Preamble:
Readers will find in this latest, this newest, book of poems,
poetry written from 1986 to 2012. The poetry is by...
improve on, and a commentary that is found in the pages
before Les‟s poetry at his website. My take on my old
friend‟s wor...
emergence. Endrei was about to turn 40 at the time, back
in 1979, and he had hardly begun his venture into the world
of pu...
awarded "the Grand Prix" at the Third World Festival of
Negro Arts for "the best" recent volume of Anglophone
poetry. This...
poetry had been growing in many new directions by the
time Endrei‟s work appeared on the scene in the first
decade of the ...
me and this engagement has led, to this brief overview, this
brief commentary on Endrei‟s poetry. Much of his poetry
has a...
his way through what I write here, that any poetry which
induces such a complexity of exegesis might just possibly
have so...
made its earliest appearances in world literature, and the
Baha‟i Faith itself began to expand over the surface of the
ear...
great thinker to suggest that the literature of the future
would be a world literature with a planetary
consciousness. A.A...
Endrei is based, as Northrop Frye emphasized, in "the
actual experience of art"[8], that is, in my actual experience
of hi...
I have met perhaps only once since I left Ballarat in the late
1970s. The notion of friendship has many twists and turns
a...
Johnson, "of a poet, not a dull collection of theorems, not a
rude collection of faults….but a gay and vigorous
dissertati...
There is a high seriousness in Endrei, though part of his
alembic is a very light humour, a pleasing irony, pleasing at
le...
At the same time, as the sociologist Levin Schuckling
emphasizes: "Somewhere, at some time, the poet follows
the divine su...
In this greatest drama in the world's spiritual history in
which we are all engaged, at least that is how the Bahá'í
commu...
to himself in one of his first poems.[22] Nearly all poets
are minor poets. It‟s a big crowd. The major poets, well, I
lea...
Endrei. Pursuing labels of this kind and making such
distinctions, may not be that helpful. Endrei is a
craftsman, not an ...
about the cultivation of the mind. Arnold was in good
company.
Part 9:
I got the impression, as I read these poems,thatthe...
was born in Hungary before its revolution back in the
1950s.
Part 10:
The work of a critic, a commentator like myself, can...
Endreiland. I like to think that most of Endrei‟s life
consists of only those things that weren't good enough to go
into h...
This essay was put in its present form when I was in my
late sixties. I'm not so sure I qualify for any literary
priesthoo...
Hayden and the Rise of the African American Poetic
Sequence," African American Review, Fall, 1999.
[2] Charles Martindale,...
[10] Helen Vendler, March 15th
, 2000, "Contemporary
Poetry and Poetry Criticism," Poetry Society of America
Panel.
[11] T...
[23] Helen Vendler, op. cit. p.2.
[24] Matthew Arnold, Matthew Arnold's Essays in
Criticism, Dent, London, 1966(1906), p.3...
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Verses of Wonderment: A Review

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This document is an essay, a review, of the latest of the books of poetry by Les, or Laci, Endrei. The review has yet to appear at Endrei's website or anywhere else in cyberspace.

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  • Until I can work-out how to edit my document, readers are advised that this review of the latest of the books of poetry by the Hungarian-Australian poet, Les Endrei, needs two corrections: (i) Les is now 74 not 73 and (ii) Les came to Australia after the 1956 revolution in Hungary.

    Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the 1956 revolution in Hungary; 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees and Les Endrei was one. The Hungarian Revolution, or Uprising, of 1956 was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the government of the People's Republic of Hungary, and its Soviet-imposed policies. The revolution lasted from 23 October until 10 November 1956.
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Verses of Wonderment: A Review

  1. 1. Preamble: Readers will find in this latest, this newest, book of poems, poetry written from 1986 to 2012. The poetry is by a man who is a retired psychiatric nurse, among the several other roles he has had in life. It is poetry from more than 25 years in the life of a man who is now 73, now in the last decade of his late adulthood according to one model of human development used by psychologists. I wondered, as I read the many poems in this book online, online at Endrei‟s website, if he will continue his labour of love into his old-age, his years beyond 80, again according to the same model of human development used by those same psychologists. The historian, DzavidHaveric, who specialises in the Islamic contributions to civilization, and who is one of Les‟s many good friends, has written a fine Foreword to this latest of Endrei‟s poetic offerings. Haveric begins his Foreword thus: “The author, LaciEndrei, a Hungarian born Australian poet, after searching for a noble inspiration, driven by the enlightened power of the All-Mighty, demonstrates an exceptional poetic creativity. Past, present and the future are the purposed „timeline‟ of his poetry, and the four corners of the world are its „guideline‟ making his work planetary inclusive. This inclusiveness is like the golden glow that never loses the secrets of its glare. But, Laci is just a creative dreamer in the universe that shapes the lyrics of love and respect, dreaming and writing about the dignity of all people on the planet for the sake of the future.” I leave it to readers, with the interest, to go to Haveric‟s commentary, a commentary I would not want to try to
  2. 2. improve on, and a commentary that is found in the pages before Les‟s poetry at his website. My take on my old friend‟s work will be different from that of this other old friend of Endrei‟s. I first knew “Les”, and not “Laci” as he now calls himself,back in 1976 when I moved to Ballarat in my early 30s. My wife and I served with Les, and his wife Rosalie, on the spiritual assembly of the Baha‟is of Ballarat. We were all young adults, then, and there has been a lot of water under life‟s bridge since those halcyon and not-so-halcyon days and years. I taught essay-writing at the then College of Advanced Education, now the University of Ballarat. It is with much pleasure that I write this brief or not-so- brief essay, or review, of Les‟s latest published package of poetry. I have spent decades writing to please students and teachers, administrators and publishers and, as much as was possible, myself. Now I write only to please myself, with one eye on readers who might come to what I write. And so, with one eye on you the reader of my words here, I take a pleasurable literary plunge into the waters of poetic commentary. I hope some readers of this review of Endrei‟s work enjoy the plunge with me. One can but try and, in the process, one pleases some and not others, as is the nature of so many things we do in life. Part 1: Literature, poetry and prose, letters and other genres, have been arriving on the world's literary stage from the pens of Baha'is for more than a century and a half. Endrei‟s poetry began to arrive in the last quarter of the 20th century, and his latest work in 2013. Endrei‟s work emerged from obscurity in the same decades as the Baha'i Faith was rising from an obscurity in which it had existed for nearly a century and a half. The Revolution in Iran in 1979 marked a significant point along the road of that
  3. 3. emergence. Endrei was about to turn 40 at the time, back in 1979, and he had hardly begun his venture into the world of published prose and poetry. It is more than coincidental that Endrei‟s prose and poetry was first published in cyberspace some 30 years after that Revolution, and nearly a decade after the international Baha‟i community had completed its Arc Project, its embellishment of its spiritual and administrative center in Haifa Israel. There is now a burgeoning literature on the Baha'i Faith provided by individual Baha'is the world over in the decades since that revolution in Iran in 1979. Endrei‟s work, as I see it anyway, is part of a global emergence of literature by Baha‟is, especially since the new culture of learning and growth, a new Baha‟i paradigm of activity, began to emerge in the 1990s. Though I'm sure Endrei did not set out for his work to become part of that efflorescing Baha‟i culture in over 200 countries on our planet. There are others I could focus on to describe what you might call 'the development of a Baha'i consciousness in world literature': Robert Hayden, BahiyyahNakjavani, H.M. Balyuzi, M. Momen, AdibTaherzedeh, John and William Hatcher, among others, whose books, each in their own way, have played their unique parts, from the 1960s to this second decade of the 21st century, in laying this foundation of consciousness. Since the apex of Baha‟i administration was put in place some 50 years ago, this global consciousness has advanced with every passing day, largely unbeknownst to the generality of humankind. To pick one example: in April 1966 Robert Hayden was
