Monday, 23 April 2012

Kathleen Jamie - Sightlines

I only felt ready to read Sightlines, Kathleen Jamie's new collection of meditations and memories, just before dawn this morning, as we were approaching Maloy on this last day of my round trip sea voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. Her genius is gently to release one's own capacity to remember, and see the world and one's life in it afresh. Such is the power of her writing, that when I put the book down to go and fetch an early morning cuppa, and looked out of the window at the serried rows of houses built on the steep slope up from the quay, I was instantly reminded of many other such early morning arrivals at ports from the west of Scotland, to the 'panhandle' archipelago of Alaska and the islands of Greece, with pleasure at discovering a pattern. Jamie does not over-write. She draws you in to an apparently slight anecdote; intrigued, you read on and are rewarded by a sense of recognition, the greatness in apparently small things, life relished and its mysteries shared. I warmed to Jamie when I heard her being interviewed by Jenny Murray on BBCR4's Woman's Hour about Sightlines and  she explained simply that, like runners, writers of prose have their optimum distances - and hers - as a poet -  is the extended essay. I think she may have even mentioned the word count. 3,000 words? I forget. But she has certainly 'found her distance' with this book and its predecessor, Findings. It is an exquisite early spring morning here in Norway, the sun is fast shedding its warm bright light on the spruces and crags of the coast as we thread our steady way south through the archipelago of islands towards Bergen.

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