Book Review from Amazon.com by Author, Carol McKay
What does a modern Texas poet have in common with artist Paul Cezanne, Maronite mystic Kahil Gibran, and the flamboyant brain researcher, José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado?
Ron Starbuck, of Houston, Texas is the author of the astonishing book of poetry, Wheels Turning Inward, published in August 2010 by Friesen Press. Starbuck's poems are, in regard to form, craft and polish, traditional high-quality art. At the same time the work is original. In writing this review, I could not find parallels, among other poets even as back as Ovid, Sappho, or Meander. In order to access the meaning of Ron Starbuck's writing, reviewing Wheels Turning Inward, I had to search deep into my inner `hard drive' and own life experience.
Starbuck proudly flaunts his Episcopal affiliation in his poem; there is something about being an episcopalian. He celebrates his love for his wife, Joanne in, My Dearest Darling. He asks us to contemplate a mockingbird in his garden, a gentle breeze combing his hair, the smell of his house filled with flowers, part of which are destined to be placed on the altar at Trinity Episcopal Church. How prosaic, how ordinary, how boring, how counter institutive, and how not smart is that?
At first glance, it might appear the Ron Starbucks poetry could be laden with platitudes and numbing over worked theological references. Who after all, in 2011, for heavens sake, writes serious poems from the view of a practicing Christian and one with a clear affiliation at that- Episcopal. In addition, to add to the conundrum, Ron Starbuck was a Vice President with JP Morgan Chase. He worked as a banker for twenty years. Not the bohemian background of a `real poet'.
Overwhelmed with the uniqueness, power and complexity of these poems, and at loss for words, I bring to mind the 19c painter, Paul Cézanne who declares, "I will astonish Paris with an apple!" Cezanne's paintings astonish the world today. (In 1999 a small painting by Cezanne of a pitcher with apples, on a simple table sold for 60.5 million dollars.)
Paul Cézanne was born on January 19, 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. On February 22, Paul was baptized in the parish church, with his grandmother and uncle as godparents. His father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne was the co-founder of a banking firm that prospered throughout the artist's life, affording him financial security that was unavailable to most of his contemporaries and eventually resulting in a large inheritance. Paul himself prepared as a lawyer and worked as a banker.
Starbuck's background is not unlike Cezanne's, and his themes like Cezanne's deceive with their apparent, over-exposed simplicity. Then they astonish, with the originality and complexity with which they are expanded. Consummate creators, both Starbuck and Cezanne cling to their mores and milieu as their point of reference.
Jose Manuel Rodriguez Delgado, a professor of physiology at Yale University, is among the world's most acclaimed--and controversial neuroscientists. In the early 1970s, while working on National Endowment Of the Arts Program in art, science and culture, I became acquainted with Delgado and had had opportunities to meet and talk with him. In 1970 the New York Times Magazine hailed him in a cover story as the "impassioned prophet of a new `psycho civilized society' whose members would influence and alter his or her own mental functions." Delgado, in celebration of his Spanish heritage and traditions implanted an electrode in the brain of a bull and stopped the charging animal short with a remote control hidden in his pocket.
Even though Delgado musters astounding electronic control of the brain, he acknowledges in his book, José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado (1969), Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psycho civilized Society, "While great alterations are possible, we cannot escape our culture. We can accept, reject, or transform it but it will always be our point of reference."
Delgado and Starbuck concede the same and often ignored truth. Our culture is our point of reference! Ron embraces his Episcopal faith and his way of life in Houston, Texas. It is this ethos and context he illuminates in his writings. Bringing Buddhism and meditation into the mix, he is instep with many progressive Christian thinkers of the day.
I am now reminded, of a 1960's mystic, artist, poet, novelist, Maronite Christian from Lebanon, who endures in immorality, in spite of and because of, his sheer singularity, Kahil Gibran, who wrote, "And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
Like with Gibran, at times we are uneasy with Starbuck, when he demands that we pay attention to the often overlooked, near and dear, and we as Gibran expressed,
"... know the pain of too much tenderness."
What is clear is that Ron Starbuck like Cezanne, Delgado, and Gibran is a `one of a kind' human being. In this singularity, there must be loneliness and it must be necessary for him to seek his own path and own truth within himself. In his authentic personal journey Ron Starbuck shows us anew the meaning and origin of our own conception.
From: God's Longing, by Ron Starbuck, June 6, 2009:
...It is almost as if God suddenly awoke
And being alone,
In knowing loneliness from the beginning
Sighed deeply, sighed so deeply
In that loneliness,
That in breathing out
Some portion of God's breath left
His body and being
To seed all creation...
Carol McKay, author:
Blood And Silk: The Hidden Love Story of Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth, 2010.