No announcement yet.

Biographies and Autobiographies

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Biographies and Autobiographies

    My autobiography is based on what is often called the narrative construction of reality. There is in life, in adulthood, a rich domain for development and learning, a domain which recognizes the utility of narrative. This work, this story of a life, is an experiment with autobiographical form. It seems to me that in this work I forge a unique non-fiction work which is many things at once: memoir, prose-poetry, perhaps even song or rhapsody. I don't know, but I hope it both sings and informs. One of my aims in writing this extended piece of narrative and analysis is to find the most effective way to give this narrative theoretical and practical interest for readers. Autobiographies are not, it seems to me, inherently problematic, but they become so when tension results, as Graham Hassall notes, "from differences between a writer's intentions and readers' expectations." Over a twenty-five year period now I have written six editions of this work. Each edition explores the field of human development and the uses of narrative. I would like this work to be as private, intimate and casual as my poetry, not structured, not having an agenda. That's why I have not planned this work. I hope that my endless analysing of my life, my society and my religion is not too off-putting. I must admit, though, that analysis and interpretation, the rehearsing of views and ideas, is part and parcel of my very way of life and it is impossible for me to separate this tendency from this autobiography. Like so many pleasures and talents we enjoy in life, it is not an unalloyed blessing.

    The famous American novelist William Faulkner once said in an interview that when he found his poetry wasn’t very good, he changed his medium. "At 21 I thought my poetry very good and so I continued to write it when 22, but at 23 I quit it," Faulkner continued, "and found my best medium to be fiction. My prose is really poetry." Readers have been puzzled because Faulkner makes the seemingly anachronistic comment of "My prose is really poetry." He made the comment after World War II when nearly all the society was totally prosaic. Like Faulkner, I regard my prose and poetry somewhat interchangeably. The work I do is for me really all a form of poetry. It seems to me to be critically unclassifiable and resistant to being placed under the care of any specific Muse, any genre.

    But if there were to be only one Muse left of all the weary Nine for these four epochs and the four before my time going back to 1844, I would have to choose the Muse of Tragedy. This is the Muse who deals with the most monstrous and appalling that life can offer, when it turns upon us its Medusa-like countenance of frenzy and despair. This frenzy and despair is that terror, that tragedy, which Nietzsche said allows us to gaze into its heart without our being turned to stone by the gaze, the vision, the dark catastrophes of our century that undermine creativity at its very roots. In an age when the spirit of affirmation has almost been burned out of us, more than ever we need what Nietzsche also called tragedy; namely, that ability which is the highest art and that is the inner strength to say "yes" to life.

    The mother of the Muses, or of the one daughter still surviving, is Memory. We can not celebrate our existence simply by forgetting the terrors of the recent past, ignoring those of the present or by turning our eyes away from the possibilities of a frightening future. We must confront these terrors and yet celebrate the joys of life in these epochal times. We must search out causes, found our assumptions on the results of our serious search, energize our emotions behind these assumptions and act. This memoir is part of that acting—for me. For it is in these words, this language, that I have tried, during several of these epochs now, these many years of my life, to write poems. I do this in order to speak, to orient myself, to find out where I am, where I was and where I was going, to chart my reality.

    Poetry helped rejuvenate my prose and now I see both as part of an integrated whole. The comment I have quoted from Faulkner I could very well apply to this narrative. Faulkner saw himself as a failed poet and kept on writing poetry. I never experienced any popular success with my poetry, but I found it useful as a form of literary expression and still do. Readers, then, will find a good deal of it in this autobiography. Before I leave these references to Faulkner, though, let me add some of his words about publishers because the experience I had was very similar—and different. "One day," Faulkner said, "it suddenly seemed as if a door had clapped shut silently and forever between me and all publishers' addresses and booklists and I said to myself, ‘Now I can write.’" In the 1990s I had this same experience and literally thousands of poems poured forth. Early in the new millennium the internet opened its doors and I sent forth more ‘published work’ than I could ever have imagined in the fifty years I had by then been writing.

    I sew readers into the seam between two lives: on two continents, in two marriages, in two cosmological worlds, in two stages of development. They are lives which are tangled and in tension rather than in some form of tightrope-walking or some razor-thin-sharp dichotomy. Some of my life is untidy; some of my life results in dead ends; some follows paths to unimaginable or imaginable new worlds. Some of what I write captures, conveys, a clearly discernible script, some of which may have been predestined, the script of fate. The narrative is, inevitably, incomplete, a half-life. There is much that has yet to be written, like a half-finished portrait. It holds a promise and a potential which is always a mystery, at best only partly known. Indeed, it is impossible to say it all and revision is endless.--enough for now.-Ron
    married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, writer and editor for 15, and a Baha'i for 55 (in 2014)