Born: Established: 20 Jun 1951 ; Died: 11 Jul 2007 Darlinghurst
Noel Rowe grew up on the family farm at Macksville, New South Wales. He originally planned to be an actor and had started stage training when he discovered his religious vocation. In the early 1970s Rowe attended the Catholic Theological Union in Sydney, becoming an ordained priest in 1977. He taught at St John's College, Woodlawn, between 1978 and 1980 and by the early 1980s a number of his poems had appeared in the pages of Quadrant.
Rowe began his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney in the early 1980s and graduated in 1984 with first-class honours and the University Medal. He subsequently embarked on postgraduate work, writing his PhD thesis on 'The Will of the Poem: Religio-Imaginative Variations in the Poetry of James McAuley, Francis Webb, and Vincent Buckley' (1988). While completing his PhD, Rowe began teaching at the University of Sydney, eventually becoming senior lecturer in the 1990s.
In 1990 Rowe visited Thailand and met the abbot of a Buddhist monastery in Phuket, southern Thailand - 'so far, the holiest person I have ever met' - who had a profound effect on him. Rowe had 'begun to experience the emptiness of my Catholic tradition' with its 'alliance of literalism and dogmatism'. He took up a a visiting teaching position in Australian Studies at a Thai university and Buddhism influenced some of his later writing. In later years he travelled to Rome and accepted invitations to read at the Rotterdam International Poetry Festival and a poetry festival in Jerusalem, Israel.
Rowe's first volume of poetry, Wings and Fire, was published in 1984 and his poems subsequently appeared in several literary magazines. He continued to explore religious themes in his writing and criticism and prepared his PhD thesis for book publication. A regular contributor to Southerly, Rowe was co-editor of the journal with David Brooks (q.v.) from 2000 until his death.
(Source: Noel Rowe, 'The Choice of Nothing', Literature and Theology 10.3 (September 1996):224-229; Vivian Smith, 'A Tribute to Noel Rowe', Poetry International Web. 1 August 2007).