Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia
Hello From Tasmania Australia(Part 2)
Here is Part 2 of that simulated interview.-Ron Price, "Hello From Tasmania Australia(Part 2)"
Good to be back among the gang. Looking forward to the reactions to this interview from the gallery of folks that I have not interacted with for many months now.-Ron
I: Did you grow up writing or reading a lot of anything in particular?
P: There’s no way I could be considered a child prodigy or anything like that, but I grew up being aware of language and surrounded by books. This was largely my mother’s influence and her father’s influence to a lesser extent. My father and grandfather exercised their influences in different ways with respect to language. I was exposed to the play with words, although I was not particularly fascinated by words as some writers are. My mother played with the sound of words and I could not help being exposed to this playfulness, to the way it felt to say certain words. I kind of had a physical understanding of language and that’s one of the strange benefits of coming from the home I did at the time in history that I did, after WW11. But that is a separate story.
Within the larger Canadian context it was largely an oral culture and certainly various branches of my family had that focus on oral literature. So I grew up hearing stories and being read stories. But the stories I heard were all the more interesting because they involved family members and ancestors, familiar things as well as the more strange and exotic. And I think I felt part of those stories. They insinuated themselves into my psyche. Language, I think, is just naturally musical and naturally figurative. Even the most humble uneducated people will use language in amazingly expressive ways. My father was an example of this. He had a powerful way with words. Metaphor and simile find their way into everyday talk and they find their way unconsciously. Because so much of my life was an oral culture, especially with TV and radio, with record players, in both the family and at school, I found means to compensate for my own quietness in this world of oral reality.
Everyday speech is expressive and is capable of communicating lots of things at once, in a way that literature is. And so I feel that in my family and through jobs I had growing up, through meeting all kinds of local characters and just being sort of afloat in all of this kind of stuff, I absorbed a lot of it, unknowingly. I think this was one reason that the quiet child and adolescent that I was became a talker, a verbal person unobtrusively, insensibly.
I: How do you think of your poetic projects as related to this oral tradition in which you grew up? To put this question a little differently, how would you characterize the relation between the kinds of diction, imagery and syntax that show up in your work, and the aspects of spoken language you noticed as a child?
P: I think I’m always aware of everyday language as being a starting point, a grounding point, in my writing. It’s a major thread in the language that’s in my head all the time. I certainly want my work to honour, to be based in, that kind of language. But I don’t want this quotidian speech of everyman to limit my work. And so I like to think that I’m taking the energy, the potential, of that language and extending it, spreading it widely in a richer, a more sophisticated, context.
I: So, back to the question of influence. What other voices are in your head all the time?
P: That’s a challenging question for me to answer. The first category of voices are those from my early life. Growing up beside Lake Ontario in the particular home that I did provided me with a literature available in this language of everyman mainly through the newspaper and some books, but I don’t recall ever being strongly attracted to these forms of print. My mother had educated and somewhat populist reading tastes in literature, poetry, philosophy and religion. I think that my current reading interests derive from certain thematic or stylistic similarities to my local language and in the more serious idioms of my mother’s reading. Some of the poets whose work I go back to now are the folks my mother read, although not entirely. When I was growing up music and poetry were in the background even though I paid it little heed. So, these sounds and these words, I’d place in category one. There are two or three other categories of voices, though, I could discuss here but enough is enough.
I: Just to go back to that Daniel Boone narrative for a question or two: a great deal was happening around Boone in the last decades of the 18th century, in other parts of the USA and throughout the world about which he had absolutely no awareness. What parallel do you see for you and your life in the 20th and 21st centuries?
P: There is no question that at all times a great deal goes on which the writer, indeed, anyone can’t possibly be aware of. This is the parallel with Daniel Boone. But in our world, we get a daily diet of images and information which we may not understand and simply can’t digest, but at least we have a general idea of what’s happening. The comparisons and contrasts are many and I could say much more, but this will suffice.
I: You see yourself as a pioneer; your autobiography is called Pioneering Over Four Epochs. Could you say one or two more things about the example of Daniel Boone as pioneer?
