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Interview #1: Ron Price


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I think the interview is the new art form. I think the self-interview is the essence of creativity.-Jim Morrison, “Prologue: Self-Interview,” Wilderness
Volume I - The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison1

1 James Douglas "Jim" Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was the lead singer and lyricist of rock band The Doors, as well as a poet. Following The Doors' explosive rise to fame in 1967-8 when I was teaching among the Inuit on Baffin Island and pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community, Morrison developed a severe alcohol and drug dependency which culminated in his untimely death in Paris in 1971 at age 27 due to a suspected heroin overdose. I was just about to begin my international pioneering life in Australia when he was buried. The events surrounding his death continue to be the subject of controversy, as no autopsy was performed on the body after his death, and the exact cause of his death is disputed by many to this day.

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Interview #1: Ron Price

  1. 1. 1 An Interview with Ron Price I think the interview is the new art form. I think the self-interview is the essence of creativity.-Jim Morrison, “Prologue: Self-Interview,” Wilderness Volume I - The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison1 1 James Douglas "Jim" Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was the lead singer and lyricist of rock band The Doors, as well as a poet. Following The Doors' explosive rise to fame in 1967-8 when I was teaching among the Inuit on Baffin Island and pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community, Morrison developed a severe alcohol and drug dependency which culminated in his untimely death in Paris in 1971 at age 27 due to a suspected heroin overdose. I was just about to begin my international pioneering life in Australia when he was buried. The events surrounding his death continue to be the subject of controversy, as no autopsy was performed on the body after his death, and the exact cause of his death is disputed by many to this day. Preamble-Part 1: Ron Price was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1944. He received his primary and secondary education in Burlington Ontario, went to McMaster and Windsor Universities where he got a BA and a B Ed in 1966 and 1967, respectively. In July 1971, at the age of 26, he pioneered-travelled to Australia with his first wife after teaching primary school in Canada for three years, one year of which was on Baffin Island among the Inuit. Ron continued his education in Australia in several post-graduate studies programs. He also continued teaching: first at primary, then at secondary and then at many post-secondary educational institutions. At the age of forty, while living in Australia’s Northern Territory and working in technical and further education in a position entitled, adult educator, he started to write for people who were not his students, his employers or his Baha’i community, the religion he had been associated with by then for 30 years. By the time he was fifty in 1994, he had begun to write poetry extensively, although not exclusively. By the 1990s he was living in Perth, Western Australia. In 1999 he retired from FT employment; in 2003 from PT work and in 2005 from most casual and volunteer work. He became by degrees, a FT writer and author, poet and publisher, researcher and editor, scholar and online journalist and blogger, as well as his own office-assistant with the help of his wife.
  2. 2. 2 His second wife, Christine, is a Tasmanian and as of 2012 they have been married for 37 years. They have raised three children whose ages in 2012 were: 46, 42 and 35. Ron became a member of the Baha’i Faith in 1959. He gave the following interview, the first in a series of 26, in Perth Western Australia after he had been writing poetry seriously for four years(1992-1995). When this interview was recorded he had just finished his twenty-fifth year working as a teacher and/or lecturer. At the time of the interview he was enjoying a summer holiday at his home in the suburb of Belmont in Perth. Preamble-Part 2: This interview and the 25 others now total some 150,000 words; 40,000 of these words are a statement of thanks and acknowledgements. Some of these interviews are on the internet. Ron revised this initial interview several times over the next 17 years: 1995 to 2012. Ron would have been happy to have the interview taped even if, as he put it, “the moment I know the interview is being taped, my attitude changes to being somewhat defensive and or histrionic, that is deliberately affected or self-consciously emotional, or overly dramatic in behavior or speech.” But his feeling that, because interviews contain within their method and style a demand for rapid, improvised, on the spot responses, the interview makes it difficult to say anything particularly complex or sophisticated. His sense of ambivalence also has something to do with the way in which, adopting a role as one does in an interview, seems in some ways a somewhat dishonest way to act. One good way to do an interview, someone once suggested, is to have a long conversation without the interviewer taking notes. Then the interviewer can, if he or she so desires, reminisce about the conversation and write down his or her impression of what he or she felt, not necessarily using the exact words expressed. Another useful method is to take notes and then interpret them with a certain loyalty to the person interviewed. But Ron did not go for this method during these 26 interviews. Preamble-Part 3: What ticked-Ron-off about the tape recording process, he said, was that it is not loyal to the person who is being interviewed because “it records and remembers what in retrospect one may feel are quite inaccurate or inappropriate remarks.” “That’s why, when there is a tape recorder,” he said, “I am conscious that I’m being interviewed; when there isn’t a tape recorder, I can talk in an unconscious and completely natural way. This simulated interview approach was the closest
  3. 3. 3 Ron could get, he said, to a much more natural approach: reflective, honest, sincere and useful to future readers.1 In September 2003 Edward Said(1935-2003), Professor of English and comparative Literature at Columbia for 40 years, gave an interview. For more than three days he spoke about his life and work. This interview, entitled The Last Interview, begins with a quotation from Roland Barthes(1915-1980), a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician: "The only sort of interview that one could, if forced to, defend would be one where the author is asked to articulate what he cannot write."2 Some people who are interviewed are unflappable and verbose; some are anxious about what they say; some don’t give interviews; and then there is me; I make up my interviews, that is I simulate them. ------------------------------------- FOOTNOTES----------------------------------------------- 1 See Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69 and his interview with Peter H. Stone in The Paris Review, Fall/Winter 2005 for some of Marquez’s remarks on which Ron has drawn. Marquez(1927- ) is a Colombian novelist, short- story writer, screenwriter and journalist. See also the opening quotation above from Jim Morrison of the band The Doors; and 2 Bob van der Linden, “A Critical Humanist among the Professional Experts”, in Other Voices, Vol. 3.1, 2007. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- Questioner(Q): Why did you put this booklet of poetry together for the Collis Featherstone Teaching Project in Perth this year? Price: I have been writing poetry extensively for about four years now. In the summer months, beginning toward the end of November, I have time off from my job as a lecturer in a Technical and Further Education(Tafe) College. I can write more frequently than normal. I send copies of the poetry to the Baha’i World Centre Library. The Collis Featherstone Teaching Project(CFTP) started on 24 November so I thought I’d put together all the poetry I wrote from that date until a point near the end of phase one of that Project’s total time. The poetry is not about the CFTP. Many of the themes relate to the work of the Project. Much of the poetry is autobiographical. I have sent it along to the LSA of South Perth under whose auspices the Project is taking place. It is sent in appreciation for all the work done by the Project organizers and participants. Q: What do you think of the CFTP?
  4. 4. 4 Price: The degree of organization, viewed from a distance, is impressive. I have not been that involved myself. I gave blood, one of the Project’s many service activities and my wife helped in another activity, a letterbox drop. Most of the Baha’i friends in Belmont where we live helped out in one way or another in some aspect of the program. This was the impression I got, anyway, as the secretary of the Belmont Spiritual Assembly. The Project certainly provided an opportunity for Baha’is to participate in a locally organized program. While all this was going on, of course, most Baha’is carried on with their own teaching work, making the overall campaign of teaching in the summer of 1995/6 the most impressive thusfar in the history of the Cause in Western Australia. In addressing one of the conferences that launched the CFTP, Padma Wong referred to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s words when He laid the foundation stone for the Mother Temple of the West: the temple is already built. Entry by troops is a reality not yet experienced in the world of the senses in most places in the world. ‘Abdu’l-Baha always found all the barriers removed even if we don’t. He found this in 1912 in Montreal. The hearts were “in the utmost state of receptivity.” I’m sure He would find the same today, even if we do not. (Q) Could you tell us a little about your writing? Do you consider yourself part of any literary group or tradition? What would you regard as the major literary influences on what you write? Price: Off the cuff that is a difficult question to answer. It is difficult because the answer is complex. I can’t simply say that my poetry, for that is mostly what I write, is of this or that school, this or that tradition. I came to poetry quite late. I don’t think I even started to think of myself as a poet until I was nearly fifty. My background was the social sciences. I graduated in sociology; all my post-graduate work was in some one or other of the social sciences. From 1974 to 1994 I read mostly social sciences, say five to ten books a week on average. About 1990, in my mid-forties I began to read about poetry. My poetic sensibilities had been awakened by Roger White, a Canadian poet, whom I started reading in 1980. Between 1992 and 1995 I wrote nearly twenty-five hundred poems. Frankly, I don’t think of my poetry in terms of an association with any particular genre of poetry. The influences on my poetry are significantly the books I am reading at any one time. Since, say, 1990 I have been scanning and occasionally reading between fifteen and twenty books a week: books about writing, about poetry, writers, literature, reading, interdisciplinary studies in literature and the arts, a veritable cornucopia of material. All my poems have short introductions and these
  5. 5. 5 introductions are indicative of some of the influences, poetic and otherwise, that are operating at the time a particular poem is written. Q: What about the human influences, the effect of people, on what you write? Is it as great as books which obviously have quite a significant impact from what you say? Price: Many of my poems are the result of experiences I have with my colleagues and students at work. I lecture in the social sciences and humanities at the West Australian Department of Training. I am also very committed to the Baha’i Faith and this commitment brings me into contact with many different kinds of people and situations. These generate another group of poems, as does my family and friends. My poetry is very autobiographical and I often will write a poem about someone whom I knew many years ago, my mother or father, say. And then, this may sound strange to you, but I like to think of, and I certainly believe in, the influences on my poetry from those who have gone on to another world. This is a much more subtle, more intangible, process; but it is certainly a human influence I cannot discard because I am often conscious of it. Just exactly how this influence takes place I do not know or understand. There are many precursors to my poetry. Although some stand out like Roger White, William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, indeed, the very poetic nature of the Baha’i writings, there are dozens of influences that I would not want to veil or conceal from myself or from others. Of course, one cannot like all the poets and writers to the same degree. One develops favorites and these favorites take on greater influence. But the subject is simply too vast to put into a paragraph. Q: Have you tried to publish your work? Does this interest you much at this early stage of your writing? Price: I have now been writing seriously for about a dozen years and poetry for four or five. I have had a few of my poems published in half a dozen magazines and newspapers. The Baha’i publishing houses I have sent my work to have indicated to me the difficulty of moving poetry in the Baha’i bookshops. Since my poetry is very strongly autobiographical and influenced by my religious proclivities I cannot seriously consider the vast range of non-Baha’i publishers. It is not that I am not interested in publishing; it is rather that the outlets for my type of writing are very limited. As an alternative I: often give copies of poems to friends, send one-offs to magazines and send a single copy of virtually every poem I write to the Baha’i World Centre Library.
  6. 6. 6 Q: Do you read your poetry often? Price: Occasionally I give it a try at school but I am not impressed with the process. Students don’t know what to say after they hear a poem, or group of poems. Rather than being a unifying force it seems estranging in an inexplicable sort of way. I tend to think that what I write is meant to be savored in a one-to-one reading situation; it is not part of some group experience. When I do try to go public, I feel like a performer and I choose poems which have a bigger impact, some comic or emotional response. I’ve been listening to the Baha’i writings, the most beautiful poetry I know, being mangled by people who are essentially non-readers, or non-English speaking readers, for over thirty years. I would not want my own work to be read and mangled as well, by others. On those rare occasions when I read my own work I have to practice to get it right. Reading well is an art. It’s a little like doing vaudeville or being a poet in residence. I don’t think I’m a good enough entertainer. I’m getting better at it with the years, but I may never make it as ‘the entertainer’. I heard Roger White give a reading once to an audience of three hundred. He was very funny. I don’t think I’d want to do it if I could not keep the troops laughing, slipping the serious stuff in on the side. Perhaps I’ll feel more positively about the process in the future, when and if I become successful at the entertainer role. Q: Do you talk much about your work? Price: I do an incredible amount of talking since I am a teacher and have twenty- five hours of class contact, another ten hours roaming about talking to colleagues and students outside class and, say another ten hours a week in various types of Baha’i community activity. After forty-five hours of talking and listening I have little interest in doing any more in a one week slot. Teaching provides all the outlet I need to talk about writing in general and poetry in particular. Occasionally I find myself out in the wide-wide world, away from work, family and the Baha’i community, talking about writing, but it is a rare occasion and then only very briefly. That is probably why I agreed to this interview. I don’t talk about writing poetry for an extended period of time to anyone, ever. I’m not sure I would even want to, given my recent experience with such dialogue. Structured interviews with people who take a serious interest in poetry, that’s different. I’ve known writers all my life. My mother and grandfather were writers. Doug Martin and Jameson Bond, two men who have made significant contributions to
