SURFACING by Kathleen Jamie


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A dozen artfully written, linguistically delicate essays about the natural world by the acclaimed poet.

Jamie (Creative Writing/Univ. of Stirling; Selected Poems, 2019, etc.) isn’t quite a traditional essayist, but she’s a very fine storyteller. Here, she offers her quiet reflections on travels through her native Scotland, Alaska, and elsewhere. The collection opens with “The Reindeer Cave,” which finds the author contemplating the Ice Age. “You realize you haven’t a clue,” she writes. “We can wait, say the hills. Take your time.” And she does, reflecting on things as simple as a train journey toward Aberdeen (“A Reflection”) or the barren beauty of Alaska (“In Quinhagak”) reflected in her observation of an archaeological dig. It can be something as simple as a glimpse of an eagle, soaring in all its majesty, or as sprawling as “The Links of Noltland,” a two-part essay that contains such cheeky observations as, “if seals could watch Netflix, they would.” Mostly, though, Jamie is observant, reflective, and poignant in her prose. “The Inevitable Pagoda” might as well be a poem in its own right, while the title essay reflects on the voices we all lose to history over time. Even the memory of being bitten by a dog can contain multitudes: “I had my traveling adventure, came home, a quarter century passed. Partners were met and children were born and grew. Friendships were forged and lost. Jobs, projects, homes, bereavements, the stuff of life—if we’re spared. The undammed rush of life. If we’re spared.” Punctuated by photographs and relatable to any human being who feels a connection to nature, Jamie’s writing is complex yet modest, reflecting on generations past and future, the nature of time, and what to hang on to as well as what to let go.

A beautiful portrait of a fleeting moment in time on planet Earth.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-14-313445-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:


NonfictionSIGHTLINES by Kathleen Jamie
by Kathleen Jamie
NonfictionFINDINGS by Kathleen Jamie
by Kathleen Jamie