Florilegium: The Seabird’s Cry

Adam Nicolson’s The Seabird’s Cry has been helpfully reviewed elsewhere; that is not my purpose. I do certainly recommend it. Rather than telling you why, I’d like to offer the partial florilegium I compiled from it. 

What is a florilegium? My favorite explanation is that florilegia are the sparkly bits. A florilegium is a compendium of such sparklets, often from multiple pieces of writing, which form their own new text. I like to collect sparklets from one particular work, rearranging them to create a new way of reading that work–to converse with it in its own words, slantwise, and perhaps that way to discover some new layer.

In a book dense with poetic prose, I copied out dozens of lines that sang to me. They flew off to their colony, an untidy pile of blue sticky notes in a corner of my desk, and I never quite forgot them: one or two would peel off periodically and demand to be wondered at. Someday, I thought, I might do something with these.

Some have since died, some migrated via uncharted routes. A beautiful few remain, and picking them up one by one to read yesterday brought back my sense of the book and its message: urgent and complex, immediate, beautifully demanding. An elegy for certain; also a call to active care. Here is my reflection of Nicolson’s words:

The Mechanisms of the World, Turning in Front of You

When the wind is blowing through the boundaries,
a skitter and bang of life from the reeds:

bodies crying in the world. Every living thing
a multiple Babel of radiant interiorities. 

Everything alive and nothing refined:
the yowling, stinking colonies. 

A celebration profoundly unlike 
our analytic understanding.

Its whole being 
like a singer's 


Thoughts? Questions? Stories to share?

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