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Baha'i Poets
05-10-2010, 11:57 PM
Post: #1
Baha'i Poets

The most undeservedly unsung poet in all of English-Canadian literature is Frederick Ward.1 Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1937, he is African-American in heritage and an expert partisan of many arts. Ward studied art at the University of Kansas and music at the University of Missouri. He learned jazz piano under the tutelage of Oscar Peterson. After slinging words as a Hollywood songwriter, Ward moved to New Mexico where he published his first book, a collection of poems in 1964. In 1966 in Detroit an edited anthology of nine Baha’i poets appeared. This anthology included his own work and the work of his great influence and inspiration, the masterful African-American, Afro-modernist poet: Robert Hayden(1913-80). -Ron Price with thanks to George Elliott Clarke: (a) “Frederick Ward’s blistering blues – Excerpt,” in Arc Poetry Magazine, 7 August 2009 and (b) The Anne Szumigalski Memorial Lecture in Prairie Fire, Vol 29 No 4, winter 2005/6.

I never heard of you, Frederick,
starting life, as you did, right at
the start of that great Plan in ’37.
Elliott says critics do not know
how to read your polyventiality:
your multiple tones and multiple
rhythms, multiple perspectives,
multiple meanings, multiplicity.

You use improvisation, linguistic
heterogeneity, redescribing and
cultivating human & emotional
complexity, dignity, humanistic,
musical poetic and non-standard
rhythm, openness....unintelligible
speech--called scat--& metaphors
borrowed from ceremonies—and
this making you one of those jazz
poets, attempting to mimic and to
orchestrate—words all those very
discordant stimulating conjunctions
and that rhythmic jazz drive offering.

Your anthology Nine Baha’i Poets,
appeared in 1966 just as I was on
my way to the Canadian Arctic and
this edited anthology included your
own verse and that of splendid poet
Robert Hayden whose work with a
gorgeous imagery, ecstatic and its
symphonic lyricism and a homage
to black culture. In ’68 you landed
in Detroit after watching that city in
the summer of ’67 burn and by then
I was on Baffin Island--I never knew
you, Frederick, especially with Inuit
life, bipolar disorder, my Antipodean
travels, wall-to-wall classrooms and a
Bahá'í community life which kept my
nose to the proverbial grindstone.......
Frederick: coming out of obscurity?

Ron Price
4 September 2009

Married for 42 years, a teacher for 35 and a Baha'i for 50Cool
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