‘Powerful, delicate, perfect poetry’: Nancy Mattson
[Six-Count Jive] is a superbly crafted piece of work whose language is at times sublime. The narrative is gripping because it takes us through the protagonist’s process back to happiness. In its deliberate brevity it invites us to mine for layers of meaning and rewards constant re-reading. Its back story and message of survival are life affirming but significantly, this is not an exercise in therapy, instead, Six-Count Jive is a superb piece of art.
Rosie learned to run sentences together in Northern Ireland where she was born. After a law degree at Cambridge, she worked as a solicitor until her three children were born. She combined being a mum at home with freelance journalism for the Evening Standard in Max Hastings’ days, the Independent on Sunday, Sunday Tribune and various magazines.
The idea was that journalism would limber Rosie up for fictional writing and it did teach her to make words clear, short and to the point. Rosie spent years studying writing wherever she could and learned about growing fictional characters, crafting plot and how rejections toughen you up. One day a contract for her first novel arrived. It was so unexpected, she was sure it was meant for somebody else but it was hers. Rosie has since been published in Dublin, London and Belfast.
Coinciding with one of those patches where life gets in the way of plans, poetry has come to the fore with four books published since 2010 by Dennis Greig of Lapwing Publications, in Rosie’s native Belfast. The latest, Six-Count Jive (March, 2019), describes the inner landscape of post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘The sadness and the beauty (of Six-Count Jive) lead so satisfyingly to the peace and triumph of the ending.’ Sue Rose
Six-Count Jive ‘has an ethereal delicacy to it that is quite beautiful, and I think this is achieved in no small part by the 17 syllable stanza form.’ Mark Chamberlain
Rosie’s poems have appeared or featured in Ink Sweat & Tears, Hedgerow magazine, London Grip, Culture NI, FourxFour and The Honest Ulsterman, on Words for the Wild, From the Edge, in Live Canon’s anthologies 154: In Response to Shakespeare’s Sonnets (2016) and More New Poems for Christmas (2018) and on the ‘Poems and Pictures’ blog of the Mary Evans Picture Library website. She has read her poetry widely, including Hungerford Literary Festival, Watford’s Big Word festival, Winchester’s Loose Muse, the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, the Troubadour, Torriano, In-Words in Greenwich, the Norwich Bicycle Shop, the Pie Factory in Margate and Whitstable’s Harbour Books. (She welcomes invitations to read wherever you are.) Between 2014 and 2018 Rosie was poet in residence for the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust. In September 2018 she also completed a four-year term as Chair of the Association Committee at Churchill College, Cambridge, where in 2011 she set up and continues to lead the Churchill Writers group.
She has also facilitated writing groups in Bermondsey and Greenwich and, following her move to the Kent coast, has set up a new group, Rose Lane Writers, in Canterbury Waterstones. In Whitstable’s Harbour Books, she hosts a monthly literary event, Words on Waves.
Rosie will be happy to send you signed copies if you buy through the Books pages here or you can buy Rosie’s poetry from Lapwing direct.
Since 2014, Rosie has been reviewing poetry for LONDON GRIP, an international online culture magazine, a fascinating browse. You can enjoy Rosie’s reviews for London Grip here.
WHICH ROSIE JOHNSTON?
You will find several Rosie Johnstons on Google, busy all over the world. There’s an Australian celebrity make-up artist (Rosie Jane Johnston), a fine artist also in Australia (Rosie Wingrove Johnston), a Rosie Johnston who produces and directs opera (for Opera Unlimited) and another who works for Radio Prague.
There’s even an English one who did time in jail for murder and wrote a memoir about it. If you’ve read The Most Intimate Place, you could be forgiven for deducing from its prison detail that the Rosie of this website and she are the same person but they are not. The research for The Most Intimate Place came from ten years as a prison visitor. This Rosie wishes all other Rosie Johnstons every success and happiness.