Rosemarie Rowley was born in Dublin in 1942. After a spell working in the Agricultural Institute in Dublin, which she left for ecological reasons, she went to England to work for the BBC and as a schoolteacher in Birmingham. She attended Trinity College, Dublin, for her first degree in English, Irish, and Philosophy, graduating with a Distinction in English in the late 'sixties. Opportunities for employment were few for a young married woman because of the marriage bar then in force in Ireland, but she worked in 1970 in the nascent Irish film industry as a personal assistant/secretary to John Boorman, the film director, when he was working on several projects, including Deliverance. She typed the manuscripts and found some of the scenes harrowing.
The Irish film industry was a long time taking off, so Rowley emigrated to Luxembourg where she took up the post of a European Civil servant. She returned to Ireland in the 1980s to raise her son, David, and was active in the beginnings of the green movement, acting as Coordinator for the Green Alliance, forerunner of the Green Party. In 1984 she obtained a Masters degree at Trinity College on the work of Patrick Kavanagh, whom she believes was Ireland'’s greatest poet after Yeats, and who was very opposed to the secularist, materialist world that developed in the late twentieth century in Ireland and elsewhere. He was the last great pastoral poet in Europe.
Her pamphlets include Freedom and Censorship—: why not have both? (1989), which influenced the Campaign against Pornography and Censorship in the UK. She also wrote an essay around this time on women and the Irish Constitution (published in Administration (37.1 ). During this period, also, she worked as a creative writing teacher with individuals who were socially or educationally disadvantaged and as a lecturer in the Dublin Institute of Adult Education.
During the ‘eighties she published her first books of poetry, The Broken Pledge (1985), and The Sea of Affliction (1987), the second of which was one of the first works of eco-feminism. She developed as a formalist poet, finding that traditional forms (such as those using rhyme) were natural to her, growing up as she had with her father's traditional music and fiddle playing, and having been encouraged by him to write poetry. Flight into Reality (1989), a long poem written in terza rima, the form of Dante's Divina Commedia, then appeared in a small edition. Extracts from Flight into Reality, which is Rowley's principal work, were published by the late eminent poet, Kathleen Raine (1908-2003), in her journal of the arts and imagination, Temenos (London). Raine described it as the best long poem written by a woman in the twentieth century. Rowley's interest in Egyptian themes had begun in 1969, when she wrote the notes for a student production of Ben Jonson's The Alchemist and drew from arcane works on Egyptian mythology and alchemy. Years later, on her return from Luxembourg to Dublin, she was dismayed to find the city drug-ridden, and she devised Flight into Reality, a story of how young people often get into desperate company and are abused. Rowley has re-issued the poem, read by herself, in audio cassette.
During the 'nineties, Rowley won the Scottish International Open Poetry competition for three more of her long poems, The Puzzle Factory (also called Message in a Pill Bottle), The Wake of Wonder, and Betrayal into Origin—: Dancing & Revolution in the 60s. The Puzzle Factory won the Scottish Open International Poetry competition in 2000, although it was written in 1987 after a psychiatrist, Dr. Brion Sweeney, suggested that she might find it therapeutic to write some of her feelings down about hospitals and hospital treatments.
After this, she studied psychology at the level of the diploma, which was awarded from the National University of Ireland in the ‘nineties. In 1997 she represented Ireland in the European Capital of Culture celebrations, where she read translations of the anonymous women bards of the west of Ireland. In that year she also won an American Library of Poetry award for her poem on Princess Diana, "Queen of Hearts." Rowley'’s first short story won an Image Award. In recent years, she has published two more collections of poetry, Hot Cinquefoil Star (2002), which contains some of her long poems, and In Memory of Her (2004), a post-feminist work, largely consisting of short formal poems. She also co-edited a volume of poetry about trees, Seeing the Wood and the Trees, published by Forest Friends Ireland in 2003. In 2004, she was awarded first place in the Scottish International Open Poetry competition for her sequence Faustina in Sestinae.
Rosemarie Rowley now lives in Dublin. She is still committed to the environment, never having owned a car. Her hobbies include genealogy, graphology and going to the movies. She has her own Web site now, www.rosemarierowley.ie.
- Rowley, Rosemarie. The Broken Pledge and Other Poems. [Dublin]: Tallaght, 1985.
- --. The Sea of Affliction. Dublin: Rowan Tree Press, 1987. Now available under a Creative Commons Agreement.
- --. Hot Cinquefoil Star. Dublin: Rowan Tree Press, 2002.
- --. In Memory of Her. Dublin: Rowan Tree Press, 2004.
- --. Freedom and Censorship—why not have both? 1989.
- --, John Haughton, and Cairde na Coille, eds. Seeing the Wood and the Trees. Forest Friends Ireland, 2003.