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poet, writer, playwright, teacher, Canada
SMOKE AND FIRE
(For the birth of Bahá'u'lláh)
And what a dream it was!
A heap of soaking
wet wood -
old broken sticks,
smouldering and smoking,
and, more like shadows in that heavy haze,
on clouds of bitter smoke that stung
I heard their coughing and their broken
and saw how wretchedly they hung
around that pile,
for it was snowing now, and wrung
their hands to feel some feeble heat
in desperation or despair -
Some lucky ones held shawls
or rags they'd found
over their mouths, heads down, to breathe,
hugging the ground,
close to the bottom of that pile,
lying, as if in worship,
and some blew,
their very hearts out on those sticks
to rouse a flame,
while others turned
like steaks upon a spit
before that smoking hill of ruins,
their faces first,
and then their backs to it -
In shame I must admit
I smiled to see
this crazy dance of misery...
And in my dream I wept to hear
how infants stangled on each breath,
and cried with pain and fear;
themselves half choked to death
and eyes rubbed raw
with smoke and grief,
push struggling children closer to that heap
of smouldering wood,
believing in their heart of hearts
they did their children good...
I turned, then, to the dark,
slack as a windless sail
'If there's a hell
it's here, where even love is cruel
and best draws out our worst,
and none can tell
our good from ill...'
And would have died there in my dream
Had I not, at that moment seen
among the trees a speck of light -
as if a sail filled suddenly with wind
my heart and mind
burst with desire:
is not the smallest fire
better than whole worlds of smoke?
And like a thoughtless child I broke
and ran into the dark
to find that spark,
and hardly heard the shouts and yells
that called me back...
who knows how
or by what ways? -
sprawled forward in that maze
of trees and darkness till at last I came,
battered and scratched into a clearing,
I saw these people gathered round a Flame,
so clean and pure
that forest birds were singing, sure
the sun had risen
for it seemed a star
had come to earth,
enclosing all in its embrace
of light and warmth
and as I took my place
within that ring of worshippers, I felt
the Flame grow brighter
and my heart at peace...
a wonder happened: an old man
white-bearded with a caftan
put his hand
into the Fire
and grasped a glowing brand
of rose-red flame
and came to me and said,
"For you, who have arisen from the dead
as for these others, a new heart!"
his fiery hand upon, then
- madness though it seems
I swear it true -
right through my breast,
through skin and bone,
muscle and blood it passed
and then, where my old heart had been, he
that rose-red brand of fire in my chest...
No words express
what next I felt or saw, for words
are but the ash of vision,
could see from high above how we
the ring of worshippers had come to be
the petals of a rose around that Flame
from which we grew,
and how the old man had become
a nightingale that sang about a time
when there would be a feast
of moonlight, roses and of wine
sweeter than any crushed from grapes,
would taste the secret of eternity
within ourselves once the divine
elixir touched our lips...
I would have died then, in my dream,
of joy beyond all speech had not the sun
dancing upon my eyes awakened me
and called me to this world where my poor heart must be
a lamp for those who aimlessly
wander through the dark wood of this world,
a nightingale who sings
Excerpts from the poem, Arts Dialogue, March 1999
I was born in 1948 in Germany, the first surviving post-war child of a
Prussian father and a German-Jewish mother (a
Nazi concentration camp survivor) who
were refugees from what is now Poland and Russia. In 1954, we moved to
Canada and, except
for travels abroad, I have lived there ever since. My wonderful Finnish
25 years, Kirsti, and I have not only 'composed' four children (2 boys, 2
girls) but also collaborated on writing songs on Bahá´í themes for adults
and children, music for prayers, as well as a poetry-music CD, Ballerinas
Without Ankles. She is a trained classical pianist and I just have a
head for tunes. We are currently planning a music-drama about
Tahirih. It will be post-modern in style.
