New Writers Awards 2018: Rhona Warwick


Rhona Warwick spent most of her childhood mute, living between Govan and Paris.

She studied sculpture at The Glasgow School of Art and established her practice in text-based works. In 2007 she published her first book, Fantoun, about a phantasmagorical sister-city to Glasgow.

In 2016, she was commissioned by artists Edmund de Waal and David Ward to respond to their exhibition WaveSpeech at The Pier Art Gallery in Orkney. This resulted in her first poem, Lipper, due to be published by Wunderkammer Press in Feb 2018.

Since then, she has continued to write poems for numerous artists, including the poem Fear is Here Death is Close for Clare Woods’s recent solo show at Dundee Contemporary Arts, and her recent poem, Tethered, for the sculptor Tessa Lynch. Both are included in her first pamphlet, PUTTY, published by Slo-Mo Books in 2017.

Having finally found her voice, Rhona will perform Tethered in London at Cubitt Galleryfor The Drivers Seat, an event celebrating the centenary year of Muriel Spark’s birth in Feb 2018. Rhona plans to use the New Writers Award to develop Fantoun into a series of ten poems. She lives in Glasgow with her husband and two young sons.


Writing Sample

Tethered (extract)


I walk every day at the same time for around an hour.

Mostly I see dog walkers, joggers and mothers pushing prams

each, I’ve noticed are tethered to something;

a lead, a pram with a strap,

earphones, a backpack.


While walking I find myself thinking not of the exposed tree roots

or the shifting skies

                        but of intimate interior spaces;

                        the pile of dishes in the sink,

a table strewn with papers and apple cores and dinosaurs,

                        an L-shaped room.


My nosy little vice is peering into windows

often the basement flats of other peoples homes,

and wondering how they keep their orchids alive

Imagining what it is to be in

that life framed in those photographs

arranged on the polished baby grand.


I always thought walking was a liberation from domestic space —

of those great flâneurs who flitted between streets

being seen and seeing —

walking in that philosophical manner with the head tilted, just so.

Nature! Architecture! Urban design! The Human Condition! all crystallised in the faceless crowd.

                        But like those others on my walk I too, am tethered

                        by last nights greasy strands of spaghetti that lie waiting

                        limp and coiled in the sinkhole.


I almost never encounter another me

no solitary women without apparent purpose - to jog or shop or mother.

I look for her, in the streets, parks, back-lanes and renegade desire-lines

                        but I never see her

                        though wonder if I did..would she see me too?

                        would I smile the way I oddly do

                        to dogs separated from their owners,

                        as we pass one and other by.


With each step, the shake-down takes me deeper to

that quiet root inside

to think deeply about sinks and skulls and those greasy antennae

growing in abeyance back at home.


Rhona says:

"I am utterly delighted! The New Writers Award has come at precisely right time - writing can be a quite solitary activity, but the recognition and access to a broader community offered as part of this award has focused and deepened my commitment to writing poetry."