  4. 4. awarded "the Grand Prix" at the Third World Festival of Negro Arts for "the best" recent volume of Anglophone poetry. This was without doubt a milestone in the emergence of a Baha'i consciousness in world literature. I could cite other events along the road of this emergence, but my purpose here is to focus on the poetry of Les Endrei. The focus is timely since Endrei has been part of the fabric of Australian society for more than half a century since leaving Hungary in 1959. The year 1959 was an auspicious year for me, as well; it was the year I joined the Baha‟i Faith. What a lot of living for Endrei, for me, for humankind, since those late 1950s when men began to make specific plans to go to outer space. Part 2: The efforts of poets and critics to come to terms with the legacy of a post-traditional poetry that had begun as early as the second decade of the twentieth century with Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, especially its disturbing mixture of poetic innovation and reactionary politics, its vast international influence and intense Euro-centrism--- amounted to a kind of collective anxiety attack and this anxiety was reflected in post-war II poetry right up to the seventies. By the 1990s, by the time Endrei was just beginning to get into the prose-poetic world that has resulted in his many pieces of writing since then, it had become clear that these sometimes embarrassing poetic ancestors who appeared about the time 'Abdu'l-Baha went on His western tour, had laid the foundation for a post-traditional poetry. That new
  5. 5. poetry had been growing in many new directions by the time Endrei‟s work appeared on the scene in the first decade of the 21st century. That new kind of poetry has been growing for perhaps a full century. Brian Conniffwhoserved from 1999 to 2002 as acting director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, an entity within the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a U.S. independent agency, described the most recent phase of this post-traditional poetry back in the 1980s, in the African American Review. This poetry, he wrote, is "more explicitly heterogenous and more international, both in its sources and its influence, in such works as Adrienne Rich's Your Native Land, Your Life(1986), Seamus Heaney's Station Island (1983), and Derek Walcott's Omeros (1990)." Conniffcontinued: "Considered more broadly, a distinctly post-traditional stance has become increasingly apparent in the linguistic heterogeneity of contemporary Irish poets like NualaniDhomhnaill and MedbhMcGuckian, in the communal heritage evident in the prison poetry and autobiographical writing of Jimmy Santiago Baca, and in the remarkable emergence of contemporary poetry by American Indians. For these later poets, any approximation of a tradition, any communal or even personal heritage, is conceived pragmatically, as one instrument among many others with which they can engage a world that is at once overwhelmingly various and desperately in need."[1] I would add that the poetry of Les Endrei engages such a world. His poetry in this his latest work, which comes as I say above, from the years 1986 to 2012, certainly engaged
  6. 6. me and this engagement has led, to this brief overview, this brief commentary on Endrei‟s poetry. Much of his poetry has a very traditional style and tenor, although its content is for the international stage. Endrei gives his readers what Arthur Koestler said was crucial for modern men and women: truths which were perennial without being archaic. He also gives his readers a view of the global Baha'i community, its history and its teachings. His is both a very traditional and an international poetic mix. As a fellow poet, I am only too conscious of the remarks of Charles Martindale in his introduction to the Roman poet Ovid that: "artists, for all their intuitive insights, are often both idiosyncratic and egocentric when responding to the work of others."[2] Martindale tells us about "the comparative poverty" of the critical tradition of Ovid." The afterlife of a great poet, the artistic responses of the generations that follow a writer, shows how even the finest writers can fail to be understood and appreciated. This first generation that is now reading the work of Les Endrei, and the industry of critical reflection that has yet to be created also, of course, has yet to establish any pattern. I trust this essay will help to initiate a pattern of enthusiastic appreciation and, if not that, may these few words at least initiate some pattern to replace the non- pattern that presently exists. Eugenio Montale, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1975, once said that there is a danger that scholarship and criticism will act together to shed „too much light‟ on a work of art. This has not yet happened to Les Endrei‟s literary corpus. It will be a rare soul who will accuse me of having shed too much light here, but it will be a forbearing reader who does not sometimes conclude, while puzzling
  7. 7. his way through what I write here, that any poetry which induces such a complexity of exegesis might just possibly have something wrong with it. If I had not taught English in schools for more than three decades, and studied it for another two, I would not have written this last sentence. If it is any help, though, let me add that I have tried to make my study of Endrei‟s work accessible to the average reader. I‟m sure some readers will find that I have been successful, but there will be many who won‟t. Part 3: I think the period 1979 to 1984 was especially significant in bringing about a transformation in the literature available to Baha'is on their Faith. Endrei‟s poems in this book came from the years 1984 and after. In the years 1979 to 1984, three books came out from the pen of the unofficial poet- laureate of the Baha‟I community, Roger White. Bahiyyih Nakjavani published twobooks, Response and Four On An Island. They were written in a refreshing and highly stimulating idiom that was as much poetry as prose and, like White, left many readers puzzled. Others found her writing possessed of a vitality and originality that, as Henry Moore once put it, were uniquely her own.[3] It was also a style of writing that was inspired by that same universal vision that inhabited White's poetry and that, I am confident, will take on additional significance as time goes on. And there were other books. This essay, though, deals with the poetry of Les Endrei. I leave it to other writers and critics to deal more comprehensively with the other authors who have been part of this emergence beginning, say, with the first teaching Plan(1937-1944) when, arguably, this Baha'i consciousness
