Robert Adamson was born in Sydney, but often visited the Hawkesbury River district where his grandfather was a fisherman. Adamson spent much of his early life in corrective institutions, but it was in gaol that he educated himself and developed his interest in poetry.
Adamson became a member of the Sydney literary scene in the late 1960s and was a significant influence on the rise of the "New Australian Poetry" in the early 1970s, editing New Poetry and establishing Prism Books. His later publishing ventures include Big Smoke Books with Dorothy Hewett, and the Paper Bark Press, which was established in 1986 with Juno Gemes and Michael Wilding. Many of his collections have been published by this press, the most recent being Mulberry Leaves: New and Selected Poems 1970-2001.
Since publishing his first collection, Canticles on the Skin (1970), Adamson has successfully combined his publishing and writing activities, winning many prizes for his poetry. His work frequently explores the experiences of his early life in reform schools and prison, and reveals the importance of the Hawkesbury River district in dealing with these years. Adamson was instrumental in raising awareness of contemporary American poetry and has had a close association with Robert Duncan of the American Black Mountain poets. His most widely admired volume is The Clean Dark (1989) in which the importance of the Hawkesbury is clearly expressed.
Adamson also writes for the fishing magazine Fishing World.
The Golden Bird : New and Selected Poems2008selected work poetry 'The Golden Bird brings together the best of Robert Adamson's work from the last four decades, as well as many superb new poems. Selected and arranged by the author, it provides an accessible introduction to Australia's foremost lyric poet and an insight into the recurring themes that have shaped his remarkable body of work.' (Publisher's blurb)