  7. 7. 7 the Baha’i Faith had seminal influences on me as a young adult. They were both writers. Working as I have in post-secondary educational institutions I have known several writers. I find I often have little in common with writers. There is a lady I occasionally talk to at the moment, Fran Vidente. She’s just finished writing her first book and she is quite excited about it. We are as different as chalk and cheese: philosophically, religiously, in just about every way. But we understand each other. I warm to her when she comes in the room. We both shrug off the differences or ignore them. There’s some kind of inner sensitivity which understands even if it does not like the other. My wife has read more of my poetry than anyone. She likes what I write generally. She has also admitted to a certain jealousy insofar as my poetry is concerned. She is a very honest woman; she has a tough edge, but gentle. She lays you low but kindly. Her encouragement has meant alot to me. So much of what I have written since 1982 she has not liked. So when she says she likes my poetry her words have special meaning, a certain impact. Occasionally someone will make a comment about a poem they have read. This is also encouraging. But the kind of discussion I got when I used to teach English Literature is virtually non-existent now, outside the occasional chats with my wife which seem to range corrections of my spelling and grammar to genuinely fertile dialogue. Q: Could you talk a little more about the influence of Roger White on your writing, your poetry? Price: I first opened a book of his poems in late 1979 in Tasmania. I think I was visiting in the home of a jazz ballet instructor in Devonport. I remember the detail because his poetry spoke to me so vividly that I was excited for the first time in my life about poetry. Roger always said that I was better at prose and essays than poetry. Well, much of my poetry is as much prose as poetry, so in a way he was right. Roger died in 1993 and I wrote a collection of essays about his poetry. He read all the essays before he died and gave his seal of good housekeeping. I tried to publish them but Kalimat Press and George Ronald were not interested so I sent them all to the BWCL. I’ve had an incredible outpouring of poetry since he got sick and on death’s door and especially after he passed away. I like to think his influence is immeasurable. I believe it is, but it is not the kind of thing I can prove. Q: Tell us more about the autobiographical aspects of your poetry. I understand Roger White used to say, quoting Tagore, “the poem not the poet.” What philosophy, what approach do you subscribe to insofar as writing about yourself is concerned?
  8. 8. 8 Price: I think everything you write about is, in one way or another, about yourself. Even Roger’s work. In fact, I think the reason he said to read his poetry, if you wanted to know about him, was because his poetry was about himself but not in a narratively structured, time sequenced sort of way. I have written a great deal, several thousand words anyway, about my poetry and how and why I go about putting it together. Roger has written briefly about his poetry but, at least in his published works, what he says in prose form is pithy, humorous and very succinct. My poetry is blatantly autobiographical. In fact I’ve organized all the poetry I have written as Section VII of Pioneering Over Three Epochs, entirely an autobiographical exercise. Finally, let me make one more comment here, for fear of allowing everyone to think I am an ego-cent red, narcissistic writer with an entirely self-oriented perspective. I have developed over the years, especially since about 1984 when I was forty, a sense of myself as a pioneer. My identity is strongly related to this role that I have had in the Baha’i community since 1962. This poetry, this autobiography, is all part of this expression, this definition of self, this personal view of who I am in terms of my international pioneer role since 1971 and before that a homefront pioneer beginning in 1962. It is a role that will have some importance for generations to come, indeed I see myself as one of the foundation generations of decades if not centuries to come. It is my hope to provide some concrete, specific, identity-orienting material for future generations. And so I write. Q: Could you talk briefly about becoming known, popular, read by many others? I have already asked you about publishing, but I’d like you to talk in the wider sense about the whole issue of popularity, fame and acknowledgment of your work. Price: Everyone who writes likes to be read; it’s a little like talking; we like to be listened to when we talk. It’s natural, even necessary. I’ve got nothing against fame or wealth. But now in the late twentieth century there are thousands of poets and millions of people who write the stuff. To get through to become someone whom others read, what we could call a minor poet, like Roger White, is no mean achievement. I may make it; I may not.. Maybe with Internet and modems it might get easier. But not for me. My market is essentially those who have joined the emerging world religion known as the Baha’i Faith or others who are at least interested in it. I am a Baha’i poet. It is that explicit. Of my 2500 poems, maybe a few have a clear secular dress, but not many. My poetry speaks to, and of, the Baha’i experience, all one hundred and fifty odd years of it now. It speaks to a
