The Prisoner’s Messenger by Adrian Rogers

The Prisoner’s Messenger
by Adrian Rogers
2016. Ginninderra Press, Australia.
pp. 68 ISBN:978 1 76041 196 1
Available from Ginninderra Press at $18 AUD

by Rob Harle, Nimbin. Australia

It is always a pleasure to receive a copy of Adrian’s latest poetry book, this collection The Prisoner’s Messenger is his latest volume of poetry, and as expected, is as exciting, intriguing and enjoyable as his previous books.

This book takes the form of forty eight diary entries, one for each day written by a prisoner, who is also “by implication a prisoner of conscience”. The first verse from entry, Day 1 From the Rubble of Desire:

A diary pulled
dust-shrouded from obscurity
in the rubble of desire,
a down damped fire
fanned by insight’s
alternating flash
and a dove’s flight caught
in the peripheral vision
is a page turned

This verse is a representative example of Adrian’s poetic mastery, his use of metaphor, image creation and intrigue are superb. I firmly believe all aspiring poets and poetry students should study Adrian’s work carefully as it contains the perennial elements of good poetry, not least of which is a palpable continuity.

A further example of how Adrian creates deep emotional impact, the first verse from entry, Day 28 Will They Remember Their Childhood?

A moment
beyond struggle
worn into stillness
is a prayer in a little space
soft voices
one lamp lit
faith kept
between walls hung
with patched
wash-worn clothes
for ornament
a half-curtained window.

The “entries”, which are preceded by a Prelude which gives just enough enticement of the recurring theme throughout the book to compel the reader to a close and continued reading. I say close reading because most poems reveal much more than the first surface-skimming-reading, this is a book to be savoured.

The prisoner does not focus continually on the daily realities of imprisonment but “...looks back in time, remembering people and places, all the while visited - indeed illuminated – by a white dove, whose presence represents to him peace, love , freedom, enlightenment and, above all, in her coming and going, hope. But when the dove makes her final return, looking through the window bars she sees and empty cell. He has been released, love has triumphed. But has release been achieved because a government willed it, or by his passing beyond this mortal life?” Deep intrigue indeed!

This book appealed to me not only because of the quality of the poetry but precisely because of the diary entry concept. This is a powerful creative mechanism benefiting both writer and reader. Many years ago I wrote an epic poem with diary entries set within a frame narrative. This poem was similar to Adrian’s though the subject was  “prisoner of their own madness – and conscience”- the ending was also similar though by very different means.

The diary entries provide a structural framework and impose a delightful discipline on the writer by insisting upon continuity, temporality and coherence, this results paradoxically in one major poem consisting of many short, stand-alone poems.

The dove is a key element in this collection as can be seen from the entry Day 21 The Dove which I reproduce below in full.

A dove flies down from the sun
by a pale stone wall
mirror in mirror imaging
a mirror of wing-tipped
whitening light
opposite a barred window
transforming limitation
and the self is resurrected.

“Stone walls do not a prison make
nor iron bars a cage...”
when she  flies
into the moment
untouched by age
or human circumstance
a white fire shimmer
a promise
a messenger.

The dove is a very ancient and powerful archetypal image in most cultures, Leonard Cohen has referred to the dove in one of his brilliant songs, suggesting; “...that the dove is never free, bought and sold and bought again...” these words echo in my mind as I contemplate Adrian’s latest wonderful collection of poems.