The other night I stayed up till 3am to finish reading Robert Adamson’s new and selected poems in “The Golden Bird” and I was enthralled! His poetry is absolutely beguiling! I was first introduced to his poetry by the great Australian poet Judith Rodriguez, my poetry teacher when she asked me to read ‘The Goldfinches of Baghdad’ to my class. I was completely blown away by the beauty and tragedy of the symbolism of birds burning in Babylonian Baghdad in wartime.
The poetic metaphor of birds in gilded cages as poets that have been politically gagged was striking as were all images of the destruction of beauty, art, feathers flying, slaughtered innocent birds, amidst the decadence and destruction of a civilization.
These finches are kept in gold cages
or boxes covered in wire mesh;
they are used by falcon trainers as lures,
and rich patriarchs choose these living ornaments
to sing to them on their deathbeds. Their song is pure
and melodious. A goldfinch with a slashed throat
was the subject of a masterpiece painted in the
sixteenth century on the back of a highly
polished mother-of-pearl shell—-it burns
tonight in Baghdad, along with the living,
caged birds. Flesh and feathers, hands
and wings. Sirens wail, but the tongues
of poets and the beaks of goldfinches burn.
Those who cannot speak burn along with the
articulate—-creatures oblivious to prayer burn
along with those who lament to their god.
Falcons on the silver chains, the children
of the falcon trainer, smother in the smoke
of burning feathers and human flesh.
We sing or die, singing death
as our songs feed the flames.
Can’t you just smell the burning flesh and feathers along with the destruction and desperation of death in war and loss of faith in freedom and righteousness? I loved it along with many other classical, lyrical poems as well as the prosaic, simple memories of growing up near the Hawkesbury River in N.S.W. surrounded by all that beautiful flora and fauna. The poems span the life of this award winning Australian poet. There are poems that speak of growing up on the river, fishing, oyster farming, green prawns, mudflats, bowerbirds, lyrebirds, harbors, trucks, farming, sandstone, night heron, magpies, carp, night parrots, ghost crabs, Easter fish, tropical birds, kingfishers, cockatoos, ravens, the jesus bird, the pheasant tailed lacuna, birds, birds and more birds!! It’s beautiful and lush and teeming with life and an absolute delight!
There are classical and mythological references to Eurydice and Creon from Sophocles tragedies and such lovely lyrical prose that drips like honey off a lover’s tongue!
When asked to describe his influences and style he had this to say:
“It flows out from Robert Duncan’s essay on Whitman, then meanders through the French Symbolism of Rimbaud and Mallarmé, rushes under Crane’s bridge, has a creek running through Brennan’s prose and McAuley’s final canticles and through Webb’s tributary; then it comes up into my swamp in riddles. There are other streams of it that even shoot out into the rapids of New York.”
I’m absolutely thrilled to recommend this poet and especially this book to those bird lovers, nature lovers, art & beauty lovers and just plain lovers!