is it plausible I can achieve it? Is it a fiction,


real? Is it real, fictitious?       A bountiful dream!1                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    





Ron Price


8 December 1998


1 this poem draws on Emily Dickinson's poem number 646, the last two stanzas.


                                                A CERTAIN DILETTANTISM





Robert Dessaix has been involved in public broadcasting in Australia for many years. He is a writer, an intellectual, who was interviewed this afternoon on ABC TV. I have always enjoyed listening to his provocative questioning on Books and Writing a program on ABC Radio. I have also enjoyed his seriousness. I was slightly surprised when I heard him speak of "looking for a sacred vision" when he was interviewed by Andrea Stretton.


      -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, "Sunday Afternoon", 2:55-3:05 pm.


You always seemed like someone who did not belong


here in this Antipodean mileux of wit and witticism.


I don't know you really. How can one know a voice


on a radio, year after year, even with this interview?


Dilettantism, bliss and joy first, with happiness second,


from some kaleidoscope of spontaneity: to take this


through life, being here, being there, in language. Well


I have, Robert. I have. It may go somewhere. It may lead


to some ultima Thule. But, for now, it leads to such pleasure


that bliss is the only word, far exceeding happiness, as you say,


but I hestiate to blow the trumpet on this private treasure. It is


an effusive entity rooted in, wellspring of, a solemn consciousness.


Ron Price


18 October 1998








                                    A COMPLEX FATE





I find the imagery that Roger White uses very penetrating, especially in his last published work Occasions of Grace: More Poems and Portrayals with George Ronald. I have borrowed here quite heavily from White in part two of that book and tried to draw the imagery into one perspective in the process making God feminine.


      -Ron Price


You have brought me a sea of names,


of heros, of saints, history, what history!


And language, what beauty of phrase,


of word, wondrous, for poets like me.


You brought me lounge rooms, everywhere


I've been, shelves of books, God, plates of


food and drink, a complex fate spread over


two hemispheres and a universe for my head.


But what have I given You, Woman of Delight:


Whose breasts have poured forth all I need of


milk and honey? Who embraces me and moves


me into the danger? Dark Darling Whose black


hair fans and falls entrancingly?


Strange the journey in Your burning stream.


You pin on my lips Your burning kiss, while


passing lights cast fleeting green tints that


struggle in Your hair like trapped starlight.


Oh this hot alliance forged in bed and in my head,


long ago! Could be sundered in a breath and some


chilly inner self I would regain with some stranger


speeding to my door. What sweet wisdom this


coupling brings! With hair disarranged, this panting


boy, fully aroused; and She truly naked, oh what lust!


The greatest lust: to speak and be listened to somewhere


in the soul, as a crazed hot wind mutters apocalyptically


and my perceptions endlessly shift and shimmer in this


parched and grainy land with its sandy convolutions.


Ron Price


22 November 1998





                                                                        A COOL DISTANT CLIME







The poet tries to render the essence of experiences, to pronouce words that lie at the bottom of an experience like stones in a stream, to express his most private feelings which turn out to be the feelings of everyone else as well.



-Howard Nelson discussing Galway Kinnell, On the Poetry of Galway Kinnell: The Wages of Dying, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1987, pp.8-10.







Sometimes I feel as if the world



is spinning by and somehow I got



left off the spin; even want to be



left off the spin; an emptiness sits



down low with a gladness I have



come to know that saves me heat,



words that glow, safe from intensity's



seed which grows. Instead a cool and



distant clime fills my soul, slides down



my spine. I feel alone, out on a limb,



so I people my aloneness with His silent



words, with my own sweet melody and



kindle mine own soul, listening, always



listening quietly for the hearts of all men.







Ron Price



20 February 1998











                                                A DIFFERENT SOPHISTICATION







I came across J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye in 1962, just before stepping into the pioneering arena.. It had little impact on me at the time. Recently I read several analyses of the book, Salinger's sophisticated writing and a biography of the man. After reading these commentaries I felt there was an interesting comparison and contrast with Bahá'í experience in the last half of the twentieth century; and a relevant lesson to any writer who becomes popular and wants desperately to preserve his privacy.



-Ron Price







The year you1 set off in search of a retreat



we went to one hundred new countries, the



biggest spread in any one year in our history.







We were in retreat from corrupt America



just like you, but we played it differently



with our ever onward and outward Plans



than you and your Zen which was just



beginning to make its mark on men, then.2







Space, solitude, silence and self-sufficiency



seemed to be the core of your dream, all



your life after Catcher in the Rye made you



famous and you withdrew into anonymity.







The teenage revolution began about the same



time and millions saw their problems, endless



sensitivities, spiritual aloneness, silent suffering,



withdrawal, the drying of their hope and wonder



in your skilful words. You spoke a language that



resonated throughout America in the ninth and early



tenth states of history3, my teenage and adult years.







The voice that I had found, had heard, had



resonating in my inward being as I walked



through silent streets alone, or at night as I



read in my bed, or at meetings in my home



was far removed from your's. It was a



nightingale's that sang on the twigs of the



Tree of Eternity with holy and sweet melodies,



subtle, silent and of the rarest sophistication,4



plummeting my soul outward across the planet.







And now, I seek that same solitude and silence,



after three dozen years of endless outreach.



