robyn’s poetry biography

Dr Robyn Rowland AO

Honorary Fellow, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne 2008-2012

Curator, Geelong Regional Libraries’ Poetry & Conversation series 2011 – 2013

Member, Australia Poetry Ltd, National Advisory Council 2010 – 2013

Deputy Chair, Board Australian Poetry Centre, 2007 - 2009

Board member Poetry Australia Foundation, 2004 -2006

Robyn Rowland, previously Professor of Social Inquiry at Deakin University, has published twelve books: three academic titles and nine books of poetry, most recently Line of Drift from Doire Press, Ireland, supported by the Irish Arts Council, and her bi-lingual This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 – İçli Dışlı Bir Savaş: Gelibolu/Çanakkale 1915 published by Five Islands Press in Australia and by Bilge Kultur Sanat in Turkey, sponsored by the Municipality of Çanakkale. Turkish translations Mehmet Ali Çelikel.

 Seasons of doubt & burning: New & Selected Poems (Five Islands Press, 2010) represented 40 years of publishing. In her academic years, she also published sixty-five book chapters and journal articles, not listed below. She has produced two cd’s of poetry, one with Irish harp. Her poetry has appeared in over 40 anthologies and many international and national publications. She has published critical articles on poetry (solicited by Meanjin and Island), book reviews and journalism. Fuller details are below.

Robyn was awarded CAL travel grants for poetry festivals in India and Sarajevo, Bosnia; Arts Vic grants for promotion of her books in Ireland; and a major grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council (2013) for New Work, Established poet, for work on her new book based in Turkey.

Third generation Irish-Australian, Robyn has been reading and teaching in Ireland for 33 years, where she lives half-time in Connemara. She has been invited to read her poetry in India, Portugal, Ireland, the UK, the USA, Greece, Austria, Bosnia, Serbia, Turkey and Italy, where, along with Canada, Spain and Japan, she has also been published, sometimes in translation. In Australia, Robyn has read at most major festivals (see below). Her poetry has been featured often on Australian national radio programs PoeticA and The Spirit of Things.

Poetry Books

This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 – İçli Dışlı Bir Savaş: Gelibolu/Çanakkale 1915, Turkish translations by Mehmet Ali Çelikel, Five Islands Press, Australia; Bilge Kultur Sanat, Turkey, 2015.
Line of Drift, Doire Press, Galway, Ireland, 2015
Seasons of doubt & burning: New & Selected Poems, Five Islands Press, Melbourne, 2010
This Road, Wagtail Series 63, Picaro Press, 2008
Silence & its tongues, Five Islands Press, 2006 (Reprinted 2008, 2009)
Shadows at the Gate, Five Islands Press, Wollongong, 2004 (Reprinted 2009)
Fiery Waters, Five Islands Press, Wollongong, 2001
Perverse Serenity, Heinemann, Melb,1990; (Reprinted by Spinifex Press, Melbourne. 1992)
Filigree in Blood, Longman Cheshire Modern Poets, Melb 1982.

Poetry CDs

Off the tongue, 2008
Silver Leaving. Poems & Harp, with Lynn Saoirse on Irish harp, 2010

Poems in Journals


Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature (USA)
Acumen (UK) Caja de resistencia. Revista de poesía crítica (Spain) Piedra del molino & Revista de Poesia, no 14, Primavera 2011 (Spain) Zeitschrift fur Australienstudien, issue 24/2010, in Galerna.
Revista Internacional de Literatura, Spanish Language Journal, Monclair University (US)
Poetry Ireland (Ireland),
The Shop (Ireland),
Agenda Poetry (UK),
Malahat Review (print and online) (Canada),
Cafe Review (USA),
Jones av (Canada),
Zeitschrift fuer Australienstudien (Austria),
Motrišta (Bosnia and Herzegovina),
Worchester Review (USA),
Yomimono (Japan),
The Other Voices International Project (USA online),
Knjizevne Novine (Literary News, Serbia);
MindFire (e-zine, USA),
Landfall , Climate, Pacific (Moana) Quarterly, Nexus, Comment, Pilgrims , The New Zealand Listener, Islands (New Zealand)


Australian Poetry Journal
Cordite (online, bi-lingual)
Blue Dog: Australian Poetry
Axon (online)
Divan (online)
Poetry Australia
Eureka Street
Communion (online)
Social Alternatives
The Tasmanian Review
Bulletin Literary Supplement
Sydney Morning Herald
The Age newspaper
The Australian newspaper
Weekend Review
Canberra Times
Salt-Lick Quarterly

