Rowland studied at Hull and Leeds, completing his PhD on the poetry of Tony Harrison as Holocaust literature at the age of 26. Tony Harrison and the Holocaust was published in 2001, and revisits one of the most misquoted passages of twentieth-century philosophy: Theodor Adorno's apparent dismissal of post-Holocaust poetry as 'impossible' or 'barbaric'. Rowland opens up the possibility that the awkward and embarrassing poetics of writers such as Harrison might be re-evaluated as committed responses to the worst horrors of twentieth-century history. The academic branch of Rowland's work was developed with the publication of Holocaust Poetry: Awkward Poetics in the Work of Sylvia Plath, Geoffrey Hill, Tony Harrison and Ted Hughes in 2005, in which he elaborated his theory of 'awkwardness'. In the first critical study of post-Holocaust poetry in Britain, Rowland argues that these poets can play an important part in our understanding of Holocaust writing, and illustrates that 'awkward' poetics enable poets to provide ethical responses to history, and avoid aesthetic prurience. It is also one of the first books to use material from the Ted Hughes archives at Emory University, Atlanta. Prior to Carol Ann Duffy accepting the laureateship, Rowland also co-edited Choosing Tough Words: The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy (2003). The anthology situates Duffy's poems in relation to debates about the state, value and social relevance of contemporary British poetry, and asks whether Duffy's work is part of a feminist tradition of writing, and whether her work is anathema to men.
In his recordings for the Poetry Archive, Rowland's warm, personable reading style brings to the fore his relish of sound and the sounds of the names of foods in particular. The quick, gentle rhythms of his voice deliver his enjoyably expansive, descriptive poems with a connoisseur's flair for the lyricism of lists. Never merely whimsical, this exuberance in and among words accumulates weight throughout the poems' performance, allowing Rowland's strikingly perceived images to appear, sudden and whole, from inside his well-heard, voluble monologues.
Antony Rowland's recording was made at the Audio Workshop, London, UK, on November 10th 2009 and was produced by John Green.