Thursday, June 27, 2019

Poetry Friday -- The Lost Words



by Robert Macfarlane
illustrated by Jackie Morris

I saw this book in Maria Popova's Brain Pickings newsletter last weekend and immediately reserved a copy from the library. Take a minute to follow the newsletter link. Gorgeous, right? I just picked it up yesterday, and I wasn't at all prepared for the size and heft of the book. It's 15" x 11" and weighs about 3 lbs. Every poem I've read so far is amazing -- I will learn lots from Robert Macfarlane about the art of the acrostic poem. Every illustration is amazing -- begging to be pored over. Yup. I'll probably need to buy my own copy of this book!

The introduction to The Lost Words is what inspired my poem for Karen Boss' challenge at Today's Little Ditty to "write a poem in second person, speaking directly to a kid or kids about something that you think is important for them to know."
"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 becoming lost: no longer vivid in children's voices, no longer alive in their stories."
How can we expect these words to remain in children's language if children spend no time outdoors, or if all the wild places are tamed or removed?


Learn their names:
rocks, trees, flowers, birds, clouds, stars.
Know your home.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019


Buffy Silverman has the Poetry Friday roundup this week, and she, too, has written a nature-themed poem for the June TLD challenge!



23 comments:

  1. Love this advice, Mary Lee. But I hate that you have to give it--so many kids spend so little time outdoors. And how will they become the climate activists we need if they are not in love with the world and know how to name it? Okay, I probably shouldn't start ranting.... Love Brain Pickings, but somehow I missed the post about this book. Will have to look for it.

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  2. Thanks for sharing "The Lost Words," I have seen it before but would like to read and pour over it too. I think there are many children that are interested in nature and our environment, evidence of this is in all the school strikes for climate that have been going on. Love the advice you share in your poem, thanks!

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  3. I read recently that the average American child spends less time per day outside than the average American prisoner.

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  4. And btw I really want to find that book.

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    1. You will want to own it. Guaranteed.

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  5. What a beautiful concept for a book--and for there to be so much material is tragic. But, I'm intrigued. I want to find a copy and enjoy. I do love the tweets from McFarlane. I like playing with old words he shares. Thanks for this rec!

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    1. I just realized that I follow him! @robgmacfarlane I'm going to dig into his tweets for more gems. I found one from the other day about plant bias. Adding that to my materials for teaching about bias. Who knew?

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    2. I just ordered a copy! Thank you for sharing!

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  6. I LOVE this poem. And I love this book! Last summer I wrote quite a few poems inspired by it. xo

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  7. I love this poem. Here in Vancouver, Canada, where I live, we have much green space and trees everywhere, so our students are still exposed to some wild.
    Your poem triggered a memory for me of when my teaching partner and I took our students camping by the ocean. While standing on a small bluff overlooking the expanse of blue, one of the children asked her if it was real.

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  8. Just requested this! I'm #32 for 17 books. I hope when it arrives that I'll remember you recommended it, Mary Lee. I looked at the article you linked to and loved the lush illustrations. It will be a delight whenever it arrives.

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  9. Words, names, communication, and understanding are all so important!

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  10. Your advice is just right. We need to remember and pass on the names of things. Hummingbird, monarch, nutria, river birch, live oak, egret, bald cypress. I could go on and on.

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    1. So true. And in Kat Apel's comments on her blog, she writes about the loss of Aussie words. Another effect of colonialism.

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  11. Your comment about plant bias sent me off googling that...so interesting. I am fond of (medicinal) plants that other people consider to be weeds, so that was the first bias that popped into my head.
    I commented about how much I liked your haiku over on Michelle's blog, not knowing the backstory of it. I featured Jackie Morris on my blog back in 2013 and have vaguely followed what she's been doing since then, so I noticed when this book came out. Just *gorgeous.* (I think dog ownership has been found to be a way to make sure people go outside...or is it a way to make sure people get exercise? Either way, it is a way that kids like.)

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  12. I have a copy of this book and love it! I think I first saw it on a PF post and ordered it immediately. The illustrations are stunning. The last line of your poem is such important advice for all of us, in many ways. I'm off to check out the tweets--plant bias? I'm totally intrigued!

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  13. Wonderful advice, Mary Lee, and I'm adding that book to my library list. Thanks for sharing it and your lovely poem.

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  14. Wonderful advice. I hope many children will listen and then roam outside to discover those words and realities. Have you read THE LAST CHILD OUTSIDE? It sounds like it would go quite well with THE LOST WORDS.

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  15. Well that didn't take much arm twisting. I just reserved THE LOST WORDS at the library, but I have a feeling I'll need to own my own copy too. I LOVED your poem from the moment I laid eyes on it on the padlet, Mary Lee. The short length adds to its power and poignancy I think. Kind of like "read me now before I disappear." Thanks for contributing to this month's collection!

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  16. The book Kay is mentioning is THE LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS, I think, and I meant to mention it too and forgot.

    Your haiku is perfect--just. so. simple. Just so important. To name is to learn, to know, to collect, to own, to protect.

    Wait, that might be my haiku...

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  17. Hmmm Last Child in the Words...

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  18. I've been reading about The Lost Words. Thanks for mentioning it. I definitely want to find a copy to read for myself now.
    Love your poem, especially the last line:
    Know your home.

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