Aileen Ballantyne is the winner of the 2015 £2,000 Mslexia Poetry Competition and of the short poem category of the International Poetry on the Lake Prize at Orta San Giulio in Italy (2015). Her poems have also won the Wigtown Book Festival Poetry Competition (2012) and the National Galleries of Scotland Competition (2011), and have been included in the Freight anthology Umbrellas of Edinburgh. She is the former staff medical correspondent for the Guardian and the Sunday Times and her investigative journalism has twice been commended in the British Press Awards. Aileen has a PhD in Creative writing and Modern Poetry from Edinburgh University where she teaches contemporary poetry and English and Scottish Literature.
It was not the place of my birth that I loved, nor the trail of her smoke nor the sun on the Forth, nor the dark of her light nor her half-light, but this land I have found and the splash and the roar of her sea where the women take the hair from their heads to weave bamboo-grass mosaics and the ink dries on my pen as I write. I stand now on a hillside by the sweet vanilla planted and her people are my people. I remember, now and then, the pale light of the North: its soot-black towers and razored dusk-black steeples etched out in silhouette and the counterpane coughed red as I lay in bed, dreaming paper-chains of islands in my head. It was not the place of my birth that I loved but this land I have found where they call me Tusitala and I breathe with the sea. After a portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa, by Count Girolamo Nerli (1892), Scottish National Portrait Gallery.