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Robert Adamson has long been recognized as one of Australia’s
major poets, from his early writing as a poet maudit in Sydney through
twenty books of verse and prose. In more recent work, he has explored
the landscape of the Hawkesbury River, sounding its waters and wildlife
for psychological resonances.
The Goldfinches of Baghdad, Adamson’s first book published in North America, teems with cockatoos, kookaburras, lyrebirds, dollarbirds, and a host of waders from his native region. At once real presences and sly emissaries of the poetic imagination, these birds perform aspects of ourselves just as we assume their weird attributes: “The shadow your hand casts / resembles the mudlark, opening / its wings, calling and rocking, / perched in the pages / of my book.” Coming from elsewhere, they transgress human boundaries, ignoring sign posts and political borders. As birds and words exchange places, Adamson charts their migration. His poems arrive as epistles from the other side of the world.
“Robert Adamson is that rare instance of a poet who can
touch all the world and yet stay particular, local to the body he’s
been given in a literal time and place. He is as deft and resourceful
a craftsman as exists, and his poems move with a clarity and ease
I find unique.” —Robert Creeley
“The spareness and taut energy of the more recent poems, for all Adamson’s famous romanticism, seems classic; as if, like Yeats, he had discovered the exhilaration and enterprise of walking naked. What it costs a poet to dare such plain statement, the patience it requires, even the impatience, the dedication, the hard work, is part of the mystery of these poems and of the life that has been worked through to get them down… How the poems, as they come, change and shape the poet—the existential surprise that keeps him alive and on his toes—is what keeps us too, as we move through this life in poetry, intimately engaged and enlivened from the first poem to the last.” —David Malouf