Robert Macfarlane: The Poetry + Music of Loss

We are thrilled to welcome Robert Macfarlane to Good Grief, the bestselling author renowned for his award-winning books on the themes of memory, travel, landscape, nature and the environment.

There is an ancient and powerful relationship between grieving, singing and lyric language. In this conversation, Robert will explore the roles of music and poetry at times of grief and loss, considering what songs are often sung at burials and funerals, and what poems are traditionally recited.

Some of Robert’s own poems and songs have found their ways into many people’s lives and hearts. Two have found particular resonance and are often played or sung at burials and times of loss. These are the Lost Words Blessing (created with artist Jackie Morris and the Spell Songs musicians); and Ferryman, written with musician and actor Johnny Flynn as part of Flynn and Macfarlane’s recent album, Lost In The Cedar Wood. Robert will use the creation and afterlives of these two songs as a gateway into themes and questions such as the consolations of music and poetry in the face of death.

Robert’s first book, Mountains of the Mind (2003), won the Guardian First Book Award. His other works include The Old Ways, Landmarks and The Lost Words. For children he created The Lost Spells, a book brimming with nature spells created with talented artist, Jackie Morris. The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award and was adapted for television.

Robert Macfarlane is Reader in Literature and the Geohumanities in the Faculty of English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His latest book, Underland: A Deep Time Journey (2019), is about subterranean spaces and deep time.


Robert Macfarlane

Dr Lesel Dawson