The shape of things gone missing: the source equally of our grief and our delight. It's a vessel. It will hold us.
Those words are from Martha Scanlan, Wendell Berry, and a wise Reverend friend named Mary Peterson—and from a song title, a poem, and a contemplative circle, respectively. I have strung and knotted their individual pearls into a co-created poem, a brief accompaniment to the feeling of these past months.
The three sparklets were a random draw from my accumulated year’s worth of sticky-notes. They took the form above quite naturally.* I have learned, this last year, that this endless malleability is a defining power of language, my favorite trickster god.
I remember learning about found poetry in school, and dismissing it. And here I’ve been practicing it intentionally for a whole year. Every day, a sparklet, from whatever I may be reading. At seasonal turnings and high points, a glimmer of sparklets, gathered into a poem.
Originally, I structured this project to play with words in a new way, and to discipline my time just enough to “guarantee I’ll create some art today.” At the end of twelve months of practice, the structure doesn’t feel like play anymore; it feels like a slog. I get behind by days at a time; I struggle to incorporate every sparklet into a poem (and sometimes I give up); I run out of photographic inspiration. I’m feeling very done.
Satisfactorily so. My formal projects, so far, have run for a year, or will do so. Part of the joy of this is a similarly medium-term thing. It’s right there in the slog: I can get tired of a practice, but I can’t stop doing it. By pushing through my impatience, boredom, or lack of inspiration, I learn. I grow. I shift. The shape of this isn’t always apparent. Which is good. I’m tired of everything needing to have a point, every hobby begging the question of commodity.
If the dailiness of the project wore thin, it has also done its job. Florilegia infuses my idle thoughts: I make poems for online book clubs, I recall sparklets in conversation. I’ve held informal classes, and created a collaborative physical art installation. I layer illuminated pieces of visual art around sparklets that have resonated in my heart for days or weeks.
Why? I’ve no idea. This is the part that feels like play now. It weaves a new strand into my life, to no particular purpose.
It’s done more than its job, too. Through The Florilegia Project, I’ve met or deepened relationships with several kindred spirits. We exchange letters and art and ideas, and here again I learn and grow and shift.
National and global events have rather overtaken the everyday since last August. Things were…intense here in the States already. Today (this moment), it’s difficult not to think and converse and worry about racism, police violence, and the accompanying protest movement; about the sharply increasing despotism of our federal administration; about COVID-19 and our country’s mismanagement of its threat to public and private life. This is the everyday.
And so is art. So is joy, in its small and durable forms. Time exists in more incarnations than the news cycle, elections, or the calendar year. It has been good to have The Florilegia Project to remind me we also live by other clocks.
At the beginning of TFP, I said I didn’t know where it was going. I still don’t; maybe I never will. As near as I can tell, the meaning of life is just living.
*And they took, quite naturally, a different form but the same order in my first found poem, for last year’s Autumn Equinox. I swear, these were randomly drawn just today.