Roger White: Applesauce

Perhaps my favourite poem by Roger White, poet laureate of the Baha’i community:

APPLESAUCE

I tire, Eve, of innocence,
Let’s kiss and grow contented.
Suppose we touched, where I protrude
And you’re cunningly indented?

Oh Adam, what a sweet pastime!
I’m glad that I consented.
Tell me, dear, what shall we call
This game that we’ve invented?

With half my heart I’d call it love
And not have it repented;
The other half would name it sin
And urge it be prevented.

Had I not led you to the fruit
Guilt would be circumvented.
My punishment’s to have my crime
Eternally resented.

Spake the snake:

All Adam’s sons are cursed to woo
A maid and gently take her;
But after they’ve made applesauce
They’ll like as not forsake her.
And down the centuries men proclaim:
We’ll take the pleasure, she the blame.
Let posterity lament
That mother Eve gave her assent;
In slithering wisdom I rejoice
That she gave birth to slippery choice.

adam-and-eve-titian
Adam & Eve by Titian (Prado Museum)

Roger White believed committed artists would be a vital force in preventing inflexibility in the Bah??’? community. “They will,” he predicted, addressing a group of Bah??’? youth in Haifa in 1990, “be a source of rejuvenation. They will serve as a bulwark against fundamentalism, stagnation and administrative sterility…To the degree the Bah??’? community views its artists as a gift rather than a problem will it witness the spread of the faith ‘like wildfire’ as promised by Shoghi Effendi, through their talents being harnessed to the dissemination of the spirit of the Cause.” To this end, White encouraged hundreds of budding writers and artists around the world, and called upon Bah??’? communities to assist the artists to find their place.

Obituary

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    The obituary quotes part of Roger White's Bring Chocolate.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    The obituary quotes part of Roger White's Bring Chocolate.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Steve, was Roger White gay? or is this just a rumor?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Steve, was Roger White gay? or is this just a rumor?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    Sorry, I have no idea. Ron Price might know.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    Sorry, I have no idea. Ron Price might know.

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Baquia, why does this matter to you? As gays will sometimes say when asked — 'and who did you sleep with last night?'

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Baquia, why does this matter to you? As gays will sometimes say when asked — 'and who did you sleep with last night?'

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    There were romantic attachments in his life, tests in his various jobs, to say nothing of the inner demons we all face, but it has not been my purpose to describe these relationships in any detail. It would appear that to a large extent he fought his own spiritual battles by himself, as most of us must do for the most part.
    THE SECOND TWENTY-FIVE YEARS: 1954-1979
    In his letter of May 1985 Roger wrote the following in relation to my suggestion to remarry:

    Remarry? I'm not very good at marriage; I failed "taking-out-the-garbage" and "watering-the-lawn". But I'm in the throes of a very pleasant romance right at this very moment and who knows where it will end?

    Roger never did remarry.
    THE LETTERS OF ROGER WHITE

    I'm comfortable with not knowing what Roger's sexual orientation was. it doesn't stop me from getting useful insights from his life and work.

    ka kite
    Steve

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    There were romantic attachments in his life, tests in his various jobs, to say nothing of the inner demons we all face, but it has not been my purpose to describe these relationships in any detail. It would appear that to a large extent he fought his own spiritual battles by himself, as most of us must do for the most part.
    THE SECOND TWENTY-FIVE YEARS: 1954-1979

    In his letter of May 1985 Roger wrote the following in relation to my suggestion to remarry:

    Remarry? I'm not very good at marriage; I failed "taking-out-the-garbage" and "watering-the-lawn". But I'm in the throes of a very pleasant romance right at this very moment and who knows where it will end?

    Roger never did remarry.
    THE LETTERS OF ROGER WHITE

    I'm comfortable with not knowing what Roger's sexual orientation was. it doesn't stop me from getting useful insights from his life and work.

    ka kite
    Steve

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    Ron Price doesn't give much away, which is fair enough – Ron is wanting to focus on the poems, not the poet.:

    "There is also little doubt that [Roger White's] years before arriving in Haifa laid an important foundation for his future literary output. Like T.S. Eliot's first marriage which some critics have seen as a heaven-sent trial that spurred on both his poetry and his faith,[8] which gave him an opportunity to suffer and write poems, White's marriage and divorce during this second twenty-five year period, 1954-1979, helped to provide a fertile base. White also suffered during his years in Canada, in Africa and in the USA, to say nothing of the eight years in Haifa. But whatever his suffering was, it is to his poetry that we must search out his lessons, not to his biography.

