In 1954, the Poetry Society of Australia was founded to encourage the appreciation and writing of poetry in Australia. To support this aim a literary magazine, Prism, was established, beginning publication in July. Prism was superseded by Poetry Magazine in 1961, the latter edited by Grace Perry, Roland Robinson and others during the 1960s. But, soon after Robert Adamson joined the editorial team in 1968, a dispute over the amount of space given to American and English writers influenced several editors to resign. This left Adamson, Greg Curtois and Carl Harrison-Ford to guide the magazine through a transitional phase that included a change of title to New Poetry.
New Poetry became the unofficial organ of 'New Australian Poetry' and the group of writers sometimes referred to as the 'Generation of '68'. During the late 1960s, unable to achieve publication in the established quarterlies, many poets had produced underground publications, but New Poetry offered a stable publisher for those who opposed the more conservative styles and themes of established poets such as A. D. Hope, R. D. FitzGerald, Judith Wright and James McAuley.
Carl Harrison-Ford, reflecting on his term as editor of New Poetry, recalled that a number of subscribers, seeing a concrete poem by Alan Riddell, returned the issue in disgust. Further returns from disgruntled subscribers were made in response to other issues, but New Poetry established a loyal subscription base despite attacks from critics in other magazines. Reflecting the diversity and contentiousness of the New Australian Poetry, those who appeared in New Poetry included Adamson, Michael Dransfield, Charles Buckmaster, Tim Thorne, Vicki Viidikas, John Tranter, Nigel Roberts, Richard Tipping, J. S. Harry, John Forbes, Alan Wearne, Martin Johnson, Laurie Duggan, John Scott and John Millett. An international presence was maintained through the appointment of Asian and North American editors and the publication of many contemporary American poets.
Criticism of the 'New Australian Poetry' increased in the late 1970s, most notably in a special issue of Australian Literary Studies titled 'New Writing in Australia', and articles highly critical of the poetry produced by those identified with the movement by Richard Packer and Mark O'Connor. Nevertheless, New Poetry continued to publish many of the poets who had contributed to early issues, accumulating a significant collection of 1970s Australian poetry and asserting a considerable influence on the development of Australian poetics.
After three years under the editorship of Cheryl Adamson, New Poetry returned to the editorship of Robert Adamson in 1980. With financial assistance from literary grants, New Poetry had appeared first bi-monthly then quarterly throughout the 1970s. But following the August 1980 issue, a year passed before the next issue was released. Adamson announced in the August 1981 issue that New Poetry would from that time appear irregularly, but that issue proved to be the last.