Oxford poetry library
The Lost Words has been an important project to Oxford Poetry Library for the past two years, with the mission at its centre to re-enchant children with the natural world through poetry. The project focuses on The Lost Words, a collection of acrostic poems by Robert Macfarlane, gorgeously illustrated by Jackie Morris. Noticing that nature was disappearing from children’s lives, Macfarlane and Morris created these poems to act as spells, conjuring plants and animals back to our hearts and minds, to help us rediscover the magic of the natural world.
OPL carries forward this mission in its ‘The Lost Words’ workshops. Over the past two years, we’ve run these workshops with children and adults, in schools, community centres, with mental health charities and in green spaces all over Oxfordshire. With the help of local nature experts, participants are invited to look and listen and notice the living world around us, explore the birds, plants, creepy-crawlies, and animals in their own neighbourhoods, and then write their own Lost Words spell about their experience.
During lockdown, we created three activity packs (on plants, minibeasts and birds) to help people recreate the workshops in their own gardens and local parks. We even ran a competition judged by Robert Macfarlane himself to celebrate some of the poems written using these activity packs!
In this display, we bring you just some of the poems from these workshops and activity packs. We hope reading them will help conjure the magic of nature, and remind you to take the time to notice and appreciate the living world around you!
about the Artist(s)
Alice Evans has worked as a book conservator at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford since graduating
with an MA in book and paper conservation from Camberwell College of Arts in 2017. Alice has
been involved in collaborative binding projects, workshops and teaching, and private commissions.
In her spare time Alice enjoys growing unusual vegetables on her beloved allotment, much to the
confusion of her fellow allotment residents. She is interested in exploring natural pigments, dyes
and materials and has been experimenting with growing indigo, woad and flax in the East Oxford
climate. Over the past year Alice spent a lot of lock down time playing the Lost Words card game,
making her particularly excited to be involved in this collaboration with the Oxford Poetry Library.
POETRY READINGS from our workshop attendees
about the group
Oxford Poetry Library launched in April 2017 as a way to bring poetry into the community. Primarily running as a mobile, pedal-powered lending library, it aims to provide a space in Oxford for people to access and talk about poetry, discover new writing, and be platformed as local writers. We promote collective ownership of books, shared resources, and knowledge shared through collaboration in community spaces. We have a collection of about 1000 books, from classics to contemporary writing, anthologies, and picturebooks for little ones. It is free to join the library and anyone can borrow books, with no late fees or punishing fines for overdues. We operate out of a big custom-built purple cargo bike, peddling (and pedalling) our wares to farmers markets, festivals, and street events throughout the city for all sorts of people to discover all sorts of poetry. As well as operating as a lending library, we run frequent workshops, readings, events, and reading groups, often collaborating with other organizations to promote access to literature for people who might not otherwise have it. A lot of our work is focused on marginalized groups (such as young people, the homeless and vulnerably housed, and mental health charities), and we regularly provide sessions and poetry-writing activity days for other organizations who work with these groups. Our most recent projects include the Many Voices Collection, a sub-collection of books for young people which centre black characters, by black writers, or which have an anti-racist message to promote access to diverse literature, and we also intend to set up a permanent physical home for the library in the Community Works as part of the Meanwhile in Oxford project.