  8. 8. made its earliest appearances in world literature, and the Baha‟i Faith itself began to expand over the surface of the earth to become the second most widespread religion on the planet by the end of the 20th century. Part 4: The course of development of the prose, the language, the thought--and especially the poetry--of a group of people: a nation, an ethnic group, a religion, indeed any group with a specific identity, possesses a specific set of characteristics that is, as the nineteenth century literary critic Matthew Arnold wrote, "profoundly interesting." "By regarding a poet's work as a stage," Arnold continued, "in this course of development we may easily bring ourselves to make it of more importance as poetry than it really is."[4] I hope I am not doing this with the poetry of this Hungarian-Australian-Baha‟i. Perhaps I am guilty of this literary sin in what I admit to be, again in Arnold's words, my quite exaggerated praise, my arguable overrating of Endrei's work. What may be the long term historical estimate of Endrei's work, and what is the intrinsic estimate of his work to a contemporary individual---and particularly this critic---are not necessarily identical. The internationalization of literature, its global orientation, its planetization, its planetary consciousness, the perception of literature as part of the essential fabric of a global civilization or culture has really only emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Goethe, at the turn of the nineteenth century, was the first
  9. 9. great thinker to suggest that the literature of the future would be a world literature with a planetary consciousness. A.Alvarez remarks, in analyzing modernism in literature in the first three decades of the twentieth century, that it was "synonymous withinternationalism."[5] Part 5: The scholarship of comparative literature and the histories of comparative literature have demonstrated that a common vein of ideas and conventions runs through all of Western literature. Indeed, there is unquestionably an underlying uniformity in the literary heritage of humankind, although an outdated nationalism, parochialism and insular local traditions still militate against the thrusting sense of global culture. Of course, traditionality, localism, associations of a national culture will remain, will continue to be enriched. That, too, is part of the process currently underway on this planet. Mr. T.S. Eliot once wrote that “literary criticism should be completed by criticism from a definite ethical and theological standpoint.”[6] I‟m not sure that is necessarily the case.[7] It would appear than many of the greatest painters and writers did not write from an explicit, a defined and articulate philosophical perspective, but in the case of this work, this literary evaluation of the poetry of Les Endrei, I do write from much the same ethical and theological standpoint as Endrei. Perhaps more importantly, though, the Endrei I am analyzing in this essay is a very personal Endrei.. He is my Endrei. A personal relationship grows up between poet and reader, a personal interpretation. My commentary on
  10. 10. Endrei is based, as Northrop Frye emphasized, in "the actual experience of art"[8], that is, in my actual experience of his poetry. It is based, too, on a conceptual universe of analysis that I have constructed on my own with the aid of a range of ideas and concepts from the literary arts and social sciences. The poet may be part of an embryonic Baha'i consciousness in world literature, but he also becomes part of the individual reader's consciousness in a very private and personal world often quite different from the worlds of other readers. Lionel Trilling made this same point in relation to Robert Frost's poetry at a talk he gave at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in 1959 in celebration of Frost's eighty-fifth birthday.[9] He could have been celebrating Endrei‟s arrival in Australia when Endrei was only 19. Little did he know, of course. And little did Endrei know, back then, what prose-poetic fields were ahead of him as he spun his daily web and his eventual literary corpus in the decades of his adult life. For this reason, and due to the personal friendship that I have had with Endrei over nearly 40 years, I feel somewhat like the famous literary critic Helen Vendler who said in a panel discussion in New York:[10] "I don't often do negative reviews…that does not seem to me an interesting kind of writing to do." Vendler went on to say that the negative, the critical, side of reviewing detracts from the affect, the vitality, of the content on the page. Critics want to write about the kind of poetry they would like to write themselves or they'd like to sponsor. No critic wants to write about some poet they don't like especially, Vendler concluded, as they get older and especially if they know the poet. I‟ve always liked Les personally, even though he and