To me a post-modern style is based on the collage (See my play,
Homage to Kurt Schwitters, Vancouver, 1991), that is, the bringing
together and juxtaposing and balancing within one frame - or form of
consciousness - highly disparate elements from all times, places, styles,
sources, conditions to help humanity evolve towards truly global
consciousness. Cultures, times, thought-forms etc are all in what I call
the post-modern collide-o-scope (pun on : kaleidoscope). Synchronism
replaces anachronism; simultaneity replaces traditional locality; multiple
viewpoints - though to me this does not mean there is no Truth but only
that the same Truth can be known in many ways -the logic of analogies and
its inherent principles of convergence will reveal at least the outlines
of this Truth; the energies of balance and juxtaposition allow things to
maintain their identity while fusing into a new whole. Also the art
of evocative gestures - which is how I see Joseph Beuys' work.
Like a football game, my life can be divided into two parts: first
half and second half and this is no accident. I knew very early on that I
wanted to be a writer (age 10) and then consciously decided I would be
different from other writers: until I was 25 or 30, I would concentrate on
gathering experiences and adventures, and meet as many kinds of people as I
could, the good, bad and ugly.
This decision wasn't as hard as it sounds: my father (God bless him)
was absent anyway, working too hard to get us established in Canada
and my mother, (God bless her) was not in her right mind much of the time,
and had, as such mothers sometimes do, a hostile fixation on one of her
children: me, the "designated trash-can" as it is sometimes called. By the
time I was six, I consciously knew I was on my own and that, "no one here
was for me". What saved me was religion. I sang "Jesus loves me" (sure as
hell nobody else did) with the passion of a shipwrecked sailor clinging to
a piece of floating debris. I largely raised myself.
I have met an extreme range of people and discovered that
everybody has a story. The good, the bad and the ugly are available if
you really want to find them, and I did. Some of them on the streets,
others in my work as a hospital orderly in Germany and in Canada.
You see a lot in those places, and I have hitch-hiked around in Europe, Canada
and the US. I met my wife on a blind-date in graduate school (where
I studied literature and and later was a
research assistant to the Center for Advanced Studies in Theoretical
Psychology founded by Ludwig van Bertalanffy, the founder of General
Systems Theory). My wife and I gypsied across Canada from coast to coast
before we finally decided to start having kids and settle down until they grew
Since age 30, I have increasingly focussed on writing and perfecting my
craft as best I can. My file drawers are literally packed with all kinds
of work:plays, a novel in 'post-modern' style (Perseus - New! and
improved!) poems of all kinds ranging from haiku to 70 page long poems and
even an opera libretto. (on Aknaton - 'thanks' Philip Glass!) However,
until recently publication was not my main interest - though I always
published a few things each year to build up a resume. I was finally
galvanzied into serious action by turning 47! I realized I'd better get some
of this stuff out lest it all be burned after I pass on to the Abha Kingdom.
(By the way, I know the Abha Kingdom exists, having been at its gates,
that is, clinically dead. I drowned at 14 and was revived after an
undetermined time under water, possibly as long as 10 minutes. It was a
beautiful visual, audial and spiritual experience. Finally, I confess to
having spontaneous 'mystical' experiences of incredible beauty and power
in which the everything reveals itself as musical form and green fire and
the earth itself rings like a gorgeous crystal. There are no words ... no,
I am not insane ... and know the difference between hallucinations of a
psychological nature and these experiences...)
I am primarily a poet and playwright. Over the years, five of my plays
have been produced in various cities and towns in British Columbia (including
Vancouver) in addition to one short film, A Poet of the Wilderness (1997)
shown on national cable TV in Canada.
Three volumes of my poetry have also
been published: The Green Butterfly, 1973 and For the Lord of the Crimson
Ark, 1996 and a poetry with music CD Ballerinas Without Ankles, 1995.
A fourth book of poems, Elegies, and a short play/dramatic monologue,
July 9 will be published later this year. My father, Dr. Frank Kluge, a former
university professor of German literature, has translated For the Lord
of the Crimson Ark into German.
Over the years, individual poems have appeared in various Canadian and
American magazines and anthologies (Bahá´í and non-Bahá´í) including
World Order, Orison and Crystallizations. Web-sites showcasing my poetry and other works can be found at
Based on some of my experiences, I have also written short stories,
some of which will be published in an anthology of northern Canadian story
writers to be published later in 1998.
I also write journalism, having, at various times had regular columns of
social commentary in northern B.C. newspapers; in addition, I write a
monthly article on medical-ethics issues for the Pro-Life News (a national
magazine) and occasional articles for Herald of the South in Australia.
Finally, I write literary studies, especially on the poetry of
Conrad Aiken to whom I have dedicated a web-site at
By June of 1998, I
will have finished a book on one of Aiken's major long poems, Preludes for
Memnon. If all this sounds like a lot, it's because I eat, breathe and
sleep writing. I write every day for several hours and feel happiest at
the keyboard of my computer. Fortunately, I am a very fast reader, have a good
memory and the constitution of a work horse! Bahá´í Feasts and functions
such as LSA service are now the extent of my social life except for the
gym. I am a 'gym rat'; working out gives me energy.
For the last 20 years, I have taught senior high school English and
Comparative Civilizations in addition to creative writing, drama, and
history. I have a doctorate in English literature with minors in
psychology and philosophy.
What attracted me to the Bahá´í Faith was its evolutionary and
dialectical outlook, which, in my opinion, Bahá´ís and non-Bahá´ís alike are only
beginning to understand, especially when it relates to practical issues
like human nature, politics, economics, psychology and psycho-pathology,
gender and gender relations. Before I was a Bahá´í, I was a member of the
Teilhard de Chardin Association in England, but Bahá'u'lláh (naturally!!)
surpasses Chardin's understanding of these issues. (I have written the
first draft of a book on Teilhard and the Bahá´í Faith.)
I believe that the arts have a special role in the evolution of
consciousness and that artists provide, a sort of secondary revelation.
The role of the arts is to expand the scope of consciousness by activating
the imagination so that through vicarious experience we come to understand
more of life than we can directly experience. We are, after all, finite
beings. Through imagination the arts train, strengthen and expand the
powers of sympathy and empathy, and 'spiritual' sight. They help us
beyond the narrow confines of our bodies and lives, to feel, see, think
'be' beyond ourselves. The soul, as the Bahá´í writings teach, is in
perpetual evolution, in change, that is, both in be-ing and nothingness at
the same time. I believe that like all creation - the realm of dualities
since only God
is truly one - we are a host of contradictions that perpetually seek
greater and greater syntheses (a la Hegel/Schlegel). The final synthesis,
unity, is unattainable since we are not God, but the Beauty and pleasure
life/growth is the struggle itself. In this level of creation, the primary
duality is body and soul; humanity is the body/soul dialectic in action.
Parts one and two of his profile in Arts Dialogue, March and September 1998.
(for the Ascension of 'Abu'l - Bahá)
And having played
the last notes soft and sweetly, He,
The Master Flautist, laid
the flute down and departed.
sat unwilling to believe
the music ended and the melody
lived nowhere now
but in our memory...
For we all hoped by waiting to persuade
The Master Flautist to return and play
Another piece or two
before He went His way.
And sitting, I was suddenly aware
of something stir
within me, like a child
that shyly tugs a sleeve
and, as the first few made their moves to leave,
like rain upon my withering heart it spoke,
"Why do you mourn?
The music merely changes form.
It is not done
and cannot disappear,
Dispersed throughout the air
its melodies and rhythms now have joined
and changed forever more the very wind
that blows by here.
These soft-small-seeming tunes shall penetrate
each fraction of the atmosphere,
atom by atom changing how they dance
not by crude force
each one entranced
Excerpts from the eight verse poem
The artist is also an alchemist of sorts, transforming/transposing (a
musical alchemist!) various aspects of human existence into different keys
and notation systems that correspond to the different arts. Someday a new
Mendeleev will discover the 'periodic table' of the arts and will perhaps
even find the key to connecting it to the periodic table of elements...
There are all sorts of hidden correspondences and elective affinities to
discovered, as the alchemical references in the Bahá´í Writings make
clear. See Bahá'u'lláh about transforming the satanic into the heavenly...
