Kathleen Jamie asks from her poem The Queen of Sheba “whae do you think y’ur?” Within the context of the words and punctuation of the lines, Jamie’s poetry could be recognized as being characterized of the Scots dialect. When Kathleen Jamie produced The Queen Of Sheba in 1994 the interest in her poetry spoke to that of identity and how identity is shaped, as is seen in her choice of Scots which was primarily used only in this volume of poetry. “In The Deregulated Muse, Sean O’Brien observed that Jamie’s work has–in The Queen of Sheba and since–become “a poetry of the Condition of Scotland”(Jamie 3). Since then Kathleen Jaime has taken the question of identity and removed it from the sphere of the national, to the international and even natural scale. Where then does this stem from, what in her life influenced and molded her to this point?
Early & Personal Life
Kathleen Jaime was born13 May, 1962 in Renfrewshire, located to central west of Scotland where the Highlands meet the Lowlands. Born the elder of her brother and sister, Jaime left school at an early age to make her own way through the British Isles and ended up attending Edinburgh University shortly after. She graduated with MA in Philosophy, the first of her degrees and about this time was beginning to explore what poetry meant to her. Jaime has taught at various universities including the University of Dundee, Stirling and currently she resides at St. Andrews. In the late eighties she married her husband; a carpenter named Phil. Jaime has had two children with him, a son born 1996 and a daughter born 1998. The family currently reside in Newburgh on the river Tay in Fife.
Early Career & Inspiration
At the age of nineteen Jaime published her first collection of poetry called Black Spiders that came in pamphlet form. This first volume won her the Eric Gregory Award, and the Scottish council award which rewarded a small monetary fund she used to support herself in the first little while of her career, and also to travel. Jaime has won several awards in her lifetime establishing both her academic and poetic careers. Over the span of thirty years Jaime has produced seventeen volumes of poetry, two travel books and various essays. Her poetic style is characteristic of dramatic monologues, prose and lyric, with a focus on connection and disconnection man has created with natural spaces surrounding one’s self. Jaime sees this in the way that “one should find nature wherever one lives and that a real community is made by caring and involved people working in partnership with nature—such a community cannot be found” (Severin 8). Jaime’s connection with nature has evolved poetically over the years as her focus in the 1980’s and 90’s was heavily surrounded in publications such as The Queen Of Sheba, and Mr & Mrs. Scotland are Dead that focused on Scottish identity, and language. However, her later works such as The Tree House and Risings center primarily around her increasing focus on society, and nature. Jaime “feels that her nationality has been the reverse of a handicap in her career, bringing her both Scottish arts patronage and freedom from the expectations and pressures of a conventional, competitive English intelligentsia” (Brown 4).
Body of Work & Awards
While Kathleen Jamie’s has published poetry volumes such as A Flame In Your Heart, The Way To Live, Jizzen, Sightlines and most recently in 2012 The Overhaul. Her travel books include The Golden Peak: Travels in North Pakistan (reissued as Among Muslims in 2002), and The Autonomous Region: Poems and Photographs from Tibet. While her two books of essays Findings, and Sightlines never won her any fame, Jaime has certainly been nominated for several prestigious literary awards. Including these awards are the Somerset Maugham Award, Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, Forward Poetry Prize and the prestigious Costa award this past year for Overhaul. Jaime thanks to the Scottish Arts Council has been quoted as saying “At last I’ve got as much money as I need” (Brown.et.al), the succession of her literary career providing a good example to other striving female poets looking to blaze the proverbial work trail. In regards to her poetry Jaime says;
“When we were young, we were told that poetry is about voice, about finding a voice and speaking with this voice, it’s about listening and the art of listening, listening with attention. I don’t just mean with the ear; bringing the quality of attention to the world. The writers I like best are those who attend.” (Volsik 2)
Kathleen Jaime shortly after winning her first poetry prize was known to have used most of the prize money in funding her journey to the Middle East. In her travel novels Jaime describes her journeys throughout Northern Pakistan, China and Tibet with the mindset belonging to that of someone who has transcended borders. In 2002 Jaime was prompted by her publisher to return to all her favorite travel haunts in order to write a preface and epilogue to her travel book The Golden Peak: Travels in North Pakistan, most recently renamed Among Muslims. It was shortly after the September 9, 2001 bombings took place that Jaime returned unchanged in opinion about her beloved exotic lands was quoted as such:
“Islam, like Christianity, changes, but they must find their own way of evolving, and not have somebody else beating them with a big stick, to adopt a western model.” (Gilchrist 1)
Although Jamie exhibits great respect for other countries, and their cultural customs Jamie remains an Atheist taking pleasure in the world surrounding her, much like the focus of her poetry emits. Although Jamie writes of exotic lands, Scottish identity and the connection between man and nature, Jamie sees herself as free from labels; In an interviewed she was asked “‘Do you consider yourself a woman writer or a Scottish writer?’ (Volsik 2), and she replied “that is a question I can no longer answer politely.” (Volsik 2)
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. Kathleen Jamie entry: Overview screen within Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPressOnline,2006 <http://orlando.cambridge.org.ezproxy.libray.uvic.ca/>. 24 March 2013.
Borthwick, David. “‘The Tilt From One Parish / Into Another’: Estrangement, Continuity And Connection In The Poetry Of John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie And Robin Robertson.” Scottish Literary Review 3.2 (2011): 133-148. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
Glichrist, Jim. “Kathleen Jamie: Behind The Veil.” Scotsman [Edinburgh] 13 05 2002, 2. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
Jamie, Kathleen. “The spirit of Bannockburn: next year, a referendum on independence will determine Scotland’s future, but the country’s artists have already launched their own fight for freedom.” New Statesman  1 Feb. 2013:Canadian Periodicals IndexQuarterly. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
Jamie, Kathleen, and Kevin Higgins. “Bashing Out Praises to Kathleen Jamie [Mr and Mrs Scotland are Dead, Poems 1980-1994].” Books in Canada 2004: 38-9. ProQuest. Web. 24 Mar. 2013 .
Scott, Kirsty. “Saturday Review: Profile: Kathleen Jamie.” Guardian [London] 18 06 2005, 20. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
Severin, Laura. “A Scottish Ecopoetics: Feminism and Environmentalism in the Works of Kathleen Jamie and Valerie Gillies.” Feminist Formations. 23.2 (2011): 98-110. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu>.
Volsik, Paul. “Somewhere Between The Presbyterian And The Tao (Kathleen Jaime): Contemporary Scottish Poetry.” Etudes Anglaises. 60.3 (2007): 346-360. Web. 25 Mar.2013. <www.cairn.info/revue-etudes-anglaises-2007-3-page-346.htm>.