Kathleen Jamie was born in the West of Scotland in 1962. She has received several prestigious awards for her poetry, including the Somerset Maughan Award, a Forward Prize, and a Creative Scotland Award. She has twice won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her celebrated volumes, The Queen of Sheba and Jizzen, were shortlisted for both the T.S. Eliot and Forward Prizes. Her latest collection, The Tree House has garnered the esteemed Forward Prize and the Scottish Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. She lives in Fife and teaches Creative Writing at St. Andrews University.
Kathleen Jamie was a judge for the 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Kathleen Jamie appraises her roots while keeping an eye on far horizons.
Kathleen Jamie appraises her roots while keeping an eye on far horizons. While there is of course much that is quintessentially Scottish in her poetry, her generous, transfiguring imagination takes in the world – Pakistan, Tibet, the Middle East as well as beloved native landscapes such as Orkney and Tayside. These poems are fleet in their chronicling and abundant in circumstantial detail, but also interior, spiritually entangled. Her humane vision brings to life the dangers of wartime and the peace of home. The edgy amorousness in some of the poems is matched by a chaste utterance that intensifies the erotic charge. She has perfect pitch, a natural sense of cadence and verbal melody that helps to give her work the feel of organic inevitability: her poems make their shapes as a fountain does (and the Jamie fountain is fed by pure spring-water). The lovely surface-shimmer of her poetry beguiles us just as its inner radiance ensures that we will keep returning to it.
by Kathleen Jamie
But it was the shadowed street-side she chose
While Victor Gold the bookies basked
In conquered sunlight, and though
Dairy Road Licensed Grocer gloried and cast
Fascinating shadows she chose
The side dark in the shade of tenements;
That corner where Universal Stores’ (closed
For modernisation), blank hoarding blocked
Her view as if that process were illegal;
She chose to photograph her baby here,
The corner with the pillar box.
In his buggy, which she swung to her face.
She took four steps back, but
The baby in his buggy rolled toward the kerb.
She crossed the ground in no time.
It was fearful as Niagara,
She ran to put the brake on, and returned
to lift the camera, a cheap one.
The tenements of Caledonian Place neither
Watched nor looked away; they are friendly buildings.
The traffic ground, the buildings shook, the baby breathed
And maybe gurgled at his mother as she
Smiled to make him smile in his picture;
Which she took on the kerb in the shadowed corner,
Beside the post-box, under tenements, before the
Bin bags hot in the sun that shone
On them, on dogs, on people on the other side
The other side of the street to that she’d chosen,
If she’d chosen or thought it possible to choose.
Copyright © Kathleen Jamie, 2002