  11. 11. I have met perhaps only once since I left Ballarat in the late 1970s. The notion of friendship has many twists and turns as we travel on this earthly journey. Most of the twists and turns in our relationship, the relationship between Les and I, took place in the three years 1976 to 1978, some 35 years ago. Marjorie Perloff, another critic on that same panel as Vendler, said that to demolish or trash a poet was a devastating thing to do. Perloff‟s approach was to say: 'if you can't say something good about the poet, don't write the review or the book.' She said this is especially true for poets you know personally, and when the review is not anonymous. Who wants to be critical of someone you know personally? It's not natural or instinctive, said Perloff. Some critics can hide behind the veil of anonymity and psychological distance, and thus make more devastating comments. Others simply won't write about living poets. I‟m not doing any hiding here. I‟m sure for some readers they might wish I had. Not everything a man writes is greeted with enthusiasm. As far as this essay is concerned, then, readers will find little overt and strong criticism of Endrei. There is, I trust, much of that etiquette of expression, that judicious and disciplined exercise of the written word, that moderation which "ensures the enjoyment of true liberty."[11] Such is my aim. Part 6: I like to think my comments, my literary criticism, is similar to that of the father of literary criticism, John Dryden. "His is the criticism" in the words of Samuel
  12. 12. Johnson, "of a poet, not a dull collection of theorems, not a rude collection of faults….but a gay and vigorous dissertation, where delight is mingled with instruction, and where the author proves his right of judgment, by his power of performance."[12] Whatever the standpoint, though, theological and otherwise, my aim, like the aim of Endrei‟s poetry, is to awaken and enlarge the mind by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand otherwise unapprehended combinations of thought.[13] Endrei knows that: Life, like a dome of many-colored glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity, Until death tramples it to fragments.[14] And so this Hungarian man, who came to live in Australia in his late teens, gives us that „many-colored glass,‟ some of his philosophy „the white radiance of Eternity‟ and, in the process, touches down on the familiar feet of death trampling life „to fragments.‟ And I give you this review of his poetry. I try to convey something of the new voice that Endrei creates for us in this book of poetry as well as in his other poetic works and prose. I try to save the poetry, though, from the artist who created it. For this is what Endrei would, I think, want. Some poets are quite insistent in making this separation, although Endrei has not been so insistent, at least not yet. Anyway, as Rabindranath Tagore(1861-1941) thatBengalipolymath who reshaped his region's literature and music once said: “the poetry not the poet” is what we should focus-upon.
  13. 13. There is a high seriousness in Endrei, though part of his alembic is a very light humour, a pleasing irony, pleasing at least to me. For some readers the effect of his poetry is a lightness and a pleasure that only humourand irony can provide; for other readers I‟m confident that Endrei‟s seriousness and his language place too much of a demand and, not willing to read and reread his poems, these readers will put him down without extracting the emotional, the aesthetic, the intellectual delights; for still others, Endrei will have had the effect of an invigorating exercise of the mind. For them the laughs, if they get any, will be a bonus, and the reward will be simply pure delight. These readers will gain an understanding of the religion they joined at some time in the last half century, an understanding perhaps deeper than any learned commentary or, indeed, the efforts of their own investigation. These readers will get a sense of a Baha'i consciousness, a Baha'i sensibility, a Baha'i voice, from a poet who has made a distinctive contribution to the birth of a spiritual and universal art[15] in a continent which is just about to finish the first century of its Baha‟i history. Blended with this voice, Endrei‟s voice, are interlacing strains of Endrei‟s literary ancestry. Endrei‟s literary ancestry, the works that have influenced his style in quite complex and mysterious ways making whatever seems original and a fresh creative force partly and inevitably derivative. These influences are unknown to me because, as I say, Les and I have rarely talked since back in those 1970s.I leave it to Endrei himself to comment on the literature and poetry that has influenced him over the seven decades that are his life.
  14. 14. At the same time, as the sociologist Levin Schuckling emphasizes: "Somewhere, at some time, the poet follows the divine summons sent him and, true to an inner urge, responsible only to himself and answering no call from the outer world, creates his works of poetry that are dictated by the ideal that floats before him. The works brought into the light of day often show divergences from existing forms and do not fit into the contemporary scheme of taste. Over time, though, the poetry finds friends, gains recognition and affects the general poetic taste."[16] Part 7: Matthew Arnold, writing about the 'sanguine hopes' which accompanied the splendid epoch of poetry in European civilization in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, said there was a 'prematureness' to its expression. He said that, inspite of its energy and creative force, that epoch did not know enough. The creation of a modern poet, he went on, "implies a great critical effort behind it"[17] or it will be a short-lived affair. Time will tell, of course, if there has been enough of that critical effort behind the poetry of Les Endrei to make it a long-lived affair. There is certainly a critical effort required on the part of the reader if his work is to be appreciated. In this twenty-first century, sinking deeper as it appears to be into a slough of despond, one can't help but wonder, with Yale university‟s famous literary sage, Harold Bloom[18], what will survive in the long term from the world's burgeoning literary and media productions, productions that fill people's lives today to overflowing. If Endrei‟s work is to assume a home in the world's literature in history's long arc, only time will tell.
