The Scotsman Sessions #77: Kathleen Jamie
Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts world shutting down for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, he award-winning poet Kathleen Jamie reads two poems about the natural world, “An Avowal” and “Fianuis”
As one of Scotland’s finest writers on the natural world, in both poetry and prose, it’s not surprising that Kathleen Jamie has chosen to read work for Scotsman Sessions which reflects precisely on the time of year. “An Avowal” takes its inspiration from the harebells currently nodding on our hillsides, but is about so much more - perhaps, she says, “about being in the world.”
“Fianuis” has a similar quality of precision, transporting us to the low, rocky peninsula on the uninhabited island of North Rona, 40 miles north of the Butt of Lewis, where she says she loves to beachcomb (“Not that there are any beaches!”) Again, it is a poem which speaks to this time of year, and visits to the island in previous summers.
“Green and verdant and pelagic, deep with history, North Rona is a place I love, though I haven’t been there for a fair few years and may never go again. It’s hard to get to. My few visits were always in the company of archaeologists or ornithologists, people who knew what they were looking at. Walking a wild shore with such people is a joy.”
Jamie was just 20 when her first poetry collection was published, and she quickly became established as a distinctive voice, reflecting on Scottish and female experience with clarity, perceptiveness and wry humour. Her recent collection, The Bonniest Companie, of poems written in the year of the Scottish independence referendum, won the Saltire Book of the Year in 2016, and her Selected Poems, drawing on 30 years of writing, was published two years later.
Jamie’s award-winning 2004 collection, The Tree House, signalled a particular focus on the natural world in her work, which has been further explored in her three volumes of essays, Findings, Sightlines and Surfacing, garnering praise on both sides of the Atlantic. She is editor of Antlers of Water, a collection of contemporary Scottish nature writing, which is published this month by Canongate.
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