Top literary award for Stirling professor

Professor Kathleen Jamie, the 2014 winner of the John Burroughs Medal.
Professor Kathleen Jamie, the 2014 winner of the John Burroughs Medal. Picture by Eamonn McCabe.
28 February 2014

A professor at University of Stirling has won a top literary award.

Kathleen Jamie - Stirling’s Professor of Poetry – has won the John Burroughs Medal for her book “Sightlines”, published in 2012. Praised by critics, the collection of essays has been hailed as an “exquisite” work about the natural world and our relationship to it. 

Professor Jamie will receive her award at lunch at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Monday 7 April.

She said: “I’m thrilled and delighted to win the John Burroughs Medal, particularly when I note the calibre of previous winners. I’m very much looking forward to visiting New York and meeting the good people from the John Burroughs Association, who present these annual awards.”

Professor Douglas Brodie, Head of the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling, said: “Kathleen is a marvellously talented writer and an inspirational teacher and colleague. I'm delighted to see her recognised in this way.”

Professor Jamie – who lives with her family in Fife - is the author of four books of poetry and three non-fiction titles, including “Sightlines”.

In 2012 she won the Costa Book Award for Poetry and is one of the UK’s foremost poets. Her poetry was recently selected to “crown” the rotunda monument at the revamped Bannockburn Heritage Centre site near Stirling, earning praise from Scots Makar Liz Lochhead.

John Burroughs occupies a permanent place in American literature. Though he was a leading literary critic in his day, he was a pioneer in the new school of nature writing and the most popular writer of his period in the field he made his own. Burroughs' legacy of some 25 volumes, of which more than a million and a half copies were sold during his lifetime, has had a profound influence on our appreciation of nature.

The John Burroughs Medal was created in 1926 to recognize the best in nature writing and to honour the literary legacy of John Burroughs, who is credited with creating the modern nature essay. The Medal has been given annually to a distinguished book of nature writing that combines scientific accuracy, first hand fieldwork, and excellent natural history writing.    

Past Burroughs medallists include Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Joseph Wood Krutch, Loren Eiseley, Paul Brooks, Roger Tory Peterson, John Hay, Peter Matthiessen, John McPhee, Ann Zwinger, Barry Lopez, Gary Nabhan, Robert Michael Pyle, Richard Nelson, Carl Safina, Jan DeBlieu, Ted Levin, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Julia Whitty, Franklin Burroughs, Michael Welland, Elisabeth Tova Bailey, Edward Hoagland, and Thor Hanson. 

Professor Jamie was lauded by the selection committee as one of the strongest recent winners for her excellence in the tradition of natural history writing. One Burroughs committee member said: “I am so taken by the beauty of Kathleen Jamie's writing, and the compassion and sophistication of her thought process.... In asking about little things she finds big things."  

 “Sightlines” sees Professor Jamie explore her native Scottish surroundings, intermingling personal history with observations of the landscape. Her travels lead her to study whale bones in Norwegian museums, explore remote Scottish islands, and watch icebergs in the Arctic.

The Sunday Telegraph called the book a “work of intense purity and quiet genius” and the Sunday Times said it was “immensely beguiling”. The Scotsman said it was “exquisite”.

Publishers Weekly said: “This intelligent collection of 14 essays, informed by science and myth, heightened attention, and cultural dreams, is written with Scots brogue, language, and attitude that will give American readers a fresh view of nature."

Find out more about the John Burroughs’ Association

Sightlines is published by Sort Of Books, priced £8.99

Kathleen Jamie's website

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