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.