I have learned from your sad days and ways, as



I make my own way through the minefield that



publicity offers up. I enjoy the freedom from the



great publicity and media machines that our world



has thrown up on the detritus of a dieing age and yours:



how long, how long? Will this poetry remain forever in



                              Obscurity?







Ron Price



29 January 1998







1 J. D. Salinger published Catcher in the Rye in 1951 and set off for a winter retreat in late 1952. In some ways this marks the beginning of his search for solitude and anonymity that characterized the rest of his life. See In Search of J.D. Salinger: A Biography, Ian Hamilton, Random House, NY, 1988, p. 132.



2 Suzuki's Zen texts were first published in the USA in 1949, but it was not until 1953 that they began to make their mark. That was the year of the opening of the Bahá'í temple in Chicago and the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth as the Guardian characterized this event in God Passes By.



3 Catcher in the Rye started to really sell and be reviewed in 1956.(ibid.,p.155) It was one of the most popular books in the last years of the Ten Year Plan and in the first quarter-century of the tenth stage of history.(1963-1988)



4 one of the meanings of sophisticated is "to deprive of simplicity". I do not find the Bahá'í writings 'simple', or characterized by 'simplicity.' Indeed they are, as a body, quite complex. They "can be read over and over without understanding." (John Hatcher, The Ocean of His Words, Wilmette, 1997, p.7.)







                                                                        A DIVINE SPARK







In the years after the birth of Shaykh Ahmad in 1753, the years of the birth of three revolutions in the West in the last half of the eighteenth century, the key word came to be 'delight' and the key concept 'liberation' with a sense of fun as a human right. And today, we are still in the middle of the effects these revolutions spawned. The spiritual revolution that came from Shaykh Ahmad has only stuck its head above the ground.







The Renaissance established the dignity of man. The Industrial Revolution established the unity of nature. Each was a step, a stride in the ascent of man. The spiritual revolution associated with the precursors of the Bab, Shaykh Ahmad and Siyyid Kazim(1753-1844), was one whose implications the world has yet to even dimly appreciate.



Ron Price with thanks to Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, BBC, London, 1973, p.286.











While you1 were growing, hatching



and dreaming your dreams, sweeter



than honey was His venom on your



lips, the world was changing through



revolutionary forces, unknown to you,



to anyone: a great sense of oneness of



nature, all in all, power, gushing, flowing,



growing, new passions for knowledge,



as if the world was impregnated, not just



in your hinterland of Bahrain, fertilized by



your sublime detachment, not just in England



in its aristocracy of working talent where the



working class had always been in poverty and



darkness, not just in France where new men



were knocking at the door. A heroic age had



been born: a liberation from hunger, dirt and



disease. Private decency at last, man a carrier



of a divine spark capable of delight, capable of fun.







Ron Price



8 February 1998







1 Shaykh Ahmad was born in 1753 in the hinterland of Bahrain in what is now Saudi Arabia.







                                                      A DREAM OF STONE







Another poem Baudelaire wrote was called Beauty which begins with the opening line:



Conceive me as a dream of stone. In my poem below, taking the lead of this line from Baudelaire, I imagine myself as a 'dream of stone' in the Bahá'í gardens in Haifa.



-Ron Price, See Reverse Side for Baudelaire's Poem.







Conceive me as a dream of stone,



my breast with mortals, quite alone,



who find they prompt this poet's love,



part of this holy place, its peace, above.







You'll find me near a terraced curve,



a marble pillar, blood and nerve.



I never laugh; I never weep.



Peace at last, eternal sleep.







In studious awe others brood,



before this monumental good,



now enshrined in timeless light,



frozen in words of might and right.







At last I've come to sit on high,



looking down from far off sky.



I see these sacred precincts, dust,



terraced gardens, holiness. It must







endure forever down time's lane,



producing worlds quite free of pain.                  



This place where angels dance and sing,



unknown to men who daily bring



devotion, love and prayers like rain.







Ron Price



23 May 1998                                          







                                          A FLICKERING PRESENCE







Randall Jarrell says that he "learned all there is to know about one woman" in the three volumes of Emily Dickinson's poetry published in 1955. He found there an "almost intolerable intimacy" in which experience was expressed "at its most nearly absolute." Dickinson, he said, was daemonic, ridiculously human, entirely immortal. Her poems are worth more than anyone is ever likely to pay for them. If one is interested in the essentially mystic quality of religion, one could do no better than study this poetic, mystic genius. This is what poems written by such a genius should be like.



-Ron Price with thanks to Randall Jarrell, "The Year in Poetry", Harper's, October 1955.







She's a flickering presence



on whom I attempt again



my profound engagement,



my imaginative reconstruction,



to crystallize my attitudes to



her investment in this single



reader, her unfinished poems,



her linguistic enactments,



her love of the soul's



endurance, her love of



reading—its bodily, highly



affective sensations, emptying



out of the articulate self for



the sake of the Other.







Ron Price



21 June 1998







                        A FORTY YEAR BIO-RHYTHM





Whatever the believer's local conditions the celebration of a Feast is an experience of collectivity, even if he is alone. Imagination's light brings to that believer an energy and creativity associated with a century long process of beautification and spiritualization on Mt. Carmel. He is conscious of a century-long, virtually uninterrupted, period of divine guidance and an acceptance from this sacred spot; he has access to a fascinating, global and historic experience. He is not alone. He is part of a glorious convergence, an arena of democracy, a gift-giving of thought.


