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Robyn Rowland

Robyn Rowland writes what could be described as a traditionally feminine, aestheticised mode of lyric poetry. Rowland’s poetic landscape is one that shimmers with moonlight, in which one finds cherry blossom and exotic fruit, waterfalls and peacocks, and sensuality (if not sex), and in which the language is always pleasing. Perhaps it is my cultural background – coming from a dour nation of Finns – or the fact that I am a formworker’s daughter, but this world is not familiar to me. Indeed, it seems to belong to a particular tradition of lyric poetry, rather than to any reality. Nevertheless, there is honesty and poignancy in Rowland’s New and Selected Poems, which speak of lost relationships, childbirth, illness, the death of loved ones, and the various individuals and historical events that inspired her interest or hope.

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The Mother Workshops and Other Poems by Jeri Kroll & Shadows at the Gate by Robyn Rowland

May 2004, no. 261

Robyn Rowland and Jeri Kroll write what you might call anecdotal poetry: simple, intimate and direct. Kroll, for instance, writes about her dogs, doing her taxes and sleeping in, with the sketchy, conversational tone of someone thinking out loud: ‘Does age smell? The older the dog grows, / the more he smells like a labrador, / though he’s a border collie and blue heeler.’

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The Sixth Swan by Diane Fahey & Fiery Waters by Robyn Rowland

March 2002, no. 239

Since 1982, Robyn Rowland has published three poetry collections at roughly ten-year intervals. She has also been an eminent, sometimes controversial, academic. Her poetry must have been a release from the stylistic and emotional restrictions of her academic work.

Fiery Waters, her new collection, is a leisurely and deeply felt progress across most aspects of a middle-aged woman’s life. Both sensual and sensuous, it is concerned with the ‘real world’, whether in apparently autobiographical poems of love and loss or in her more political poems against injustices here and overseas.

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I am sure it was a difficult book to write: the issues are extremely complex, the transdisciplinary range of the areas covered extensive and detailed, and the finished product extremely succinct and presented with an admirable clarity. Yet throughout, the passionate commitment to the task of making women’s oppression visible, readable, audible, indeed refusing to let it not be seen, read and heard modulates, in a specifically feminine voice, the social science genre of expository prose and factual representation which Rowland, as writing subject, adopts from her particular institutionalised position as both woman and writer of a Women’s Studies text.

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