Invited papers on poetry – a selection

‘Does poetry matter to people’ & ‘Tagore: his relevance today’ at 6th World Poetry Festival, Kolkata, India, 2012.
Melbourne Writers Week Panel ‘ Great Speeches & the Art of Poetry’, September, 2011
‘Sweet words: creating poetry with heart’, University of Vienna, Austria, 2010
‘Remnants of belonging: after colonisation and immigration – yearning. A poet’s story’, University of Graz, Austria, 2010
‘Broken traditions, broken time: women poets and the politics of intimacy’, University of Klagenfurt, Austria, 2010
‘Mother-tongue: Poetry as First Language’, Belgrade International Writers Meeting, 2009
‘Dear Reader it nearly killed me: life with the personal Muse’, National Library of Australia, Autobiography, Memoir and the Personal Voice, 2008
‘Removing the dust from memory: poetry & archaeology’, Poetry & the Trace Conference, Monash University, 2008
‘Belonging and Identity. What the Irish have woven into us’, Irish Spaces: homeland and diaspora, Melbourne University 2004;
‘Passion of poetry’, Norfolk Island Writers & Readers Festival, 2006
‘Hot words and Sweet. Writing from life’, Tasmanian Poetry Festival, 2004
‘Belonging and Indigenous culture’, Ngara. Living in this place now, Fourth Australian Poetry Festival, 2004

Articles on poetry and the arts

‘Broken time: women poets and the politics of intimacy’, Island, 116, Autumn,2009.
‘Life in the raw with the personal Muse, Meanjin, Vol 67, 4, 2008.
‘De-lyricising the lyric? A response to David McCooey's ‘new lyricism’, Blue Dog Australian Poetry, vol 4 no 8, December 2005.
‘How might the non-indigenous be at home here? What can we learn from indigenous culture?’, in John Muk Muk Burke and Martin Langford (eds) Ngara. Living in this place now. Poems essays and meditations, Five Islands Press, Melbourne 2004.
‘Poetry and audience, letter to Five Bells. Australian Poetry, NSW Poets’ Union, vol 11, no 4, Spring 2004.
‘Green Turtle Dreaming. Envisioning a way forward in synthesising art and anthropology’, Artwork, Issue 62, September 2005.

Poetry Reviews

Night Train by Anthony Lynch, Cordite, 2012
Agnostic skies by Geoff Page, Blue Dog. Australian Poetry, Vol 6, 11, 2007
The Wings of Angels. A Memoir of Madness by Sandy Jeffs, Blue Dog. Australian Poetry, Vol 4 (9), 2006
Nomadic by Judy Johnson, in Blue Dog. Australian Poetry, vol 3,6, 2004

Fiction Review

The Lake Woman, Alan Gould, Aracdia 2009; The Umbrella Club, David Brooks, UQP 2009. Island, 22, 2010


Contemporary Australian Poetry, eds Martin Langford, Judith Beveridge, Judy Johnson, David Musgrave (Puncher & Wattman, Sydney 2016.)The Best Australian Poems 2016 ed. Sarah Holland-Batt, (Black Inc. Melb, 2016)The Best Australian Poems 2015, ed. Geoff Page, (Black Inc. Melb, 2015)Falling and flying, eds Judith Beveridge, Susan Ogle (N.S.W. Brandl & Schlesinger, 2015)

