SCR Book Club
Epiphany Term 2012:
Wednesday 29 February 2012 : 7.30-9.00 in the SCR
St Mary's is very fortunate to have one of our foremost poets, Kathleen Jamie, as a resident IAS Fellow in College this term. We thought therefore she would be an excellent choice for our next Book Club meeting. We have chosen "Findings" a prose work rather than poetry. "Findings" is a wonderful read and we do hope you enjoy it. A short introduction to the book is set out below. We very much hope that Kathleen Jamie herself will also be able to join us on the 29th and talk about her work.
As well as the Bookclub meeting, we are planning to have a preview meeting with some of Mary's undergraduates and hopefully they will then also join us on the 29th.
Nicola will be at Mary's for an informal supper at the High Table at 7.00 on Wednesday 29th, so do book in to join her if you wish to have supper before the discussion.
Findings by Kathleen Jamie
Be prepared in this book to go on a series of journeys to the boundaries of literature. In eleven chapters you will travel from the light and shadow of Fife, through windswept Scottish islands, to the skyline of Edinburgh. The travels will be short in distance, all in Scotland, but immense in the imagination. On the way you will be able to delve into a cornucopia of arresting observations, the product of a steadfast eye.
Kathleen Jamie has acknowledged the difficulty of categorising her book in a recent interview, "I have real difficulty finding a category for Findings." She says, "I don't think there is a category. I have been asking around . Here's my book. Please tell me what it is ? It's not nature writing, but it is; it's not autobiography , but it is; it's not travel writing but it is. I think some Americans call this creative non-fiction, which is not very adequate either. There's a long lumpen word....what is it? Psychogeography?" She pulls a face, "That's the one. But I think we can avoid that."
As she says the book is all these things and more. You can read here about nature and the issue of the environment, Peregrines, Corncrakes, Salmon, Dolphins abound. The natural world intermingles with the world of archaeology, the great 'cranium of Maes Howe, the high ancient summer pastures of the highlands. The modern world intrudes, fields of plastic debris on a Scottish island, modern medicine, the use of technology to protect our fragile past. Combine this with the human dilemma of living in such a world, coping with children, a sick husband and aging relatives. This is not a book of wistful escapist romance but a clear eyed look at our modern state of being in the world.
Since Kathleen Jamie is one of our foremost poets the writing is exquisite; a peregrine in April, "He was as still as stone, like a little votive statue on a high plinth.", fish," glittering and bright as knives in a canteen," the Corncrake," the kind of bird who'd want to be excused games." Cup and Ring Marks, "strewn across the rock face like a bad case of acne,".
My own take on the book is to see it as a series of essays or 'meditations' about place, our relationship to nature and history and observations of the dilemmas faced during the stages of life. Meditations for a secular world. There is a wealth of detailed description, and reflection on nature, art and philosophy to be enjoyed here from a writer in the full flow of her creative ability. I am sure you will enjoy this book.
Profile of the Author
Prof Kathleen Jamie -
Chair in Creative Writing ,
University of Stirling
Statements make me anxious. They're such hostages to fortune: too hard and fast, too fundamentalist. My poetry would be a dead thing if it couldn't retain its liquidity, couldn't change shape or direction. However, two things have been constant over the years': a rigour, and a concern for musicality. I like to think that both come from two different Scottish traditions. I couldn't even say what I write 'about', because I distrust the relationship expressed by the word 'about'. I'd rather say that I write 'toward'. Or perhaps 'within'. At the moment, I'm writing a lot 'toward' the natural world. In the past I've had to address 'issues' in my work, of gender and national and personal identity, just in order to clear space. 'Do you consider yourself a woman writer or a Scottish writer?' is a question I can no longer answer politely. Just last week, in a tiny magazine, I read a description of my work which delighted me. It said 'Kathleen Jamie - somewhere between the Presbyterian and the Tao'.
About the author and her Research
FRSL (Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature)
I was brought up in Midlothian, studied Philosophy at Edinburgh and have been writing since my teens. I write poetry (mostly in English but occasionally in Scots), and non-fiction. I also write for radio, and contribute reviews to the Guardian.
Poetry collections include The Queen of Sheba (Bloodaxe 1994), Jizzen (Picador 1999) and most recently The Tree House (Picador 2005). This latter won both the Forward Poetry Prize and the Scottish Book of the Year Award.
Non-fiction work includes a collection of non-fiction essays Findings (Sort Of Books) which appeared in 2006.
I'm interested in the role of writing in an 'interdisciplinary' context, and so have worked with pathologists, archaeologists, ornithologists, photographers and visual artists.
Recent work for BBC Radio 4 includes 'The Whale Road' - a talk on whalebone arches in the UK, and 'Norn but not Forgotten' - a feature about the resurgence of poetry in Shetlandic dialect.
To learn more about Kathleen Jamie, visit http://www.contemporarywriters.com