Tuesday, 1 October 2013

More on Kathleen Jamie


Kathleen Jamie was joint winner of the Dolman Travel Book of the Year award with her new collection of nature writing Sightlines

The Scottish Review of books published an interesting interview with her in which she talks about poetry, women writers and nature writing in context of Sightlines and her previous collection of Nature writing Findings
" In terms of women, I can think of Nan Shepherd, but in the whole of the UK, I can’t think of any other women writers like this.

Nan Shepherd was unknown to me until I started working on this book. She was a bit of a cult figure. The Living Mountain was thrust upon me by an ornithologist. It was like it was being passed around in samizdat, she was out of print, almost unknown. I’m sorry she hasn’t lived to see that book get the attention it deserves. But I can’t think of other women… I’m sorry, I can’t even say the words ‘nature writers’, I can’t get it out of my gob … other women pursuing these interests. Why? Why? When women are botanists and birdwatchers and doctors. There’s a lot more women poets now than there are women nature writers. I don’t know the answer to that.

The more you think about it the less explicable it is. I’ve sometimes thought there are fewer women writers because maybe they lived in the countryside, not near a community of other writers, but you’d have thought that would be precisely the environment in which you’d start writing about what’s on your doorstep.

Or maybe you do need that community. Maybe that’s a good point. Because obviously I went into it from being a poet, in a literary community. But to start from scratch, out in the sticks on your own, maybe that’s not doable."
 The Guardian has an overview of her life and career including her thoughts on nature writing
 I do think that part of the reason for Findings' success, for example, was that the land and landscapes were described by an indigene. Not by someone arriving as a tourist – or crucially, as an owner. On the scandalous business of land and land ownership, especially in Scotland, where 80% of the land is owned by 10% of the people, I feel I might be striking a tiny blow: by getting out into these places, and developing a language and a way of seeing which is not theirs but ours. And when we do that – step outdoors, and look up – we're not little cogs in the capitalist machine. It's the simplest act of resistance and renewal. This isn't new, of course, but alas it's still necessary. Never more so."..."Up to the mid-1960s we had something called nature writing, but it just vanished," Jamie says. "It went down its little burrow and stayed there. It wasn't until 40 years on that we started to worry and had to reappraise our relationship with what's around us. Suddenly it was possible to come out with this new kind of work that renegotiated our place in the natural world. I'd like to think that's what books like mine were busy doing."

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