    cont'd…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    Ron Price doesn't give much away, which is fair enough – Ron is wanting to focus on the poems, not the poet.:

    "There is also little doubt that [Roger White's] years before arriving in Haifa laid an important foundation for his future literary output. Like T.S. Eliot's first marriage which some critics have seen as a heaven-sent trial that spurred on both his poetry and his faith,[8] which gave him an opportunity to suffer and write poems, White's marriage and divorce during this second twenty-five year period, 1954-1979, helped to provide a fertile base. White also suffered during his years in Canada, in Africa and in the USA, to say nothing of the eight years in Haifa. But whatever his suffering was, it is to his poetry that we must search out his lessons, not to his biography.

    cont'd…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    Ron Price doesn't give much away, which is fair enough – Ron is wanting to focus on the poems, not the poet:

    "There is also little doubt that [Roger White's] years before arriving in Haifa laid an important foundation for his future literary output. Like T.S. Eliot's first marriage which some critics have seen as a heaven-sent trial that spurred on both his poetry and his faith,[8] which gave him an opportunity to suffer and write poems, White's marriage and divorce during this second twenty-five year period, 1954-1979, helped to provide a fertile base. White also suffered during his years in Canada, in Africa and in the USA, to say nothing of the eight years in Haifa. But whatever his suffering was, it is to his poetry that we must search out his lessons, not to his biography.

    cont'd…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    Ron Price doesn't give much away, which is fair enough – Ron is wanting to focus on the poems, not the poet:

    "There is also little doubt that [Roger White's] years before arriving in Haifa laid an important foundation for his future literary output. Like T.S. Eliot's first marriage which some critics have seen as a heaven-sent trial that spurred on both his poetry and his faith,[8] which gave him an opportunity to suffer and write poems, White's marriage and divorce during this second twenty-five year period, 1954-1979, helped to provide a fertile base. White also suffered during his years in Canada, in Africa and in the USA, to say nothing of the eight years in Haifa. But whatever his suffering was, it is to his poetry that we must search out his lessons, not to his biography.

    cont'd…

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Yes I guess he might have been a 'credit to his' sexual orientation. But I think most gays are like most people — they want to be accepted even if they can't write poetry and are simply average.

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Yes I guess he might have been a 'credit to his' sexual orientation. But I think most gays are like most people — they want to be accepted even if they can't write poetry and are simply average.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Frank, I thought it would help those Baha'i youth who are struggling to reconcile their own homosexuality and their Baha'i community's lack of a 'welcome' to them. Perhaps if they have role models, people who were not only Baha'is but who were exemplary… and who also happened to be gay like them.
    It may also be helpful to heterosexual Baha'is who have in the past discriminated against gays, to know that such a wonderful person as Roger White was gay. That is, if he was.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Frank, I thought it would help those Baha'i youth who are struggling to reconcile their own homosexuality and their Baha'i community's lack of a 'welcome' to them. Perhaps if they have role models, people who were not only Baha'is but who were exemplary… and who also happened to be gay like them.
    It may also be helpful to heterosexual Baha'is who have in the past discriminated against gays, to know that such a wonderful person as Roger White was gay. That is, if he was.

  • Pey

    Maybe I'm alone in this. But as a gay person, as a gay Bahai, why I would feel any pride in this man being gay? He didn't come out as such or work for greater acceptance in the community. To be fair, how could he have in the era he lived in? If we are gonna talk about closeted gay men who happened to be great Bahai figures- heck there are a few in history. But this is not the place to OUT these people, unless they are helping oppress gays (sort of like that evangelist Haggard).
    I guess my point is that the few individuals that I've met online- people like Daniel, Bill and others are the real inspiration and role models. They are willing to stand up and say we are here- even if it means having voting rights removed and shunned by fellow Bahais. I get inspiration from my fellow Bahais gay or not, who are working towards justice in the community.

  • Pey

    Maybe I'm alone in this. But as a gay person, as a gay Bahai, why I would feel any pride in this man being gay? He didn't come out as such or work for greater acceptance in the community. To be fair, how could he have in the era he lived in? If we are gonna talk about closeted gay men who happened to be great Bahai figures- heck there are a few in history. But this is not the place to OUT these people, unless they are helping oppress gays (sort of like that evangelist Haggard).
    I guess my point is that the few individuals that I've met online- people like Daniel, Bill and others are the real inspiration and role models. They are willing to stand up and say we are here- even if it means having voting rights removed and shunned by fellow Bahais. I get inspiration from my fellow Bahais gay or not, who are working towards justice in the community.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    there's a new book out, Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher. A recent review A fine first biography of thinker Alain Locke mentions that he was a Baha'i and was closeted. Nothing new there — even Christopher Buck's book, Alain Locke: Faith And Philosophy mentions the fact — but good to see more well-deserved coverage of the guy.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    there's a new book out, Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher. A recent review A fine first biography of thinker Alain Locke mentions that he was a Baha'i and was closeted. Nothing new there — even Christopher Buck's book, Alain Locke: Faith And Philosophy mentions the fact — but good to see more well-deserved coverage of the guy.

  • Amanda

    Pey, I really appreciate your comment above about the role models now who are -out- gay Baha'is. I'm not even a Baha'i anymore, and I'm profoundly inspired by that.
    :)

  • Amanda

    Pey, I really appreciate your comment above about the role models now who are -out- gay Baha'is. I'm not even a Baha'i anymore, and I'm profoundly inspired by that.
    :)

  • Craig Parke

    Baquia,

    Is it just me? I can't link to any of the recent posts to read them? If I click it takes me to another page but not to the post. Are there any problems for others?

  • Craig Parke

    Baquia,

    Is it just me? I can't link to any of the recent posts to read them? If I click it takes me to another page but not to the post. Are there any problems for others?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Craig, what exactly are you clicking and what is it showing you? it would be helpful to provide a specific example. I suspect that it could be that you are seeing a 'cached' page but won't be able to pin it down until I know more.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Craig, what exactly are you clicking and what is it showing you? it would be helpful to provide a specific example. I suspect that it could be that you are seeing a 'cached' page but won't be able to pin it down until I know more.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    you're right, there are many who are wonderful role models today. You also have to remember that the times that White lived in were different than today. There has been a rapid conscious awakening towards recognition and acceptance of homosexuality within society that we simply didn't have just 10 to 15 years ago.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    you're right, there are many who are wonderful role models today. You also have to remember that the times that White lived in were different than today. There has been a rapid conscious awakening towards recognition and acceptance of homosexuality within society that we simply didn't have just 10 to 15 years ago.

  • Craig Parke

    Baquia,

    I click on "gregg" to get the report about the Australian Conference and it goes no where. This happened a few weeks back too. I would click and then do a page refresh and then search the page and find the comment. But this won't work either. I am using Firefox 3.0. I hate IE7 but maybe I will try it to see if it is my browser.

  • Craig Parke

    Baquia,

    I click on "gregg" to get the report about the Australian Conference and it goes no where. This happened a few weeks back too. I would click and then do a page refresh and then search the page and find the comment. But this won't work either. I am using Firefox 3.0. I hate IE7 but maybe I will try it to see if it is my browser.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    That link to Greg's comment seems to be broken. I couldn't find the comment in Google cache, either. Using Opera 9 here.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/SteveMarshall SteveMarshall

    That link to Greg's comment seems to be broken. I couldn't find the comment in Google cache, either. Using Opera 9 here.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Ah, ok thanks. You should be able to see it now. If not, try
    this link

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Baquia Baquia

    Ah, ok thanks. You should be able to see it now. If not, try
    this link

  • Craig Parke

    Baquia,

    It appears this is what to do if you click on a link and it does not take you there. I think it means that it takes you to the topic comment page for that link and then you have to go to the bottom of that page and click on "NEXT PAGE". There you will find the comment you are trying to reach. This is how I could reach the comment I posted last night on greg's report after I posted it.

  • Craig Parke

    Baquia,

    It appears this is what to do if you click on a link and it does not take you there. I think it means that it takes you to the topic comment page for that link and then you have to go to the bottom of that page and click on "NEXT PAGE". There you will find the comment you are trying to reach. This is how I could reach the comment I posted last night on greg's report after I posted it.

  • RonPrice

    Roger White was considered “the unofficial poet laureate” back in the 1980s and into the 1990s before he died in 1993. The Baha'i community at the international level has not had an official poet laureate, as far as I know.
    ——-SOME COMMENTS ON A POETRY READING ROGER GAVE———-
    —LIPSTICK AND BRUISES—-
    ————————————————————–
    My book on Roger White is devoted primarily to his poetry, but I have also added special chapters to focus on a small selection of his letters, on his books of prose and in one chapter on some of his other activities involving writing and poetry. I have done this to place his poetry in additional perspectives, those of a creative and imaginative life.

