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In conversation with Kathleen Jamie

I attended the Aberdeen University May Festival to hear Author, Poet and Professor Kathleen Jamie.

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Her event was held in the Word Marquee on Kings Lawn and was a very grand affair with speeches, introductions, microphones and chandeliers. Through a thunderstorm, Kathleen took us on a journey through her experience of Scotland.

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The Word Festival has been incorporated into the University's May Festival and together with other non science strands is now marketed through the Aberdeen’s Festivals Collective initiative. This is the third year the May festival has run and is a combination of science, learning and other inspirational events on the theme of Discovery.

Kathleen took us through a number of readings from her 2012 book of poetry; The Overhaul which was shortlisted for the 2012 TS Eliot Prize(1) awarded by the Poetry Book Society and also won the Costa Award for Poetry (2). Her writing is rich and visual and full of colour, minute observation and accessible to everyone as she writes from her own experience of the everyday and shares in poetry and prose topics such as The Moon, The Stags, Haflings and The Storm Beach. All things we have seen and often experienced.

Kathleen Jamie's writing has attracted me over the past couple of years. I have so far only read her Prose, but am now attracted to reading her poetry as well. I first read Sightlines and Findings and loved the way she was able to write a visual image into my imagination. I was attracted to her style of writing, but until she was presentinig her poetry at the festival, I hadn't thought to reflect on why I liked her work.


Using my emerging model of People | Objects | Place I captured some of the visual language she uses in her writing as she spoke. It was hugely loaded with visual description and 'showed' you the experience not just told you about the event.

I could see the connections between her

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focus on colour, places animals, people and things to my elements. This was both surprising and not! Am I seeing something in her work that I would like to aspire to or I see in myself? Am I achieveing a connection through her work that I have not been able to put into words so far? By understanding myself I am in a better position to understand others and enable them to gain valuable experiences or opportunities to reflect?

A topic that seems to be emerging from recent conversations both in the course and in other situations is the topic of slowness and sustainability, which is not just in the field of food but potentially in the field of Art. Ecology of culture and connections between art and scinece are also emerging as a topics I need to look further into as well as looking closer at the work of Anthony Newling and the Harrisons. This seems to be a very exciting field of research and discourse. My heritage project is just a small element of the field of cultural ecology. The challenge for me will be to keep focused for the next two months and choosing the most appropriate route to move ahead with, both in practice and theoretical directions.

(1) The poetry Book Society annually awards the TS Eliot Prize. The 3 judges and chair read and selected a shortlist publications and determine the winner, the Chairperson has the casting vote in the event of no overall winner. The USP of the award is that the winner is chosen by poets. £15,000 (2014 was increased to £20,000 in commemoration of 50 years of TS Eliot's death) is donated by TS Eliot's widow each year for the prize and has previous been awarded to poets as Carol Ann Duffy, Ted Hughes, Hugo Williams and Seamus Heany.

(2) Costa award for poetry is a more publically facing award rather than internal to the poetry establishment. Judging panels are made up from journalists, authors, poets and book sellers. Their website is more open with the names and details of the judges and the process.

#poetry #ecology #culture #environment

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