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16 April 2016

“The Diamond Pane”: a poem by Kathleen Jamie

"I, my mother’s daughter, / took up a pen, hard-nibbed / and therefore equal / to the task. . ."

By Kathleen Jamie


In my “eyrie of freedom”,
that house of the mind, high
above a small Fife town
of fisherfolk and weavers,
I, my mother’s daughter,
took up a pen, hard-nibbed
and therefore equal
to the task, and etched my name
– my maiden name –
on a diamond pane of glass.
Through those same narrow
casements, closed tight
against Arctic winds, I beheld,
like a seer his weird sights,
ice-floes, death-pale, choking
the gold-fringed Firth, far-off
snow peaks, clouds chased on
by westerlies; and so there flew
from that falcon’s lair
my “airy imagination”:
I’d ramble over frozen fields
till sunset – so early! –
sent its roseate glow;
our fireside conversations
swooped through books, and hope and liberty.
That pane where I made my sign
– one of many admitting
a pallid light to a passage
of white closed doors –
was it marked like a card
with a fate which, unknowingly,
I’d chosen? In June,
when the “crimson midnight sun
skirted the northern horizon”
I bade my friends farewell, and climbed
the gangplank of the Osnaburgh
ready to sail south, and soon
again run to the warm south,
entering my “age of promise”.

Commissioned for the Frankenstein in Bristol weekender (22-23 April), celebrating Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Details:

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This article appears in the 13 Apr 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The making of a monster