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Ian Kluge  

poet, writer, playwright, teacher, Canada


(For the birth of Bahá'u'lláh)

And what a dream it was!
A heap of soaking
wet wood -
old broken sticks,
dead branches,
even trees
smouldering and smoking,
and, more like shadows in that heavy haze,
the people,
on clouds of bitter smoke that stung
their eyes;
I heard their coughing and their broken
cries -
and saw how wretchedly they hung
around that pile,
for it was snowing now, and wrung
their hands to feel some feeble heat
and stamped
in desperation or despair -
their feet...

Some lucky ones held shawls
or rags they'd found
over their mouths, heads down, to breathe,
some sprawled
hugging the ground,
close to the bottom of that pile,
lying, as if in worship,
and some blew,
in vain,
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;
I saw
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,
my heart
slack as a windless sail
and thought
'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...

Ran -
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...

And then
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!"
and pressed
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,
how we
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
of moonlight,
sacred wine


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 wife of 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 up.

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 and

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!!) far 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 evolve beyond the narrow confines of our bodies and lives, to feel, see, think and '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 reconciliation in greater and greater syntheses (a la Hegel/Schlegel). The final synthesis, ultimate unity, is unattainable since we are not God, but the Beauty and pleasure of 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...

None moved,
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
but joy,
each one entranced
by goodness,
and beauty..."

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 be 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"
Bahá'u'lláh Gleanings

the knives of the world
must change,
must become,
must learn how to strike at the world
as leaves in the spring
lunge for the sun

those hands
- do you have them? -
that wound
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
and faces,
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.


a few
the miraculous:
as sun
or moonlight
whose pure
be-ing illuminates
it touches:
you must
for the world
to reveal
in your essential
shining -
to see
for yourself
naked first
to yourself -
your eyes
tell no lies
in your
natural light

are badges of
in them
we live
the sun
or moon
among clouds
or song-birds
shrouded in leaves

you can live
but not fully
or shaded

nakedness is
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.

(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

flowering sunlight,
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 Schwitters") since the world is becoming a collage. Postmodernism is the natural style of this age, which does not, of course, mean that every work must directly and obviously manifest what currently passes as postmodernism. Beauty, Truth and 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 sensibility, 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 neoplatonist 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 Forms, 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:

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