OH SO GENTLY
Among other reasons, I think I write both to “show others” and “to amuse myself.” If I do become famous it will not be because of any poem or bit of prose I write or so it seems to me in these early years of the evening of my life. This was true of many a poet and writer; their fame rested on other things. Such is the opening comment of one, Sam Leith, in his analysis of famous American poet Robert Lowell.1 Leith writes that it was Lowell’s sense of vocation, his “absolute, lifelong, obsessive determination with which he set about being a poet” that made him famous.
I, too, have a certain obsessive determination, a determination seen only by my wife and son, but it is not so much to be a poet, not to abundantly document my life and times, nor to fictionalize it in an exciting narrative for public consumption—for I am not sure how good I am at actualizing any of these aims. I must confess, though, to much effort in these directions, but I think my obsession has other more primal, primary, even primitive roots. I should add that I am not concerned about avoiding the wreckage that is often the result of pursuing the varied arts of leisure or employment for I think I have already created what wreckage I am going to and my present and creative obsession is carefully guarded by circumstance and, I like to think, destiny. This may be too romantic a notion, though, and so I say—and it is true—that I write because I like to, it gives me pleasure and I’m not very good at much else for any length of time in these early years of late adulthood. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Sam Leith, “Mad, Good and Dangerous To Know,” The Spectator, 9 July 2005.
My generation has had its pathologies,
still has, Robert: secret agonies, aberrant
behaviour, like your middle generation
as some people called you: Berryman,
Jarrell, Schwartz and yourself, Robert,
bound together by mental illness’s dog.
Intensifying isolation, introspection,
control through art, Eliot’s influence,
but all breaking away toward expression---
not an escape---from personality, setting
the stage for my poetry which came as
you were all leaving this mortal coil.
I found a new kind of voice, a new
complexity, that’s how I see it, Robert.
We all need someone to take us under
their wing as Tate did you, Robert and
as White did me, oh so gently, so gently,
I hardly felt the wing or even knew;
so far the most enduring friendship
of my life in that curious domain of
poetry which has dominated my years
since his passing in that auspicious,
mysterious and inexplicable juncture
in my life when wheels turned and I
neither heard nor saw them at a crucial
time of leaps, thrusts and strange and
superlative realities in that most isolated
city on the planet with its intense heat.2
1 The poetry critic Allen Tate took Robert Lowell under his wing as Roger White did me—or so I like to think. White died in April 1993 in the last weeks of the Holy Year: May 1992-May 1993.
2 Perth, Western Australia.
25 April 2007