-Ron Price with thanks to Horace Holley, Religion for Mankind, George Ronald, 1956, p. 108; and The Universal House of Justice, 27 August 1989.








The women start to get ready earlier


than the men. They always seem to have


more to do to themselves, perhaps because


they see themselves more in terms of their


adornments. I'd got the agenda finished in


the late afternoon, so all the paperwork was


ready. Forty years on, the Feasts had become


part of my bio-rhythm, life's sequence and


pattern for me and the few, always the few,


in some one's house, their lounge room and


spreading into the kitchen and home by 10:30,


three hours, holy days were very much the same;


for the individual is limited as to his social


usefulness, his responsibility, his temperament.


And the prophet only exists in the consciousness


of men as: personality, human life, character, destiny,


inner activity, where conscience is the emerging


policy of the group, where my feelings are socialized


and my imagination brings a descent of holy guidance


from a sacred spot now embellished so magnificently.





Ron Price


3 May 1998





                                                            A FRESH CONFIGURATION








I like to see history, at least in part, as the transporting of a people into its appointed task as entrance into that people's endowment.1 The small part that I play, my contribution to this end, I do through my creations, my poems, through overcoming, as far as I am able, 'the inherent consecutiveness of language' and 'the reader's normal expectation of sequence.'2 I try, too, to rescue things from mere objectness so that they might be seen as if for the first time. To do this requires the creation of a fresh, a unique context, one that delights the intellect and refreshes the spirit. To do this in each poem is a challenge, one that can be met fully only on occasion.


-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Richard Jackson, The Dismantling of Time in Contemporary Poetry, University of Alabama Press, London, 1988, p.272; and Charles Simic, ibid., p.267.





If I could re-orient your world here,


take the web of time and make it strong,


tough as steel but gentler than rain;





If I could show you there is no one "I",


but many, that you are some organizing


principle, some composite of the transient


and the eternal; the contingent and the absolute;





If I could show you that here was a starting


place for your inquiry into being, a device to


recover a state of pure expectancy, of mind;





If I could show you that these words could


bring back more, could let language's secrets


speak to you, summon you, fleetingly and


distantly touch you with their unique voice;





something in you might emerge into time,


like some fresh configuration of radiation


after the Big Bang, some evidence that you


existed, a feeling for your own existence.





Ron Price


7 March 1998





                                                      A JUDICIOUS BALANCE





Stephen Spender suggests that the qualities of profound understanding, courage and genius, morality and humanity in the novelist Henry James were not acquired from observation but from: remoteness, from journeys far into himself and from being immersed in a sense of beauty amounting to a flood of poetry. He was a man whose life had drawn far into himself. He was ultimately lonely, but with strong feelings regarding the events of his life and what he came in touch with. He was, therefore, acutely part of his world and his times, although this world became less and less enticing for him. He saw it as a mere mad panorama, a phantasmagoria, a museum, but still an organic unity. He job was to describe this unity, to create it through his writing. To do this he retired more and more into the inventions of his own mind.


      -Ron Price with thanks to Stephen Spender,The Desructive Element: A Study of Modern Writers and Beliefs, Folcroft Literary Editions, 1977, pp.47-66.





     


I strive to live and watch and judge


to the utmost and relate my microcosm


to the macro and to all that is history


and the future in this grand immensity.





I do not see poetry as some simple


rhyme-scheme, but a taking of all


that is and all that might be and


turning it to my ends, to my words.





And so I try to come to grips with


what is my world by plunging into


it and remaining a spectator in


judicious balance, prudent resolution.





The so-called artistic temperament


and its intense sensations making


now a new world, which we have seen


coming in these wilderness days.1





Yes, there is tragedy, immense


quantities of tears and death,


but there is light, an apotheosis


on that mountain, that holy spot.





Ron Price


13 November 1998





1 the first half century of the 'Kingdom of God on earth'(1953-2003: God Passes By) has been a period, a wilderness period, in a dark heart of an age of transition; but light, pure and glorious light, has also been part of the experience of those years. This light has its apotheosis now on Mt. Carmel.





                                                                        A LOT OF HEAT





Robert Frost said that humans must live by craft and courage to keep the world from hurrying and crowding them too much. Then, if they're poets, while they're lieing low, poems will emerge from an inner land and there will be no need to ask if the poems are good ones. The poem can begin in a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, homesickness, a tantalizing vagueness, necessity, that inner world like some dusky dwelling and the outcome is always quite unforeseen.


-Ron Price with thanks to Natalie Bober, A Restless Spirit: The Story of Robert Frost, Atheneum, NY, 1981, pp.179-180; and R.M. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, W.W. Norton, NY, p.20.








This religion generates a lot of heat:


martyrs, fasting, a rich literary corpus


and endless talk. You wonder how you


ever could have lasted all those years—


forty now—through all those towns


where noone believed but you and some


little band. There was always a great


mass, a significant other, who helped


you Define yourself, although you didn't


even know it at the time in all those places


from the tundra to the semi-desert, the savanna


to the temperate rainforest. And even now


in this vast city, a heterogeneity helps you


define your solitude, your aloneness and your


seriousness. People in community, the greatest


show on earth, mystery everywhere generating


lots of heat and the mind's memories swiftly


tracing their paths through your days and years.





