Mulberry Leaves: New and selected poems, 1970–2001
Paper Bark Press, $32.95 pb, 325 pp
Producing a new Selected Poems is always an opportunity for poets to re-evaluate the shape of the history of their work, just as it gives readers another extended exposure to the poems themselves. In the case of Robert Adamson, Mulberry Leaves: New and aelected poems, 1970–2001 is not the first opportunity: there are two earlier Selecteds. The first (Angus & Robertson, 1978) was probably too early and, instead of selecting, rewrites and reorders, so that all Adamson’s work seems to be directed to Cross the Border, surely his least successful book. The second (UQP, 1990) is a much more formidable volume and an extensive enough collection to adequately represent the things going on in the first twenty years of the career.
This new selection, made ten years after the UQP one, is so radically different from the other two that it almost feels as though Adamson’s work were rich enough for quite different versions of it to be made. Some of this difference is inevitable. Adamson published six books in this decade and a number of them, like Waving to Hart Crane and Black Water, are substantial. So, inevitably, Mulberry Leaves is severely pruned: a mere five poems from Adamson’s first book, Canticles on the Skin, as opposed to the sixteen in the 1990 Selected, for example.