P: I remember watching Daniel Boone on TV occasionally in the 1960s. I did not have a TV then, but from time to time I’d watch Fess Parker at someone’s house. I did not know at the time that the real Boone did not wear a coonskin hat. I had little idea of the historical context of the eighteenth century Daniel Boone. Even now, I find the comparison and contrast surprises me. Without going into a detailed analysis here, I think that only the future will place the reality of my experience as a pioneer in a true light. My generation and myself as a pioneer—we are all too close to the experience to really understand its significance.
In the 1770s Daniel Boone was trailblazing, fighting Indians and hunting. In the 1780s he was a member of the state legislature of West Virginia. He did a lot of roaring and fighting. There is no question that my work as a Baha’i has been as a trailblazer. The analogy is only partial, but it’s fun to play with the idea, with the language.
I: Tell us about your reading, your academic, background.
P: My university years, 1963-1967, wetted my appetite but, as I look back, I never really got a bite of the reading habit even there. I had to fight the first episodes of my bi-polar disorder or mild schizo-affective state as a psychiatrist called it then. Libidinal urges also unhinged me somewhat, depression and the Baha’i Faith stirred my emotions in different directions. By my fourth year at university I had acquired serious plans to live among the Inuit and this made settling into print difficult. I barely got through by academic studies, a couple of Bs and two Cs in the four years.
I: So when did reading really kick in?
P: Like many things in life the story has many permutations and combinations, many nuances, much that is sensible and much that is insensible in delineating the story. Coming to Australia in the early 1970s at the age of 27, teaching high school and then in 3 universities, two colleges of advanced education and five Tafe colleges until I retired in 1999-this was a seminal factor, a critical influence. By the 1980s I was reading, skimming and scanning 5 to 20 books a week. When I retired at the age of 55, about all I wanted to do was read and write and did so for 8 hours a day on average. My reading tastes until the late 1980s were largely in the social sciences. In the 1990s and into the new millennium I became interested in the humanities, not fiction, but poetry, writing and the study of literature. I could put a microscope to this brief statement and say much more but this sketch will suffice.
I: And how did the Baha’i reading become part of this picture?
P: As I see it now, looking back to my first exposure in this new world religion in 1953, there were several developmental stages: 1953 to 1962, what I now call my pre-pioneering days when my first participation in the Baha’i community took place, when prayer and a slowly developing reading interest were acquired; 1962 to 1971, homefront pioneering which consolidated much of my knowledge and interest; 1971 to 1999, overseas pioneering, professional teaching, teaching the Baha’i Faith, working within and without the Baha’i community; and stage four 1999 to the present which I have devoted to serious writing and reading.
I: You once told me that you had a colleague in Ballarat at the CAE, now a university, who said he had withdrawn from the Baha’i Faith because it was “too poetic.” Is that true?
P: Yes! I never got to know the man personally. He said this to me over the phone when I was inviting him to some Baha’i activity back about 1978. No one else ever said this to me. But I have no doubt that this religion I have been associated with for more than half a century is poetic. I have developed an interest in poetry, I’m sure, partly because of this fact. The great historian Jacob Burkhardt once said, in his study of the Renaissance in Italy, that “the state can be a work of art.” Man’s creativity can come out in his institutions, in the community he creates and in his own role in the process. Of course, for others, the Baha’i Faith has a language with too many ‘Thees” and Thous;” for still others it is too theistic, its language is too wordy; they can’t connect with it. I have heard so many reasons for this season of discontent that has made teaching this Faith difficult—a very slow process.
Ron Price is a retired teacher, aged 65. He taught for 35 years in primary, secondary and post-secondary schools. He lives with his wife, Chris, in Tasmania. Their 3 children are now aged: 42, 38 and 32. Ron moved to Australia from Canada in 1971. He has written three books since 1999. They are all available on the internet for free. Ron has been a member of the Baha’i Faith since 1959 and now lives in Australia’s oldest town, George Town Tasmania founded in 1804.