View Full Version : F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheila Graham: A Personal Retrospective

Ron Price
04-06-2013, 09:42 PM
Baz Luhrmann, the audacious director of The Great Gatsby, is packing enough box office muscle to knock even Iron Man from the No 1 spot. He got off the plane this week in Australia from Cannes to be greeted by the news that his $180 million adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's literary classic was at the top of the international box office. This was 10 days before its Australian release on May 30.

With this film in the air this week, I thought I’d post a few items, several personal perspectives, which I’ve written over the last few years about this famous novel and novelist. The context for my remarks are some social-historical, some sociological and psychological perspectives. As a student and teacher of literature from 1953 to 2013, I feel as if I have just made a beginning to my understanding of literature, and a hundred other fields.-Ron Price, Tasmania.
After watching the 1974 version of the cinematic translation of the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby last night, 6/4/'13, I was moved to edit several of my pieces, my prose-poems, on F. Scott Fitzgerald, his life and his work. Some of these pieces are found below.-Ron Price, Tasmania, 7/4/'13 to 22/5/'13.


Part 1:

In July 1937, in the third month of the first organized and systematic Bahá'í Plan
(1937-1944), the extensions of which I have been associated with now for 60 years, 1953-2013, Sheila Graham(1904-1988), met the famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was reminded of this last night while watching The Great Gatsby. This 1974 screen version, part of which I watched tonight in the evening of my life as it heads at some time in the future to nightfall, is the most famous of the several translations of this novel into cinema.

In 1974 I knew nothing of Fitzgerald or his literary work engaged as I was in my career, my marriage, my separation, the life of the Baha'i community, my new life in Australia, and my fast developing relationship with a woman who was to be my second wife. Mia Farrow had the role of Daisy Buchanan and Robert Redford of Gatsby in that 1974 film.

Graham immediately fell in love with Fitzgerald after she met him so we are informed in several biographies. Graham was an English-born nationally syndicated American gossip columnist for 35 years especially during Hollywood's "Golden Age.” Hollywood’s Golden Age is said to have lasted from the the end of the silent era in the late ‘20s in American cinema, to the late 1950s.

I was able to enjoy a decade of that Golden Age viewing movies as I did from 1949 to 1959 from the years of my middle childhood to middle adolescence. Sheila Graham told some of that Hollywood story in her columns. Thousands of movies were issued from the Hollywood studios in that Golden Age. It is said that Graham wielded the kind of power that could make or break careers.

Part 2:

F. Scott Fitzgerald's work, The Great Gatsby(1925), became a literary classic. The 1920s, like the 1850s and the 1890s, was a period of exceptional literary creativity in America, illuminating the cultural complexities of the decade. Graham was quoted as saying, "I'll only be remembered, if I'm remembered at all, because of Scott Fitzgerald."

Sheila Graham’s autobiography, Beloved Infidel, chronicled her relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald. She played a part in immortalizing his life through that autobiographical account. Edmund Wilson (1895-1972), an American writer, literary and social critic, as well as noted man of letters wrote, in a long review in The New Yorker, that Graham’s Beloved Infidel was ''the very best portrait of Fitzgerald that has yet been put into print.''

That account was a best-seller and became a movie in 1959 starring Deborah Kerr as Graham and Gregory Peck as Fitzgerald. I knew nothing about that movie in 1959. We had no TV; my mother had sold it; if I saw the movie at the local Roxy Theatre I have no memory of the experience. I was 15, a star baseball player in my small home town, in love with a girl around the corner from my house, and had just joined a new religion.(1)

Fitzgerald and Graham shared a home and were constant companions while Fitzgerald was still married to his wife, Zelda. Zelda was institutionalized in an asylum at the time. Graham protested her description as his "mistress" in her book, The Rest of the Story, on the basis that she was "a woman who loved Scott Fitzgerald for better or worse until he died." They were together only 3-1/2 years, but her daughter reports that Graham "never really got over him." During those three years, Scott outlined a "curriculum" for her, and guided her through it. She later wrote about this in detail in A College of One.

Part 3:

Upon Fitzgerald's death, seeking a respite from the social demands and frantic pace of covering "the film capital of the world," Graham arranged for an assignment as a foreign correspondent in London. This also afforded her the opportunity to demonstrate her abilities as a serious journalist. Her first George Bernard Shaw, and she would later file another with Britain's war prime minister, Winston Churchill. Her brief respite from Hollywood would stretch to the conclusion of the war.(2)-Ron Price (1)joined the Baha’i Faith in 1959, and gives his thanks to (2)Wikipedia, 19 April 2010.

That best-seller came out
the year I joined this new
world Faith back in 1959.

I took an interest in all this
watching Last Call on TV.
This teleplay, I’m told, was
like Beloved Infidel; it was
the story of the last years of
Scott Fitzgerald’s life when the
structural basis of a new world
religion, an Administrative Order,
was firmly laid, the greatest of the
collective acts of the community of
Baha’is up to that point in the first
half-century of its young, arduous, &
stony history in North America with
the future of civilization in its bones.

The culmination of that 50 year long
labor had come to a close with victory,
a fame, undying....in the service of that
greatest human being ever to walk on the
earth’s surface: Bahá'u'lláh, little did that
famous writer know of this turning point
in the history of this Faith at the turning
point, this climacteric, in his final hour as
the greatest war in history had opened with
the death of 60 million about to be history.

Ron Price
19/4/’10 to 6/4/’13.

Ron Price
04-06-2013, 09:49 PM
After watching Last Call (2002) with Jeremy Irons playing Fitzgerald, a film which describes the relationship with Frances Kroll during his last two years of life. The film was based on the memoir of Frances Kroll Ring, titled Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald (1985), that records her experience as secretary to Fitzgerald for the last 20 months of his life.

Section 1:

The last years of the American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald(1896-1940) and his affair with Sheilah Graham, the Hollywood gossip columnist, were the centre and the theme of the movie Beloved Infidel. This movie was released in November 1959. In October 1959 I joined the Baha’i Faith; in September I completed another successful season in the Burlington baseball league; in July and August I worked at my summer jobs, jobs I had from grade 4 to the end of my four-year university programs. In the summers back then in the 1950s and early 1960s, I went swimming in Lake Ontario with my friends among other activities which I have written about in my autobiography and which will not be of interest to many after I pass from this mortal coil. In May-June 1959 I completed another successful year of high school, and in April a not-so-successful season of ice-hockey.

I knew nothing, back then, of this famous writer, F, Scott Fitzgerald, immersed as I was in my life and the life of this small town in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe. The film Beloved Infidel depicted Fitzgerald during his final years from the summer of 1937 as a Hollywood screenwriter on $1000/week, and freelance script-writer. The first Baha’i teaching Plan had just begun in the spring of 1937, a Plan I have now been associated with in various ways for 60 years. Fitzgerald died in December 1940 just as my mother and father were first meeting and WW2 was hotting-up. In all likelihood, Fitzgerald knew nothing of this new world Faith which had only 4000 members in the USA in 1940 when he died.

The film, Beloved Infidel, describes Fitzgerald’s affair with Ms Graham while his wife, Zelda, was institutionalized. Fitzgerald knew about mental illness first hand as did I in my lifespan. Another film about Fitzgerald, Last Call, was released in 2002. I had retired by then after 32 years in classrooms as a teacher and another 18 as a student. This film also described Fitzgerald’s last two years only the focus was on his relationship with Frances Kroll Ring, his secretary. The film was based on Ring’s 1985 memoir, entitled Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1985 I had just begun my own memoir and, by 2002, I had become a full-time writer and poet, editor and author, and was on an old-age pension.

Section 2:

Both Fitzgerald and I were busy people during our lifespan: energetic, restless, and forever on the go. The medications I began to take in 2007 at the age of 63, though, allowed my active mind to continue buzzing with ideas in a similar way to Fitzgerald. These meds helped me deal with my bipolar disorder. Fitzgerald had always used alcohol to sooth life’s slings and arrows and it helped to make him, with his tuberculosis and the mental health problems of his wife Zelda, unstuck.(1)

He accomplished much in short bursts, but projects that required long-term commitment, stamina, and steady, persistent effort were not easy for him. This was true for him all his life; it became true for me after 2007. Before 2007, big writing projects all had to be done in short bursts. Nervous energy got him going; the energy that came from an enthusiasm for a project got me going. He sometimes found it difficult to relax, slow down, or take time to reflect and replenish himself.

With my new meds I had no trouble slowing down and replenishing myself. Often during the day I’d go to bed, sometimes just to rest and sometimes to sleep. Since I had retired from the job world by 2007 in my early 60s, this presented no problem. People no longer drained me because I had left the job world and, whatever draining took place due to my interaction in the small circle of family, friends and associations in my life, I was able to sleep and get back on track. Fitzgerald scattered his energies into so many directions and activities at once that he could not finish or follow through on some of them.

Leonardo da Vinci also had an activity pattern much like this. Both of these men needed variety, change, and mental challenges, partly due to their wide range of interests. I, too, needed variety in my writing experiences and I got it both before and after 2007 by writing poetry and prose on a myriad subjects. F. Scott Fitzgerald had a sharp and eager mind, and he enjoyed games and competitions that had a mental component. Fitzgerald played vigorously and enjoyed competitive games and physical rough-and-tumble activities. Athletics and/or physical activities had great appeal for him. He took the initiative in sports. I did, as well, but only in my childhood and adolescence. He liked to match wits with someone else as did I but, by 2007, I liked to do so as a writer in cyberspace and not so much in my day-to-day relationships.

Section 3:

Fitzgerald achieved his desires by his verbal skill, his ability to speak clearly, vigorously, and convincingly in relation to what he wanted. I did as well during the more than 3 decades I was a teacher. By 2007 my verbal skills were focused on writing. His drive and energy was more mental than physical and that was true of me by my 20s. F. Scott Fitzgerald used his wit, intelligence, communication skills, social sophistication, and awareness to achieve his goals, as did I. We were both ardent in pursuing anything we desired.

Fits of temper and impatience, and a sudden, erratic sort of recklessness all worked very much against F. Scott Fitzgerald, especially when he needed to be working cooperatively as part of a team or in a partnership. When he was upset or fired up about something, Francis Scott often did things that were risky and outrageous. When out of balance, Fitzgerald tended to be accident-prone. He was often charged with energy and inspired about what he wanted to do, but there was a dreamy, visionary, or passive side to him as well. His energy level fluctuated from being superabundant to rather lax. There was an element of this in my life due to my bipolar disorder.

F. Scott Fitzgerald had a very active and fertile imagination and his ambitions were never strictly mundane, practical, and concrete. He had a strong desire to act out his fantasies and dreams, his visions and ideals. Artistic creation, drama, and other areas in which he could express himself imaginatively were areas in which he excelled. Ordinary life seemed drab and uninteresting to him and he needed to have some big dream or something larger than his own narrow personal interests to live for. Sometimes he was confused about exactly how and where to direct his energy and he often drifted along rather than making clear decisions about what he wanted. This was part of his passive side, a side which lacked the will power, physical energy, strength, and the fighting spirit to achieve his aims.

Section 4:

When F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted something, he went after it with passionate zeal and was sometimes so driven by his desire that he lost all objectivity. Francis Scott got so deeply involved in whatever he was pursuing that he became one-sided, even fanatical. Strong-willed and stubborn, F. Scott Fitzgerald insisted on having his way no matter the cost. He was fascinated with power. F. Scott Fitzgerald often tried to overpower anything or anyone he perceived as an obstacle, if not physically then by the force of his will. Fitzgerald could be ruthless and impersonal when it came to achieving his ambitions and goals in life. Francis Scott had enormous energy and was capable of extraordinary effort and great achievement. He had a compulsive workaholic side to him, as did I. The Baha’i Faith helped to centre my life, my philosophy and activity. Fitzgerald had no such centre, force and conviction..

Francis Scott had grand aspirations and was inordinately ambitious at times. He was apt to be discontented with small successes and to feel like a failure unless he achieved extraordinary things. In his professional life F. Scott Fitzgerald achieved a great deal of recognition and success. Early on in his career, important and influential people in his field noticed and helped him along. His decisions were based on the demands of the situation and he was able to take advantage of the right moment. Strongly career oriented, F. Scott Fitzgerald had inner conflicts between his professional and personal lives.2 –Ron Price with thanks to: 1 Matthew J. Bruccoli’s “A Brief Life of Fitzgerald” originally appeared in F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, ed. Bruccoli with the assistance of Judith S. Baughman, Scribner’s, NY, 1994; and 2Top Synergy.com

Ron Price
04-06-2013, 10:02 PM

It is not so much authorial ego or that I am a compulsive self-historiographer which compels me to document my life more fully than most. All my poetry and prose is my workshop where my awareness of life expresses itself quintessentially. I also see myself as part of a global pattern, a representative figure, part of a mytho-historical process which may be of use to future generations. I was born into a new age, at least from my point of view, with the Kingdom of God just beginning when I was nine years old. In my lifetime the Baha'i administrative process, the nucleus and pattern for a new Order, went through a radical growth period. I have been committed to the promises and possibilities of this new way of Life.(1) As F. Scott Fitzgerald was committed to and had a belief in American life in the 1920s, as American was going through new beginnings so, too, do I feel strongly, passionately, a new commitment, a new belief and new beginnings.

George Bull points out in his introduction to his massive biography of the life of Michelangelo that people are often best understood "in the crowded context of the significant changes and continuities of the age."(2) The age I have lived in and through has also faced "significant changes and continuities." My life, I have little doubt, can be understood, too, as Michelangelo's and so many others have been understood, in this same general context of their age. -Ron Price with thanks to (1) Matthew Bruccoli, editor, The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, NY, 1945, p.vii; and (2) George Bull, Michelangelo: A Biography, Viking Press, 1995, p.xviii.

I, too, saw myself as coming
at the end of a long, complex
historical process that had its
beginnings in that district of
Ahsa, those birds flying over
Akka and all those Men with
beards, & I identified with it.

I was born near the start of
yet another Formative Age:
would it last as long as the(1)
Greeks? I understood quite well
the claims of this new belief as
you did the claims of your craft.(2)

I was, like you, fortune's darling
in this new age and I was, too,
the shell-shocked casualty of a
war that was more complex than
any of us could ever understand.

(1) the Greek Formative Age lasted from 1100 to 500 BC; this one began 23 years before I was born.
(2) F. Scott Fitzgerald was, arguably, the major American writer between the wars: 1919-1939. I say arguably because those entre deux guerres(between the wars) years saw: E.E. Cummings, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, H. L. Mencken, inter alter.

Ron Price
04-06-2013, 10:09 PM

They were a whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure.-Scott Fitzgerald in Freud, Religion and the Roaring Twenties: A Psychoanalytic Theory of Secularization in Three Novelists--Anderson, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Henry Idema III, Rowman & Littlefield Pub., 1990, p.5.

An old world was dieing
all around them as they*
laid the foundation for
the new one so few knew.

At the Somme and
Passchendaele the
dull thunder of guns,
the trench warfare.....

saw millions die while
He quietly penned more
Tablets** for a different
kind of war, a new Order.

It was just then taking its
first form as that great war
was ending and orders were
changing directions & forms.

But it all happened so quietly
as noise changed the face of
Europe, as religions died on
the battlefield and people in
the millions turned to sex, &
alcohol, & secular substitutes.

They roared into the twenties with
the flapper, bathtub gin, howling jazz,
silent screen movies, lavish mansions,
sleek automobiles, and lots of glitter
and tinsel--missing the first formative
years of an Order that would change
the face of history and exhaust the
energies of a young man and make
him old, old before his time; holding
the world, the new Order on his small
shoulders was too much as the world
went hedonistic and all that pleasure.

Ron Price
5/3/'96 to 7/4/'13.

* they='Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi
** Tablets= Tablets of the Divine Plan

Ron Price
04-06-2013, 10:16 PM

All the sad young men of Scott Fitzgerald, and the lost generation of Ernest Hemingway are seekers for landmarks and bearings in a terrain for which the maps have been mislaid. Theirs is the God-abandoned world of modernity where individuals define their own code, summon the necessary discipline, if possible, and make their story: tragic, pitiful, human, an infinity of secular trajectories through space, with nature as all and nothing at the centre, except perhaps a slowly crafted self with all its ambiguities and mysteries. -Ron Price, with thanks to Robert Penn Warren for his “Ernest Hemingway”, Modern Critical Views: Ernest Hemingway, editor, Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers, 1985, pp.35-62.

The Order was just taking form, then,
and happiness far removed from the
glitter-and-tinsel of mere sensations,
astonishing immediacy, flourishing
moments of now. A freshness was
found in depth and poignancy in a
vision of oneness quite profound
against background of civilization
gone to pot, war and death with a
gratification raised to cult-status—
sensation. A whole new basis for the
intellect deeply laid in the life of a
new God-man, two God-men, three
God-men now all gone: charisma
institutionalizing, just beginning to
form in this new body of the world.

For this new Form had been watered
with the blood of martyrs and more than
a century* of searching, finding, intense
discouragement, sweat and tears. Here
was new meaning, new wine in new bottles,
not just the accidents, changes and chances
that seem to form this mortal coil and human
nature struggling intensely within the confines
of private spaces with fate, self and all that makes
this life of grandeur and emptiness, pleasure and
pain, simplicity and staggering complexity, small
places and an infinite universe. Here were faintest
beginnings back then, the earliest architecture: all
that pain and wonder packaged in an eagle’s wings.

Ron Price
26/2/’96 to 7/4/’13.

* Shayhk Ahmad left his home in 1792 and there followed a century of searching for the Promised One until 1892 when Baha’u’llah died. Slowly, after Baha’u’llah’s passing, the institutions of a new world Order began to form, especially after 1921. In the 1920s and 1930s, when F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, among others, did most of their writing in a remarkably creative literary epoch in America. The Administrative Order, the precursor of that World Order, took the form which was necessary for the international teaching plan to operate within.

Ron Price
04-07-2013, 12:13 AM

Price hoped that readers would find in his poetry the ‘willingness of the heart’ that F. Scott Fitzgerald said described America. Perhaps, too, some might find the signs of his replenishing and revivifying vision of the world. Sheer awareness underpinning an analytical intellect, the power of analysis, a deepening complexity of response to society, a heightened sensitivity to the promise of life, a romance and hope, an exploration of the limits of wonder, willingness and fate: all of these Price saw in his poetry and he hoped others, who took the trouble to read his work, would also find this same richness. -Ron Price with thanks to Tony Tanner, The Reign of Wonder: Naivety and Reality in American Literature, Cambridge UP, 1965, pp. 355-361.

Written things are not for speech; their form is literary; they are stiff, inflexible and will not lend themselves to happy and affective delivery with the tongue....they have to be limbered up, broken up, colloquialized and turned into the common forms of unpremediated talk--otherwise they will bore... -Mark Twain, The Autobiography.

Poetry is the discovery, the love,
the passion for the name of anything,
for the rhythm of the visible world and
the infinite truths which are each beautiful,
unique, separate, interrelated with their
roots deep down in the soil about them
bringing an endless continuum from the eyes
and ears with moods monitoring all of it.

There’s a glistening and shining amidst the dull
fragments which are part of the poison, vanity,
and emptiness of this semblance of reality…..I
limber it up, colloquialize it for you, here, try to
turn it into some unpremeditated talk, poem, to
deliver it happily to your mind, eye, and your ear.

Ron Price
19/7/’97 to 7/4/’13

Ron Price
04-07-2013, 12:19 AM

“The time came, in the 1930s, when the kind of life Fitzgerald had been writing about,” says W.M. Frohock, “ceased to be exotic and became familiar Elsewhere, everywhere.”(1) This was but one more example of what the historian Toynbee refereed to as a westernizing and industrializing world in which “Western Civilization expanded over the whole face of the planet in the course of the Modern Age of Western history”(2) with an increasing standardization. -Ron Price with thanks to W. Frohock, Strangers to this Ground: Cultural Diversity in Contemporary American Writing, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1961, p.38; and Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol.5.

The timing was perfect,
after that hiatus of, what
was it, sixteen years?(1)

You could move around
the continent, the world,
have your perspectives,
the back home & away,
kept in one piece. Motion,
mobility.....was no longer
about: an unpleasant fix,
being seriously ill-at-ease,
bombarding, fragmentation
of experience, and yet more
running, the cry and moan of
wounded personal sensibility,
lostness, discomfort, misfortune.

These were just part of your fate
in the many homes you created
around the planet, for they were
part of your fate wherever you

Ron Price
24/2/'00 to 7/4/'13.

(1) One could argue the ‘waiting period’ before the unveiling of the Tablets of the Divine Plan and their implementation in the first Seven Year Plan was eighteen years: 1919-1937.

Ron Price
04-07-2013, 12:32 AM

The experience of a composer, an artist, someone in the creative or performing arts is, I find, often relevant to that experience of mine when I write—poetry or prose. Yet again, on Margaret Throsby’s ABC Radio National program of interviews this morning,1 I am listening to a composer of contemporary classical music. In discussing composing he talked of: ignition, atmosphere, intensity, colour, intention, attention, family background, idiosyncratic experience, the ending of a piece, time involved in study, writing and reading, models: imitation and contrasts, inter alia. I did not catch the composer’s name, tuning in half-way through the program, but I’m not sure it matters. The comparisons and contrasts between this composer’s experience and mine as a writer were many.

But then, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “to have something to say is a question of sleepless nights, worry, the endless motivation of a writer and the endless trying to dig out the essential truth, the essential justice.” On top of this is a writer’s temperament which is “continuously making him do things he can never repair.”2 Some of these things he would not want to repair and others he would like to eliminate totally.-Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC Radio National, September 23rd, 2005; and 2F. Scott Fitzgerald: On Writing, editor, Larry Phillips, Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1985, pp.135-6.

There is a particular intensity
like cultivating your garden
in your own way, with your
own plants and vegetables,
shrubs and landscaping and
you need a certain energy,
clement weather, desire,
pleasure in the making,
in the results, even a pride
that you are part of a world
fraternity with longings
that are universal, that you
are not alone or isolated.

There is an arduousness
to the writing process
not unlike the duties of
a soldier in wartime;
there’s silence, aloneness
when you wonder if any
of it matters, has any value,
if anyone will read it. Then
you say to yourself: who cares?1

1 Scott Fitzgerald, op. cit., p.81.

Ron Price
23/9/'05 to 7/4/'13

Ron Price
04-07-2013, 12:36 AM
NOTEBOOKS: Fitzgerald’s and Mine

F. Scott Fitzgerald "began assembling his Notebooks"(1) some time after May 1932. He was thirty-six and had eight years to live before his death in 1940. He used his Notebooks to record ideas and observations. Bruccoli, in his review of these Notebooks, says they are not that interesting as literary documents but, since they were from Fitzgerald, they are important.(2) Two novels and a collection of short stories appeared from the eight years that Fitzgerald utilized Notebooks.

R. Frederick Price "began assembling his Notebooks" in the 1960s and 1970s, but little remains of those first collections. In the 1980s and 1990s Price began to assemble, yet again, an extensive collection of notes from the humanities and the social sciences, not so much observations as quotations from his reading, photocopies from books, magazines and journals and, by the late nineties, material from the Internet.

A vast amount of this, too, has been lost, given away or left behind where he lectured and taught. His poetry, of course, contained the sorts of notes that came from observations and ideas. By 2013, as this statement was being recorded, over one hundred two-ring binders and arch-lever files as well as over 70 booklets of poetry filled with notes represented Price's collection of Notebooks. The physical, biological and applied sciences have also been added to Price's Notebooks filling his study to overflowing, and providing a basis for his son, Daniel, to do a massive culling and burning, on Price's demise. -Ron Price with thanks to (1 & 2)Matthew J. Bruccoli, editor, The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, NY, 1945, p.viii & p.ix.

It had become a massive embrace,
filled the spaces all around him like
a sprawling glove that no one could
ever wear or ever want to wear.

It was like a collection of old shirts
nicely hung and arranged to wear
on cold or warm days of the year.

He'd been warming to them for,
what, sixty years, now.....it was(1)
hard to believe.....It had been a
lifetime since that early start in
mid-century......lots of practice
even in those earlier years as far
back, perhaps, as far back as '50!(2)

Surely not that soon, not in grades
one to four when the Kingdom was
just arriving and that world Crusade
to conquer the world was beginning.(3)

1 1953-2013: sixty years of collecting notebooks
2 I have vague recollections of 'notebooks' from school from about 1950 through 1958, grades one to eight in Ontario Canada. Nothing, of course, remains from this period except a few old photographs. The oldest item from a 'notebook' that I possess comes from 1962.
3. The Ten Year Crusade of 1953 to 1963.

Ron Price
04-07-2013, 12:44 AM

This poem was inspired by reading several analyses of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.(1) My poem here describes a society, the first generation, to respond to the Tablets of the Divine Plan in those hiatus years(1919-1937) before the organized campaigns of teaching began in 1937. I have taken Fitgerald’s analysis and his critics and set the Baha’i community in that society.

