Friday, June 9, 2023

Twelve Words for Moss by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

 Twelve Words for Moss
by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett
ISBN 9780241556832
Penguin Press UK – Allen Lane, Particular, Pelican, Penguin Classics, Allen Lane

I loved this beautiful book--the subject matter, the writing, the structure, and the personal insights. 

The author is grieving the loss of her father and finds hope in the way moss grows, thrives, and survives, even under harsh conditions. She finds comfort in her pursuit of knowledge about mosses. She revels in the times she can spend in the natural world, but since she is forced to be in a city for work much of the time, she is able to look for and observe the mosses growing in the urban environment she inhabits. She says that in times of grief or other hard times, a friend found it helpful to focus on small details to "block out the bigger picture." For her, mosses serve this purpose as well as providing a focal point from which she can explore various other aspects of her life and history, as well as that of her ancestors. She finds connections with her mother's experiences growing up in Kenya, for example.

The book is written/structured in an interesting and very effective way. There are short poems about specific kinds of mosses, but also prose sections. Nestled within these sections are rhyming sentences that form mini-poems within the prose. 

Being a fan of moss myself, I enjoyed reading about it and how it grows. I will have even more respect for it now that I have read this book. Beyond that, this is jsimply a lovely book to read. The descriptions of the moss, the insights the author gains through her close observations, the gorgeous writing, the mini-poems within the prose, and the foundation of hope the author finds--each strand weaves together into a whole cloth that is full of colour, vibrancy, and beauty. 

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I thank them, the publisher, and the author.


David M. Gascoigne, said...

Sounds like a really wonderful book, about a taxon often neglected or ignored by most naturalists.

Shari Burke said...

It's really quite remarkable. I certainly will never look at it in the same way!

Vicki said...

I don't remember ever seeing a book about moss but I think I'd like this.

Years ago my husband told me that his grandfather, who was born in the late 1800's, lived way out in the country. He would buy some material to sew pillowcases and then stuff them with moss that was hanging from trees and sell them.

Shari Burke said...

What a great story! I knew moss was used as wound dressing, nappies, and as sanitary products for women. I've always loved looking at it, but I will be looking more closely now.

Lowcarb team member said...

Certainly sounds a wonderful book.
Thank you for highlighting it here.

All the best Jan

Shari Burke said...

Book love--pass it on! LOL have a great weekend, Jan

My name is Erika. said...

This sounds like an amazing book. I am going to go look it up on Amazon and keep my eyes open for it. Thanks for sharing.

Shari Burke said...

You're welcome--it's a lovely book.

Rostrose said...

Dear Shari,
Coping with grief through observing moss is an interesting approach! I don't know if that would help me dealing with loss, but I like moss too.
As a moss lover, you probably know that you can grow it yourself using buttermilk. On the stones of our front yard fence I simply did this with milk that had gone sour.
🌸☀️🌸 All the best, Traude

Shari Burke said...

I think for her it was a mix of things--connection with nature, the attributes of the moss, and something to focus her attention on.

How fun that you used the sour milk to grow moss!

Happy solstice!