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   Jacket 34 — October 2007        link Jacket 34 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

Robert Adamson

Two poems (for Joanne Kyger):

Letter to Joanne Kyger
Bolinas Bay, An Ode

This piece is about 3 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Robert Adamson and Jacket magazine 2007.
You can read Douglas Barbour’s review of The Goldfinches of Baghdad by Robert Adamson in this issue of Jacket.

Letter to Joanne Kyger

I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘sempiternal’ —
your concept of the second soul
as an animal spirit, and your lines :
‘If it dies, you die
That’s it.’
gives me a chance.
I first came across that word
in a poem by Eliot, and knew even then
it was trouble. That was long before
I knew Old Possum once wore green pancake
makeup to the Bank (think of him saying
‘sempiternal’ in drag).

When I saw you in California
I felt as if I was walking through a past
I’d not actually lived, it was a case of
the years as books rather than ‘the years as catches’.

The hills around Bolinas remind me
of Bulli Pass, the dome of your sky hung with
turkey buzzards
instead of pelicans.
The roadkill was mainly skunks
rather than wombats,
we saw a herd of elk grazing on a cliff —
I noticed they held their heads
and pricked their ears like kangaroos except
they were on all fours.

The humming birds at your feeder
were like bogong moths, except better dressed,
and many of the poets in California we met were honeyeaters too.

Bolinas Bay, An Ode

                                               — for Joanne Kyger

At Joanne’s, three rainbows over the bay.
In the garden, mimicking birds, then our talk
spinning metaphors in sunlight —

An abstract surf, tides of air behind it
hung with Anna’s humming birds:
their condensed flight, the sound of Joanne’s

thought — Garden trees turned their leaves,
showing veins, pencil-traces of her hand-writing
from the 1960s. One day back then

lashing out, she parodied an elder’s poem
read it to class — boys in tight with themselves —
her words skimmed above their heads,

jazz-notes. A moth flutters around a light shade,
leaving traces of silver powder on the globe —
the desire for something afar — I look out

and catch sight of a troupe of bluejays
on a foray into what was left of their day.
Joanne turns in her kitchen, radiating within,

her intellect’s wings. Memory’s atomic
particles collide — the sparks in Joanne’s pupils,
her energies, packing a punch.

Through glass, the first woodpecker I’ve ever seen.
It slices and chops into a tree trunk
uncovering worms in their cocoons.

Robert Adamson with mulloway, 1991, photo Juno Gemes.

Robert Adamson with mulloway, 1991, photo Juno Gemes.

Robert Adamson is one of Australia’s leading poets, and is a successful writer, editor and publisher. His books have been published in the UK and the USA and his poems have been translated into several languages. He has published fifteen volumes of poetry, has been writer-in-residence at Australian universities, and was President of the Poetry Society of Australia, 1974-1980. Adamson’s autobiography, Inside Out, was published in March 2004 by Text Publishing, and was shortlisted for the Melbourne Age’s Book of the Year Awards 2004, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards 2004 and NSW Premier’s History Awards 2004, State Library of New South Wales National Biography Award 2004, and the NSW Premier’s Literary Award’s Douglas Stewart Prize for non-fiction. Reading the River, Selected Poems was published in June 2004 in the UK by Bloodaxe Books. He appeared at the 2004 Ledbury Poetry Festival, read at Festival Hall, London, and read Reading The River at the Dublin Writers’ Festival, Dublin City 2004. Adamson’s most recent book, The Goldfinches of Baghdad, was published in the USA by Flood Editions, Chicago (March 2006). Robert Adamson’s website features photos, poems and reviews of his many books:

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