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Kathleen Jamie

Essays and Poems on Her Work

Edited by Rachel Falconer

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The first collection of critical essays on the writing of Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie's works are classics. No one can read Kathleen Jamie and remain indifferent or unchanged. Nationally acclaimed since her first major publications in the 1980s, Jamie stands out from other contemporary poets in her exceptional musicality, her strikingly unusual perspectives, her wry humour, translucent imagery, and hard-edged economy of expression. These 16 newly commissioned critical essays and 7 previously unpublished poems by leading poets make up the first full-length study of Kathleen Jamie's writing. The essays discuss all of her poetry collections, including The Queen of Sheba (1994), Jizzen (1999), Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead: Poems 1980-94 (2002), The Tree House (2004) and The Overhaul (2012), as well as her travel writing, including Among Muslims (2002), her nature writing, Findings (2005) and Sightlines (2012) and her collaborative work, including Frissure (2013), with artist Brigid Collins. Whether engaging with national politics, with gender, with landscape and place, or with humanity's relation to the natural environment, this volume demonstrates that Kathleen Jamie's verse teaches us new ways of listening, of seeing and of living in the contemporary world.

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'Inlet', Michael Longley
1. Introduction, Rachel Falconer
2. A Poetics of Listening, Faith Lawrence
'Off the page', Roderick Watson
3. Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Taking a Vacation in the Autonomous Region, Alan Riach
4. Kathleen’s Scots, Robert Crawford
'A man, a former environmental activist turned PR consultant for logging companies, defends his choices', Leontia Flynn
5. Transcending the Urban: The Queen of Sheba, Amanda Bell
6. 'Proceeding Without a Map’: Kathleen Jamie and the Lie of the Land, David Wheatley
'What the Water Says', Fiona Sampson
7. ‘An Orderly Rabble’: Plural Identities in Jizzen, Timothy L. Baker
8. 'Sweet-wild weeks’: Birth, Being and Belonging in Jizzen
Juliet Simpson
'Even If', Michael O'Neill
9. ‘The Tilt from One Parish to Another’: The Tree House and Findings, Peter Mackay
10. Repetition, Return and the Negotiation of Place in The Tree House, Lynn Davidson
11. Form in The Tree House, Michael O’Neill
'Hibernaculum', Jamie McKendrick
12. Nature and Embodiment in This Weird Estate. Lucy Collins
13. ‘Into the Centre of Things’: Poetic Travel Narratives by Jamie and Shepherd, Eleanor Bell
14. ‘Connective Leaps’: Sightlines and The Overhaul, Louisa Gairn
'The view, the light', Andrew Greig
15. Life Lines, Sight Lines: Collaborative Works, Eleanor Spencer
16. Midlife Music: The Overhaul and Frissure, Rachel Falconer
17. ‘We do language like spiders do webs’: Kathleen Jamie and Michael Longley in Conversation, Maria Johnston
Notes on Contributors

About the Author

Rachel Falconer is Professor of English Literature at the University of Lausanne. She has wide-ranging interests in poetry and fiction, with published research focusing on contemporary literature and its relation to the past, particularly classical and early modern poetry. In Hell in Contemporary Literature (2005), she explored the legacy of Virgil and Dante's descents to the underworld in contemporary fiction, and she is now researching Seamus Heaney's long-standing poetic dialogue with Virgil's Aeneid book six. Other major research topics have included: Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogism and theory of the chronotope (fiction's representation of time and space), crossover fiction (children's literature read by adults), and Primo Levi's Holocaust writing. Current research interests have led her to focus on contemporary nature poetry and theories of ecopoetics, as well as the soundscapes of poetry, and the close but complex relations between poetry, music, and natural sound. This last area of interest has led to the formulation of her current book project: The Poetry of Birds: an essay in eco-poetics, a study of bird poetry by Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Kathleen Jamie, R F Langley, Michael Longley, Helen Macdonald, Peter Reading, and R S Thomas.


Rachel Falconer has drawn together a team of knowledgeable essayists whose work covers a great deal of necessary ground and is complemented by some fine tributary poems. Anyone interested in Kathleen Jamie – and that's an increasing number of people, including, I think, general readers of literature – will profit from this book.

- Neil Corcoran, Emeritus Professor of English, University of Liverpool


  • 'Black Spiders'
  • 'The Way We Live' (see Riach)
  • 'Arraheids' (Crawford, Riach)
  • 'Skeins o geese' (Amanda Bell, Crawford, Riach)
  • 'Bolus' (Baker, Simpson)
  • 'Meadowsweet' (Baker, Simpson)
  • 'Alder' (Davidson, Gairn, Lawrence, O'Neill)
  • 'The Fountain of Lions' (O'Neill)
  • 'Water Lilies' (Davidson)
  • 'Little man, homunculus' (Collins, Spencer)
  • 'A Raised Beach' (Lawrence, Wheatley)
  • 'The Stags' (Falconer, Wheatley)
  • 'Tae the Fates' (Crawford, Falconer)
  • 'Healings 2' (Falconer, Spencer)

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