"Jamie connects the relics of distant ages with the daily routines in front of her.... Jamie appears more gregarious than Thoreau and most other nature writers. While the genre is deeply populated by solitaries, her essays brim with people." --Danny Heitman, Wall Street Journal "Throughout it all, the reader encounters passages of breathtaking beauty [...] though Jamie always finds herself relentlessly tugged away from primordial beauty toward anxieties of the modern world and a looming sense of catastrophe, the immediacy of her surroundings giving way to a geologic sense of time." --Ernest Hilbert, The Washington Post "Like her previous works, Surfacing is rich in connections and observations that grant the reader new ways of seeing .... Jamie excavates long-forgotten memories in some, and then writes of two very different digs in northern lands that are as stark and beautiful as any nature writing but also witty and well-peopled - qualities less typical of the genre." --Patrick Barkham, The Guardian "Kathleen Jamie's stories of what the earth revels as our coastlines erode pose a profoundly important question: what is it that our civilization has lost sight of and might the artifacts uncovered there help us to heal our relationships with each other and the more-than-human world? To read Surfacing is to travel in the company of a curious and dear friend, equally attuned to the hawk on the horizon as she is to the ground beneath her feet." --Elizabeth Rush, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
"In Surfacing, Kathleen Jamie--one of Scotland's leading poets and an exquisite prose writer--tracks travel observations and reflects on the passage of time. The book is stoked with her precise, often arresting language. [...] It is Jamie's keen and quiet power of observation and her affection for the big story of the human species that seem to me the most bracing tonic for our contentious times." --Alison Hawthorne Deming, Science Magazine "In Surfacing there is a poet's economy with words, a stripped clarity... she shows throughout this astonishing work, it is in looking -- attuning ourselves to nature and culture, past and present -- that we find our compass." --Barbra Kiser, Nature Magazine "Surfacing is a great companion for autumn's natural melancholy and meditative feel. Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie weaves together lucid essays about aging, archaeology, travel, and the erosion of natural resources and sacred wild places. She captures that end-of-summer sadness, when you're taking stock of your year and slowing down as the days get shorter. The book is about changing landscapes and human impact, but it's also about memory and paying attention, as she visits Ice Age caves and rides on high-speed trains. It's a series of tight visual scenes, beautifully told, and it's worth blocking out an afternoon to spend time with." --Outside "Jamie's writing has a deceptive simplicity: its powers are cumulative. Her way is to build impressionistic detail by recounting conversations, travels, observations of the natural world, and then carefully layer it in. It is its own kind of archaeology. Every now and then, however, she cuts through the assemblage of beautiful prose with a stinging comment: a reminder that the natural balance is out of whack, or that violence and menace can surface just as easily as venerable artefacts from the past." --Marina Benjamin, author of Insomnia, in the New Statesman "In a lyrical, beautifully rendered collection of essays, poet Jamie (Sightlines) meditates on the natural world, lost cultures, and the passage of time....Jamie's observations about time and the interconnectedness of human lives, past and present, are insightful, and her language elegant. The result is a stirring collection for poetry and prose readers alike." --Publishers Weekly "Surfacing is a book whose impact is accretive and, eventually, astonishing ... It's wonderful writing, testing the limits of nonfiction." --Alex Preston, The Guardian
"This is a beautiful book, and a wise one. It invites feeling and thought." --The Scotsman "With language so thrilling it makes all other writing feel insipid for a while...Jamie's powers of observation have not flagged. She continues to conjure up heart stopping images...It is the little details Jamie picks up on that makes these essays so touching." --The Big Issue Praise for Kathleen Jamie: "A sorceress of the essay form. Never exotic, down to earth, she renders the indefinable to the reader's ear. Hold her tangible words and they'll take you places." --John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing and About Looking
"The leading Scottish poet of her generation." --The Sunday Times (London)
Longlisted for the Highland Book Prize, 2019
Under the ravishing light of an Alaskan sky, objects are spilling from the thawing tundra linking a Yup’ik village to its hunter-gatherer past. In the shifting sand dunes of a Scottish shoreline, impressively preserved hearths and homes of Neolithic farmers are uncovered. In a grandmother’s disordered mind, memories surface of a long-ago mining accident and a ‘mither who was kind’.
In this luminous new essay collection, acclaimed author Kathleen Jamie visits archeological sites and mines her own memories – of her grandparents, of youthful travels – to explore what surfaces and what reconnects us to our past. As always she looks to the natural world for her markers and guides. Most movingly, she considers, as her father dies and her children leave home, the surfacing of an older, less tethered sense of herself.
Surfacing offers a profound sense of time passing and an antidote to all that is instant, ephemeral, unrooted.
“The best travel writing doesn’t take a ham-handed look at the world, nor does it try to escape it. It’s simply intended to make you feel so lost that you gaze up in surprise that you’re still in your living room. For that, try the splendid SURFACING, a book of essays by the Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie.” New York Times, Holiday Books Feature, Dec 2019.