Publication: 13 May 2023
Jane McKie’s poems in Carnation Lily Lily Rose often reflect on the natural world, but they reveal other hidden worlds to the attentive and quizzical eye. Mysterious and alluring, you’re never quite taken where you expect from the minute you start reading this book.
I wake to leaves, to their paper, their river-dip scent.
They are skin cells borne to the surface by sleep,
lifting, peeling, shaking their detachment in my face,
and behind their tissue, wooden bones
that bow to swim my channels like ships.
It is water, of course, that fortifies, water that fills
every available space. I felt it this morning, inside me,
the great beast’s whirlpool coil as it turned back
to the deep. And then dressed itself as a human being.
“There is much about skin — human, plant, animal — in this wonderful collection of poems from Jane McKie. Here, the glittering surfaces of the world are read as divinatory antennae, winkling out what connects us to our watery abode on planet earth. This is a hymn to all the different kinds of connective tissue that lightly, but firmly, weave us into the fabric of our own and others’ lives. All the poems here reach beyond the reader’s initial expectations of them, surprising and delighting us just as the natural world itself so often does. Rarely does a collection of artfully patterned lines manage to match the complexity of earth’s myriad surfaces.” —David Kinloch
“Carnation Lily Lily Rose is a stunning collection. Jane McKie is a conjuror with words: always finding the word that is both surprising and yet fits into place as if always meant to be there. Her poems unfold like paper flowers in water: never predictable, always enticing, gradually revealing their riches and secrets. Each leads us on a sensory journey from the world as we know it into the visionary worlds of her imagination.” —Vicki Feaver
Carnation Lily Lily Rose by Jane McKie
Rustic Cascade Solar Water Feature
You are drawn again to its shape – one jug
being poured into another, lower, jug, which in turn
empties into the lowest, largest container.
It’s hard for you to name its power. A trinity?
The steady accumulation that will never run out,
thanks to the pump, the pipe, and gravity?
Or just the passage of one to another to another –
this cheap moulded form a sacred braid
for reasons that escape you. You sit and watch
for an hour, until the place has to close.
The girl who moves you on, politely signalling
the time, can’t help lifting an eyebrow.
As you shuffle to the car park a few stars
are out and you catch a pinch of cloves,
smoke, snuffed candles on the breeze. Your car,
with its rusted blue paintwork, is marooned
in greyness. Yet your skin tingles, fully alive.
X-ray of a Cut Sunflower
A head that in death loses
none of its moxie.
Petals muster ghost-coronas
made of wither and snap, forming a double ring
of spider-legs – semi-transparent, guttering –
and in their centre, like a microphone thrust
in the face, the black and white beading of disk florets.
I set the image at different angles, can’t shake
the sense of something listening.
Is it in me too, I wonder? Would I find it in an x-ray
of my cadaver? Between my ribs or nestled
in my skull. Something – not me – listening.
Something taking notes.
Even the ugly farm next to the peat bog
is on fire – the miniature Christmas trees,
the dogs on their chains, all cast in bronze.
Even the sky and its wind farm pulse
with sunset: wheeling arms, pink scimitars.
Even slop in a bucket reflects a red rose.
Jane McKie's first collection, Morocco Rococo (Cinnamon Press), was awarded the 2008 Sundial/Scottish Arts Council prize for best first book of 2007. Recent collections include Quiet Woman, Stay (Cinnamon Press, 2020) and Jawbreaker (2021), which won the Wigtown Poetry Festival’s Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize 2021. Jane, as member of the Edinburgh-based Shore Poets, facilitates poetry readings and music. She is interested in collaboration across forms, writes with 12, a collective of women writers, and with Edinburgh’s genre spoken word group, Writers’ Bloc. She works as a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh.