Tuesday 19 March 2013

Poetic People: Kathleen Jamie in Conversation with Lavinia Greenlaw at UEA

Lavinia Greenlaw introduces Kathleen Jamie ...

... at UEA (the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK).

David and I attended a riveting poetry reading at UEA last night as part of the UEA Literary Festival. Kathleen Jamie, winner of the 2012 Costa Poetry Award, read a number of poems, many set in Scotland and the islands, from her new sparkling poetry collection, The Overhaul. We rapidly found ourselves in a world of Bottlenose Dolphins, Basking Sharks and Red Deer stags.

Kathleen, who said she was usually drawn to birds and animals on account of the fact that these creatures catch our eye when they move, also included three memorable flower poems. Kathleen was described by Lavinia Greenlaw as 'attentive' (to the natural world) but never 'attention-seeking', an attribute shared perhaps by the small blue bell-shaped flower in one of the poems. 

There was a fascinating conversation on the subject of engagement with the natural world, and how perhaps the poet sees her own approach as a thing apart from the more traditional Romantic notions of the all-seeing viewer-writer. Kathleen spoke wistfully of what might have been an awakening or flowering of a new phase in writing about the natural world. She gave the impression that in her view it was a wave that began to roll but perhaps failed to gather sufficient momentum. Perhaps it has yet to reach its zenith. I, for one, hope that this is the case, for it seems to me that there is an increase in 'wild' writing that balances 'engagement' with 'inhabitation', allowing the world (in Kathleen's words) 'space to be its own thing'.

Kathleen concluded that we engage with the natural world, 'because we have to; they (i.e. the creatures and component parts of our eco-systems) need us to, to keep the channels open.'

Book-signing afterwards ... a copy of 'Sightlines'

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