Kathleen Jamie

Image by Alan Young

Kathleen Jamie

b. 1962

...if poetry is a method of approaching truths, and each of us with a human soul and 'a tongue in oor heids' can make an approach toward a truth, poetry is inherently democratic. - Kathleen Jamie

The Way We Live

Kathleen Jamie

The Wishing Tree

Kathleen Jamie



Kathleen Jamie


Crossing the Loch

Kathleen Jamie


The Tay Moses

Kathleen Jamie


Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead

Kathleen Jamie

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About Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie (b. 1962) spent much of her early poetic career answering the question posed by the disapproving elders in her famous poem 'The Queen of Sheba': "whae do you think y'ur?". Born in Renfrewshire, Scotland she studied philosophy at Edinburgh University. Awarded an Eric Gregory at nineteen, Jamie used the money to travel, especially in the Himalayas, something that's significantly influenced both her poetry and prose. Her eight collections of poetry include The Queen of Sheba, Mr & Mrs Scotland are Dead, Jizzen, and The Tree House which between them have garnered three TS Eliot Award nominations, two Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prizes, and two Forward Poetry Prizes. She is currently lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews.

The pull towards home and away from it informs two of the themes in Jamie's work: Scottishness and her experience as a woman. She has brilliantly satirised a certain Presbyterian narrowness of mind, its "slightly acid soil" ('Rhododendrons'), but she is also proud of her country's independent spirit which has recently found political expression in devolution and the new Scottish Parliament. She recognises a similar duality in herself, the desire for domesticity versus wanderlust, expressed vividly in the split personality of 'Wee Wifey': "For she and I are angry/cry/because we love each other dearly." This tension is played out in her language which switches from English to Scots, often within a single poem. Scots is the language the grannies speak in 'Arraheids' to cut you down to size, but it's also the tongue she uses to hush her new born child in the beautiful 'Bairnsang'. The rhythms of Scots speech inform her work and when she reads, her voice and accent emphasise its rigorous musicality.

Only in her most recent collection, The Tree House, has Jamie been free to leave behind the distracting "issues" of gender and national and personal identity, to move towards what she originally set out to be: a nature poet asking, in these latest poems, how human beings can live in a right relationship with the natural world.

These poems come from a special recording made for The Poetry Archive on 17 January 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London. Producer: Richard Carrington.

Additional material and useful links

2012 TS Eliot Prize shortlist - Kathleen Jamie

The Poetry Book Society is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2012 T S Eliot Prize for Poetry. Kathleen Jamie's The Overhaul (Picador) has been shortlisted.


Kathleen Jamie wins the Costa Poetry Award 2012

Kathleen Jamie has won the Costa Poetry Award 2012. Her collection The Overhaul is up against the four books from the other categories at the Costa Book Awards for the Costa Book of the Year Award....


Selected bibliography

The Overhaul Picador, 2012

Waterlight: Selected Poems Graywolf Press, 2007

Findings, Sort Of Books, 2005

The Tree House, Picador, 2004




Jizzen, London, Picador, 1999


The Glory Signs: New Writing Scotland, Vol 16 (editor...

Some Sort of Embrace: New Writing Scotland, Vol 15 (...

Penguin Modern Poets 9 (contributor with John Burnside...


1981 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

1982 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, Black Spiders

Prize website

1988 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, The Way We Live

Prize website

1995 Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (shortlist), The Queen of Sheba

Prize website

1995 Somerset Maugham Award, The Queen of Sheba

Prize website

1995 T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist), The Queen of Sheba

Prize website

1996 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem), 'The Graduates'

Prize website

1996 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, The Queen of Sheba

1999 T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist), Jizzen

Prize website

2000 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection - shortlist), Jizzen

Prize website

2000 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, Jizzen

2001 Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award

Prize website

2003 Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada - shortlist) Mr. and Mrs. Scotland are Dead: Poems 1980-1994

Prize website

2004 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection - winner), The Tree House

Prize website

2004 T. S. Eliot Prize (shortlist), The Tree House

Prize website

2005 Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award, The Tree House

Prize website


Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie Reading her own poems

1View from the Cliffs

2The Leaving of an Island

3Black Spiders

4Peter the Rock

5Julian of Norwich

6The Way We Live

7From <i>The Autonomous Region</i>

8The Queen of Sheba

9Child with Pillar Box and Bin Bags

10Wee Wifey

11Perfect Day

12Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead



15Hand Relief

16Swallows and Swifts

17The Sea-house


19Skeins o Geese

20From Ultrasound: Ultrasound, Thaw, Bairnsang, Prayer

21The Tay Moses

22Crossing the Loch

23The Graduates

24Mrs McKellar, her martyrdom




28The Well at the Broch of Gurness

29St Bride's




33The hill-track (Frogs)

34The Wishing Tree

A tour of the Archive with David Almond

I love this archive. It's an important reminder that all literature has its roots in the human voice. Black print on...

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Kathleen Jamie