Happy Birthday Kathleen Raine, 14th June 1908
Kathleen Raine by Rollie McKenna, 1951 (National Portrait Gallery)
'To make the imperfect perfect,
It is enough to love it.'
Today marks what would have been the 114th birthday of one of Britain’s greatest (and most underrated) poets. Kathleen Raine’s oeuvre as a writer and scholar crossed continents and centuries, from paradigm-shifting research into William Blake and other poetic legends – although Kathleen was too modest to count herself amongst their number – to four raw, radically honest volumes of autobiography and fourteen poetry collections. Powerful and profound, a rare stillness ripples through her words of wisdom and imagination: bearing witness to a uniquely intense spiritual experience that nonetheless speaks deeply to our common humanity.
It will be a pleasure and a privilege for my upcoming novel The Rowan Tree (2023, Valley Press) to share Kathleen’s story with a new generation: exploring her ‘some-requited’ love for author-naturalist Gavin Maxwell and shining a light on the woman hidden for too long at the heart of his world-famous Ring of Bright Water (which few realise took its title from one of Kathleen's poems). While we wait, why not check out my recent essay on Kathleen’s life and work, published today – with perfect timing – by the Women’s History Network? Regular blog readers might also enjoy a rewatch of my festive ‘Three Reasons Why Kathleen Raine’s The Story of Three Water Drops is a Christmas Classic’, followed of course by ‘Four Reasons Why Kathleen Raine’s The World of Living Green is Springtime Inspiration’!
Whatever your plans today, they can only be enhanced by taking a moment or two to cherish Kathleen’s timeless words of knowledge, wisdom and love.
This moment, never
These slow ripples
Across smooth water…
Never this sun,
This world, and never
Again this watcher.'