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)

Some Gwen Harwood Editions

After reading and writing again about Gwen Harwood recently, I thought I’d post some images from some of the editions of her work I have. Wikipedia lists the following for Harwood and I have most of them.

  • Poems (1963)
  • Poems Volume Two (1968)
  • The Lion’s Bride (1981)
  • Bone Scan (1988)
  • The Present Tense (1995)
  • Gwen Harwood : Collected Poems, 1943–1995 (2003)

The prize of my collection, probably, is my copy of the first book Poems. It’s missing the dust-jacket it originally would have had, and is a bit of a battered old library copy, but I’m happy to have a first edition of the first book of this important poet.

The next I have is The Lion’s Bride, which is a wonderful collection. My copy is a bit battered and faded, and copiously underlined.

Bone Scan (1988) is another wonderful collection which won several prizes.

I’ve got a couple of copies of the Selected Poems and they are falling apart a bit as was the tendency of the early A&R poetry editions. I bought one to a Gwen Harwood reading and she kindly signed it for me. Unfortunately, in the busy room, she mis-heard and signed it for Warren, not Warrick! Nevertheless, I cherish that one too.

My copy is underlined throughout and heavily annotated as it was the basis for my minor thesis on Harwood. That makes it less valuable for anyone else, but more valuable for me.

The two most recent ‘selections’ are still in print now. Harwood (along with Les Murray) would be one of the few Australian poets to be continually in print since her first book in 1963.

Poems (Volume 2) 1968, her second collection, is the important missing one I’d most like to find at some stage. You rarely see copies in second hand shops and I’ve seen one or two online at $150USD os so. Perhaps one day!

Looking back at her body of work, iIt’s hard to believe now that she published no books between Poems (Volume 2) (1968) and The Lion’s Bride, (1981), so no books at all during the 70s, when I think her voice would really have resonated with the times, particularly the feminist poems that seem so much in tune with the changes in Australia at that time.