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This review is taken from PN Review 146, Volume 28 Number 6, July - August 2002.

SCOTTISH SKETCHES KATHLEEN JAMIE, Mr and Mrs Scotland are Dead: Poems 1980-1994, selected by Lilias Fraser (Bloodaxe) £8.95

Quoted on the back cover of Mr and Mrs Scotland are Dead in connection with an earlier book by Kathleen Jamie, Robert Crawford writes, '... [she] has produced the best individual collection of poems by a woman living in 20th century Scotland'.

In fact, Kathleen Jamie is a fine writer and, as she is scarcely forty, we can expect her to continue to be productive long into the present century. No doubt her country of origin has bearing on her work (a few of her poems in Mr and Mrs Scotland are Dead are in Scottish dialect), and the experience of being female must colour her point of view, but poetry is not a sport where women and men play in different leagues, nor is it useful to root for the 'home team'. Indeed, whatever pressures society imposes on artists to compete, the work of art itself, although influenced by its context in time and space, is ultimately as indifferent as a natural object to its putative place in a cultural hierarchy.

Mr and Mrs Scotland are Dead is a selection of Kathleen Jamie's poems from five volumes published by Bloodaxe between 1980 and 1994. This is a curious book in that it has come out in 2002, three years after Jamie's 1999 collection, Jizzen, was published by Picador, and in that the selection has been made not by the author but by a colleague at St Andrews University, Lilias Fraser. Most of the original ...


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