  9. 9. 9 Baha’i view of history, to an emerging Baha’i consciousness in world literature and the arts. If my poetry becomes popular it will be because the Baha’i Faith has become popular, at least more so than it is at present. My potential readership at the moment is so small that the question of popularity is not a relevant issue. I would go so far as to say I am not even interested in fame or popularity except insofar as it is connected with the popularity of my religion. I tend to think that in the end, while I am alive, my poetry will be for a coterie, for a coterie of a coterie. The mass media, print and electronic, are so very powerful. Poetry has always been for a coterie; that coterie is getting numerically larger and larger. But it is still a coterie. Millions, most people I’ve ever known, have little to no interest in poetry, except in some kind of distant sense, like my interest in gardening, or cooking. I do a little dabbling here and there out of necessity. But few approach poetry out of necessity, unless they are in school. To such people, the great mass of those whom I will ever know personally, or even know about, poetry is irrelevant to their lives. If my popularity or fame were to rest on their response to what I write, I would be doomed. I don’t write for money or fame, except in the sense referred to above. I write because it gives me pleasure. It is a skill which in the exercise thereof I am happier. Q: You have mentioned the Baha’i Faith many times in this interview. Obviously it has a profound influence on what you write. For fear of turning this interview into an extended commentary on the Baha’i Faith, could you tell me simply why you are a Baha’i and what role you think it is playing and will play in the future of this planet? Price: I think there are a multitude of interrelated reasons why I am a Baha’i, One important reason-and very natural-is that I have been associated with this Faith now for forty years. It’s an old friend. I went to my first fireside in 1955 or 1956. It is one of the few continuities in my life, in a century of vast change. A second reason is I believe it to be true. It has been immensely useful to me in my life as well, especially in the areas with people skills and providing me with a world view, with meaning. As far as the role of the Baha’i Faith: in the short term it is going to play a crucial role in facilitating dialogue between various religious groups as well as the multitude of other groups in our multicultural society. In the long term the vision at the heart of the Baha’i Faith is simply enthralling, energizing and empowering. That visions excites me, motivates me and one day it will be the center of a world civilization.
  10. 10. 10 Q: Have your years at university helped or hindered your development as a writer, poet? Does an academic background facilitate creativity? What have been the mainsprings of your own creative output? Price: As far as university and academic study is concerned, I don’t think I got a genuine intellectual experience until I got out of university and started teaching at a Teacher’s College(now a university) in Tasmania in 1974 at the age of 29. I suffering from a bi-polar tendency at university, indeed until 1980. My emotional life was in a tailspin from 1963-1967 and university life was depressing and confused at worst and hypomanic and manic at best. I could never get into academic study in a sane and organized way until I started teaching others. The last twenty-two years, 1974-1996, have seen an enormous consumption of academic books needed as part of my role as a teacher/lecturer/adult educator or simply out of interest. This great mass of books, I would think an average of from eight to a dozen every week for twenty-two years, has contributed to what John Keats once referred to as a ‘certain ripeness in intellect.’ Keats in a letter to a friend in 1818 went on to say that once this ripeness of intellect is attained the poet can get turned on to a whole world of poetry, what he called the ‘two-and-thirty Pallaces’. Books, then, academic books, certain specific academic books, are immensely stimulating and a source of creative achievement. But there are many others which would lead to prolixity should I comment on them even briefly, so I shall simply list them: a wide and broad experience in many places, doing many different jobs, meeting and teaching thousands of students of all ages across two continents; parental and childhood influences: my other and grandfather were writers and my father had an enormous energy; suffering, especially manic-depressive illness, a broken marriage, many years of having a sick wife in my second marriage and the creative effects of my Baha’i philosophy and the value of the activities to which it has led cannot be overstated. Q: Could you tell us a little about what else you write beside poetry? Price: Yes, I’ve written some two hundred essays, one hundred and fifty of which have been published in newspapers. The newspapers were all in Katherine in the Northern Territory from 1983 to 1986 and the essays were all about 800 words each. The other fifty have been about my Baha’i experience in one way or another and none of them have been published. I also keep a journal or diary and have for a dozen years; I have written a story of my life some thirty or forty thousand words and the diary is also retrospective going back to my earliest memories in 1947. The diary probably has 50,000 words by now. I’ve also kept a collection of letters
  11. 11. 11 going back to 1967. I have no idea how many thousands of words would be in this body of print. In a quarter century of teaching you collect probably millions of words. I have some of them dotting the landscape of my study and again, the number of words is something I would not want to even try to count. Q: Could you tell me how you go about writing a poem? Where do you get your ideas, your motivation, your patterns, your meanings? Price: I remember Roger White saying that the origins of a poem were like the poor connections you often get on a telephone line. For me it is a little like that. It begins in a feeling or a thought or both. The thought will often be in a book, but often a quotation from the thousands I have collected in the last thirty years will be enough to move me. I need to feel moved, provoked, stirred and then it is usually a simple flowing or ideas, experiences. Sometimes it takes a little longer, say, two or three hours before the poem is completed. But usually the poem is finished in an hour or less, or a little more. I’m not sure why I write. Perhaps it is that I don’t like doing things like: gardening, household tasks, domestic duties, shopping, going out socially, watching TV, playing sport. We all have to fill in our time somehow. This is the one that gives me the most pleasure and meaning. Two to four hours in the morning, two or three in the afternoon and two or three more in the evening: six to ten hours in total on days when I don’t have to go to work or attend to any of the responsibilities that make up my life as a father, husband, teacher, secretary of an LSA, man, human being in the late twentieth century. Q: So you think basically a writer is made rather than born, probably a loner more than some gregarious socialite? What is it that makes a writer, draws him out from the enormous diversity of human types and roles on the Earth? Price: Without doubt, a writer is made, even if he or she comes from a long line of writers. Some, like myself have preferences for their own company; but others are as gregarious as the best of them. There are many types in my experience. I prefer my own company as a reaction to twenty-five years of teaching and literally thousands of meetings both on the job and off, in twenty-two towns, thirty-seven houses and five mental hospitals. At the age of 51 I feel peopled-out and when the normal channels of 45 to fifty hours a week of people are finished I simply have no desire to introduce another blast of verbal gush. Maybe my listening capacities have reached their limit. I don’t know, but that is the way it is. Writers, if they are any good, usually take their work quite seriously and in Australia with a rich vein of humor. This is a marvelous counterforce to the
  12. 12. 12 seriousness. If there is anything I’ve learned in Australia that I have come to appreciate more than anything else it is this sense of humor. Good writers also tend to think they have something to say. Reading helps some writers. It helps me. I read so much my brain gets stuffed with ideas and information, so stuffed that I must have an outlet. Talking is not enough. Everyday experience, suffering and the simple passage of time ripens the intellect, fuels the engine. Perhaps it’s simply that life is full of repetition even a certain boredom that one must deal with. There is a vanity, an emptiness in the human situation. There is also, at the other end of the spectrum, a fascinating richness to virtually every atom of existence if you only look at it a certain way. In the end I don’t know why I write, why anyone writes. I get pleasure from the process and, as Oscar Wilde says somewhere, one settles for pleasure over ecstasy and joy when they come in very limited quantities. I rarely get higher than I do when I write or when some sensation stimulates me to write. Q: Where do you plan to go from here? Do you sense any specific directions to your writing? Price: For the moment I am going to continue writing poetry. It still feels like a new thing, five years, after a slow build-up of ten. I have tried one piece of science-fiction, some 30,000 words, but it does not attract me. Occasionally I write an essay but not for publication. Who buys essays anyhow? The complexities of getting essays published don’t attract me in the slightest. I write the occasional letter, but most people can’t keep a correspondence up and the few that can I tire of anyhow so the occasional letter is quite enough. The whole question of direction is going to depend on the big socio-historical process, the short-term future of the Baha’i Faith and factors I can only dimly perceive. Writing poetry is exhausting physically and emotionally when you spend at least four hours writing and another four reading every day, when duty is not calling you somewhere else. It can also be quite energizing, stimulating, and more often is than is not. It depends on how your day goes. I’m still pretty zonked-out by midnight no matter what I do. Just how long I will stay as fertile as I have been in the last four or five years is anyone’s guess. I’m on my way to an early retirement at age 55 and, as I’ve mentioned above, I’ve become tired of relationships and talking. In some ways this is not so bad because, in the end, one is alone in life. We are all of us alone even if we are strongly involved in society or, as a Baha’i, playing a part in the construction of a new society. But in the end one knows one is alone, that one lives at the heart of a solitude. That we all live at the heart of a solitude. And we all have the
  13. 13. 13 consciousness of mortality. Perhaps a writer, a poet, is more conscious of this, I’m not sure. This is where I plan to go from here, to a much deeper inner life in the years, the decades, ahead. Q: You have lived in many towns from end-to-end of two countries. Do you think of yourself as a Canadian, Australian, world citizen, what? Price: After I had been in Australia for eight years, by which time I was thirty-five, I began to define myself as a Canadian pioneer. I had been a pioneer by that time, 1979, for seventeen years, but it took some time for the label to stick, for my identity to be tied up with this international pioneer role. My homefront pioneer role, except for a short time in the Canadian Arctic, was never a clearly defined and identifiable part of my self-image. As far as those other labels are concerned they get interchanged depending on the milieu I am in at the moment. I play with them in dialogue, as sources of humor and they make up my identity in mixed proportions, perhaps: 33%, 33% and 34%. World citizen is getting more useful as a label. Q: Do you think of yourself less as a Canadian now that you have been in Australia for twenty-five years? Price: Nearly half my life now has been in Australia. I almost never get homesick in any serious sense. But the snow, the cold winter days, the autumnal beauty, that Canadian personality that is both energetic and steady, the people I used to know, my family: they all come back to me in reminiscences from time to time, in small hits of nostalgia. This Canadianness, these memories, come into my poetry occasionally but, I would not think that often, except perhaps in the case of my mother and father. When I first arrived in Australia I felt as if I had come to the moon. This was particularly the case living as I did in that first year in Whyalla, semi-desert country, on the edge of that black stump. Perth is not like the moon. I’ve been here for eight years. It must be one of the most beautiful, comfortable, easy places to live in the world. My accent hangs in there and this seems to define my Canadian image for others. Q: Many poets in the late twentieth century draw on the movies, film, TV, video, for much of their material. Does contemporary film, theatre, music, the arts in general, come into your poetry? Price: I rarely read newspapers anymore; TV is very much a peripheral experience for me although, since I want to sit with my wife and son, I do watch the news and an odd assortment of stuff. I’d watch perhaps one video every two months; I listen
  14. 14. 14 to a lot of ABC radio and read a great many books. My wife and I, and sometimes our son, would go to the movies perhaps once every two months. Some radio items get into my poetry; occasionally an item from TV or the press becomes the basis for a poem, but mostly books and experience past and present. Q: Do you ever get bored, or really anxious, or depressed, or joyful? Tell us a little about your emotional life. Price: By 1980 I was stabilized on lithium carbonate. I was 36 years old. That was fifteen years ago now. Since that time, except on two or three occasions when I went off my lithium in order to write or in order to prove I didn’t need the lithium, my emotional life has been steadier than it has ever been. I get exhausted and depressed if I stay up after midnight, if I’ve just had a sixteen hour day ten of which involved reading and writing. It also takes me a half an hour to an hour to get going in the morning. I often have signs and signals of depression, unrealistic fears and anxieties when I first wake up, but once I’ve had my shower and a cup of tea, the joys of life beckon on a much steadier track than they did from my twenties to my forties. My spirits are just about always good until late at night. It seems to me as if the sharp edges of my manic-depression have been taken away and I’ve been left with quite a useful emotional package. As far as boredom is concerned I don’t think I’ve been troubled with this since my teens. Since I began to be seriously interested in writing in the early 1980s, I have been particularly self-directed and engaged in meaningful and pleasurable activity. Without the emotional swings the world seems so much steadier and the writing rooted in solid ground. Q: You did not mention music as having any influence. Could you comment on your musical experience and how it relates to your poetry? Price: From the age of about 18 to my early thirties I used to buy LPs and the first thing I’d put into a house if I was moving around was a hi-fi. Music was an important part of my life in my teens and twenties, my years as a youth. By the mid ‘70s the music scene got to be very complicated with dozens and dozens of groups. You just could not keep up with them all. Buying records, cassette tapes and discs became too expensive. By the mid-to-late ‘70s, too, I had three children to raise and I could not afford to buy music any more. So I listened to the radio instead. Recently my family and I bought a computer with a disc player in it and I bought my first disc with a coupon given to us by the family across the road for watering their garden. It looks like my musical life is extending itself at last, after a
  15. 15. 15 hiatus of twenty years. I am not conscious, though, how any of this experience has affected my poetry, except in the occasional poem about playing the guitar which I have done now for nearly thirty years and which I now tire of very easily, probably from too many years of overuse and no particular talent. Q: What are some of the topics, themes, subjects, content areas of your poems? Price: Anyone who actually reads my poetry will see that question answered in exquisite and not-so-exquisite-detail, as the case may be. Many of my poems deal with the process of writing poetry; all the poems are introduced with quotations from various sources which relate in different ways to the content of the poetry. Off the top of my head I’d say the following were common topics in my poetry: love, religion, Mt Carmel, my family, the Baha’i Faith, poetry, writing, people, the erotic, nature, history, etcetera. I think the list, even a list of categories, is virtually endless. Q: How do you determine the length of a poem, its shape; how do you decide when it is over, its style? Price: The length is determined largely by the content, the topic and by what I have to say. There is no specific pattern here, as far as I can see. There tend to be certain patterns: sonnet length, one-to-two page poems on rare occasions; very few poems are less than ten lines; even fewer would go for more than three pages. A statistical analysis might reveal some concentrations which I am not aware of here. Sometimes a poem is light and humorous; at other times it is very serious, maybe even a little depressing for some people, although I am conscious of people’s disinclination to dwell on the heavy side of life at least here in Australia. Most of the time the poem is easy to end because I get a clear feeling I have said what I want to say. Perhaps once every ten or twenty poems I get into a bind and I cannot find the words I want; it is an anxious and discomfiting process when this happens and if all my writing was like this I’d give up writing poetry. Thankfully, writing poetry is a fairly flowing experience with a great deal of pleasure associated with an ease of expression. Indeed, much of the writing of poetry I would even describe as a blissful process, sheer delight. When I reread it seems as if it was not written by me at all. I find this phenomenon quite strange, exciting in a way, but it makes me feel cautious as if I was dealing with a gift, a gift that has come to me in my middle years and one I treasure as if from the Source of awe and power. Q: Do you think you can teach people how to write poetry? Do you think people like having a poet around?
  16. 16. 16 Price: If someone has something to say and they find it difficult to say as a playwright, an essayist, a novelist, a writer of short-stories, poetry may be for them. I found writing novels too difficult. I never tried writing plays or short- stories in any serious way. Essays are only written for teachers and academic journals and are very difficult to put into a more generalized public place. By the time I was fifty I had lots to say and poetry seemed the best way to say it. Some poets are more popular than others. Roger was liked very much. There is a Baha’i poet in Tasmania, Allen Lake, and another in Melbourne who have achieved a popularity I have yet to attain in Perth, as far as I can see from a distance. After five years of writing poetry, I’m taking this process of extension into the public domain very slowly, gradually, organically. Music and art are commodities that gain acceptance more easily. With these artistic mediums the eyes and ears do the job in a much simpler consumerist mode. Poetry deals with ideas, with dialogue, with relationships and these commodities are by their very nature complex and difficult to engage. In a classroom, where I have managed discussion for twenty years with adults, the process is easier; but it is still complex, difficult and a sensitive exercise in order to achieve a genuine and enjoyable discussion. I do better than most teachers/lecturers, but outside the classroom in a Baha’i community like Perth I’m still treading on glass. I occasionally read a poem in the small Baha’i community of Belmont and occasionally in metropolitan Perth. But generally I’ve been disinclined in these formative years of my own development. After a poem is read, silence is sometimes the best response, at least for some people. Others never really feel confident about discussing poetry or ideas in general for that matter. Some poets can talk about the process of writing, but not the content. I find individual comments rarely capture a lot of what a poem is about; whereas an extended group discussion can sometimes be quite stimulating. A structured environment is required for any discussion in depth. An extended discussion of poetry rarely happens to me in the more informal aspects of life and relationships, at least not yet. Q: Thanks for your time Mr. Price; I look forward to a second interview at some future time when we can continue exploring the poetic dimension and some of your own thoughts and experiences in that dimension. Ron Price 24 January 1996 and Finally Updated on: 2 March 2012
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