Editor’s note: This year, I am featuring a different poet from Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology here on the blog each month. For September, Rosalynde Vas Dias generously submitted an essay on her writing process, Doctor Who, and Tarot. Without further ado, I turn the blog over to her.
My least favorite question from non-writer friends is “are you still writing?”. For one, there is no way to answer this question in a non-defensive way. Far better to ask “what are you working on these days?” and get regaled (bored to tears?) by the poet about how she is re-writing 2001: A Space Odyssey as a crown of sonnets, because even if the writer is not actively writing these sonnets, she is no doubt thinking about them, doing meta-writing, re-reading 2001, reading other sonnet crowns, or doing some activity which is fueling the larger project.
Thinking about all the invisible tasks or reveries or note-jotting-on-scraps while on coffee break reminded me of how writing in particular is more underground than other arts. We don’t audibly run scales or end a workday smeared with paint or clay. We don’t have shows or recitals. We are lucky to score a reading or two or be very active for a year as we usher a new book into the public eye. The rest of the time the poetic life is very un-showy. Thinking about the outside modesty of the poetic life made me wonder at how big it can feel to the writer, though. All that time with a few imaginary people. Crossing a parking lot and in your mind trying to figure out if you can write a poem where some very small prisms act as fortune telling bones. The way one figure in a poem shows up changed, but recognizable in a new poem, maybe ten years on, maybe for the rest of your entire writing life. How sick you are of that figure! Really, you ask yourself, this woman again? This destroying goddess again? This elusive shepherd-type again? What’s my problem? Can I please just stop writing about the heron in the river, please!?
It is embarrassing to talk about the poetic life, too look-at-my-drapey-lacy-sleeves- and-my-handkerchief-dotted-with-Tuberculin-blood, so I think this is the stuff we hide when asked if we are still writing or (hopefully!) asked what we working on. What it is like for me is the inside of the T.A.R.D.I.S.—a nerdy, but not Keatsian simile which I immediately cling to and preen. The T.A.R.D.I.S. is the time-traveling spaceship in the shape of a blue British police callbox of the Time Lord and big-time fanboy of the human race The Doctor. Who, you ask? Exactly.
If you watch Dr. Who currently or ever have, you will know that the first thing almost anyone does when entering the T.A.R.D.I.S. for the first time is proclaim “Its bigger on the inside!” The viewer never sees very much beyond the immediate chamber that houses the controls, but the T.A.R.D.I.S. must be stocked with whatever supplies and diversions are needed when traveling endlessly through time and space. In this way, it is just as spacious and lonely as the imagination and can, similarly, transport one through time and space, though the T.A.R.D.I.S., like the poetic mind, tends to disobey or be contrary or become sidetrack and take you to a different destination entirely.
So, who is The Doctor, I wonder, trying to see if my metaphor has any legs at all or if it is doomed to collapse under my belaboring it. Is The Doctor the poet wondering in his own mind? Is the Doctor a kind of voice of the subconscious that operates within the poetic mind? And is all of humanity therefore the readers (don’t I wish!)? As I am doing all this pondering in order to write a short piece for the Tarot Poetry blog, I immediately want to match up The Doctor and the T.A.R.D.I.S. as well to their tarot archetypes. Is The Doctor the Fool? Well, yes, a little bit, I think—a wanderer, sometimes naïve, certainly courageous. But he is also the Magician, joining the powers of the heavens with the powers of the earth and certainly there is a Death aspect to the Doctor as well, as Time Lords die and regenerate into a new body (a convenient mechanism to keep the show going beyond any particular actor’s reign). And there are times he must be The Hermit, when he is without a Companion and traveling alone in his bigger-on-the-inside time machine. And what do people ask him at parties or gatherings?
Are you still traveling through time & space? Still trying to save humanity, Doctor? Trying to have a little fun and feel less lonely doing it?
Of course, why do you ask?
Editor’s note: Below is Rosalynde’s poem that is included in the anthology:
You draw the Devil card, reversed.
Which is represented by the Raven
in this particular deck.
A friend of yours, in a way.
Discerning the light
from the shadows. Come clean,
it means. But you keep your counsel.
Hold your tongue. Go buy a new
black wool watch cap
to replace the one you lost.
In it you feel shielded, less
visible. The ravens acted
as Odin’s eyes—Odin who died
just to conceive of an alphabet.
What is it to move among the crush
of mortal souls as a dead god?
The dead are rising::dwarf irises unfolding
in thin snow, the violet and gold
crocuses. How is your heart? Possible
replies are a multiple choice
you don’t compose. Some days
it is only coffee tightening your chest—
it is only lines of numbers pressing
against each other—you wake too alert
in bright moonlight. Odin bound and
hanging. For seven days. The black
cap covers your golden hair. You look
like a thief. You look like an actor,
faking her way into another character.
Odin among the living, disguised. Odin
among the dead, trying to remember
himself, in that land of the greywash,
of the sub-basement and the archived
payables of centuries past. You ask
again and draw Coyote, the Fool.
Your oldest friend. Who dies
a thousand times, poisoned,
foot-hold trapped, dogs
at her throat, and rises up from her
frayed, bleaching skin. Her mouth
seems to laugh. Her coat the color
of the grass, of caution.
You can read Rosalynde’s bio (and the bios of other poets in the book) on the Contributors Page.
And you can order the anthology on the Minor Arcana Press website.