The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris
Published by Hamish Hamilton, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Following the huge success of their previous collaboration, The Lost Words, poet Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris have created another ode to the beauty of the natural world, and the importance of preserving the language we use to describe it.
The text is always approachable, the playful imagery and lively rhythm making the poems ideal pieces to be read aloud. Take for example these excerpts from my favourite poem in the collection, Red Fox:
A bloom of rust
at your vision’s edge,
The shadow that slips
through a hole in the hedge,
My two green eyes
in your headlights’ rush,
A scatter of feathers,
the tip of a brush.
Shifter of shapes
Bearer of fire
Taker of risks
Morris’s accompanying artwork is gorgeous. It captures the very real majesty of each species covered while quietly hinting at something more magical, such is the atmosphere of reverence established within the book. I love the sentiment of the project as a whole, and would be more than happy to see the two continue working together.
The Unwinding by Jackie Morris
Published by Unbound, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
If Morris’s collaborations with Macfarlane hint ever so subtly at something magical, here she leans fully into it. A series of vignettes crafted in text and watercolour, The Unwinding is best described less as a short story collection, and more as a series of dreams rendered on paper. You shouldn’t expect a rounded narrative arc or in-depth development, but you certainly can expect stunning artwork that evokes enchanting worlds, enigmatic characters, and an ethereal atmosphere. This elusive beauty is perfect for stimulating the imagination.
The text we do get is simple yet charming; little pieces of flash fiction that read like a blend of prose poetry and magical realism. This tone is perfectly suited to the dreamlike quality of the visuals. The introduction itself explains that this text is merely intended as a jumping off point, however; one of many possible scenarios involving the vivid characters, settings, and lore hinted at in the artwork. Indeed, it is Morris’s hope that everyone will find their own meaning and interpret their own stories from the images, just as we would our dreams.
Each page is a treasure trove of sumptuous detail, cementing Morris as one of my favourite artists. I know I won’t be able to resist dipping in and out of this one regularly.