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Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

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poetry

The Lost Words : Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

… enchanting spells to conjure up nature …

kingfisher jackie morris

Hailed as one of the most beautiful books of the year, The Lost Words is a delightful collaboration between the very inspiring nature writer, Robert Macfarlane, and a supremely talented illustrator, Jackie Morris. Together they have produced a cross between a medieval illuminated manuscript and spell grimoire. The conceit behind the work is that Robert’s words have to conjure the missing animals and plants back into the world.

Each spell takes up three double page spreads. First there is a spread showing a lack: a shadow, an absence, a washed out line drawing; then comes the spell of conjuration and a full page portrait; and finally another full double page spread showing the living object in its landscape. This creates a beguiling rhythm to the procession of beautiful images across these large pages.

The poems themselves are acrostic, spelling out the plant or creature’s name using the first letter of the lines and have a Anglo-Saxon kenning quality about them. Robert twists and turns words about using alliteration and assonance to create evocative word combinations which really come alive when spoken out loud – rather like the expressive nature poems of Gerald Manly Hopkins. Jackie‘s illustrations are seductively gorgeous, making one want to linger over the pages, searching out the detail and basking in the gold leaf.

The whole book is truly delightful – full of humour, warmth and artistry.  And what’s more, there is an exhibition of their collaboration running at Compton Verney until 17th December. Further details are here.

Robert Macfarlane has established himself as one of the finest landscape writers of recent times. His wonderful book, Landmarks, (Hamish Hamilton, 2015) defends the lost language of the British countryside and is a precursor to this work. His other books include Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places and The Old Ways. I can highly recommend all of these booksHe is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times.

Jackie Morris has created over forty books, including beloved classics such as Song of the Golden Hare, Tell Me A Dragon, East of the Sun, West of the Moon and The Wild Swans – and my personal favourite, Can you see a Little Bear? which will be re-released next Summer. She collaborated with Ted Hughes, and her books have sold more than a million copies worldwide.  Have a look at her website here.

The Lost Words was published by Hamish Hamilton in October 2017 and is my seventeenth review for the British Books Challenge 2017.

 

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Jackself : Cover Design

After contacting Pan Macmillan, I’ve tracked down the designer of the wonderful Jackself cover.

Naomi Clark, Cover Designer and Artworker at Pan Macmillan owned up!  

She explained the thoughts behind the design: “… the book has a cast of characters – plus lots of references to Jack figures – so Jackdaw, Jack-O-Lantern, Jack Sprat, Cheapjack. Our idea was to make the cover a kind of cut-out or pattern book – so that it would be designed to look as if you could cut out these figures and use them for your own little puppet theatre. The author was really keen on the jockey image as it has the vibrancy and colour we wanted to achieve.”

The “Jockey”  was one in a series of paper puppets printed by Franz-Josef Holler, a German toy manufacturer in the 1970s and 1980s.  I am assuming the images are from late c19th.  As you can see, the cover design is pretty close to the original – apart the the face and cigarette.

It’s such an arresting image.  The dismembered puppet body puts me in mind of a macabre butcher’s slab and as such, it’s very appropriate for this collection of poems.  My earlier review for Jackself is here.

If you would like to see any more of Naomi’s work, here is the link : http://cargocollective.com/NaomiClark

Jackself : Jacob Polley

… like citrus in winter …

jackself-9781447290445

I had to keep putting the book down. Is that a weird thing to say? Does anyone else do that? Again and again, I would come across a phrase or an image, that was so arresting and intense that, like sharp grapefruit, I was compelled to stop and savour before reading on.  Jacob himself talks of “a glimpse of something” in The Guardian‘s series My Writing Day; and it is these glimpses that the judges of the TS Eliot Prize hint at when they describe the collection as “a firework of a book”.  

The images are embedded in a playful, shadowy autobiography of Jack, and his many selves, set in a mythic Cumbrian border country called Lamanby.  Jack and his mate, Jeremy Wren, banter and fool about through 34 poems.  Their casual brutality and grimy surroundings, mixed with nursery rhymes and folklore, put me in mind of the wonderful Rooster in Jez Butterworth‘s play, Jerusalem.

If you buy only one book of poetry this year, it really should be this one.  Highly recommended.

Jacob Polley was born in Carlisle, Cumbria. He is the author of four books of poems and a novel, Talk of the Town. He teaches at the University of Newcastle where lives.

Cover design moment:  The very arresting puppet cut-out design was inspired by a Franz-Josef Holler design called “Jockey” and presumably comes out of the PanMacmillan Art Department.  I am still trying to find out.  Update : I have traced the designer.  If you are interested, click for later post.

This book is the fifth review in my British Books Challenge 2017.  Come and join us at over at Chelley Toy’s site.

Jackself by Jacob Polley was published by Picador Poetry on 3 November 2016.  It won the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry 2016 announced on 16 January 2017.   I bought it from Emily’s Bookshop.  Hiya Em!

 

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