Review by Adrian Rogers


The Blazing Furnace

An eclectic collection of experimental poems with images

by Robert Maddox Harle.

2022,, India. pp. 110 illust.

ISBN: 978-93-90601-57-8


Reading through Rob’s brilliant and diverse collection, my first response is to be impressed byhis apparent determination to question; to ask what is the purpose and function of poetry in the 21st century, that is - what does it mean to be a poet in a supposedly civilized, western-type society?

This may not initially be apparent, after all the opening poem, ‘Sand Dunes at Dusk’, has a distinctly onomatopoeic quality.


Incessant screeching of gleaming white gulls

competing with the waves crashing-swirling-whooshing

create a counterpoint cacophony

ever rising, surging, silvering…


But there is more to Rob’s poetry than colourful imagery…


Here rests the enlightened heart

beating time in endless harmony

amidst the turning and swirling,

in this transient glimpse of absurdity…


and we’ve only reached the second poem.


But it is surely the mark of a good poet to stand for something, after all Milton did, in Paradise Lost, and in that lovely lament Lycidas; his stance at least semi-political in Paradise Lost, and anti-clerical in Lycidas, wherein his mourning for a friend lost at sea veils a not-so-subtle attack on the Church of England.


Rob, as a 21st century poet takes an anti-colonial stance for instance, in his tribute to Gandhi entitled ‘Travelling Light’.


Defying the overlords of authority

the power brokers of control,

through nonviolent civil resistance

he lit a light eternal…


The poet gives the word ‘light’ a double meaning here, both in the sense of travelling with little baggage, but also of symbolically lighting the flame of knowledge and potential enlightenment.By now the reader will have realized that this collection is not

meant to be merely entertaining, intriguing, or deliberatelytechnically clever. ‘Closing the Circle’, for instance is spiritually and intellectually demanding.


Only mysticism can know the arcane truth

the Euroboros symbol—ancient, ubiquitous

explains the “closing circle”,

Alchemists the keepers of this shrouded secret,

their Blazing Furnace manifests—The Stone…


The reader who is still with the poet on this search for enlightenment will not now be surprised when difficult issues are confronted head-on. There is a time to be allusive and subtle, and a time—so to speak when one needs to call a spade a spade and trust readers to be equally honest within themselves, as in ‘Drink the Blood’.


The PAEDOPHILES enter 1 x 1

scourges of a disintegrating edifice of evil.

Drink the blood, eat the bread!

destroy young lives through fear,

behind the Mea Culpa lattice foil…


When I was a boy there were still a few countries in the world where one would have been censored, or even prosecuted for writing with such ruthless honesty, fortunately no longer – I hope. After that it is almost a relief to read Stockhausen’s Attack, but perhaps not be surprised by the Poet’s interest in avant-garde music.


The music drew me out of the darkness

out of the dark labyrinthine tunnel,

mesmerising colours and notes surround me

engulfing me totally,

changing, augmentation, diminution,

transformation, adaptation, substitution…


This collection continues to display its variety, with despair for Lady Luna, and a simple - though perhaps surprising rhyming scheme in ‘Sonnet for the Earth’.


Tread lightly on this green earth so delicate

No place for careless trash and hasty burn,

Every vile pollution and chemical distillate

Poisons little insects whichever way they turn…


Rob Harle is too assured a poet to be afraid of either simplicity or complexity, in the process demonstrating that writing so-called free verse does not reduce the technical challenges involved in making poetic writing effective and powerful. It is good though

to be able to record that ‘Giant Despair’ (to quote John Bunyan), does not have the last word, Philip Glass having inspired this play upon almost tactile imagery…









Try reading that aloud and appreciate the enigma overlaying the visuality, and almost tangible quality in Rob’s poetry. To sum up, one suspects that however one responds to the colouristic, arresting, and sometimes disturbing qualities in this collection, one cannot fail to acknowledge that it is the work of a master, one who has the capacity to both inspire and challenge us on every level.  

Adrian Rogers

Adrian Rogers: After a lifetime working as a music teacher I now focus on writing stories, and above all poetry as the music of words. I have four fantasy novels published in Canada, two in Queensland, and five poetry collections published in Adelaide by Ginninderra Press, of which the fourth The Medicine Wheel is the latest to be launched. The fifth one Music is a River of Life will be launched at a time yet to be determined. I have contributed poetry, essays and short stories, both to numerous Australian periodicals, and also as contributions to anthologies. My work is influenced by my surroundings, beliefs, relationships, and life experience. As for its style, I prefer to let my work speak for itself.

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