"the still greater task of converting satanic strength into heavenly power
is one we have been empowered to accomplish"
the knives of the world
must learn how to strike at the world
as leaves in the spring
lunge for the sun
- do you have them? -
even when they're carressing
must turn into fragrant green leaves
refreshing the wind and the dust
and the knives of all hearts
honed with whetstones of anger
slicing up worlds
slashing the beauty of stars,
and the yellow of daffodils -
let them become like leaves...
and the knives of our tongues
Excerpt of the poem from For the Lord of the Crimson Ark, 1995.
for the world
in your essential
to yourself -
tell no lies
are badges of
shrouded in leaves
you can live
but not fully
one of the holy arts,
you can live without it
as you can live without love -
the question is how?
Excerpt of the poem from For the Lord of the Crimson Ark, 1995.
CONSUMERS OF THE SUN
(For my mother, Annaberta Kluge)
we are consumers of the sun:
in every meal
portions of sunlight blaze,
and sleeping light
is earth we walk upon
that greenly flares to blossom in the trees
the benefaction of a generous star
bestowed on empty space,
sunlight is all we touch, and are
who live enfolded in a stellar grace
sunlight in our bones,
and crimson sunlight
surging through our veins,
and sunlight, blazing out of stones,
and storms of sunlight in the summer rains,
in autumn, wings of sunlight sweeping south,
in springtime, north again
Excerpt of the poem from For the Lord of the Crimson Ark, 1995.
Beauty is the criteria for all art (see my poetic essay/long poem
"Beauty: A Post-Modern Aesthetic"). The degree of Beauty is measurable by
the degree of unification of diversities, although we must be aware that
there are many ways of achieving unification. I believe the collage is the
quintessential artwork of this age, (see my play "Homage to Kurt
since the world is becoming a collage. Postmodernism is the natural style
age, which does not, of course, mean that every work must directly and
obviously manifest what currently passes as postmodernism. Beauty, Truth
Goodness are indeed one - and real - as "Beauty: A Post-Modern Aesthetic"
demonstrates. After all, not everything that exists is real; for example,
evil exists in the manner of a shadow but has no final reality.
I view the arts as 'sciences of reality' exploring dimensions of
reality that cannot be explored by materialist and/or mathematical
methods.I fully support these methods - but they do not exhaust Reality.
Just as we have different sciences to explore different aspects of the
material world, we have and need various arts to explore other aspects of
Reality. The artist is really a scientist who uses his/her own
body, consciousness as the instrument of research. An artistic work is
like a formula, encoding the truth about a particular aspect of Reality.
This is my interpretation of the unity of science and religion and science
and the arts.
Even before I was a Bahá´í I was a neoplatonist and it was apparent to me
from the very beginning that neoplatonism is the philosophical substrate
upon which the Teachings of Baha'u'llah rest. Baha'u'llah was not, of
course, a mere philosopher, but His Teachings suggest that the
worldview (in a general sense) is correct. Neoplatonism must of course be
up-dated to include evolution, but this is merely a matter of developing
certain aspects of this philosophy, of 'activating' the Ideas and/or
realizing them as vibrations...One day I hope to write a book about this
aspect of the Bahá´í Faith.
Excerpts of parts three and four of his profile in Arts Dialogue,
December 1998 and March 1999.
Contact Ian about his books or CD of poetry and music at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Lord of the Crimson Ark (Can$16.95); Ballerinas Without
Ankles (Can.$12.95) and July 9 (later in 1998) are available from
White Mountain Publications, Box 5180, New Liskeard, Ontario,
Canada, P0J 1P0
Fax: 705-647-8366. E-mail:
- Letter: Arts Dialogue, October 2001
- Artist Profile: Part four, Arts Dialogue, March 1999
- Artist Profile: Part three, Arts Dialogue, December 1998
- Artist Profile: Arts Dialogue, part two, September 1998
- Artist Profile: Arts Dialogue, part one, March 1998
- Poem: Martyr Sonnets (1) Arts Dialogue, December 1997
Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands