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