‘Sweet-Wild Weeks’: Birth, Being and Belonging in Kathleen Jamie’s Jizzen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


‘To the day of St. Bride, / the first sweet-wild weeks of your life / I willingly surrender’: the last tercet of Jamie’s ‘February’ concentrates a fiercely tender chiaroscuro of birth and being, which is arguably the pulse-beat and enigma of Jamie’s 1999 collection, Jizzen (J 14). The collection’s guiding theme of ‘birth’, figured in ‘February’ as a plenitude of the ordinary, is charged with an abrupt luminosity of extraordinary connection that patterns the animal and earthy, ‘the hare in jizzen’ with the bodily and cultural (‘women’s work’) and other resonant ‘deliveries’ and discoveries of being and birthright (J 45). This essay takes Jamie’s treatment of ‘birth’ in Jizzen as a starting-point for exploring its multi-faceted physical, poetic and aesthetic potency as an event unfolding oblique supernatural insight – the baby’s heart ‘nesting’ in St. Kevin’s arms (J 18) – and as unfolding a broader dynamics of cultural belonging. It will argue that the power of voice in Jamie’s Jizzen derives from an encounter with native land, people, landscape and ‘mother’ tongue, ostensibly non-mythic and banal, but which engages with a more complex figuring of what it might mean to belong beyond national stereotypes of land, language and culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKathleen Jamie Essays and Poems on Her Work
EditorsRachel Falconer
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (Print)9781474414180
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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