Aileen Ballantyne

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.


Beyond Souvenirs »

A digital installation of commissioned poems on ancient souvenirs of travel

Thu 2 March - Sun 5 March | 10:00 - 22:00 | FREE | The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, Level 2 Foyer



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.


Aileen Ballantyne