Prayers of a Secular World, eds. Jordie Albiston & Kevin Brophy,  2015 (Inkermann and Blunt)
Dazzled. The VC’ s Poetry Prize Anthology, University of Canberra, 2014
Australian Poetry Anthology 2014, ed, Lucy Dougan and Martin Langford, Melbourne.
The Best Australian Poems 2014, ed. Geoff Page, (Black Inc. Melb, 2014)
The Best Australian Poems 2013, ed. Lisa Gorton, (Black Inc. Melb 2013)
Baby Boomers Poetry Anthology. Judith Beveridge and Sue Ogle (editors) (forthcoming)
Australia Love poems, 2013 (Inkerman and Blunt, Melb, 2013)
Clifden 35: Clifden Anthology. ed Brendan Flynn, ( Ireland 2012)
Being Human, ed. Neil Astley, (Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2011)
A Book of Moments, John Quinn, Veritas, Dublin, 2011.
Everyday Splendour, ed Janette Fernando, Poetica Christi Press, Melbourne, 2011
Writing 4All. The Best of 2010. ed Fred Johnstone, Dublin, Ireland, 2011
The Best Ausrtalian Poems 2010, ed Robert Adamson (Black Inc, Schwartz Aust);
The Best Australian Poems 2009, ed Robert Adamson (Black Inc, Schwartz Aust);
Motherlode: Australian Women's Poetry 1986-2008, eds Jennifer Harrison and Kate Waterhouse, Puncher & Wattman Pty Ltd , Sydney, 2009
Literary Creatures, ed. Rafaella Torenson, Hybrid, Melbourne 2009
The Other Voices International Project – US Cyber-anthology, 2009. Ed. Roger Humes.
Writings from the Shipwreck Coast, ed. Robyn Gardner, (Mattoid Grange, Geelong, 2008);
All Travellers We. Poems for Shelton Lea, Eaglemont Press, Melb. 2008
The Road South. An Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry, ed Ron Pretty, (Bengal Creations Pty Ltd, India, 2007)
The Clifden Anthology, ed Brendan Flynn, Celebrating 30 years of Clifden Arts Week, Clifden, Ireland, 2007.
The Best Australian Poems 2005, ed Les Murray (Black Inc, Schwartz Aust);
The Best Australian Poems 2004, ed Les Murray (Black Inc, Schwartz Pub Aust. 2004).
Verbal Medicine: 20 Contemporary Poets of Australia and New Zealand, ed. Tim Metcalf, Ginninderra Press, Canberra, 2006
Textbook: English at Eleven Vce Units 1 & 2, 2e, John Wiley and Sons, 2006.
Ngara. Living in this place now, eds John Muk Muk Burke and Martin Langford (Five Islands Press ,2004) ‘Belonging and Indigenous culture’ plus poems
Said the Rat! Writers at the Water Rat 2000-2002, eds. Jennifer Harrison and Phil Ilton (Black Pepper and the Fellowship of Australian Writers, 2003)
Around Geelong. Place, Memory and Home, ed. Wendy Ratawa (Kinross Productions, 2002)
The Turning Wave - the verse and song of Irish Australia, eds - Colleen Z Burke and Vincent Woods (Kardooair Press, Armidale, 2001)
Wee Girls. Women writing from an Irish Perspective, ed. Lizz Murphy. (Spinifex Press, 1996)
Radically Speaking, eds. D Bell and R Klein (Spinifex Press, 1996)
Moments of Desire, eds. Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker (Penguin, 1989)
Poetry Involves, ed. Denise Scott, (Heinemann , 1988, U.K. !989)
Up from Below: Poems of the 1980’s. An Australian Women’s Anthology, (Redress Press, 1987)
Poems Selected from the Australian’s 20th Anniversary Competition, eds. Judith Rodriguez and Andrew Taylor (Angus and Robertson, 1985
The Australian Bedside Book. A Selection of Writings from the Australian Literary Supplement, ed, Geoffrey Dutton (MacMillan, 1987)
Fourth Form English, ed. Peter Smart ( Longmans, 1980)

Experiential journalism

Various articles for:

The Age newspaper
Saturday Essay
Faith columns

Other publications

Three Academic books published by Oxford Uni press
Indiana Uni Press US
Cedar, London
Routledge London
Pan MacMillan Australia
63 book chapters and numerous editorial and newspaper pieces on research.


Robyn has been reading her poetry for 40 years including in Australia at:

The Adelaide Arts Festival
Melbourne Writers Week
The Australian Poetry Festival (Sydney)
Tasmanian Poetry Festival
Women 150 Festival
The Melbourne Poetry Festival
Perth International Arts Festival
Byron Bay Writers’ and Readers’ Festival
Norfolk Island Writers’ and Readers’ Festival
Dan O’Connell, Smith Street, Gertrude street readings
Salon A Muse
Boroondara Soiree
Celtic Club
La Mama Poetica
The Water Rat
Off Chapel Poetry
Readings at Readings
Spoleto Festival Melbourne
Pirra Festival and many more.

Radio readings include:
ABC Radio
Connemara Radio

Readings Internationally

In Turkey at conferences for BAKEA and IDEA and in Izmir, Denizli, Malatya, Canakkale, Ankara and for Anzac Day in Turkey at Gallipoli at the VIP breakfast for VIP’s, Heads of State and Princes Charles and Harry, most of whom received the book as a gift from the Australian Embassy.

