My name is John Etheridge, and I am a Bahá’í and a poet. The theme of all my poetry is seeking the personal and the spiritual, in all its aspects: yearning, trying, failing, and, sometimes—rarely—succeeding.

There is, in the Middle East, the word attar, as in “attar or rose oil”, i.e. the pure essence of something. What I have come to strive for in my poetry is this attar of emotions and ideas welded together in verse that flows easily to the lips and to the heart. I discuss this more in my too long and very boring article, On Writing Poetry.

As to the name of this blog, I suggest you read Hold back, a poem where I discuss where the Book of Pain title comes from.

Thank you to those people who have nominated me for awards. While I truly appreciate the gesture and recognize that they are offered out of kindness and appreciation, awards are, I feel, a sort of ponzi scheme where the normal process is 1 to nominate 10, the 10 to nominate 10 more each, and so on and so on. There is no real, substantive assessment or merit. So, as much as I appreciate it, I am going to decline all such offers. But again, thank you for your kind gestures.

Thank you very much for investigating the Book of Pain. I look forward to your comments.


66 responses to “About

  1. Thanks for showing interest in what I put out too. I sincerely hope you continue to find my works entertaining & pleasurable. Be safe.

  2. Hey John, I find your poems very lucid and clear (as if from the spirit). Your religious orientation also interests me.

    • Wuji, Thank you for the very kind and generous comment. I strive very hard to write poetry from the soul to the soul. I was just reading your site and you too obviously have a deep interest in religion also. The core belief of the Bahá’í Faith is that there is only one God and that all of the major religions of the world (Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Bahá’í Faith) all stem from Him, and that the Founders of each of these religions differ in time and place only; religious spiritual truth is timeless. May I suggest a few sites that you may be interested in: http://www.bahai.org/ and http://www.ca.bahai.org/. The Bahá’í community in Montreal is quite vibrant (and very sweet, I have been there) and can be contacted at 514 849-0753 or info@bahaimontreal.org. Thank you again for taking the time to pay such a lovely comment to me! john

      • Hi John, yes the spiritual aspect of life has always interested me. After spending a good part of my life in a place that celebrates human unity, I’m curious about religions and other realities. Your message has come at a good time in my life and I would like to check out Baha’i in more detail, I appreciate it.

      • Such spiritual connectivity is never, I think, without reason nor is ever a coincidence. Please give the Baha’i number in Montreal a call…I am sure you’ll be delighted meeting the local Baha’is. john

      • Thanks John, I shall. I’ve met some pretty positive people in that faith before…

  3. Hey John,

    I’m a massive fan of your work — very subtle and nice poetry. I have a question though: How did you become a Bahá’í?

    • Do I answer back, ‘Thank you very much, JR!’ or ‘Thank you very much, Benjamin!’? In any case, thank you very much! And I too am a great fan of yours and recommend everyone subscribe to the Bully Pulpit.

      As to my becoming a Baha’i, that is a longer answer than space allows me here and I will answer you directly via email to save anyone else the long winded response. At a minimum, however, if anyone is interested in learning more about the Baha’i Faith, I suggest that they start with this site and this site.

  4. J, I don’t know why there was no reply box beyond the 6 comments in your handyman. I really like the poem, esp this part: “It was the doing of the thing” And yes, I agree: when our gut declares we stumbled on a poem, it is so. I also like the voice in Looking Down. If I may, I would love to give you a glimpse of what you ignited. It is sOmething: that I actually had passed myself over in regard to poetry. Never thought I’d write it again. Until you spoke. No obligation to respond. Your time is valuable like anyone else’s. I just hope you feel some satisfaction of your goodwill and kindness. My heart to yours, Diana




    • Diana, please do not credit me with any of your wonderful talent! I do not deserve it. Your poetry is wonderful. I especially loved ‘know’ and ‘struggling artist ii’. You have beautiful, deft and yet strong hold on your poetry. It is a pleasure to read! Please keep writing. (By the way, I apologize for not responding earlier…I have been busy at work, busy at end-of-season cycling and have started an evening class.) And also, thank you for the compliment on the ‘handyman’ poem. I enjoyed writing it and getting it out.

  5. How can I “Let go” such beautiful poetry with commentary attached to it. I’m not a poet and the commentary helps me understand your poetry. I saw you at KB’s site. What a creative poetic mind you have. Thank you for writing. poems.

  6. John, for some strange reason I can neither “like” nor comment on your posts. That said, “Closer to you now” is incredible. Incredible. Your poetry has always been great, but it honestly seems to be improving, at least to my ear. You really need to look at publishing in alternate journals and collections. Seriously.

    Hope you’re having a happy new year.

    • JR,

      My sincerest apologies fro not responding earlier. I hope you saw my earlier mea culpa apology for having not blogged for so long and for not responding to emails.

      Thank you for your great compliment. You are an experienced poetry reader and an excellent writer, I take your praise very highly indeed.

      As to publishing…I’d love to but I don’t have the time for my life now…let alone expanding it more. Still, we’ll see.


  7. Hi John, May I use some of your poems to attached to pictures I’ve taken with credits and links to your post? Please say, yes.

    • As long as the pictures are not for printing or resale, and as long as you promise to send me links so that I can see the results :-), yes of course, I’d be honored. Thank you for thinking my work worthy of your interest.

      • Thank you for responding John. My pictures are mediocre and are not worthy for resale. Of course it will always be inked to you. Link is the No. 1 rule of where the ideas came from. Otherwise, it’s called “stealing”. Have a blessed Sunday.

  8. Hi John, I just shared your poem. I just realized that the comment is closed in your site for Church on the HIll poem. Thank you again.

  9. Hi John, thank you very much for following and finding my blog so I can know of yours. I’m enjoying your wonderful photography and poetry works. Thank you for sharing, really nice to know of your world.

  10. you are a poet!…no question about that…i like your style!

  11. Allah-u-Abha, John, wonderful to find another Baha’i who writes poetry, read some poems, and will definitely be following, thanks for following and liking my blog, best wishes and blessings Charles.

  12. Pete Hulme

    Thanks for visiting my blog, John. Just read your piece on writing poetry but couldn’t find a way of commenting there. A good exposition of your poetic practice. It reminded me of what, I think, was Auden’s dictum that a poem is never finished, only abandoned. I have sometimes revisited orphan poems after very long periods of time. My personal record is 39 years to finish a poem – but then, I am getting very old.

    • I absolutely adore Auden and personally believe him to be the best poet of the first half of the 20th century. Still, I had not heard that comment by him and yet can attest to it’s utter truth, at least in my case! And as to 39 years to “finish” a poem…well, if my experience is anything to go by, look at it again next year and just see if you can resist changing at least one thing! 🙂

      And that reminds me of a story of Oscar Wilde, who, while staying in the countryside with some friends spent the entire morning in the study working furiously on a poem. At lunch, when asked what he had accomplished, he replied that he had added a comma to it. Again, all afternoon, he worked on the poem and when asked what he had accomplished at dinner, replied that he had decided to take the comma out. It was, all in all, a good day.

      In this one way, I often seem to channel Wilde!

  13. Pete Hulme

    Thank you, John, for sharing ‘Closer to you now.’ And you had the same effect again. It’s uncanny. The words cut straight through to my heart. The change of pace from the clock-tick rhythm of the opening to the graceful tread of the last lines was part of it, but it was the theme again that did it.

    I still can’t seem to comment anywhere but here now, unfortunately, as I would have loved to place my words beneath the lyric.

    • Pete,

      I apologize for the inability to leave a comment. It’s got something to do with wordpress that they automatically closed the comments section on a number of my posts, and as far as I can tell, the process is inexplicable. ‘About’ is as good a place as any to retreat to, in any event.

      Most importantly I am so very glad that you liked the poem! Not only because it was for the love of my life, but just because I love the cadence, it is a personal favorite, certainly on my personal list of those I am most astonished that I wrote.

      We’ve never met. Where do you live please? (it is too much to hope close to Connecticut, USA, but here’s hoping…)

  14. Pete Hulme

    I see I’m not the only one having trouble leaving comments on individual posts, so I’m commenting here on your posting of Ian Hamilton’s ‘The Visit’ which I agree is a poignant gem. I may have to begin reconsidering what I wrote in a series of blogs about ‘brick-wall’ poetry, which included reference to one of his poems (http://phulme.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/brick-wall-poetry-3a3-an-addiction-to-pronouns-anonymous-2/0).

    It’s never to late to mend, I hope, or perhaps, if the spirit moves even further, make amends.

