The Florilegia Project is a conversational art & poetry experiment.*
Although I have some guidelines, I don’t know where this is going. Maybe it’s not going anywhere. I like wandering.
How It Works
Every day, I’ll share one snippet that particularly sparkled out from whatever I’m reading. It might be a sentence, a phrase, even a single word.
The project lasts one year: Lammas** 2019 to Lammas 2020. At each quarter and cross-quarter day,*** I’ll pause and offer a found poem, created from the florilegia of the season just passed. In every case, the punctuation, line breaks, and order will be my own, but the words themselves the work of others, always credited.
What is Florilegia?
Florilegia is a practice of reading and pondering, of conversing with literature by pulling out the phrases that “sparkle,” removing them from their original context into a new one. Fresh meaning may be discovered in this aggregation of sparklets, their conversation with each other–ideas they generate, questions or beauties or conundrums they create.
You can do this with a single book, or a year’s worth of reading, or a lifetime’s. You can do it with the same book over and over, gleaning different sparklets each visit.
I learned about florilegia by name from the wonderful podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, in which hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile read the Harry Potter books as if they are sacred texts with something to teach us–like we might normally think of the Bible or the Koran–engaging deeply, earnestly, often playfully with these widely-loved novels. Florilegia is one among several sacred reading practices they use as a tool for moving beyond analysis and into unexpected connections.
I realized I’d been doing florilegia for years, very casually. Inspired by this fresh example, I began to practice it intentionally. I’ve found a few collaborative poems from this slantwise sort of study already. And now I want to try something that builds on my current practice.
The Source Material
In practice, “whatever I’m reading” will probably end up being just a few books. I explore why in a book review I wrote for Empty Mirror in 2018, which used the practice of florilegia to meet the text on a deeper-than-rational level:
“I don’t underline for education, I do it for impact. If a passage, or a phrase, or just a word strikes hard in beauty or in pain, that’s when I mark it. I’ve trained myself not to do this unless the need rises up, and also to do this without thinking too hard about my choice. The point of the exercise is engagement with the text by intuition and instinct — to discover what resonates, what makes you angry, what feels right, and what you want to talk back to.”
Even though I have a TBR list, I know neither what order I’ll read it in, nor which books will show up in The Florilegia Project. This is part of the experiment. Not all of my reading, even really good stuff, sparkles at me.
One thing I love about florilegia over at Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is that the hosts each pick a sparklet privately, and then read their separate phrases together as one text. It adds a community element to what’s often a solitary practice, and creates some surprising insights.
In that spirit, you are always welcome to offer your own sparklets, or connections and comments on mine.
*And, because the books that end up sparkling at me nearly always chronicle, question, and twine around place and the more-than-human world, I expect it to be another conversation with place, land, home.
**Or, if you prefer, Lúnasa/Lughnasa; they’re not really the same as Lammas, though I don’t personally mind conflating them.
***I observe, loosely, the Celtic year. With some Anglo-Saxon and some later Christian and occasionally some very modern pagan influences; don’t @ me. The quarter and cross-quarter days, in order, are: Samhain/All Hallows, Midwinter, Imbolg/Candlemas, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Midsummer, Lammas/Lúnasa/Lughnasa, Autumn Equinox