  15. 15. In this greatest drama in the world's spiritual history in which we are all engaged, at least that is how the Bahá'í community sees their history, Les Endrei‟s work has just appeared on the stage. Who knows what the life-narrative of his work will be in our world of print and image-glut. His poetry is here for those who read poetry, for the coterie that all poets write for in our world of burgeoning literary productions, productions that are now drowning us all by their 1000s, if not their millions now. His work has some of the playfulness of Robert Frost and some of the seriousness as Ezra Pound, with his delightful metaphor and the freshness thereof, with his sympathy, infinitude and expansive virtues which, as Shelley once wrote, await "a world of peace and justice for their due recognition.”[19] Endrei, the voyager, has only just entered the literary, the publishing, world. He will soon be gone. Even if he lives to the age of 100, he has less than three decades to live on this mortal coil before he will be gone. He gave himself, the only thing a writer has to offer. And where life is concerned, a writer, a poet, can only truly see as he does, through his own eyes and his own heart. Endrei has given us the results of his search which, as the artist Mark Tobey once wrote, are "the only valid expression of the spirit."[20] He gave us what Dante says are the proper subjects of poetry: venus, virtue and salus.[21] I like the term „minor poet‟ for Endrei. I‟d apply that term to myself, and I apply it to this old friend whom I got to know a little better by reading his work, his latest book of poetry. Roger White also used the term minor poet to apply
  16. 16. to himself in one of his first poems.[22] Nearly all poets are minor poets. It‟s a big crowd. The major poets, well, I leave this interesting question to readers with the interest. Part 8: I think Endrei would eschew the term „major poet‟ for many reasons but, if a distinction can profitably be drawn between „major‟ and „great,‟ or „major‟ and „leading‟ or „prominent‟ then Endrei, for me anyway, deserves recognition in the latter categories. Minor writers, minor poets, can be loved as purely, and appreciated, as much as major ones, and sometimes more easily, as another great analyst of poetry, Helen Vendler notes.[23] The distinction between talent and genius may also beuseful here. The former, said Arnold, gives the notion of power in a poet's performance, while the latter denotes felicity and perfection in the art.[24] For me, Endrei has much of the former. He has talent. Only others can bestow such a term, the term „talent‟ on a poet, on a writer of any kind. Indeed, only readers with the interest, and only readers who experience some pleasure in the work of a writer, a poet, can bestow such a term. For others, for the vast majority who will never read Endrei, who will never read poetry in any form; and for whom sport, movies, gardening, food, and a host of other items from popular culture---win their time and their pleasure---they will simply pass Endrei by. To each their own in reading, as in every other aspect of this world of wonderment. It is, perhaps, unimportant to "decide" what sort of poet is
  17. 17. Endrei. Pursuing labels of this kind and making such distinctions, may not be that helpful. Endrei is a craftsman, not an exquisite craftsman, as are some of the greats in poetry. But he has begun to produce an ample body of poetry for the few who actually read it these days. With the population of the world heading for 8 billion in the next decade or so, even a small slice of that readership, the smallest of slices, will be enough to satisfy the poet. Poets today know that the competition in the marketplace of print is severe. They do not expect to become either famous or rich through their literary endeavours. Sometimes a writer or a poet can be called a genius. In the case of Balzac, Somerset Maugham used the term; in the case of Wordsworth, Matthew Arnold used the same term. Arnold also felt that "poetry to be truly excellent must have a high seriousness."[25] Endrei certainly has that, but I leave it to each reader to assess for themselves just how excellent they find the poems of Les Endrei. Endreiwill very soon be an old-man, a man of 80. That age is used by some psychologists, in one model of human development in the life-span for the onset of old- age.Arnold also wrote that: " Whether one is an eagle or an ant, in the intellectual world, seems to me not to matter much; the essential thing is to have one's place marked there, one's station assigned, and to belong decidedly to a regular and wholesome order."[26] Such souls give others a taste for the things of the mind, of the emotions, of the spirit. Baha'u'llah explored the same idea in writing about the portion of some lying in a gallon measure and others in a thimble.'Abdu'l-Baha wrote much