Ron Price


5 January 1998





                                                                              A MOMENT





After getting my customary books and videos from the libraries in Perth, as was my custom on Friday afternoons, with the sun beginning to set low in the sky, I was just about to get into my sun-faded grey Holden Camira, recently damaged in a car accident, when my eye caught a young woman's hair dancing gold in the sun. For two or three seconds my eye, too, danced and then I, and she, were gone.


      -Ron Price, 4:50 pm, Friday, 15 May 1998: Curtin University carpark.








I caught her golden hair,


red-blend against the car


door, bitumin-dull black,


pure blue everywhere,


exquisitely crafted by the


gods, curvature designed


by immortal beings, always


a token of some glorious


handiwork that remains for-


ever beyond my grasp, veiled,


an immemorial being, an ancient


eternity formed for my eye, my


love, to engrave on her my sense


of wondrous beauty, a moment,


a small spot of fragrance, of


melodious sweetness, of


transcendent delight to my vision.








Ron Price


15 May 1998





                                                                              A MOMENT





After getting my customary books and videos from the libraries in Perth, as was my custom on Friday afternoons, with the sun beginning to set low in the sky, I was just about to get into my sun-faded grey Holden Camira, recently damaged in a car accident, when my eye caught a young woman's hair dancing gold in the sun. For two or three seconds my eye, too, danced and then I, and she, were gone.


      -Ron Price, 4:50 pm, Friday, 15 May 1998: Curtin University carpark.








I caught her golden hair,


red-blend against the car


door, bitumin-dull black,


pure blue everywhere,


exquisitely crafted by the


gods, curvature designed


by immortal beings, always


a token of some glorious


handiwork that remains for-


ever beyond my grasp, veiled,


an immemorial being, an ancient


eternity formed for my eye, my


love, to engrave on her my sense


of wondrous beauty, a moment,


a small spot of fragrance, of


melodious sweetness, of


transcendent delight to my vision.








Ron Price


15 May 1998







                                                                  A MORE ENTICING BREW





There are many forms and shapes in the phenomenal world in which beauty can be found. The female body, associated as it is with beauty, motherhood, the feminine, with the erotic, with lust, with love, is for millions of human beings a form of such exquisite attractiveness that it attracts the eye and the mind more than any other form in creation, especially is this true for men.


      -Ron Price





Something soft and gentle attracts the eye,


a series of perfect forms everywhere and


surfaces endowed with unexcelled and


exquisite beauty, the world's cynosure,


centre, of endless attractions, God's


finest hour, multiplied a billion times


and a billion and then some, again and


again, curves folding in and down, that


take the eye up-and-up, down-and-down


into darkness, swellings, indentations of


indescribable intimacy and satisfaction


to the eye, the hand, the mind, the touch---





But they are not mine; they are not for me,


for my touch. Laws and customs, mores and


folkways, a choice wine now unsealed with the


fingers of might and power, a richer, smoother,


finer wine than all the sparkling, enticing brews,


countenances and forms, curves, gentle liftings


and dark moist places. An ocean for these fish,


did they but know it, if they fish are ever to swim


in this earthly ocean: vast, encompassing, pervasive.


And we must drink this richer wine, this Mystic Wine,


or we will drown in that exquisite and unexcelled beauty.





Ron Price


22 November 1998





                                                                  A MYSTERIOUS FORCE





One of the things we may find out with definitiveness during the first decade that the Centre for the Study of the Texts is open is the beginning of life on earth. It is still an open question with the latest theory of origins associated with hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.


      -Ron Price with thanks to The Science Show, ABC Radio, 24 October 1998, 12:40-1:30 pm.





We've got DNA going back to


3.8 billion years ago. Life, that


catalyst which makes things


react, may just have begun


with superhot mineral water


producing the first living


molecules near underwater


volcanoes—the origins of this


life are still mysterious as we forge


another mysterious lifeform, an Order,


a System, based on the crystal gems,


the immense flowering of a new force,


a new Revelation and its interpretation


over the last century and a half.





Ron Price


24 October 1998





                                                            A NEW AGENDA








Samuel Taylor Coleridge published his revised edition of "The Ancient Mariner" in 1817. Originally written in 1798 shortly after that ancient mariner, traveller, religious reformer/mystic named Shaykh Ahmad had arrived and was travelling through Persia, this poem and recent events on Mt. Carmel inspired the writing of the poem below.


-Ron Price








But tell me, tell me! Speak again!


Why do you drive on and on so fast


carving up the mountain side, making


a ship in such a scheme so vast?





'Tis a place secure in stormy blast,


safety in great measure.


It must be built whate'er the cost.


'Tis destined unearthly treasure.





But tell me, tell me! Speak again!


What is this ship to do


when all the pieces are in place,


and blood and violence, all anew?





Do you think that global peace


will bring the end of night?


It may just be that this ship


of state will sail into the light--





across a pang, a curse of death,


a stoney road and twisted,


with fear and dread far, far from gone,


clenched jaws and knuckles fisted.





The game has really just begun.


Traces left of light just done.


They lit my hair and fanned my cheek,


kept me on an endless run.





They mingled strangely with my fears,


seemed so often unobtrusive,


as the ship flew swiftly in,


on endless notes effusive.


