Nature Book Reader April 2016

Page 18

A Nature Book Reader

RICHARD CARTER A writer and photographer based in West Yorkshire

Findings and Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie

In what seems to have become a yearly tradition, I re-read Kathleen Jamie’s Findings, and its equally wonderful sequel, Sightlines, every September while on holiday in Anglesey. Favourite books for favourite places. Rationed to once a year. The remarkable essays contained in Jamie’s two books made me see nature writing in a new light. Nature writing, it turns out, can be about re-examining your relationship with the natural world. It can be about precious grabbed moments in your working day. It can be written by people who are learning about nature: non-experts, like you and me. “As April passed, I looked up books and field guides, because I knew nothing about

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peregrines…” writes Jamie. “I must learn to be patient, learn to observe first-hand.” Jamie is a successful poet. I’ve noticed that many poets also seem to have a real knack for prose. This has nothing to do with using ‘flowery’, aesthetic language. Far from it. It’s a precision thing. Jamie’s prose is some of the clearest I’ve ever read. Simple words. Simple punctuation. Right to the heart of the matter. She makes it seem effortless. As a writer, I appreciate it’s anything but. Jamie also has a real knack for identifying unusual subject matter. On top of more traditional topics, such as trips to Scotland’s outlying islands, she writes about decapitating dead gannets, cleaning whale skeletons in museums, being