twenty-seven: Kathleen Jamie, The Tree House

Apologies for another late post; I’ll make it a short one, otherwise with being away with most of this month, I won’t get the chance to write anything.

Last week’s collection was Kathleen Jamie‘s The Tree House, which I picked partly because I remember poetry Andrew recommending it, and partly because of its beautiful title. Jamie won the Forward Prize for Poetry for it in 2004.

It’s a slim collection with, as you might expect from the title, the theme of human interaction with nature running strongly through it. Perhaps that was part of the reason I warmed to it instantly: I loved the dialogue with birds, trees, puddles, flowers; and I loved the shimmering clarity and conciseness with which she writes. Another one of those poets who I read and think, ah, this is what poetry is for me. I’ll have to dig out her first collection, Jizzen, which I have to confess makes me snigger.

There was quite a lot that I wanted to find out about: where is the specific wishing tree of the first poem? What are the traditions of Water Day? Who was Hölderlin, and should I read him? I plan to look some of these up, but the only frustrating thing was my lack of Scots dialect, which rendered a few poems incomprehensible.

Favourites – and I’ll list them all, although they seemed to be every other page – were ‘The Wishing Tree’, ‘Alder’, ‘Water Day’, ‘Before the Wind’, ‘The Swallows’ Nest’, ‘The Whale-watcher’, ‘The Buddleia’, ‘Daisies’, ‘Reliquary’, ‘The Brooch’, ‘The Puddle’ and this achingly beautiful, fragile sonnet, ‘Swallows’:

I wish my whole battened
heart were a property
like this, with swallows
in every room – so at ease

they twitter and preen
from the picture frames
like an audience in the gods
before an opera

and in the mornings
wheel above my bed
in a mockery of pity
before winging it

up the stairwell
to stream out into light

The Tree House, Kathleen Jamie (Picador, 2004)

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1 Response to “twenty-seven: Kathleen Jamie, <i>The Tree House</i>”



  1. 1 thirty-nine: Jen Hadfield, Nigh-No-Place « fifty-two poets Trackback on 21 October, 2008 at 8:58 pm

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