                                                     


Now that this ship, this arc, is ready,


this dream of joy up there,


let me be awake, my God


for this trip so rare.





A little distance from the prow,


crimson shadows do impart;


a seraph-band it waves while


silence sinks like music on my heart.                                                                                                      





A dash of oars I soon do hear.


I hear the Captain call;


the crew does cheer, the boat does sail:


civilization's dark night does fall.            





While the darkest dark does fall


a light spreads in greater splendour


to every corner of the globe


outlining quite a new agenda.





Ron Price


25 July 1998










                                                                        OUR EPOCHAL DIALOGUE





This place of supernal wisdom which intoxicates, which restores the marvellous teachers of humanity, the many defenders of the Faith, the soldiers of divine learning: from thee light goes forth to all peoples, the resonance of a new word is heard, poetry and philosophy meet in a reciprocal and mystic tongue, in an inimitable idiom that has scarcely touched the world. What we have here over more than a century and a half, is a new centre being born. Clearly the old centre has not held; only its shell remains.


      -Ron Price with thanks to Kevin D.S. Murray, The Judgement of Paris: Recent French Theory in a Local Context, Allen and Unwin, 1992, Introduction.





This Centre is emerging, still unobtrusively,


in country after country,


centre after centre,


chrysalis-like,


so quietly as to pose no threat,


yet,


amidst such chaos and confusion


as to keep people's minds in a


state of frenetic passivity,


endless activity,


contradictory complexity,


multi-facedness,


in an epochal dialogue


of a million voices.





Ron Price


3 December 1998





                                                            A NEW ENIGMA








Roger White wrote a perceptive poem "Ask in Persepolis" in Another Song Another Season(George Ronald, 1979, pp.114-115) in which he asked and answered a rhetorical question 'why should we honour these martyrs?' In this poem below I borrow some of White's poetic form to discuss a new martyr. In this Formative Age there is a new martyr: the international pioneer, the homefront pioneer, indeed a wide range of types and roles in the Bahá'í community. In many ways this 'new age', this Formative Age, martyr is even more unknown than many thousands of the twenty thousand martyrs who gave their very lives in a single act of sacrifice. This new martyr is enigmatic in quite a different way from the martyr of the Heroic Age. And there may be hundreds of thousands of them spread out over the several epochs of the Divine Plan.







Why should we honour those who:


went to endless meetings year after year


even when their senses and reason often


told them it was an utter waste of time?





Why should we honour those who:


went to the ends of the earth as


what we call pioneers to teach a


Faith all their life when noone was


interested in it at all at the time?





Why should we honour those who:


remained unknown soldiers marching


quietly to an Unknown Drummer in a


world that had had enough of noisy


marchers for a thousand different causes?





Why should we honour those who:


were often sick, afraid, lonely, confused,


embittered, depressed, in short, just


ordinarily ordinary, just humanly human?





Why should we honour those who:


learned to people their solitude and be


alone in a crowd, but still suffered the


slings and arrows of outrageous fortune


while shuffling about this mortal coil?





Why should we honour those who:


followed a vapoury image believing


it to be real, died unflamboyant deaths,


leaving little of the story of their days?





      Historian, pray judge it well:


      Why you honour those who took


      The path to heaven, or to hell.


     


Ron Price


27 January 1998








                                                A NEW OBSESSION                                          



Charles Baudelaire write the poem Obsession in a tone and mood that reflected the sadness of so much of his life especially after 1844 until his death in 1867. This period was also a sad and tragic one at the start of the heroic age of the Bahá'í Era. The great redemptive forces in this new Faith and the gradual and legitimate institutionalization of the charisma that initiated this new revelation is responsible for this poem below which strikes a different tone and mood than Baudelaire's.



Forest, you sooth me and my tired heart!

Your roaring awakens me and stills the

agony within, as prayer creates that quiet

centre and from the depths I hear neither

weariness nor trouble.



Ocean, I hear you! I recognize the tears

and sorrows of my own despair, the bitter-

salt of vanity and its repetitions, a man who

must return as endless waves to the battle.



Night, you please me! Always with your stars

which speak a language of silence I know well.

I long for darkness, silence and that nothingness

when the moon slices cool in ice so clear yellow.



There are hordes now of vanished souls

whose eyes acknowledge mine from their

home within His precincts, from a heavenly

river, from a banquet of grace and trust,

of gifts and bestowals in a garden of happiness.

Ron Price

1998




                        A NEW RELIGION BREAKS OVER THE ARBITRARY “I”



The central question “Why am I me?” comes after Rabbit awakes with the excited conviction that he must found a new religion. Updike was puzzled by the arbitrariness of the omnivorous and somehow preexistent “I” specifically situated as it was amidst the billions of other specks in the universe.

-John Updike, Rabbit, Run, 1960, discussed in Desperate Faith, Howard Harper, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1967, p. 168.



You were a clever dude, John,

looking as you were for the

thing behind everything and

seeing, as you did, the death

of God again in your generation

--and this, all this in your smooth

poetic statement1 describing the

suburban wasteland, as a new

religion was breaking on the scene,

just seen, as unobtrusive as a summer

breeze, while you watched the English

muddle through, patching things up

with responsibility rippling out over

the water and slowly, slowly, vanishing.