    In a book celebrating the first hundred years of Hansard in Canada's parliament, John Ward wrote that Roger White was “acknowledged by his colleagues as one of the finest shorthand writers ever to serve his country.” He also served as the official reporter for the Supreme Court of British Columbia. These were some of the skills White brought to the Publishing Department at the Baha'i World Centre where he was editor-in-chief of several volumes of The Baha'i World in the 1980s. He wrote the lyrics for 'Songs for Solo Voice' by Jean South in Luxembourg and the text of a book Forever in Bloom: The Lotus of Bahapur. I am confident White had many other talents and abilities that are not mentioned in this book, devoted as it is to a study of White's poetry not his life's activites.

    In 1989 White gave a poetry reading in Haifa. He had been at the Baha'i World Centre for eighteen years by that time. The evening's program was called 'Lipstick and Bruises.' The tone was entertaining with a gentle satire in the air as he read and spoke. White was a sit-down, not a stand-up, comedian. He really was quite funny, not a surprising quality to anyone who knew his poetry and had received some of his letters. White satirized almost everything that the Baha'i World stood for but, in the end, everything and everyone's emotions and standards were left intact. His was a gentle voice, although I have come across many in the last thirty years who found his poetry far from gentle and far too difficult for their literary tastes.

    Many really successful contemporary comedians who have gained popularity, at least in the last half century, leave not a stone or an institution standing after a thoroughgoing evening of satirical work is done. Not so with White. He certainly turned stones over with his satire but the process was gentle and embodied an etiquette, a refinement, of expression.

    I was reminded, as I listened, of the Jews who for centuries have been 'the funny guys,' the comedians. There seems to be something about suffering that brings out the lighter side of life as a survival mechanism. It seemed most fitting that two hundred Baha'is should join White in an evening of laughter and pure delight. Somehow it was a sign of the maturity of the Baha'i community, so often measured in blood, sweat and tears, dogged persistence in the face of massive indifference and a faith which it was their hope and belief would move mountains, if not tomorrow, then over the centuries. One way of characterizing the Baha'i experience, White's experience, perhaps, was with, as White put it in the title he gave to the program, 'Lipstick and Bruises.'

    White read many of his old favourites and the audience's. He also read some new material: from letters he had received, from his experiences and those of others. He joked; he played the raconteur, the provocateur, the stimulator, the titillator, the poet-who-lived-there, the kind man that he was.

    I was not present at the evening's entertainment which was organized, White informed us, by the Department of Organization and Personnel. I was one of those who received a cassette-tape with the background music of the Iranian musician Masoud Rowshan who played the santour. I was one of those who heard the voice of the poet, I think for the first time, after enjoying his many voices in poetry.

    There was a dryness in his voice, a little like the dry humour that comes out of Canada. But there was that kindness, the kindness that 'Abdu'l-Baha had pointed to when He visited Canada in 1912. White was one of those 'kind friends' that 'Abdu'l-Baha had raised up just about the time when Canada was forming its first National Spiritual Assembly in 1948. With a lifetime of service, over forty years, and the experiences of lipstick and bruises behind him, White was a veteran. He was also greatly loved. There would be four years of 'lipstick and bruises' to go before his innings were to be completed.

    I wish I could have been there, although I was able to savour each line as it came off my cassette tape. I felt as if I finally had White to myself after all these years, such are the illusions of technology. Nineteen months after this poetry reading White would leave the Baha'i World Centre. With a quadruple bypass operation under his belt, so to speak, which he likened to “being struck down by a herd of stampeding rogue elephants or perhaps a small Sherman tank,” he still had a little left. He put that little into three books of poetry which were published within three years of this public reading at the Baha'i World Centre.
    —————-
    One of the ways award-winning Inder Manocha handles hecklers when he is onstage doing stand-up comedy is this response: “Sir, if I embarrass you it's called comedy. If you embarrass me it's racism.” The retort works because of Mr. Manocha's diverse heritage – and its play on political correctness. This stand-up commedian is very different than Roger White.
    ————-
    Then there is: Eslam Anthony Shams is an Iranian-American comedian and successful actor. His comedy routine switches between English and Farsi and he's got some harsh words for those Iranians in America who go to his shows and don't enjoy the 40% of it that's in English.
    ————
    And on and on one could go in this vein of contemporary humour, but I have said far too much here for threads that usually have shorter posts.-Ron Price, Tasmania

  • Chanadahl

    Wow, thanks. I knew Roger White fairly well “back in the day” and he was, above all things, a fun guy.