TALKING WITH AUSTRALIAN POETS

Robert Maddox-Harle

This month Robert Maddox-Harle talks to Adrian Rogers

 

Adrian Rogers, a retired music teacher, has numerous published books of poetry, six novels, and his poetry is widely anthologised both in Australia and overseas, in books, journals and online. His work is influenced by his surroundings, beliefs, relationships, and life experience. The following interview with Adrian was conducted via email by fellow poet and reviewer Robert Maddox-Harle.

 

 

Adrian Rogers
Q

Welcome Adrian, thanks for agreeing to talk about your poetry with me for our Setu readers. You are now retired from formally teaching music, do you think cadence and musicality are important in free-verse style poetry?

 

A

Absolutely... If you are going to write free verse loosely structured, cadence and musicality are vital. If rhyme is not used then these qualities, I think are what gives one’s verse impact, especially when read aloud.

 

Q

You have quite a number of published collections of poetry now, recently you have created collections on specific themes such as your Pamir and The Navigator and the Explorer books. Whilst each poem “stands-alone” as a poem in its own right the whole adds up to more meaningful experience for the reader. Do you think this is correct, and have you plans for future such “themed” collections?

 

A

Yes, I do. I agree, I tend to write a collection of poems set around a particular theme, and I think the reason for this relates to my career experience as a musician, in particular to the song cycle, and my experience in accompanying singers.

 

Q

Your poetry for me has many covert mystical connotations, is this correct and could you let us know how important mystical/spiritual realms are to your poetry and for poetry generally?

 

A

Yes, it is, and I make no apology for that. Mystical and spiritual realms are important, both to me personally, and on account of my beliefs and life experience.

Moreover, I think they can add the ultimate dimension to poetry, and I venture to suggest that the greatest poets have all shown something of this spiritual impulse.

 

Q

Do you care about the opinions of so-called literary critics, or do you “do your own thing” and simply ignore these fashion/fad opinionated academics?

 

A

I can care about the opinions of critics, if, and only if those particular critics demonstrate an understanding of the spiritual dimension in human experience.

 

Q

Further to this above question: I believe Australia is a culturally challenged country, the overall treatment and acceptance of the majority of poets in Australia is nothing less than disgusting, one or two accidentally fall into the spotlight, the rest are persona non grata. Poets, of your calibre should be acknowledged as living treasures and honoured accordingly, as they are in many other cultures. Do you have any views on this, or have I got it wrong?

 

A

No, I think you are absolutely right. Unfortunately, this culturally challenged state is not limited to Australia, though it seems depressingly obvious in this country. The trouble is, I’m not sure what can be done to rectify it, in the present constant crisis management state in which the world seems to find itself.

 

Q
Poetry doesn’t pay the rent, as one wit said, “there is no money in poetry, but there is also no poetry in money”, however paradoxically there seems to be an increase in poetry publications in recent years, not only via the ubiquitous internet but in books and journals. Your take on this phenomenon?

 

A

I agree, and I too have noticed this phenomenon, both on the Internet, and in books coming out in print and e-book formats. What I look forward to is the day when governments--both state and federal take the trouble to notice this, and actually do something about it.

 

Q

Why do you write poetry rather than say, songs or compose music?

 

A

I used to write music. As a matter of fact, I have a Trinity College of Music Fellowship in musical composition. However, in this--the latter part of my life I have found that writing poetry has given me a voice in a more personal way than any other artistic activity.

 

Q

I wrote in a review of your poetry, “He is a master poet. His poems do not articulate engineer’s logic, they are not like assembled tabloid headlines, he invents new words and modifies existing ones to suit his purpose, they epitomise the true nature of poetry – to create magic through words.” Do you agree with this assessment and care to comment?

 

A

I do agree with this assessment, and will take the opportunity here and now to say how much I have appreciated both your reviews, and your encouragement, for which I thank you. I also agree that your assessment of the true nature of poetry is both right, and that it could ultimately elevate the everyday to higher levels of reality, if given the opportunity to do so.

 

Q

In addition to your poetry publications, you also have four fantasy novels and two further novels. Do you still write novels or prefer to concentrate on poetry only now?

 

A

I prefer now to concentrate on poetry, to perfect that as an art form, rather than trying to be both a poet, and a fiction writer at the same time.

 

Q

Poetry is a somewhat esoteric exalted art. Does it deserve this lofty status in this age of mass communication, and dumbing down of the general population?

 

A

Personally, I think that in this sadly dumbed-down age it is more important than ever. I think poetry deserves its exalted status, but at the same time perhaps we should try to find ways to make its communication possible to a wider readership.

 

Q

Sunil Sharma asked me once in an interview the following question, I will now ask you the same question. “Can great art afford us escape routes to different realities or higher realms? Can it enable us as readers/writers in creating parallel worlds?”

 

A

Yes, I believe very strongly that it can. We all need an escape route to different realities and higher worlds. Perhaps the challenge is, to enable people to understand their own needs in this area of experience.

 

Q

Who are your favourite poets, perhaps those who have influenced and inspired you over the years?

 

A

Okay, here goes. I am not going to just trot out the expected names by the way. So, my favourites are...George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, John Keats, Tennyson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, W.B. Yeats, John Masefield. My intention though, is not to imitate, but to learn from them, in addition to appreciating the spiritual impulses that drove them.

 

Q

Do you think getting older has resulted in you writing better poetry than when you we younger, many artists/poets as they age just rehash the “same-as same-as”, you keep inventing new worlds and writing new riveting poetry, your opinions on this phenomenon please?

 

 

 

A

I agree, and I think my poetry has indeed improved with age, like the composer Stravinsky--to give one example. I will never be content to just re-hash the past, I can promise you that. Stravinsky is a good example in this regard. He made his name with ballets such as Firebird, Petruska, Rite of Spring, and so on. At the same time, he realized that one cannot go on forever repeating the same formula, so after World War 1, he adapted his style, in the light of a different age.

 

Q

I conceived of, and edited a volume of poetry a few years ago, Voices Across Generations, this was inspired by the concept of “ink in our DNA”, do you have ancestors who wrote poetry or novels? Do you know where your desire and need to write and publish poetry come from?

 

A

No, I do not know of any ancestors who wrote poetry or music. However, my father was a brilliant watercolour painter, and a wizard at drawing, in addition to appreciating all the other arts. Unfortunately, he endured a difficult childhood, and never got the opportunity to develop his skills in any of the arts. He did, however, encourage his children to develop their own artistic potential...up to a point, depending on his personal understanding of these things. Of course, as you understand, I do what I do because I must. For me, it is an imperative.

 

Q

Any advice to younger or emerging poets, especially on gaining self-confidence, finding publishers, dealing with rejection notices, and finding their true place in this esoteric/dangerous business of writing poetry?

 

A

Yes, and don’t let the rejection slips stop you. These are standard fare for all of us, and no one escapes them. So, I suggest starting by getting your work into magazines and periodicals at the local level, to gain the kind of experience that will enable you to--so to speak, reach for the skies.

 

Rob Harle: Thanks for your time, Adrian, and the best of luck with your future work!


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