The Lost Words
“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. The words were those that children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone! Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow, wren…all of them gone! The words were being lost…”
A collaboration between Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane, The Lost Words is a very special illustrated collection of spell-poems to re-wild the language of children. All over the country, there are words disappearing from children's lives.
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The Lost Words is a collaboration between Jackie Morris, Robert Macfarlane and Hamish Hamilton. It’s roots are in Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane, a beautiful book about the power of language.
The Lost Words is many things. At almost two foot high the book carries a weight. Within its pages are spells, written with the hope of bringing a focus back to the wild. Over the years the urban world has pushed and pushed against the boundaries of the wild. The language of childhood has, as a result become increasingly urbanized. Studies show that many young children can bring to the tongue the names of Pokemon characters with more ease than they can the names of British birds and wild life. And yet the natural world is our habitat, and often our refuge.
With twenty spells and twenty words, with lost, and found, and spoken, in images of sparse abstraction, gilded icons and colour The Lost Words hopes to focus sharp attention on what our everyday language risks losing if we do not give it the regard it deserves, if we do not see the wild around us.
Much of the reference for the images in the book were gleaned from living in Pembrokeshire, which makes this book particularly relevant to St Davids and this Peninsula environment so rich in wild life. The raven carries a guillemot’s egg. Ravens flew over Jackie Morris’s studio, even as she painted the raven pages. Guillemots nest offshore on Ramsey Island.
Otters wander the streams and ditches here. Magpies built a nest of twigs outside her studio while she painted the pieces for magpie. The skylarks are from years of watching skylarks on the hill above her studio and at St Davids Airfield, where you can walk the length of the runway with lark song ascending all around. A wild magic wove around the making of this book.
Two years in the making, The Lost Words is a soul song. Beautifully designed and produced by Hamish Hamilton “it holds not poems but spells of many kinds that might just, by the old, strong magic of speaking aloud, unfold dreams and songs, and summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind’s eye….”
Robert Macfarlane is the author of The Wild Places, Landmarks and Mountains of the Mind. He co-authored the beautiful Holloway. He lives in Cambridge.
Publisher's review "An illustrated spell-book in watercolour and gold leaf, from the rich creative minds of award-winning author Robert Macfarlane and acclaimed artist Jackie Morris. As nature vanishes from children's language and their imagination, The Lost Words stands against the loss of magic, celebrating the joy of wild childhood and wild places". (Penguin)