Last year DAiSY had a call-out for commissions for emerging disabled artists to develop their practice. Our commission in partnership with RHS Garden Wisley was awarded to poet and visual artist Rowan Hoaglin. Here, Rowan tells us about their experience over the commission year.
Working with DAiSY and RHS Wisley is the most incredible opportunity. Maybe that’s cliché, but it’s true.
My name’s Rowan, I’m a poet and artist. Self taught mostly, I left school at a young age due to overwhelming anxiety and depression. So being given an opportunity to share my poems with the world is a dream come true, especially when it’s somewhere as important to me as Wisley.
Memories are a tricky thing. One day they’re there, the next they are locked away waiting to be slowly unearthed.
Wisley is a place of memories and family. My Nana, who was and always will be one of my closest friends, used to bring me there. When life was at its hardest, when anxiety had me in a razor grip, it was a safe haven.
Nana was always kind, loving and understanding. She had an amazing, encyclopaedic knowledge of horticulture, and I know Wisley was an equally special place to her.
I wanted to create a series of poems memorialising her. But my memories were locked away behind a veil of grief.
Recollections came back to me, of digging through the soil and being taught by her and Mum how to look after the garden. Going through the glass houses at Wisley, or watching her marvel over the Alpine flowers. Of going for walks on Battleston Hill and seeing the seasons change. These became the themes for some of my poems.
Some came from other sources. “Serenity” is a story about two characters dear to my heart, writing about them gave me a reprieve and an outlet to process trauma.
The poem Betula Pendula is on display in front of its namesake, a Silver Birch.
Surrounded in lost summer dreams
Betula shreds her sunsoaked smiles
Sparks lost amid the slumbering spires
Silver skin, sprawling limbs
A snow shorn spectre of sundered scars
Stoic splendour in her darkest hours
Betula sleeps and dreams of spring
Soon, she will be whole again
A poem by Rowan Hoaglin
A woodcut engraving of the poem Betula Pendula, displayed at an exhibition at RHS Wisley.
I think that’s one of the important things about writing, whether it’s poems or stories. It can help people feel less alone, it can move people, and it can be a safe way to get through unbearable things.
I am incredibly grateful to everyone who’s helped me with this project. John, my mentor, an incredibly talented poet who’s taught me so much as well as helping me through a period of writer’s block. Vicky, who’s given me so much encouragement and organised so many amazing opportunities. Cara and James from DAiSY for also encouraging me and giving me this opportunity. The Interpretation Team at Wisley for creating the project and all the wonderful people I met there!
And finally, to my friends and family for helping me push through the anxiety, and for encouraging me to apply. And Nana, for always believing in me.
We all make marks upon the earth
Hollowed upon the ground
Moments that may seem small
Imprint upon our souls
Memories, half-said words
Even just a smile
A resonance that lingers on
Remains when we are gone
In memory of my Nana, Terry Lloyd
A poem by Rowan Hoaglin
Inspired by their time with RHS Garden Wisley, Rowan has written a collection of poems which have been installed at various locations around the grounds. For more information you can get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org