New Writers Awards 2018: Aileen Ballantyne

 

Poetry

Aileen Ballantyne is a national newspaper journalist turned poet. She was the staff Medical Correspondent for the Guardian, then The Sunday Times. She is now working on her first poetry collection after completing a PhD in Creative Writing and Modern Poetry at the University of Edinburgh, where her supervisor was Dr Alan Gillis. Her investigative journalism has twice been commended in the British Press Awards and her news features on Aids in The Sunday Times won the Erskine Hospital (David Boyle) Memorial award in the Scottish Press Awards. 

In 2015 Aileen won first prize in the Mslexia Poetry Competition, and the short poem category at the Poetry on the Lake Festival at Orta St Giulio in Italy. She also won second prize in the flash fiction section of the Bridport Prize that year. 

She was commissioned by Stanza International Poetry Festival to write a poem for last year’s (2017) festival in St Andrews and her work has appeared widely in anthologies, including The Emma Press’s “Anthology of Age” and the upcoming The Emma Press book on “Kings and Queens”. She was also the winner of the Scots category of the Wigtown Poetry Festival (2012) and the Sloan Prize for Lowland Scots (2009). 

 

Writing Sample

In the Garden

(For M)

 

You saw it today: you gazed

at the apple tree’s buds

like someone who never saw blossom

unfurl in the sunlight until now.

 

As light fades,

the blossom’s a quiet silhouette.

I reach for your hand in the dark,

 

we lie on our backs

on the red tartan rug

we once used for picnics, 

watching the holes 

in the sky effervesce.

You tell me the night 

has the chilled almond

taste of champagne

 

and you ask

if I’ll help you to die.

 

We have no desire

for the cold prefab-blue

of Zurich, or Switzerland’s snow.

 

I move the old stereo close to the window,

put Fingal’s Cave on the turntable.

We can hear it quite loud  

in the shade of the trees

at the foot of our garden.

I pour you the dose

in a clear crystal glass

well-laced with Bruichladdich,

sit down on the grass

and hum every note alongside you,

until only I

am singing.

 

Aileen says: 

"I feel very lucky indeed to win this award – it’s a terrific opportunity. I hope to use it wisely."