  18. 18. about the cultivation of the mind. Arnold was in good company. Part 9: I got the impression, as I read these poems,thatthese questions, these issues I have raised in the above paragraph or two, did not matter much to Endrei. Now, of course, I think it unlikely that recognition of this, or of any kind, concerns him in the slightest. As he writes in his last poem: The Divine Melody... A good rhythm is to be happy Singing a pleasant tune with friends To be and work in peace with all A part of a Divine Harmony Taking part in the dance of stars, of trees and the winds in the family of man, diverse in the radiant, golden ballroom of our resplendent universe... Endrei wrote this poem in that auspicious Holy Year of 1992 which commemorated the centenary of the passing of a Person Whom Baha‟is believe to be the most precious soul ever to walk on the surface of this Earth. The Person Who has inspired much that is the poetry of this now retired psychiatric nurse, father, grand-father, husband, Baha‟i and friend, among other roles he has had since he
  19. 19. was born in Hungary before its revolution back in the 1950s. Part 10: The work of a critic, a commentator like myself, can be fantastically overestimated. Readers often forsake the works critics are writing about. Instead of enjoying the poet, the reader turns to the critic as specialist, to his prodigalities of implication, his hyperboles, his nimbuses of rhetoric, his exaggerations and the various promptings that the critic places before the reader. This I do not mind. I think there is a certain inevitability here, at least for some readers. As long as all that I have written above convinces you, dear reader, if only for the moment, of Endrei‟s talent, if not his genius, not his greatness as a major poet, I will have done my job. For my main responsibility is to the poet, Endrei, and the need to be truthful. If what I write appears over the top, as it is said colloquially these days, that is because of the genuine enthusiasm and pleasure I take in reading his poetry and,perhaps even more so, in thinking of this old friend. Endrei is not the subtle poet that I find in the work of Roger White, the poet who has inspired me in the last 30 years. Endrei is not that bewilderingly gifted Canadian poet that was Roger White whose work, in the short dozen years or so before he died, reached a Baha‟i community that has just begun to emerge from the obscurity in which it had been enshrouded for a century and a half. I would not want you to miss the experience of
  20. 20. Endreiland. I like to think that most of Endrei‟s life consists of only those things that weren't good enough to go into his poems.[27] So, if his biographical details are a little light on here, readers should not feel they are missing much. Endrei, I‟m sure, is hardly interested in his readers knowing about his life either before or since he arrived in Australia from Hungary. He tells us all all he wants to in his poetry. Endrei, I‟m sure, sees his life, its physical memorabilia, all the flotsam and jetsam that have made up his domain as a writer, in no need of being exploited as a tourist attraction or as a base for a future biography. Part 11: What's to see in Endrei‟s life? The labor that makes a writer, world-famous or otherwise, worth writing about was almost certainly done while he was sitting all by himself in a quiet room contemplating the wonderment of it all. For it is his sense of wonder that lies at the heart of his entire corpus. The raw material of his poetry was then and now invisible toeveryone but him. A visitor to Herman Melville's study couldn'texpect to find any whales. Where was Moby Dick? What exactlywould some tourist-development director, or some camera crew,display if they placed Endrei‟s home at 19 Alice Mews, Bannockburn, Victoria, 3331, Australia, his home for two decades, into some bio- pic? The nineteenth century literary critic Amiel, describing perhaps that century's finest French literary critic Sainte- Beuve, wrote that "it is only at fifty that the critic is risen to the true height of his literary priesthood or, to put it less pompously, of his social function."[28] Only then does a critic have the required critical judgment.
