AustLit logo
image of person or book cover 115083497814922059.jpg
Image courtesy of publisher's website.
Robert Adamson Robert Adamson i(A29014 works by) (a.k.a. Robert Harry Adamson)
Born: Established: 17 May 1943 Sydney, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 16 Dec 2022
Gender: Male
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


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 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 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 wrote for the fishing magazine Fishing World.

Most Referenced Works


  • Interview with Adamson held at NLA

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Net Needle Chicago : Flood Editions , 2015 7975145 2015 selected work poetry

' In The Times Literary Supplement, David Wheatley calls Robert Adamson "one of the finest Australian poets at work today." NET NEEDLE brings together the presiding influences of his life, early and late. He casts an affectionate eye on the Hawkesbury fishermen who "stitched their lives into my days," childhood escapades, lost literary comrades, the light and tides of the river, and the ambiance of his youth. Throughout, he is characteristically attuned to the natural world, sketching encounters both intimate and strange. These are poems of clear-eyed vision and mastery, borne of long experience, alert and at ease. As Michael Palmer observes, "Eye and ear, none better." ' (Publication summary)

2015 shortlisted Queensland Literary Awards Judith Wright Calanthe Award
2016 shortlisted Prime Minister's Literary Awards Poetry
Via Negativa : The Divine Dark 2011 sequence poetry
— Appears in: Newswrite : The NSW Writers' Centre Magazine , October-November vol. 199 no. 2011; (p. 9) Award Winning Australian Writing 2012 2012; (p. 72-75) Net Needle 2015;
2011 winner Blake Poetry Prize
y separately published work icon The Golden Bird : New and Selected Poems Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2008 Z1535162 2008 selected 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)
2009 winner Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Prize for Poetry
2009 shortlisted The Age Book of the Year Award Dinny O'Hearn Poetry Prize
Last amended 19 Dec 2022 16:08:18
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: