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Cover: "Roger White, 1952"
by George diCarlo
a Canadian born poet, reviewer, and novelist
actively encouraged the arts and in particular poets in the world-wide Bahá´í community, while working at the Bahá´í World Centre in Haifa.
George Ronald has published a number of anthologies of his work.
He was also one of the first members of
BAFA in 1986.
Purple Rose, 1994,
An anthology of contemporary spiritual poetry by Bahá´ís
Edited by Rhonda Palmer and S.K. Dapoz,
80 pages with a dedication to Roger White.
Roger White by Anneke Buys (Schouten), The Netherlands
Roger White was the first BAFA member who joined after its foundation in August 1986. He just sent a cheque after I wrote and told him about it and faithfully renewed his membership, gave permission to use his work, sent articles and told others about BAFA. He never made any remarks about the newsletter just as he hardly ever commented on the poems I sent him. He just wrote he especially liked this or that poem, once or twice gently suggested a change or just thanked me for sending them. I usually write in Dutch, but when trying to translate one of Roger's poems from One Bird, One Cage, One Flight for a review, I wrote a poem in English about my reaction to this. Sending it to Roger needed courage -like sending one's first play to William Shakespeare. But I needn't have been afraid. Roger wrote: "I am so pleased you have begun to think of writing in earnest... You obviously have a gift and I think if you give yourself "permission" to write as your heart dictates it will bring you happiness and a sense of fulfillment..." (May 11 1984)
When Roger asked me to write an article about Rosey Pool, a Dutch Bahá´í who translated and published Afro-American poetry and was a good friend of Robert Hayden's, he unwittingly started a year-long period of research which resulted in an article for The Bahá´í World and a manuscript of her biography. Roger also asked me to read some poems in Dutch, one of which he chose for Volume XVIII. In November I was allowed a seven day visit to Haifa - for spiritual sustenance as well as to interview some of Rosey Pool's friends at the World Centre. I spent a few evenings with Roger and he organised two poetry readings for me at friend's apartments. After the first one he asked: "How good are you at taking advice?"
and then gave some suggestions about reading to an audience.
Explanation of a new procedure
To be adopted
by our family
you don't have to fill in
forms like: "Sir,
do you squint?
Have you got
Is your skin
or both - and if so
in what pattern?"
We simply ask you:
"Would you mind?"
And even if you do,
take you into our hearts.
With this poem I adopted Rober as a brother-in-law and he accepted by sending a copy of The Complete Emily Dickinson in which he wrote: "To celebrate my adoption into the Schouten clan". A most welcome gift which stands next to my collection of Roger's books.
BAFA newsletter, September 1993, page 4
A Letter to Roger White
Seven tenths of our blue planet
lies embraced in the salt queen's arms,
we too, bleed salt, and in our tears
find fragments of her crystal crown.
Not that tears come easily, Roger,
you see how cautiously I talk around
their prickly fact.
It takes a dart, like one of yours, say
to pierce the tree and shield and cleave the man
and let the ocean out.
Then the self, so quick, congeals,
leaving the feeling that someone's
been reading my entrails,
removing the rust from my heart.
Sen McGlinn, from his book of poems, "Feeding Harbour" (1984), page 36.
Remembering Roger White
Sen McGlinn interviewed by
Sonja van Kerkhoff
SvK: How did you first hear of Roger White?
In about 1976 I came across his collections of poems, A Witness of Pebbles, which I found moving without being sentimental, which is quite an achievement. I wrote the poem, "A Letter to Roger White", as response to that. At that time I was living on the Chatham Islands and the only outlet to read my poetry to others was at summer schools in New Zealand.
SvK: Did he ever criticize your work?
Little bundles of my poetry were circulating amongst a few Bahá´ís and one of these sent that particular poem to Roger White living in Haifa. He wrote an encouraging letter, and gave me the address to The Green Door in Belgium and an address of a poetry magazine in New Zealand. He was very active in trying to put poets in touch with each other. After that we continued to correspond sporadically.
No, on a couple of occasions he praised some things that were working well. When my book, Feeding Harbour, came out in 1984 he bought 5 or 6 copies and distributed these. Then he did the same when New Vessels came out in 1987. So he not only put people in contact with each other but also bought and distributed other people's work. When you think he gave this sort of encouragement to many other poets, it's amazing that he had time himself to write at all!
SvK: Did he share much of his own poetry with you?
He sent me some new poetry books when they came out, which was very generous, and I was thankful because during those years I had very little money. He often said that he was busy with writing but if you want to know something of his way of working with the creative process read his poems. He speaks of "poems coming to him in the middle of night, on a very bad line", and he treats the poem not as something he's making but something he is meeting, because he argues with the poem.
SvK: How was your contact in recent years?
He was encouraging towards BAFA, telling other people about its existence, regularly sending in articles, giving us free use of all his poems... the list goes on.
His last piece of encouragement written in February, two months before he died, was, "I am glad to say I am free of pain, so I should be able to devote my remaining strength to becoming the world's grouchiest old man! If I receive an unexpected promotion to another realm, I'll do what I can to insure that divine inspiration flood my friends -especially those foolhardy enough to follow creative urges!"
BAFA newsletter, September 1993, page 6
Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands