Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie

I’ve been reading the essays in Jamie’s 2012 collection and at the same time writing, as a daily discipline, what are called by some small stones. That’s a heavy name for the lightness of touch that is key to writing a small stone, where the invitation is to become microscopically interested in one small aspect of one small thing, then focus on just one small part of that small aspect. 

So, I’ve been trying to look through one lens for my writing and reading Jamie’s writing through multiple lenses. In this collection there is the large (whales), the small (a storm petrel) and all sizes in between (scientists, chapels, the moon). She weaves her way through remote seascapes and isolated islandscapes writing in a stripped to the bone way, literally and metaphorically.

Jamie also writes prose poetically –unsurprisingly –, reflectively and plainly using words to paint her meanings and  sharing her experiences to inspire thoughts of ‘I wish I’d been there’. Her choice of subject provided me with links to the similar, the familiar and sometimes to something/somewhere else entirely. What else can you ask from a collection of nature stories. For me nothing other than they do as Jamie's did: take me away and return me to a slightly different place.

After I’d read each essay I wrote one or two  words (you could call it a very very small stone) beside the title on the contents page -

uplifting, sorrowful, history, memory of Alderney, necessary brevity, bone magic, global, patience, disturbance, intimate, reaching back, desiccation, trophies, burrowing

- make of these what you will, I might one day make a poem.

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