INSPIRED and energised by the events of last year, when the independence referendum consumed and cleaved this contumacious country, Kathleen Jamie – the brightest and best poet of her generation – “resolved to write a poem a week, following the cycle of the year”. The Bonniest Companie is the result of her endeavours and it may yet prove to be the most illuminating and enduring work of art to emerge from that febrile period.

Since she first came to prominence in 1982 with her debut collection Black Spiders, Jamie has impressed with the elasticity of her language, the vividness of her imagery and her grasp of technique. She is rooted in Scotland and the Scots tongue but is always open to other, outside influences. I have always liked a sequence of poems titled ‘Karakoram Highway’, included in The Way We Live, which appeared in 1972. “Clouds sit like headaches,” she observed, as she waited with fellow climbers in the lea of K2 for the weather to lift, “on the walls of this desolate vast arena,/gather round like the Skardu men/with chapati-hats, their clothes/come through dust-storms down the bazaar.”

Jamie is drawn to wild places where the human imprint is light or invisible or overwhelmed by nature. Like Norman MacCaig, there is a philosophical bent to her work. When she sees birds and beasts it is not long before she is entering their world and considering her own place in it. The elements are likewise celebrated. You can tell by the way she describes it that she enjoys all weathers. For example, in ‘Merle’ – Scots for a blackbird – she writes: “Soon the haar will burn off/revealing the Rum Cullin/happed in March snow, and the waters of the Minch...” The alliterative proximity of ‘haar’ and ‘happed’ makes a reader breathe deeper and think harder and give pause.

But how does the poet deal with such a political event as the referendum and its huge potential for disruption and dissonance? Jamie is no Auden or MacDiarmid or Yeats; she is not political in that sense. There is nothing here, for instance, to compare with ‘Autumn Journal’ or ‘A Drunk Man’ or ‘Easter 1916’. There is no rolling of drums or beating of breasts or, indeed, any sense that something is about to be changed utterly. Life, in Jamie’s universe, goes on regardless of what’s making the Six O’Clock News or is exercising the opinion formers or obsessing those thirled to social media.

Nor in these sixty or so pages will you find any mention of Better Together, Nationalist trolls, Alistair Darling’s eyebrows, Alex Salmond’s diet, Nicola Sturgeon’s heels, Jim Murphy’s soapbox, BBC bias or whether in the new Scotland we will be admitted to the European Union or allowed to use the pound. If these are of concern or interest to Jamie they do not emerge in poetic form. Her Scotland is one that would be recognisable, with a few modifications, to the Border balladeers and the Gaelic bards. In ‘The Shielings’ she writes: “As the west-/facing hills dandied in the gloaming/and shadows filled the defiles, I fancied/I could hear the lasses of lang syne/ca’ing their kye, clattering pans, an infant’s wail,/but the only sound was the Allt Ball a Mhulinn’s sweet-talk, which deepened/like a lover’s, through the night.”

This is what Jamie calls “poetic engagement”. While others ranted and raved, waved Saltires or Union Jacks, and tweeted as if there was no tomorrow, her response was to dig deep into herself and see what emerged. The future may be as uncertain as the price of a barrel of oil but the past is a diamond mine waiting to be plundered. Jamie’s own history is bound up with that of the country to which she is preternaturally and emotionally attached. Born in Renfrewshire in 1962, she was brought up on the outskirts of Edinburgh, though there must have been a “sojourn among the southron”, as she puts it in ‘Scotland’s Splendour’.

This is one of several poems in which Jamie offers a glimpse of her early life. In a charity shop she finds a book she was given as a child and is immediately transported back in time. The Scotland depicted in that volume was one of mountains and lochs, cattle and stags. There was just one “modern silver cataract:/ the spillway of a new-built hydro dam”. This, she was given to understand, was “Scotland”, “that hardback nation/which declared itself in our speech/ – ours were the grey-rain tones of Clyde-built/trams and cranes (illustrated on p19)/a dream-tinged land we pick up,/then shelve again....”

“Hardback nation” might have made an alternative title for this invigorating, revelatory, captivating collection. Jamie constantly produces apt phrases – “castle-crowned rocks”, “spindly sauchs”, “a raptor’s mewl”, “a never-mended dyke” – and telling words. As the year wears on, the referendum comes closer, but would you know that reading The Bonniest Companie? Rather than read opinion polls and other runes she remembers her mother singing “the only song I ever/ heard you sing – Joseph Locke’s/‘I’ll take you home again, Kathleen’/which aye made me greet”. But in ‘23/9/14’, dated five days after the fateful vote, she evokes the disastrous defeat at Flodden (“Wir flags are wede awa,/the withered leaves o shilpit trees/blaw across deserted squares”) before concluding: “We ken a’ that. It’s Tuesday. On wir feet./Today we begin again.” The tone is initially mournful but the poem’s conclusion is defiant and uplifting. How very Scottish.

The Bonniest Companie, by Kathleen Jamie (Picador, £9.99)