Morris reflects on a year of The Lost Words' success

Morris reflects on a year of The Lost Words' success

A new audiobook and a crowdfunding campaign to supply hospices are just some of the events happening around Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ The Lost Words, which celebrates its first birthday today (5th October).

The heavily illustrated collection of nature poems was published last year to critical and popular acclaim by Hamish Hamilton (part of Penguin Random House), inspiring individuals to crowdsource funding to buy copies for schools up and down the UK. Twenty campaigns have successfully raised funds to buy books for schools in Scotland, Wales and parts of England, including Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Cornwall.

The latest ongoing campaign was set up by NHS palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke, who wants to buy copies of the book for every hospice in the UK. Clarke has raised more than half of her £6,000 total, and said she has seen “first hand” how the poems captivate readers. “Having seen how vividly The Lost Words has chimed with readers, I believe this crowdfunded has the potential to bring enormous pleasure and joy to terminally ill patients,” she said.

Next month Penguin Audio will release an audiobook edition with the poems read by Edith Bowman, Guy Garvey, Cerys Matthews and Benjamin Zephaniah. The audio edition will also feature a new introduction, written and read by Macfarlane, and a “soundscape”, created by natural-history sound recordist Chris Watson, with sounds such as wren song, ravens’ calls and rain falling onto ferns.


Robert Macfarlane (credit: Rosamund Macfarlane) and Jackie Morris (credit: Jay Armstrong)

Since publication, the book has sold 89,152 copies for £1.36m through Nielsen BookScan, and it has inspired a number of events across the country. Theatre producer Collette Murray and production company Wild Rumpus created a stage interpretation of the book, which is currently touring the country, and music festival Folk by the Oak commissioned eight musicians to create pieces based on the book.

National Trust property Bodnant Garden in Wales created a Lost Words Trail over the summer, and Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire commissioned an art exhibition. It also won a British Book Award.

“It has been an extraordinary year,” said Morris. “This time last year I was so nervous, wondering what the reception for our book would be. Never in a million years did I expect what happened. I’ve been told so many stories about the book, from children who weren’t interested in reading losing themselves in its pages, to 96-year-olds living with vascular dementia finding their words and ragged memories in response. All of these stories are like being given a gift.

“I’ve made so many friends, from readers to people crowdfunding to put the book into schools, hospices and hospitals. They are amazing people: those who have given up so much of their time, or donated money, to get the book into schools. They are now real friends, wonderful people. It’s strange. In a year the book has become music, theatre, and decorated the walls of hospitals.”

She added: “The book was made with love and hope, and I think it has been received in the same way: with hope, with love.”

Penguin Audio’s edition of The Lost Words will be available for digital download (9780241985229) on 18th October, priced £9. A CD edition (9780241387702, £8.99) will be issued on 17th January 2019.