Ron Price

12 April 1998



1 John Updike broke out into the literary world in the middle years of the Ten Year Crusade, while I was investigating the Baha’i Faith. His first works The Poorhouse Fair(1958), The Same Door(1959), Rabbit, Run(1960) and The Centaur(1963), among others, were written while the Baha’i community was still significantly less than half a million in number globally, but thinly and widely spread.




                                                                        A PARADISE BEDECKED WITH ROSES





The world I have grown up in and matured as an adult, in these first several epochs of the Formative Age, at least since my first contact with the Cause in 1953, has been one in which the perspicuous verses of Bahá'u'lláh majestically appply: Paradise is decked with mystic roses, and hell hath been made to blaze with the fire of the impious. This world has indeed become both a paradise and hell and the pioneer is caught, with everyone else, in a rapid cross-fire of the forces of integration and destruction, of seeming heaven and hell.

      -Ron Price with appreciation to Bahá'u'lláh's words above from Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 133.







I try to bring alive an age,

the first century of the Formative,

with new feelings, thoughts, a

composition on a time, an epoch,

the start of an era, as I adjust,

define, the texture of this new

Kingdom,1 its source and origins,

to describe the continuities over

these years and their awesome

complexity and wonder.



As I head for retirement2 and

unravel the special sense of these

hours that bedeck paradise with

roses,3 I can taste that invisible

world, as my psyche withdraws

and I slip to the edge, the perifery,

to an abyss of nothingness where

crystal waters flow and my soul is

cultivated in a poetic melange, in

caverns where voices lead and melodies

from His immense and beneficent tranquillity.



Ron Price

22 November 1998



1 Kingdom of God on Earth began in 1953 when the first contact of my family with the Cause began.

2 I hope to retire at the age of 55 to some part of Tasmania. I am now 54.

3 Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Wilmette, 1962(1941), p.131. Paradise is realized in this world within this sacred Cause. See Robert Mclaughlin, These Perspicuous Verses, George Ronald, Oxford, 1982, p. 80.






                                                            A POETIC JOURNEY



Price's mind teemed with phrases, images and ideas from literature, history, sociology, literary analysis, psychology, media studies, philosophy and religion and from his own experiences. These fields of study, among others, and his personal experiences provided fixed points of reference and energizers of his associational and improvisational processes. Such processes were always at work in his writing. The pressure on him was not constant but, since 1992, there was a steady stream of poetry that resulted from what seemed like an endless stream of stimulation. This poetry allowed him to canalize the stimulation that poured in from his reading, his thinking and his experiences into neat packages. It allowed him to express an emotional and visionary balance; to mobilize a sequence of thought-images; and to define his poetic journey. -Ron Price with thanks to M.L. Rosenthal, Sailing into the Unknown: Yeats, Pound and Eliot, Oxford UP, NY, 1978, p. 115.

                 

There is an aliveness here,

some rich interplay of life

providing a vital modern

poetry, some spin-off from

those two Holy Years and

a forty year hiatus,1 hardly

known, unknown, growing

like a seed before and during

this dark heart of an age of

transition. Found, born, in

this tenth stage of history,

forming in a Formative Age

of epochal shifts also unknown

to a world out of kilter's joint.



Ron Price

10 October 1998



1 I started writing seriously in 1992, forty years after the first Holy Year in 1952/3. I like to see my poetry as a spin-off from the energies released by this two significant years.




                                                                  A POETRY LIKE RAIN



All my journeying from place to place across two continents and into innumerable towns and cities, my endless emotional and sexual choices, my religious faith, the thousands of books read and skimmed involved self-transformation, the work of Israfil and the laying down of endless tracks of poetry. This self-transformation is a process of development and self-surrender; this Israfil is a breathing of life into my world; this poetry brings order, rhythm and pattern into this ordinary life.

      -Ron Price with thanks to Richard Davenport-Hines, Auden, Heinemann, London, 1995, p.3.



Striving for integration,

struggling to unify experience,

synthesizing all that comes my way,

to organize my scattered thoughts

into a living whole: everything

related to everything within a

new tradition, born the other day,

before Freud, Weber, Marx, Darwin—

shall I say shortly after the French

Revolution—now richly tapestried

with heroes, saints, myths, an incredible

array of the most beautiful buildings in

the world and a poetry descended like

a rain from heaven: mystic, sweet, profound.



Ron Price

4 September 1998




                                                                        A QUIET PLACE



Much, if not all, of my poetry is either indicipherable to those who do not have the intellectual route-maps to chart its meaning and significance, or of no interest at all to those who do not share my disinterested, non-utilitarian investment in metaphorical and autobiographical literary form. A certain aesthetic attitude is required to enjoy this poetry. Pierre Bourdieu sees this aesthetic attitude in terms of what he calls “cultural capital”. This cultural capital requires a certain degree of leisure time, material security and freedom from manual activities; also a cultural inheritance, knowledge and belief in a specific tradition of religious experience. -Ron Price with thanks to Bridget Fowler, The Alienated Reader: Women and Popular Romantic Literature in the Twentieth Century, Harvester Wheatsheaf, NY, 1991, pp. 116-117.



The reception of my poems is socially

structured, dependent on the interpretive

framework in which it is seen: nothing

glittering, no vivid forms, here, no familiar

ritual from the electric aesthetic of electronic

media and their soporific entertainments. This

busy world with endless running and burgeoning

quantities of print and people will one day find

a quiet place, an even pace, and then these words

I now write on this page may tell a story worth

reading, convey a texture worth remembering.