    • You know, as much as I love Hamilton’s poetry (and obviously I do, I may have sold my soul over breaking the poor man’s copyright legacy) I realized with a start after reading your comment and blog that it is true that his poetry means more to me that I know some of his personal story, and that this backdrop has always had an unconscious ability to fill in the unsaid gap of the poem. If I did not have that backdrop, I wonder what I would have thought of it? That is a hard thing to answer at this late stage…I fear, however, the answer would be ‘less.’ Dang!

      Certainly, while I admire and seek (and often fail for) brevity in my poetry, I also try to search for clarity and some resolution…even if the resolution is to merely state a question clearly.

  15. Thank you very much for liking and following!
    I’m honored to see the readers like you on my blog.

  16. Pingback: Recommended Link: ‘The Visit’ by Iain Hamilton | Everybody Means Something

  17. I love the verses…they are so full of life and love and beauty….🙏🙏❤❤

  18. Thank you for visiting and liking a post on my blog. I also liked your post ‘And That’s Just You’ but couldn’t find the comments box. Poetry, as you rightly say, seeks the personal and spiritual, leading us to find our true self.

    • Thank you so much! I am not sure what is happening with this rash of being unable to leave comments on many poems where you should be able to. I mustn’t be paying the bills on my free site on time! 🙂

      I’ve just started following your excellent blog Masked Native…it is good to find a kindred spirit anywhere. I look forward to many visits there! 🙂

  19. Dear John,

    I just finished reading your essay on how to write poetry, bravo! It was very well written with plenty helpful insights about the writing process. Thank you for taking the time in writing it and sharing it on your blog.

    I struggle with some of the issues you brought for on your essay. Mainly the editing process and rhythm (lack thereof in my writings). I am never quite happy with them and sometimes I don’t know when to stop editing but many of your suggestion will be very helpful to me in the future.

    I think you are a great writer. I am just a amateurish writer that justify its writing under GK Chesterton axiom:

    “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly”.

    Not that either I or GK are endorsing mediocracy but the passion behind anything with do is important and that I have plenty of.



    PS Just check your photography site and it is impressive.

    • Dear Caleb,

      I just sent you an email thanking you for this lovely comment. IT really was very kind and generous of you.

      Buy having visited your site, Intrepid Muses, I would not qualify you an as amateurish writer at all. You have a sincerity and integrity about your poetry that is wonderful to read. Thank you for opening up a line of communication between us! 🙂

      • I am honored!!! It is my pleasure. I will check my e-mail and follow up. Thank you for your kind comments. They mean a lot to me.



      • Hey Again thanks a lot for reaching out. I just want to let you know that I have some issues log in into my e-mail account. I hope to sort it out as soon as possible. Will keep you posted.



      • Hey, again thank you so much for reaching out. I have been trying to access my e-mail account (Intrepid.muses@outlook.com) but it seems that I forgot the password and I can’t recovered it. I will try to fix it but in the mean time I created a different account. If you please could you re-send the e-mail to this account:




  20. I love your last poem John, a gorgeous one!
    But I can’t find the commenting box to write in.
    Hugs 🙂

  21. I’m not sure if you closed the comments on the last two posts but I’m not able to get to the reply boxes there. I appreciated the thoughtful commentary on the other generation as much as I did the poem on selfies and I just wanted to say that in I Do under the lovely photo, you gave us a song.

    Hope the Master’s is coming along, John.

  22. Hello John
    I am Annie from Australia
    I was drawn to your site Book of Pain because I live with debilitating pain 24/7.
    I never wish to wallow and I am always searching for positives, I especially look to how other people find ways to manage their pain, physically and mentally.
    I am not a religous person so whenever people have suggested I need to take a spiritual path to help manage my pain, I am unable.
    I have read your poetry, but it was a poem your sister wrote that resonated with me realistically.
    Every word so very true, it was an emotional poem for me to read
    I hope your sister is finding some answers and may soon see her pain behind her.
    Kindest regards from
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

  23. Hello John,
    I just wanted to thank you for “liking” my poem “A Litany of Delusions” on the Pen to Paper blog.
    Were there any delusions that you could relate to in particular?

    • Thank you! I very much liked the start of your poem about coming face-to-face with your flaws. I do not live with the delusion that I am above the laws of either man or God, but it is a sad tragedy of life that many do.

      • Thank you for your reply John, and for your views about delusions. Yes, it is indeed a tragedy that many think that they are above laws of God or man, and consequently they do whatever they like.

Please leave a reply...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s