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          Tom Raworth feature

Robert Adamson

Letter to Tom Raworth

Before escaping from the clock
self imposes on the page
in those days I could hardly talk
and called you in my head:
Tom Raw Worth, and there was
some kind of criminal named Morrell
in that poem of yours,
and the brown endpapers
of your Jonathan Cape book were
doors I slunk through.
I lived inside there, free from narrative,
speaking in language I could see
and not utter. The light led me
through chambers of murmurings,
calling me, I thought, in the pitch
of your voice, though it was streets
not spires where the books were,
not blocks of stone and English holy glass,
but a sly side of the mouth code,
serious song that wouldn’t parry
or fuck you for exclaiming: these lines
are wonderful, these tough folk
are not embarrassed by wonder.
Morrell’s keys to the prison jingled
as you walked up walls in your head
took the weight and made the weirdness
surrounding me release small change
to pay for sheets of creamy Fabriano
that were transformed into
a kind of folding money so the Morrells
could pay for their keys, and on each page
I made, appeared that watermark: Raw Worth.

Robert Adamson 1985 by John Tranter

Robert Adamson, 1985, by John Tranter

Robert Adamson spent time in reform school and gaol before branching out into poetry. You can read Douglas Barbour’s review of two books, Adamson’s autobiography Inside Out and his Mulberry Leaves: New & Selected Poems in Jacket 23. Barbour says ‘Robert Adamson has long been considered one of the major poets of the 60s generation in Australia, perhaps one of Australia’s major poets of the past century.’ You can read another poem by Robert Adamson in this issue of Jacket and one in Jacket 2.

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