  21. 21. This essay was put in its present form when I was in my late sixties. I'm not so sure I qualify for any literary priesthood; I'm not sure I possess the maturity of judgementAmiel refers to, but I hope that readers enjoy this essay. The now famous Samuel Johnson, author of the first significant dictionary in English, wrote biographies of each of his subjects before proceeding to comment and evaluate their works. Such a combination satisfys, it seems to me, a perfectly proper curiosity. Johnson's Lives of the Poets is part of a biographical tradition going back to the early seventeenth century and earlier, a tradition that keeps separate a man's poetry and the man.[29] Gradually, in the nineteenth century, the study of a man and the interpretation of his work began to mingle and to mingle more in the twentieth century. I do some mingling. I am, though, a very moderate mingler. This is what Endrei would want, or so I like to think. I hope both Endrei and his readers of this essay will find my mingling helpful, but not intrusive. If they find this essay a little over the top, it is to counteract the strong Australian tendency to downplay, to diminish, literary work while placing a pantheon of celebrities from sport and the movies, from science and technology, at the center of their cultural enthusiasms. We each and all have our enthusiasms, our regions of wonderment, and Endrei writes about this reality in just about every line of his work which I bequeath to readers for their possible pleasure. ----------------------FOOTNOTES------------------------------- [1] Brian Conniff, "Answering 'The Waste Land": Robert
  22. 22. Hayden and the Rise of the African American Poetic Sequence," African American Review, Fall, 1999. [2] Charles Martindale, editor, Ovid Renewed, Cambridge UP, NY, 1988, pp.1-2. [3] Herbert Read in Poetry and Experience, Vision Press Ltd., London, 1967, pp.157-8 describes the importance when writing literature of any kind of cultivating and giving expression to 'an intensity all its own' and a style which 'renews the spiritual vitality of the English language.' [4] Matthew Arnold in Critical Approaches to Literature, 2nd edition, David Daiches, Longman, London, 1981(1956), p.249. [5] A. Alvarez, Beyond All this Fiddle: Essays 1955- 1967, Allen Lane, London, 1968, pp.9-10. [6] T.S. Eliot in The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry, Herbert Read, Faber and Faber, London, 1958, p.272. Literary critic Northrop Frye wrote in 1957 in his Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays(Princeton UP, 1973(1957), p.7) that "a coherent philosophy of life with its centre of gravity in something else" is not an essential prerequisite for literary criticism. [7] Herbert Read in op. cit., p.148 argues that the painter Turner and the poet/playwright Shakespeare did not profess an explicit philosophy, at least not one we can decipher and agree on in examining their works. [8] Northrop Frye, op. cit., p.10. Frye points especially to history and philosophy for conceptual tools, for intellectual assistance, in constructing a literary criticism. [9] Lionel Trilling, "A Speech on Robert Frost: A Cultural Episode," Partisan Review, XXVI(Summer 1959), pp.445-52.
  23. 23. [10] Helen Vendler, March 15th , 2000, "Contemporary Poetry and Poetry Criticism," Poetry Society of America Panel. [11] The Universal House of Justice, Letter, 29 December 1988. [12] John Dryden in Critical Approaches to Literature, 2nd edition, David Daiches, Longman, London, 1981(1956), p.242. [13] ibid., p.273. [14] P. B. Shelley, Adonais. [15] Marion Hoffman, "Recollections," Mark Tobey/Art and Belief, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.56. [16] Levin L. Schuckling, The Sociology of Literary Taste, trans. E.W. Dickes, 1931(1944), Oxford UP, NY, p.35. [17] Matthew Arnold in Lives of the Modern Poets, William Pritchard, 1980, Faber and Faber, p.10. [18] Harold Bloom is one of the major literary critics during this climacteric of history. He takes a very pessimistic view of the future of the great literature of the western intellectual tradition. [19] Herbert Read in Pritchard, op. cit., p.287. [20] Mark Tobey in Mark Tobey/Art and Belief, p.33. [21] Quoted in Language As Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature and Method, Kenneth Burke, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1966, p.288. [22] Roger White, “Minor Poet,” Old Songs/New Songs: Selected Poems 1947-1977, p.1.
  24. 24. [23] Helen Vendler, op. cit. p.2. [24] Matthew Arnold, Matthew Arnold's Essays in Criticism, Dent, London, 1966(1906), p.320. [25] Somerset Maugham, 10 Novels and Their Authors, Mercury Books, London, 1963(1954), p. 144. [26] Matthew Arnold, Matthew Arnold's Essays in Criticism, Dent, London, 1966(1906), p.173. [27] Anatole Broyard, "Wittier Than Anybody: A Review of Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life, William Pritchard," Internet. [28] Matthew Arnold, op. cit., p.381. [29] David Daiches, op. cit., p.250. End of document

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