Originally from the West of Scotland, Rowena is now based in Hertfordshire, although she and her poetry make regular trips back to Scotland.
She has had hundreds of poems published all round the world (in print and online) and broadcast on radio. Rowena has done well in competitions over the years, too. Her most recent win was the prestigious McCash Poetry Prize for Scots poetry run jointly by Glasgow University and The Herald (see the winning poem below).
Ye're sae hantle in ma thochts
that it’s a stamagast tae see ma physog
no yourn in the keekin-gless.
Fingers flaucht a wing o hair ahint ae lug:
new style fur a new stairt.
Ah gove intae the gless,
stieve as a preened butterflee,
ma een marled wi rigglemerie
Zip rips the seelence. Makeup brattles oot.
Eelids wait thir stour o pollen
in colours fragrant wi mynd.
Gray, licht as the Tay skinklin wi sunblink,
or stormclood daurk, when we laucht in the rain;
a blush o day-set, its lammer spraing
cruivin me in the past when Ah was still cocooned
in innocence, wappit fast in yir silken lees.
Haird deceesions reeve the Tammie-nid-nod,
lattin poustie flichter free.
Mascara curls breers intae a Venus fleetrap
tae fang yir tent, keep it.
Lippie kisses flesh lik a premoneetion
or a hecht.
Thare. Ah'm duin. The leddy, pentit.
Winner of the McCash Poetry Prize for Scots Poetry 2012. It has been published by The Herald in their anthology The Smeddum Test, with 101 Scots poems from the 10 years of the competition. You can buy it on Amazon.
I've put an English version of the same poem below.
You're so much in my thoughts
it's a shock to see my face
not yours in the mirror.
Fingers tremble a wing of hair
behind one ear:
new style for a new start.
I gaze into the glass,
motionless as a pinned butterfly,
my eyes patterned with intricate markings
Zip rips the silence.
Makeup clatters out.
Lids await their dusting of pollen
in colours fragrant with memory.
Grey, light as the Liffey sparkling with sunshine,
or storm cloud dark, when we laughed in the rain;
a blush of sunset, its amber tones
trapping me in the past
when I was still cocooned in innocence,
wrapped fast in your silken lies.
Hard decisions split the chrysalis,
letting determination flutter free.
Mascara curls lashes into a Venus flytrap
to capture your attention, keep it.
Lipstick kisses flesh like a premonition
or a promise.
There. I'm done. The lady, painted.
Note: the English version of the poem was also successful in a competition. This one was selected to be part of the Arts Trail in Bolton in 2012, along with a number of other poems by Rowena.
Goannae no talk sae coorse,
yer effin an blindin
cheapenin yer guid looks tae boattle blonde
slurpin Buckie fae a broon poke
steid o a class act sippin single malt.
Gonnae no ’pologeese fur oor leid
‘s if it wur the Sassenach’s puir relation,
a maiden lady saft in the heid
steid o a pretty lass strang an sure
wi hir creel o wirds claiked wi meanin.
Goannae no spik lik a numpty
‘s if w’ur a nation o dafties
steid o wan wi mair inventions
tae oor name than haggis dinners.
Goannae no hide Rabbie’s licht
fur the hail year bar yin nicht,
nor ignore oor ither makars,
scared tae mak tae muckle o them
case we huv tae admit tae pride.
Gonnae no hide ahint history
‘s if we began an endit wi Wallace –
nae Enlightenment, nae Athens o the North,
mair culture in yer fridge
nor oan yer tongue.
Gonnae no leemit us
tae tartan an shortbreid,
nor gae sae far the ither wey
that pipe bands mak ye blush;
cawin the feet fae ye
stead o swaggerin heid heich
at the very thocht o wha we ur.
Note: always a very popular poem at readings, it has been published by Poetry Scotland and an excerpt of it was used in a Scottish Parliamentary paper on the use of the Scots Language.
The mill stands poised
like a fashion model,
displaying tones and textures
from Nature’s Collection.
Red pantiles drape the roof
with Madras cloth checks;
cornerstones seam sandstone walls
in shades of sorrel;
a skirt of grass borders the buildings
in a lush green velvet
polka-dotted with ducks.
A lamé pond shines like sequins in sun,
its silver surface slubbed
with the wake of waterfowl.
The mill wheel bobbin
purls water from the stream;
white cotton yarn unravels
from every paddle.
Beyond the drawn-thread fence,
is the corduroy of ploughed fields:
light and shadow ruffle the nap
into ripples of russet and chestnut.
Above, doves are appliquéd
on sky’s azure bunting,
pin feathers pointing to Phantassie
Excerpts from this poem have just been used in the most recent guidebook for the Mill, produced the National Trust for Scotland (May 2012)
Cancer’s a queer fish:
anaemic amoeba endlessly mutating;
puffer-fish growths bloated with poison;
or shoals of cells
that prowl like piranhas
stripping my health in their feeding frenzy.
But attitude can attack back,
till I’m the dolphin swimming free
from this sea
I’ll trawl my system,
catching cancers and fears,
netting them to wriggle and squirm:
I’m the dolphin swimming free.
Modern medicine may have me filleted,
canned and processed,
pumped full of additives –
but the rest is up to me...
I’m the dolphin swimming free.
Dread might dorsal my spine,
tears flood my face with brine
but I... CAN... DO... THIS...
I am the dolphin swimming free.
This poem has appeared in Reach Poetry Magazine and in a number of different anthologies and magazines subsequently. Its most recent outing is in Soul Feathers, a beautiful anthology of poems raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. You can buy it on Amazon.
Sun bores through a seam of dense cloud
until it reaches sea, drills through ice-blue water,
filling the hole with so much gold
it overflows, an ever-widening puddle
that slowly sinks and drains
as the sides cave in under the force of cumulus.
Wind is a blunt chisel, chipping the waves,
revealing striations that glitter with pyrites,
their false promise soon buried beneath
shale shadows that clog the surface.
Sunset dribbles from a crack in the cloud face,
then gushes in a copper spray
that twists and coils as if alive,
before seeping away, its power spent.
The watcher is left to fossick for opalescent light,
last twists of apricot and rose flickering against the blue
that deepens slowly to coal.
Inspired by watching the sun on the sea at Portpatrick, on the Mull of Galloway.This poem has been published in The Fireside Book, produced by D C Thomson
This was Rowena's first collection, which came out in 2004.
It is available to purchase through the Makar Bookshop on this website at a cost of £7.99, which includes free postage and packaging anywhere in the UK (and for a small additional sum for foreign buyers).
Please note, if you have any difficulties with the bookshop then simply drop us an email and we can invoice you directly using PayPal.
This was Rowena's first pamphlet, which came out in 2008
It is available to purchase through the Makar Bookshop on this website at a cost of £5, which includes free postage and packaging anywhere in the UK (and for a small additional sum for foreign buyers). Please note, if you have any difficulties with the bookshop then simply drop us an email and we can invoice you directly using PayPal.
You'll find it in the 'Poetry Pamphlets (assorted)' section - just select Comin Oot in the Wash from the drop down menu at the bottom then click add to cart.