‘The Great Gatsby’ is set in North America in those inter-war years; the Baha’i community had to deal with the social realities of those years in their attempt to respond to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s teaching call. The Baha’is had found a way out of the inescapably frustrated enchantment that characterized the western tradition but the process, it would seem, was for them a slow, arduous and difficult one as Loni Bramson-Lerche describes.(2) -Ron Price with thanks to (1) F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925; and (2) Loni Bramson-Lerche, “Some Aspects of the Development of the Baha’i Administrative Order in America, 1922-1936,” Studies in Babi and Baha’i History, Vol.1, Kalimat Press, 1982, pp.255-300.

They had found a colossal vitality,
a dazzling golden thing, an ideal
in a land of the first mass promise,(1)
the new promise.......His promise.

An unshakeable process of quest
had been set-in-motion by beauty,
entranced by beauty, by a Blessed
Beauty so few knew.....set as they
were, the many, in drudgery, in a
crippling, cynical, sensibility, very
affective impoverishment, in new
technology’s sensory gratifications,
driven by heightened sensitivity to
the promises and practices of life.

It was, among other things,
a pleasure-seeking world,
of advanced magical affluence
and destitution in a land of glamour.

None of it delivered the goods,
abandoned by God, it seemed,
or did that world abandon Him?

The moment was dreaded,
aspirations, a hunger for
the scenery of leisured opulence
and everywhere restlessness,
the hell of frenetic passivity,
and purposelessness or little
and lesser purposes to fill in
the day, & the life to be lived.

(1) This was the first large mass market, mass consumption, society from 1919 to 1929.

Ron Price
8 January 2001

Ron Price
04-07-2013, 12:51 AM
Roger White(1929-1993) was a Canadian poet who first took my fancy back in the 1980s. Some called him the first unofficial poet-laureate of the international Baha'i community. White gave me my first poetic journey into my life and the life of the Baha'i community I was part of. He wrote, in the main, from the perspective of the third and forth epochs of Abdul-Baha's Divine Plan. His eyes, his words, were the first to look at our age and connect me to what was going on by means of poetry. Others had looked at my age: historians, philosophers, literary scholars, inter alter.

White looked at the Baha'i community, it seemed to me in some ways for the first time, and made that magical, mysterious and profound connection with the ethos of my time and my experience. Few have done it even now, even to this day, at least for me. Poetry is very personal. Many do not understand White and many have never heard of him. Not everyone is into poetry or gardening, or cooking or cleaning. To each their own in life and in reading.

Perhaps, now, we must make our connections, literary and other, for ourselves. We each must forge our own connections with the sources of our commitment as well as all other things in our life which have some importance to us.-Ron Price with thanks to F. Scott Fitzgerald quoted in Coming to Grips with Huckleberry Finn: Essays on a Book, a Boy and a Man, Tom Quirk, University of Missouri Press, London, 1993, p.113.

One bright explosive moment in our
literature, our history, our imagination.

You helped me find myself, although not
everyone found you to taste. You brought
new life, new wind, just as we were getting
out of obscurity; there was something infinite
in your words, for you were a wordsmith, yes.

You stood in our shoes and took us back to theirs,
past the great weight of words we’d collected in &
around our ears and those martyrs who had ceased,
just about, to move us. You made poetry live for me.

Life was never the same, quite the same again,
neither was my religion which was quite reborn.
So much happens in your words, a world is born.

Ron Price
10/1/'98 to 7/4/'13

Ron Price
05-21-2013, 11:24 PM
This thread was begun in the first week of April 2013, two months before the opening in Australia of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. The film is is packing enough box office muscle to knock even Iron Man from the No 1 spot. Luhrmann got off the plane in Australia, on Monday this week 20/5/'13, flying from Cannes to be greeted by the news that his $180 million adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's literary classic was at the top of the international box office. This was 10 days before its Australian release next Thursday, May 30.

With this film in the air, then, I thought I’d post two or three more items to the several I have already written above. All the items on this thread offer readers a highly personal perspective. I’ve written these pieces about this famous novel and novelist over the last few years. The context for my remarks are some social-historical, some sociological and psychological settings.. As a student and teacher of literature from 1953 to 2013, I feel as if I have just made a beginning to my understanding of literature, and a hundred other fields.-Ron Price, Tasmania.