Ron Price

13 March 1998




                                          A QUIVERING SENSIBILITY



Our lives continually pass through periods of crisis, stages of transition, in which the balance achieved up to then must be destroyed and another one created. Each new relationship, each new job, is a death and a birth at the same time. The new is part of a fascination with the imaginary, with fantasies, an answer to an inner call from an external world that impregnates and obsesses us in terms of inner images, meanings, realities. The crises we pass through are enmeshed in these inner images.

      -Ron Price with thanks to Aldo Carotenuto,The Call of the Daimon, Chiron Publications, Wilmette, Illinois, 1989, p. 126.



There are many selves that write here,

a multiplicity of inner voices that are

always changing in multilayered focal

points and plural universes, daemons

who invite the angels, tensions which

accept a 'lostness', an 'emptiness' within

an inner place of refuge in this quiet room

where books line the walls, soft music plays

low, hardly audible, and one feeds one's soul

in some new dimension beyond this narrow

confine, a place where I can redesign my life,

beyond these rooms and halls where the air

has become stale and dry and the call from

my inner life had ceased: for always the road

is long, stoney, thorny, narrow with a little bit

of death lingering on the pavement, with

glimmerings of light and a touch, a bit-of-a-grip,

an anchorage, as emotion plays in different ways

than once it did a music in such a different key

which I have grown to love, feel its strength,

its quivering sensibility and its sad refrain.



Ron Price

20 May 1998




                                                                        A ROAD TO POETRY

                                                                        LOVE'S RENEWAL



"What sort of an education should a poet have?" There are probably as many answers as poets, or individuals with thoughts on the matter. I don't think I'd be in any way prescriptive in defining a poet's education. There were many roads that led to my writing poetry as extensively as I do and, as I have, in the last seven years. A certain exhaustion and emotional weariness with the experiences of the everyday: job and career, Bahá'í activities and their associated formal and informal interactions, familial and marital life and its attendant frustrations, a range of dead ends in a sequence of towns going back perhaps as far as the beginning of my pioneering days in 1962, the loss of any pretensions to youthfulness and the beginning of life's physical decline. I had to recreate, redefine, renew the meaning centres in my life. They were drying up by the early 1990s. Writing poetry seemed to be a natural evolution, like some root feeding insatiably, as Roger White puts it, on the heart's thin soil. Love renewed "itself under the cool metallic stars."1

                  -Ron Price with thanks to Lee Bartlett for the question in Talking Poetry: Conversations in the Workshop with Contemporary Poets, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1987, p.95; and 1 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981, p.71.



Books were too big

and essays too long

a way to go about

saying what you

wanted to say. And

poems seemed to be

a natural way to try

to get at it, short and

to the point; and there

were so many points,

if you were tired of

talking and didn't like

gardening, meetings

or TV much any more.



Ron Price

30 October 1998




                                                                  A ROW OF WIND-BLOWN POPLARS



I’m sure that my Mother is perfectly indifferent whether her name is remembered by most of the human race whom she never came to know. If one of her thoughts could be of benefit to someone, however, I am confident that would please her. I have many fond memories of my Mother; I like to think this pleases her. That I would write a poem about a “row of wind-blown poplars,” which she so often spoke of, would also bring her some measure of delight.

-Ron Price, “In Memory of My Mother”.





Soft and green, warms in my palm.

I got it from a tree.

It could have been a tree she saw

years before I’d been.



A row of wind-blown poplars

she wrote of on that page.

When I was small she read it,

though I know she was no sage.



She was very near the age I am

when those poplars caught her eye;

then she went on to her final years

as I will tomorrow before I, too, will die.



Ron Price

14 March 1998




                                                                  A SENSE OF UNITY





Poetry is the great stimulation of life. Poetry leads past possession of self to transfiguration beyond gender. Poetry is redemption from pessimism. It has required, for me anyway, peace, familiar surroundings, sheltered isolation, protection for privacy, enough financial security to make money no worry, enough tranquillity in employment to reinforce the peacefulness.-Ron Price with thanks to Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, Cal., 1985, p. 138.



There is a silent loading here,

as if a gun keeps still.

I walk with Him but never know

if what I say could kill.



These words are softer than the down

of all the birds at sea

and with them I define my world’s

desire and the core of me.



This is as close as I can come

to my identity.

This is what I would simply

call a sense of unity.



Ron Price

14 March 1998




                                                      A SHAPING POWER



I write this autobiography, these short and self-contained units called poems, as a self-appointed representative of the Bahá'í community, to embody in this record of my time and my deeds on this earth my vision of the nature and aspirations of this emerging world religion, its grand design and promise. I also want to embody the odors, shapes, colours, sounds and the feel of things with as great a precision as I am able from the turbulent stream of my experience and that of my community.



But I am only one representative. There are thousands, millions, who could be more adequate representatives of this community than I. This is the record of my struggle and others, a community. This is simply part of a great epic, the special shapes and tensions of the epic that is Bahá'í history. This epic fixes our imagination on the whole, society, the external as well as on the individual human being. Here in my autobiographical poetry is a hunger to define the essence of a way of life and comprehend its history in all its grand complexity and simplicity.       -Ron Price with thanks to C. Hugh Holman, The Loneliness at the Core, Louisiana State UP, NY, 1975, pp. 164-167.



There is a shaping power here:



to help me define that ordered

cosmos out of a seemingly teeming

and fecund chaos where my imagination

voyages, touching clarity in its quest and

lending glory to my dry and troubled dust.



to help me bring all this meaning

in my experience, all this hunger,

literal, this discovery, coming from

a sense of loss now, a sense of ransom,

freeing a precious jewel-gem, honey

nectar from history's prison cell.



to help my obsessive intensity,

my gargantuan effort to encompass

an exhaustion of faith1, an immense

chasm in society, the permeation

of this new Revelation and an

intensified search for understanding.



to help me wreak out my vision

of this new way, this new world,

this Bahá'í community, to the best

of my ability, with an unswerving

devotion, integrity and purity of

purpose that shall not be menaced,

altered or weakened by anyone.



Ron Price

4 October 1998



1 Bahá'í International Community, Bahá'u'lláh, NY, 1991, p.15.




                                          A SHIP OF MASSIVE PROPORTIONS



The Guardian’s vision of the ten stages of history, described in his Ridvan message of 1953, delivered in Chicago, provides a seminal statement, a foundation perspective on the global view of history that is part of what I could call la longue duree to borrow a term from the annale school of modern historians, part of the teleological, providential paradigm of Baha’i history. The Baha’i view is centred in a belief in progress through providential control.

      -Ron Price





Just as the Queen Mary was establishing

herself in the North Atlantic1 we launched

a different ship of absolutely massive proportions.

She would be the greatest vessel to ever sail

on the seas of this earth. It would involve

the greatest drama in the world’s spiritual

history: an international teaching campaign.

These were the days of the great ocean liners:

the sixth, seventh and eighth stages of history,

before the jet took over in the ninth stage.2

And twenty-five years after this campaign

began I went pioneering on the homefront,3

eight months before the onset of the tenth

stage of history. By then, if you wanted to

get somewhere fast you went by air not water.

I write this poem this way to define as precisely

as I can where I fit in to history’s complex scheme

and where I am in a world of many theories and paradigms.





Ron Price

29 January 1998



1 The Queen Mary was the fastest liner in the world in April 1937 when the international campaign of teaching was begun. This ship and the Elizabeth, built as passenger liners, were crucial in the speeding up of WW2. Churchill said these two great vessels took two years off the war due to their troop carrying capacity.

2 6th stage: 1852-1892; 7th stage: 1892-1921; 8th stage: 1921-1953; 9th stage: 1953-1963.

3 My pioneering life began on 1 September 1962.




                                                            A SPIRITUAL CORE?



A constituency of individuals willing to be won over to a new communal identity is the essential prerequisite for the evolution of that identity. -Ron Price with thanks to a Professor of History, whose name I missed, and his talk given at the Cheltenham Literary Festival in 1997, on ABC Radio National, 4 January 1998, 1:00-1:45 pm.



In has taken two or three centuries1

to develop a British identity—Britishness-

say the theoreticians of collective identity.

Significant others: Islam, Russia, USA

helped the UK define itself

relative to an enemy.

Now the European Union

is forging yet another level of unity

through an identification with

a high cultural heritage,

an ancient culture, a mass culture

of sport and pop culture,

a normative vision of

what Europe should become

and a new European legal system.

Pan-Europeanism spreads its wings

across an old world

for L’Europe C’Est Nous

as Napolean said to the Czar in 1807.

And now a new global ethic

is forging a universal community

of mankind, the end and object

of the highest moral endeavour-

an Enlightenment legacy.2



1 --This prose-poem was originally written in the form of a vahid, a new poetic form of 19 lines. This term was coined by the author in the booklet in which this poem first appeared. This poem of 19 lines was revised and is no longer a vahid.

--There seems to be some debate as to just how many centuries it took to forge that

      identity.

2 Modernity and its Futures, editor, Stuart Hall, et al., Polity Press, Open University, 1992, p.62.



Ron Price

4 January 1998




                                                            A STATE OF MIND





William Golding seems to be telling us that an honest mind which is not foolish or simplistic, unless it pins its faith and hope on another life in another world, has very little to build on in its struggle against utter pessimism. Dim is the solitary light, says this author of the famous Lord of the Flies, that shines over the bleak landscape of the modern world. Yet, however dim, it is enough to save man from utter hopelessness and the endlessly and ineradicably disappointing nature of his fellow man; and to impart meaning and purpose to artistic creation.

-Ron Price with thanks to Sylvere Monod, "William Golding's View of the Human Condition in Free Will", The Uses of Fiction: Essays on the Modern Novel in Honour of Arnold Kettle, editors D. Jefferson and G. Martin, Open UP, Milton Keynes, 1982, pp.258-9.



The light often feels dim and

the landscape bleak, but utter

hopelessness must be kept at

bay, away. For life must be

lived with hope, with purpose

and so overcome the ineradicable

disappointments, the inevitable

fears, moments of loneliness and

despair when you can feel the beast

within and yet live to see another

day of beauty's radiance and a

distant, warm and supernal fragrance,

with a State of Mind, peace of mind.1



Ron Price

19 June 1998



1 Mark Tobey, in Mark Tobey: Art and Belief, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.36.










     





































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