Reviews and comments on previous books

Critical response:

BBC Actor John Nettles who recorded poet Sir John Betjeman, said on Connemara last year after one Clifden Arts Week, that he comes each year to hear Robyn read and named her as ‘among the first rank of poets’, impressed ‘by her use of language, control of verse and wonderful delivery’. Her accent, he said, ‘gives an added piquancy to her delivery’ and the poetry is ‘extraordinarily moving, wonderfully insightful’ with ‘a control of language I haven’t come across since, well, TS Eliot. Like Dylan Thomas and Betjeman, you have to hear her yourself. She is the voice.’

Ron Pretty, Publisher, Poet

Rowland’s skill as a poet is to combine lilt with passion, musicality with social concern, clarity with depth. She has always had the ability to see the political in the personal, to see the world, not in a mustard seed, but in the space between two bodies, or the errant human cell. As well, she is a poet who does not stand still. There is something European or perhaps Irish in her poetic consciousness: she handles passion and laughter, politics and loss with equal confidence. Her work is very sensual and encompasses a broad range from the political to love affairs that go astray, death and cancer. 

The hallmark of Robyn’s poetry is that it conveys the complexity of human feelings and emotions with honesty and in a clear communicative style. ‘(Her work deals with) sensual, erotic and heterosexual themes … in a startlingly honest style’. The Worchester Review. Her earlier books often involved with the tension of living between Australia and Ireland, reviewers have written:

Eileen Battersby wrote in the Irish Times after Robyn’s reading on Inis Oirr for Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway,: ‘Memory, anecdotal narrative and strong emotion shape Rowland’s strong, personal and well-crafted verse.’ Her reading was ‘honest and questioning’ and ‘Irish history filters through her story as told in appealing, unsentimental but humanly touching poems.’

Mosaics from the Map (2018)

Theo Dorgan, Ireland:

Here are powerful, wise poems of humane sensitivity and good sense, a voice pitched always in the true register of compassion. Here, too, are carefully-placed mirrors and prisms where the light of memory turns and twists to offer up pictures that still hold important stories from our living past, luminous meditations that open up original avenues of vision and thought. The good poetry will always find fresh ways to negotiate between the private life and the larger history — and these are true poems of that invaluable kind. Straight from the heart.

This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakale 1915 – i̇çli dışlı bir savaş: gelibolu/çanakkale 1915 (2015;2018)

 ‘Very few collections bring home so powerfully the vulnerability of individuals in the face of history’ writes Lisa Gorton of Robyn Rowland’s powerful poems recording the experiences of soldiers, nurses and doctors, women munitions workers, wives, mothers, composers, painters and poets during the Gallipolli War,1915. It began with the Battle of Çanakkale and the defeat of the British navy. The land battle was hand-to-hand killing, the physical closeness of its soldiers unmasking the depersonalisation of the propaganda of war.

Lisa Gorton, editor, poet

Stories of Australian, Turkish and Irish men and women in these poems show the intimate nature of war; not from the perspective of victory but from the perspective of those caught up in war, who, whichever side they were on, lost.

Both the English and Turkish languages face each other across the pages as the men faced each other across narrow spaces between the trenches.

Professor Himmet Umunç

In translating impeccably Dr Rowland’s poems into Turkish, Professor M. Ali Çelikel has commendably conveyed the epic depth and literary qualities embodied in the poems. 

Line of Drift (2015)

John Foulcher, Australia

Robyn Rowland’s dual identity as an Irish Australian lends Line of Drift a unique perspective in modern poetry; she combines the best of Irish and Australian sensibilities. The lush passion of this book’s language is balanced by a wry, at times almost laconic view of the world. Every experience, from the grand to the mundane, from the personal to the political, is taut with vividness and energy. These poems are generous and genuinely moving, whether they depict the people or the places that she travels restlessly among and between. As poetry, Rowland has rarely achieved better. Line of Drift is a high water mark in Robyn Rowland’s writing and for poetry in general.

Seasons of doubt & burning: New & Selected poems (2010)

Lorna Crozier, Canada:

These poems from almost forty years of publication show growth, from open simplicity to a rich, resonant maturity. Their hallmark is deep honesty and emotional accessibility.

Robyn Rowland draws her images from deep old places and from the room you are in right now, curtains unable to stop the radiance from spilling in. Her poems are richly wrought, sensuous, full of passion and restraint. They’re luminous and earthy at the same time and open the reader’s ear to hear the silence of the lost. In these difficult times, she’s the poet I’m looking for: ‘an angel she could be, or hope in flight’. 

Robert Adamson, Australia:

In this passionate volume, Robyn Rowland’s sensuous imagery is crafted by a fine intellect; the music of her lines vibrates in the memory. Poems from earlier books gather momentum leading to a generous selection of brilliant new work. These lyrical poems are crafted in various forms and trace a journey where love is cherished along the way to possible celebration. The intensity of feeling evoked in the profound love poems makes reading this book a joy. 

Silence & its tongues (2006)

Michael C. Kuhne, Antipodes: A North American Journal of Australian literature

The poems’ settings range from Australian to Ireland, but the truer landscape is the human heart, scarred but resilient … Rowland’s lessons, transmitted through rich poetic language, can be heard by anyone willing to listen with both the head and the heart.

Shadows at the gate (2004)

Michael Coady, Ireland

These poems are organic outgrowths of a life encompassing both Ireland and Australia, love and loss, anchorage and dislocation, hurt and healing. While retaining artistic control, Robyn Rowland allows real feeling to inform her poetry, rather than playing safe with a fashionably detached ironic mode. Shadows at the Gate authentically sings of tenderness and courage in the face of ‘time’s corrosive kiss’.  Irish Poet

Andrea Breen, Island 98, Spring 2004

Soaked in the richness of lived experience and its accompanying shadows … tightly constructed, thick with description and image. 

Fiery Waters (2001)

Jennifer Harrison, Five Bells.

…  a generous and passionate book. The sensualist shines through: shrewd, empathic, intimate. Rowland celebrates the immediacy of experience, the poignancy of happiness. The poems are arranged almost seasonably and the natural world is an implacable metronome … the poems leave a sensation of warmth long after reading them. 

Barry Hill, Poetry editor, The Weekend Australian, Books Extra, Review, March 30. 2002

Rowland is a fluent, eloquent poet … the sensually explicit lines skilfully manage their metaphor … Her passionate political poems will give heart to many readers. … There is ardour and brave candour in this celebratory stance. 

Geoff Page, winner of the Patrick White Literary Award 2002, review in Australian Book Review, March 2002

Both sensual and sensuous, it is concerned with the “real world”’. Poems have a great personal intensity. She deals tellingly with a range of injustices around the world, always bringing out their human dimensions rather than simply wringing her hands. With no obvious stylistic or literary or political allegiance.. a talented woman writing directly and courageously out of her own experiences.

Perverse Serenity (1990/1992)

Barrett Reid, Critic, editor and Poet

Drawn with rare honesty and a compelling strength of observation which involves the reader…here is writing not afraid to be vulnerable, not trapped in literary artifice, not reticent about emotion, its hopes, its fears, its withdrawals and assertions, which we all share and which enrich our humanity. A memorable picture emerges of a contemporary woman, intelligent and able to feel deeply, who is not afraid to feel the incompleteness, the unfinished edges of human love. 

Filigree in Blood (1982)

… powerful and commanding … with that degree of integrity which makes one pay attention’