© 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

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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  • 2012 TS Eliot Prize shortlist announced
    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. The winner will be announced on 29th January 2013. Follow the story on Picador's website.

Select bibliography

  • Black Spiders, Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1982 - out of print
  • A Flame in Your Heart (with Andrew Greig), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe, 1986 - out of print
  • The Way We Live, Bloodaxe, 1987 - out of print
  • The Golden Peak: Travels in North Pakistan London, Virago, 1992 (reissued as 'Among Muslims', Sort of Books, 2002)
  • The Autonomous Region: Poems and Photographs from Tibet (with Sean Mayne Smith), Bloodaxe, 1993
  • The Queen of Sheba, Bloodaxe, 1994
  • Full Strength Angels: New Writing Scotland, Vol 14 (editor with James McGonigal), Aberdeen, Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1996 - out of print
  • Penguin Modern Poets 9 (contributor with John Burnside and Robert Crawford), Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin, 1996 - out of print
  • Some Sort of Embrace: New Writing Scotland, Vol 15 (editor with Donny O'Rourke and Rody Gormin), Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1997 - out of print
  • The Glory Signs: New Writing Scotland, Vol 16 (editor with Donny O'Rourke), Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1998 - out of print
  • Poetry Quartets 1, Audio cassette, The British Council/Bloodaxe Books, 1998
  • Jizzen, London, Picador, 1999
  • Mr & Mrs Scotland Are Dead (Poems 1980-94), Bloodaxe, 2002
  • The Tree House, Picador, 2004
  • Findings, Sort Of Books, 2005
  • Kathleen Jamie Reading from her Poems, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Waterlight: Selected Poems Graywolf Press, 2007
  • The Overhaul Picador, 2012
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.


1982 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, Black Spiders

1988 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, The Way We Live

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

1995 Somerset Maugham Award, The Queen of Sheba

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

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

1996 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, The Queen of Sheba

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

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

2000 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, Jizzen

2001 Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award

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

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

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

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

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