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 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 announced

The Poetry Book Society is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2012 T S Eliot Prize for Poetry. Gillian Clarke's Ice (Carcanet) 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...

Full Strength Angels: New Writing Scotland, Vol 14 (...

The Queen of Sheba, Bloodaxe, 1994


The Autonomous Region: Poems and Photographs from Tibet...

The Golden Peak: Travels in North Pakistan London,...

The Way We Live, Bloodaxe, 1987 - out of print

A Flame in Your Heart (with Andrew Greig), Newcastle-...

Black Spiders, Edinburgh, Salamander Press, 1982 - out...

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