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Robert Adamson

At Rock River

— for Peter O’Leary who drove me to Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee

In a subway in New York City,
Zukofsky carefully watches

a praying mantis on a page
of newspaper in full defensive

display. In a Milwaukee
factory Neidecker listens to workers

on their lunch-break yarning.
Lines drawn, some in books

others in sand — spinning tangles.
Lorine sorting through

her father’s lines that hauled carp.
Everything difficult, even

in hours writing lines of poetry
words came a letter at a time,

creating phrases, images
of buckets tipped over with a light

touch, line breaks making
sense of her sparse life — Rock River’s

pull. She changed the water
level until she drew Zuk

and Basil Bunting to her front door.
Green tree frogs croaked

and a barn owl cleared the bone
from its throat. Sound of paddle

splash, then a water rat drops down
from the plank-wood

dock to scurry under netboards.
There was her father’s bent back

as he pulled them home
along with the shuddering catch:

carp-scales caught in mesh
were silver coins in broad shafts

of the late sun. Night time,
after the dishes, a dream of hands

roughened on oat-sacks.
Dawn, starling chatter and ratshit,

Lorine watches a white moth
on a stalk of blossoming rose mallow.

After the soft crack of duck eggs —
she sits at her breakfast table, writing

lines including factory talk,
her way, until it seems to matter.

Robert Adamson with Mulloway, photo Juno Gemes 2008

Robert Adamson with Mulloway, photo Juno Gemes 2008

Robert Adamson has published twenty books and has been the recipient of many awards and prizes. In 1990 The Clean Dark won the Kenneth Slessor Award, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry and the National Book Council’s Banjo Award, and in 1994 he was awarded the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Christopher Brennan Prize for lifetime achievement in literature. His work has been translated into seven languages. Reading the River, a selection of his poems, was released in 2004 by Bloodaxe in the UK. Flood Editions, Chicago, published The Goldfinches of Baghdad, Adamson’s first book published in the USA, it was The Age Poetry Book of The Year in 2007. It also won the Grace Levin Prize and the Wesley Michel Wright Prize for Poetry. Robert Adamson lives with the photographer Juno Gemes on the Hawkesbury River. His new book The Golden Bird was published by Black Ink in October 2008. The Golden Bird brings together the best of Robert Adamson’s work from the last four decades, as well as many superb new poems. His website:

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