Knowledge, while initially analytic and divisive, in its higher manifestations can be unifying and integrative. Constant and eager observation, which brings in the sweetnesses of perception in their intensity and diversity, unites with the vital forces of intellect and wisdom. It can produce a purity and energy, partly due to a rich and fertile mystery that struggles against the spiritual attrition of daily experience. -Ron Price with thanks to Robert Milder, Reimagining Thoreau, Cambridge UP, NY, pp.109-117.

So we saunter toward the Holy Land1
as we have for many a long year, but
our vision is less clouded now that the
mountain is brought near to our eyes.

For some, their pace has quickened;
sauntering has been replaced by run.
Soon you’ll watch their paces quicken,
to the world’s holiest place-2nd to none.
Ron Price
15/6/’96 to 22/5/’13.

1 The last line of H.D. Thoreau’s Walking and the final line of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

They had found a colossal vitality,
a dazzling golden thing, an ideal
in a land of the first mass promise,1
the new promise, and His promise.

An unshakeable process of quest
had been set-in-motion by beauty,
entranced by beauty, by a Blessed
Beauty so few knew, yet, set as they
were, the many, in drudgery, in the
crippling, cynical, sensibility, of an
affective impoverishment, in a new
technology’s sensory gratifications,
driven by heightened sensitivity to
the praises and promises of our life.

It was, among other things,
a pleasure-seeking world,
of advanced magical affluence
& destitution in lands of glamour.

None of it delivered the goods,
abandoned by God, it seemed,
or did that world abandon Him?

The moment was dreaded,
aspirations, a hunger, for the
scenery of leisured opulence
and everywhere restlessness,
the hell of frenetic passivity,
and a vast purposelessness.

1 This was the first large mass market, mass consumption, society from 1919 to 1929.

Ron Price
8/1/’01 to 22/5/’13.

Ron Price
05-21-2013, 11:26 PM

Treasures lie beneath God’s throne and poets have the key: so says an Islamic tradition. During the two decades, 1993 to 2013, during which I have written poetry extensively, I have come to see part of my role as helping other poets travel in company. Poets who are my contemporaries and poets yet-to-come do not need to travel in isolation. My work can help them, such is my hope, define where they are going and where they have been. My thoughts can help other poets regenerate, refresh their perspectives; it can help them infuse creativity into their voice and their lives. It can help them see that a mighty effort is required in order to acquire an abundant share of the poetic art.

To put this another way: the poet must strive night and day, resting not for a moment,1 as ‘Abdu’l-Baha puts it; or, as the sculpture August Rodin wrote: toujours travailler.2 -Ron Price with thanks to ‘Abdu’l-Baha in The Creative Circle, editor, Michael Fitzgerald, Kalimat Press, 1989, p.182; and Rodin “Always Work,” in Letters To a Young Poet, R.M. Rilke, WW Norton, NY, 1962, (1934), p.95.

Letting divine impulses flow
into our beings is surely at
the heart of the poetic game.
These heavenly suseptibilities
are a magnet attracting the
Kingdom’s confirmations,
opening doors of meaning’s
healing waters, unbeknownst.

Unbeknownst, too, are those
intermediaries, like rivers, who
bring the leaven which leaveneth
within the powers of reflection,
industry, work, study and prayer
on the longest road of life: art.

Ron Price
15/3/’05 to 22/5/’13.

Ron Price
05-21-2013, 11:27 PM

This poem tries to take an overview of my mother's life. She was 16 in 1920 and lived in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Gertrude Stein said my mother was part of a lost generation. Fitzgerald said that generation was bright and with infinite belief. Ernest Hemmingway dramatized the disappearance of this belief in The Sun Also Rises in 1926.-Ron Price with thanks to Henry Idema III, Freud, Religion and the Roaring Twenties, Rowman and Littlefield Pub., 1990, p.135.

You were part of what they called
the lost generation, after that WWI,
when the spiritual dynamic seemed
to fall out of the whole thing, some
spiritual debacle where the roots of
faith were finally severed, and some
kind of secular tree grew out of the
depression and more war with the
necessity for something to fill the
all-pervasive spaces and the holes
of existence decade after decade.

Things got awfully complex too,
for you, as the years went on, &
a hundred options on a hundred
trees tried to interpret what was
really happening as the tempest
blew and blew across the face of
the earth, in your towns and on
your days before I was even born.

Ron Price
15/1/’03 to 22/5/’13.