The Oral Florist

April 30, 2021

Sarah Gerard


A week or so back, I had the pleasure of participating in an “afternoon tea” with three brilliant artists whose work you should know. Writer and editor Rita Bullwinkel brought us all together to talk about her new project, Oral Florist. I recommend everything Rita does, but Oral Florist holds a very special place in my heart. It’s a “sound library of artists reading aloud texts they encounter in their daily lives.” Contributors include Diane Williams, Catherine Lacey, Benjamin Booker, Ottessa Moshfegh, Patrick Cottrell, Lucy Corin, and many more.

I made a reading for Oral Florist called “Sunshine Algorithm,” and talked about it with Rita and two other contributors: visual artist Léonie Guyer and writer and critic Ismail Muhammad. We also talked about the freedoms and limitations of narrative art, poetry as communing with the sacred mystery, working across disciplines and collaboratively, and the differences in encountering text on the page versus read aloud.

We also talk about Oral Florist’s design by Paperbeatsscissors; Rita’s residency at Minnesota Street Project Adjacent, through which she developed Oral Florist; and the amazing library of flower photographs by Jenna Garrett, which contribute to the algorithms making unique flowers for each reading in the archive. It was a special conversation, and I was grateful to Rita for bringing us all together.

Oral Florist Afternoon Tea Panel from Adjacent on Vimeo.


Oral Florist Afternoon Tea Panel from Adjacent on Vimeo.

We recommend a number of books, artists, and scholars in the discussion:

The Obituary by Gail Scott

Bill Berkson

Edward Deming Andrews

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry David Thoreau

Franck André Jamme

Kevin Killian

Dody Bellamy

From a Broken Bottle by Nathaniel Mackey

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso

Beverly Buchanan: Marsh Ruins by Amelia Groom

Immediate Family by Ashley Nelson Levy

Jeff VanderMeer

Alex Spoto

Alex Baker

Mary South

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