Antlers of Water is an anthology of writing on the nature and environment of Scotland. The collection, edited by Kathleen Jamie, is no escapist ‘shortbread tin view’ of Scotland’s landscape. It includes a true diversity of artists and art and covers everything from wasps in our back garden to nuclear pollution in our Firths.
The title stems from a beautiful poem by celebrated poet, Norman MacCaig, but this book clearly and pointedly reflects the fact that nature writing is no longer the domain of venerable grey haired white men. It is immediate, direct, and not universally pleasing, like the great nation of Scotland herself. It has flaws amidst the beauty, and that makes it a true and accurate representation of the Scottish environment with all its complications and problems.
There are crystalline moments of great beauty, with some mesmerising imagery and delightful use of language, but there are also occasional pieces which fail to resonate. Despite this, there is joy in the varied style and subject matter in this collection.
The current global situation has led to a shift in how many people see and experience their natural environment, a greater focus on the intimate details of the familiar, and this attention to detail is refreshing.
The environment of Scotland incudes breathtaking wilderness, but for most of the population of Scotland the landscape is unapologetically urban. So, with refreshing honesty, pigeons are given equal billing to sea eagles, reflecting the truth for the many who experience and therefore influence the landscape of Scotland. People are all visitors here and all have an effect on our landscape and environment and are responsible for it. This anthology reminds the reader that no matter where in Scotland’s landscape we live and work and breathe and notice, we are responsible for its future.