Hands in pockets: Kathleen Jamie, Overview

“I have attached the card – a paper card”

Qfourteen lines of sight (the original title of the book, Lines of sight), 14 stories as close to itself as to nature, such is it Overview proposed by Kathleen Jamie, in response to the dual program of the new ecopoetic narratives: a renewed, open, curious and patient way of observing the world (what Anna Tsing calls the art of noticing), from the apparent detail containing a universe; a new art of dialogue and conversation.

Seeing a colony of gannets, city jackdaws got in the band », A butterfly, icebergs, skeletons of whales, the moon and these« centuries of hikers and separated lovers watching the full moon before aviation, satellites, SMS “, Kathleen Jamie varies her approaches to the biosphere and moves from the human to the non-human without ever crossing boundaries -” we are not made of ice or stone, we are animals “.

Whether this world, which encompasses it more than it surrounds it, is natural or museum-like (whales’ skeletons are exhibited at the Natural History Museum in Bergen), it is always a matter of taking notes from a series of sensations, to calculate the world without freeze it, to propose a cartography of it in fourteen stations self-posted (“Three ways of approaching Saint-Kilda”), to enchant the place with a living prose under an apparent banality, playing nouns in themselves laden with meaning ( tundra, cleits, hang …) or elemental (light, wind, sea, sky, bird).

The world is substances and materials, as in “Aurore boréale”, which opens the book with a ” coast of ice and bones “.” The top of the beach is filled with yellow debris from the spine and skulls from narwhals and seals. At the end of the beach, where the vegetation begins, there is an abandoned outboard engine, eaten away by rust “There are a few garbage, there are archives of our ways of inhabiting it, seemingly harmless poetic notations that speak of our terrestrial imperialisms, the abandonment of our machines, the pollution of wild places with this carcass of speedboat, ” consumed by rust “.” Outboard engine is what we are, no doubt. The delicate and dense prose of Kathleen Jamie pronounces it in hollowness without ever insisting or emphasizing. She observes, examines and notes herself in this Overview of which a calami slip had first made me make one Whole horizons, let go of the text and emphasize its path: to say a whole from what appears on the margin, to get closer to things seen that, like the horizon line, remain stubborn, a distant profile that always moves away when one thought on reaching it. Still, it’s good far behind the horizon “That the author will go and” far behind the horizon »That she leads us.

Kathleen Jamie’s “I” is deeply placed in this text, a statement about a moving identity in landscapes that are never prospects. ” View, the word is too faint, it does not do justice to the monster of the landscape, its luminous clarity. I want to understand the place where I am: a totally unknown universe, a world of ice “. It is, on the contrary to understand to return Justice in and by this poetic prose woven by unknowns and perceptions reproduced in their lability and their own rhythm, in a language that unites observed biodiversity, assumptions as destruction, masks as threads that are lost, what is born as that which dies. The language manages to transfer “sradiant silence “and” mineral of the fjords, to say “ice who grabs Kathleen Jamie at her mother’s death, to understand the boundary between ” the living and the dead “to say the way mythical countries, like Saint-Kilda, were” crushed against the modern world “She knows how to abolish horizons and boundaries,” the membranes between organic and mineral, between cave and animal dissolve (“La Cueva”).

Overview confronts a sheet of world experiences with an inherited word (” some say so “, In anaphora) distorts our hesitant sensations, powerful because hesitant, Kathleen Jamie knows how to forget science -” I also hover on the surface of knowledge. Climatology, for example. (…) There are people who study the glaciers, evaluate the progression rhythms and the calving of the icebergs. Everyone reports worrying news from afar. I navigate around the surface of things, catching here a glimpse that a silence “.
Rather than theoretical and acquired knowledge, monotonous, she prefers dialogues, that of the world surveyor, that she is with the crossed landscapes, that of the questioner of the world, that she is with those who inhabit these territories, the birds , the scientists, the friends who accompany him on his travels. Everywhere are layers of time and discourse that she ” record against oblivion “. They must be unfolded, as in Saint-Kilda,” unlikely place “, island that Kathleen Jamie goes on in her forties, because it is” the closest place away from the world to where I used to live “, en” important place, commented »:

There was a time – a time that was not very distant on the scale of the universe – when there were no wild animals because all animals were wild; and people were few. Animal and animal presence above and below us. Everywhere our horizon was populated by animals “: We are only a part of the inhabitants of this world, listen to it vibrate by following Kathleen Jamie in this sumptuous book,” Mint cream “Like the northern lights that open it, a hymn to the power of nature and the words to express it, alone” land use which is not linked to a dominance relationship, but by dialogue and transmission. “ So say astute naturalists. Keep watching. Keep looking, even when there is nothing to see “.

Kathleen Jamie, Overview (Lines of sight, 2012), translation. of English (Scotland) by Ghislain Bareau, ed. La Baconnière “Pocket”, June 2022, 288 pp., € 9

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