I have tried writing stories, short stories and novels, novellas, narratives of different kinds. But I don’t seem to be any good at it; I don’t seem to have the knack. Even my narrative autobiography is more history, sociology, psychology and general forms of analysis than it is a storyline of my life. There may be a potential there in my literary psyche for future storytelling. I grew up in a literary house, heard stories especially from my mother; my grandfather wrote an autobiography. I was a teacher for over 30 years and was always telling stories or reading them. The Baha’i community and its literature is chocker-block full of stories and they have been part of my life for over half a century. The media thrive on the story and drama, fiction and non-fiction ad nauseam. My place of habitation, my home, has nearly always had its silence, its music and its literary life. But writing stories myself has never seemed quite natural for some reason. It always seemed slightly artificial.
The American poet Jane Hirshfield says that "poetry of all the art forms is the most intimate vehicle for the expression of the condition of your soul, of your deepest self at any given moment."1 This is certainly the case for me; it has become the case for me, but it grew on me insensibly through my adolescence and young adult life taking off like a comet in my late forties and early fifties. It’s still with me at the age of 63. Writing poetry has had nothing to do with thinking about a career or how I would spend my life. It had much more to do with how could I find a place of exploratory and literary investigation, how I could achieve measures of tranquillity and safety for my mind and emotions, how I could find pathways into my inner life where I could translate that complex inner language into form and, in the process, express who I was, what I felt about the world and deal with the narrative aspects of life in a more intimate, a more personal, way than storytelling had always seemed to me.
That is what poems do for me; it’s different work than telling a story. Poetry is a path of discovery with emotion, thought and conception coming together in some coherence of understanding, some moment of consciousness, awareness, some dynamic synchronization. My storytelling propensities come out in my narrative poetry, my interviews, my essays and my memoirs, literary forms which themselves provide narrative micro-cultures. When I write poems, I feel myself able to enter my own experience, know it, taste it, feel it and work with it. To write a poem about my experience is to turn that experience into workable clay instead of a block of obdurate stone that exists as if set in a geologically fossilised form that I can only label, classify and put in its appropriate box for future examination. -Ron Price with thanks to Dan Webster, "Jane Hirshfield," Spokesman Review, 13 November 2007.
I never know what I’m going to write
when I start a poem....almost never.
I simply feel some words, an image,
a thought and I listen, think, wait and
a voice within me begins to speak. It’s
only by following that voice that the
poem then unfolds. Something that is
interesting starts to happen. I have to
find what it is, what is going to be a
type of revelation. Poems tell me
something that I didn’t know before
I started to write them. If I haven’t
learned something while I’m writing a poem,
then how can it bring news to anybody else?
Something undiscovered wants to come out
like a little shy creature from a dark woods.
14 November 2007:yes: