Robert Adamson and the Spirit of Place

I was saddened to hear last week of the passing of Australian poet, Robert Adamson at the age of 79.

Adamson was a force in Australian poetry, part of the ‘new poetry’ push in the 1960s and 1970s and edited New Poetry magazine for fourteen years. By the time I came across his work, in the early 1980s, he was well established as an important voice in Australian poetry.

Personally, I was particularly drawn to the spirit of place in Adamson’s work, the belief in the importance of the ‘local’ that I have found so often in writers I admire, particularly in his case, the Hawkesbury River region. His writing about landscape and birds has been something I’ve enjoyed most in his work.

This week, after the news, I pulled some of the Adamson books from my collection and re-read some of those poems. I also re-read his memoir of prose and poetry, Wards of the State. They remain impressive work, grounded in the real world, but ‘fishing in a landscape for love’

Selected Poems (A&R, 1978)
The autobiographical memoir, ‘Wards of the State’ (A&R, 1992)
‘Waving to Hart Crane’ (A&R, 1994)
‘The Golden Bird – New and Selected Poems’ (BlackInc 2008)

Web Work

I spent some time today in tidying up my poetry page and finally grabbing the domain name that WordPress promised me when I went from the ad-free version of that site earlier this year. So, as well as I now have

I’ve made the ‘books’ clearer on that site too , with an individual page not only for the three print books but also for two Kindle only editions and the new selected poems (The Other World) I published earlier this year.

I also plan to do another Kindle only electronic chapbook edition of poems about my first trip to Europe with the family, in 1993, early in the new year. More on that later!

Finally, I’ve tinkered a little with my Amazon Author Page to make sure that it’s all working and that the blog posts made here are reflected on that page to keep it topical. Below is what the Amazon page looks like.

Next thing for me is working out my annual Book of the Year awards; always a challenge and always a nice signifier of the end of the year. I don’t think I’ll quite make my goal of 40 books read this year, but I’m looking forward to revisiting what I read, and what I enjoyed most. I’ll post that list here soon. Meanwhile, click through to READING on this page for a quick summary of all the previous winners or check out the warrickwynnepoetry site if you’d like to dig deeper on my favourite books over the last eighteen years!

Sea Scale

It was nice to hear about the release of a new and selected volume from Australian poet Brook Emery, launched recently in Glebe, NSW, available now from the poetry section of the Puncher and Wattman site. When I had a look recently I was surprised and impressed with the range of Australian poetry they’re publishing currently.

With a particular focus on memory and the sea, this new book brings together new poems and selections from his five previous volumes; themes that particularly appeal to me.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Brook’s work for a long time now (proof here with my post about attending his 2012 launch of ‘Collusion’, way back in 2012!), so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this significant release.

Hinterland Magazine

I was interested to learn about a magazine called Hinterland, coming out of the University of East Anglia in the UK, which looks really interesting. I’m not sure how I’m going to go accessing hard copy editions in Australia (there doesn’t seem to scope for international orders) but digital subscriptions are available for about $34AUD a year.

They say:

Hinterland offers an answer to the question ‘what is creative non-fiction?’ by showcasing the best new writing across the fields of memoir, essay, travel and food writing, reportage, psychoscape, biography, flash non-fiction and more. Our pages bring together work by established, award-winning authors alongside new writers, many of whom we are thrilled to publish for the first time and whose work, we promise, will merit your full attention. Often, the pieces you’ll find in Hinterland will straddle the boundaries between strands and be difficult to classify: we see this as a strength. Hinterland intends to challenge, move, entertain and, above all, be a fantastic read.

The forthcoming issue is the one that grabbed my interest; with a theme on place-based writing. They’ve done earlier issues with themes too, such as essay writing and food writing. I liked the lively covers too, especially issue 2 which features some of my favourite books! They appear to be the work of Tom Hutchings from Thorn Graphic Design

Forthcoming issue; on place writing.

‘My Tongue is My Own’: On Gwen Harwood and her Poetry

I’m halfway through Anne-Marie Priest’s excellent biography of the Australian poet Gwen Harwood, My Tongue is My Own and it has already had the desired effect; making me pull a copy of Harwood’s Selected Poems off my bookshelf to have beside me as I read it.

Of course I started re-reading some old favourites and also looked through some of the other Harwood books there as well. I’ve always enjoyed Harwood’s writing and wrote my minor thesis for an M.A. at Monash University on aspects of her work calling it, Light from a Single Source. I’ve written about her poetry at length, read the poems again and again over the years, and taught Harwood in Literature classes whenever I could.

So, I have several editions of her work gathered over the years, which I was reminded of today. It was good to look through them again and I’ll post some images of those editions soon. Meanwhile, Priest’s work is highly recommended as a long overdue life of this important Australian poet.

If you’re keen to look at Harwood’s poetry yourself a number of editions are still in print. The Selected Poems from Penguin Books or The Best 100 Poems from BlackInc are both good places to start, and available from Readings as is Anne-Marie Priest’s new biography.


Book of the Year – Bewilderment

A few days into 2022, but here finally is my book of the year. I enjoyed Overstory when I read it a while ago, but this was a different thing again; at once simpler, more narrative-driven, but also somehow larger, more open-ended. I’ve heard criticisms, especially from the parents of autistic children, but I feel it transcends that problem. It is at once, extremely light, and extremely profound.


Other books that impressed me in 2020 were:

2. Heather Clark. Red Comet. The short life of Sylvia Plath. (2021)
3. Randolph Stow. To the Islands (1958)
4. Rachel Carlson. Under the sea wind (1952)
5. Tove Jansson. The Summer Book (1975)
6. Gerald Murnane. Last Letter to a Reader. (2021)
7. Luke Stegemann. Amnesia Road (2021)
8. Philip Marsden. The Summer Isles
9. Peter Temple. The Broken Shore (2007)

I’ve given up the idea of categorising my books of the year into ‘Fiction’, ‘Non-Fiction’ etc. Those kinds of divisions seem more and more meaningless. All of the books listed above will reward your reading attention.