Like Sappho’s fragments that survive on papyrus, parchment and potsherds, The Wren is a book of small pieces: not quite prose; not quite poetry. It holds within it a life that spins into motion in the same way a zoetrope cylinder flickers into a story, carrying us every which way: from a repetitive childhood dream, to a love affair in old age, from a wren perched on a bunch of dried roses, to the galloping Horses of the Apocalypse. Through the archaeology of life’s objects, experiences and encounters, Julia Blackburn leads us through the layers of a shared existence with the human and more-than-human, reaching down and back to the world before we were here and as we evolved. ‘A flint hand-axe fits into the grasp of my hand as if it had been made for my own particular use.’ The Wren is an incisive, closely lived collection of reflections hewn from Blackburn’s journals. Blackburn writes as if ‘unconcerned behind a semaphore of trees’ while she moves through ideas and seasons in rhythm with love, independence, life, death, and the cry of a tawny owl.
You can listen to some of The Wren being read by John Mitchinson on the Backlisted Podcast from 18 minutes in.