Turkish-Australian Culture Centre, Canakkle, Turkey
World poetry festival, Kolkata, India, 2012
Sarajevo Poetry Days (2010)
Siir Beyoglu, Istanbul 2009
Belgrade International Writers Meeting 2009
Universities of Vienna, Graz and Klagenfurt(2010)
University of Coimbra, Portugal
The Australian Arts and Culture Festival 1999, Dublin (where her third book Fiery Waters was launched by the Australian Ambassador)
The Birmingham Arts Festival U.K.
Cambridge University
Trinity College Dublin
Cúirt. International Festival of Literature, Galway
Éigse Michael Hartnett
Strokestown Poetry Festival, Roscommon
Women’s Arts Festival Dublin Ireland
Listowel Writers Week, Kerry Ireland
Yeats Society, Sligo Ireland
Australian Embassy Dublin
Scriobh, Sligo
Clifden Community Arts Week
October Arts in Ennis, Clare
Boyle, Roscommon
O’Bheal, Cork
Cuirt na Ban University College Dublin
University of Coimbra, Portugal
Summer Institute, Lesvos, Greece
Austrian Universities in Vienna, Graz and Klagenfurt.

In 2000 she was guest poet at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, funded by the Luso Americana Foundation and the Faculdade de Letras, where she read in the Teatro Academico de Gil Vicente.

Poetry Judge

Byron Bay Festival Poetry Prize, 2011
International Poetry Prize Melbourne Poets Union, 2009
Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, 2008
ACT Writers’ Centre Poetry Prize 2007
Fellowship of Australian Writers Anne Elder Award for first book of poetry 2005 and 2006
Society of Women Writers Victoria, 2005
Australian Capital Territory Writer’s Centre Poetry Prize 2005
WB Yeats Australian and New Zealand Poetry Prize 2004

Poetry Prizes/Awards

Writing Spirit Award, Ireland 2011, winner
The Judith Wright Prize 2007 for Silence & its tongues, shortlisted
Poetica Christi 2009, winner
Jean Stone Poetry Prize, Fellowship of Australian Writers NSW, 2006, winner
Varuna Writers Retreat Fellowship 2005/6
Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, Highly commended, 2006
International Poetry Prize, Melbourne Poets Union 2005, second
Martha Richardson Poetry Medal 2005, second
BTG Blue Dog Poetry Reveiwing Competition, 2005, commended
Catalpa Poetry Prize 2002 (Australian Irish Heritage Association), winner
Catalpa Writers Prize 2002 for best of all fiction, essay and poetry
W. B Yeats Poetry Prize 2002 (for Australia and New Zealand), commended
John Shaw Neilson Poetry Award (Fellowship of Australian Writers), second
Max Harris Literary Awards, commended
Canning Literary Award, WA, winner

Critical response

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. 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.’

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

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'. Lorna Crozier, Canada

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. Robert Adamson, Australia

‘Where does she live now but inside language’. Grace O’Grady, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Silence & its tongues (2006)

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

Shadows at the gate (2004)

‘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’. Michael Coady, Irish Poet

‘Soaked in the richness of lived experience and its accompanying shadows..tightly constructed, thick with description and image’, Andrea Breen, Island 98, Spring 2004

Fiery Waters (2001)

‘is 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’. Jennifer Harrison, Five Bells.

‘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’. Barry Hill, Poetry editor, The Weekend Australian, Books Extra, Review, March 30. 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.’ Geoff Page, winner of the Patrick White Literary Award 2002, review in Australian Book Review, March 2002

Perverse Serenity (1990/1992)

‘Drawn with rare honesty and a compelling strength ofobservation which involves the 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’. Barrett Reid, Critic and Poet

Filigree in Blood (1982)

Was ‘powerful and commanding’, ‘with that degree of integrity which makes one pay attention’.

"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." Ron Pretty, Publisher

 ‘(Her work deals with) sensual, erotic and heterosexual themes ... in a startlingly honest style’. The Worchester Review

BBC Actor John Nettles who recorded poet Sir John Betjeman, said on Connemara radio last year after 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.’

Other accomplishments

Robyn is an experienced reader and public speaker. Previous to 1996, when Robyn was diagnosed with breast cancer and left academic life, she was Professor Rowland, Head of the School of Social Inquiry and Director of the Australian Women’s Research Centre at Deakin University. Robyn has edited and refereed for a multitude of international journals. A well- known public critic of reproductive technology and genetic engineering for fifteen years, Robyn published Living Laboratories: Women and Reproductive Technology in 1992 (Pan MacMillan, Aust; Indiana University Press, USA; Limetree and Cedar, U.K.) In that capacity she addressed the House of Lords, Trinity College Dublin, the Quebec Government’s gathering on legislation in these areas, and various governments internationally and nationally used her work. She delivered over 100 public addresses or conference papers and conducted interviews and debates on television, on radio and in the print media. In the 1996 Honours List she was made an Officer in the Order of Australia by the Governor General on behalf of the Australian Government for her contribution to women’s health and higher education.