Author Archives: tarotpoetry

Review: Ordinary Magic by Alison Stone

stone-poetry-bookI fell in love with Alison Stone’s poetry in early 2014, when she submitted three pieces for inclusion in Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology. In August of 2016—one year after Arcana’s release—Stone’s book of 78 Tarot poems, Ordinary Magic, was published by NYQ Books. I am delighted to recommend her collection to lovers of Tarot, myth, and language.

Each card of the Tarot deck is represented poetically in Ordinary Magic, and the book is split into five sections: the Major Arcana and the four suits of the Minor Arcana (Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles). Stone’s poetic renderings—essentially one-card readings in verse—give the reader a deeper understanding of each card, which makes her book a wonderful resource for novice and experienced cartomancers alike.

In the Major Arcana section, archetypes and symbols are given voices, become the “I” of their respective poems. The Empress is embodied with sensuous details; she says the “languid sun / honeys my skin” and “fingering / the pearls and planets draped / around my neck, I recline.” The Charioteer speaks: “I am a language without adjectives, a diamond / in the setting of itself.” The reader hears a confession of the High Priest, as well as the voice of the coiled snake in the Lovers card and the voice of the Tower itself.

Alison Stone

Alison Stone

Stone utilizes both free verse and formal structures throughout Ordinary Magic. For instance, her use of the ouroboros-like pantoum form beautifully reflects the Wheel of Fortune’s peripeteia, and the entire Major Arcana section comes full circle to include the same line—“zero is an egg that holds all numbers”—in the first poem (“0. The Fool”) and last poem (“XXI. The World”).

In the Minor Arcana section, mythical stories are cast alongside memories. One example is the story of a retired Hercules as the King of Wands placed a few card-poems away from a story about the narrator’s brother in the Ten of Wands. This juxtaposition shows how a reader can draw meaning from both modern and mythical storytelling; many experienced Tarot readers categorize quotidian stories as cards (“well, that was a Ten of Wands kind of day,” a Tarotist might say). Stone explicitly writes about this connection in her Six of Cups poems, titled “6. Missing”:

Memory’s turned you
mythic. The only one
to find the lake and show how wind
makes one rock’s ripples infinite.

This connection is also found in the theme of matrilineal bonds, which is threaded throughout the Minor Arcana poems. Lilith and her daughter appearing as the Queen of Pentacles and the Queen of Wands, respectively, are juxtaposed with the narrator’s daughter, mother, and grandmother appearing in poems about the Queen of Swords, Nine of Swords, Seven of Wands, and Four of Wands. The title of the latter, “Tether,” speaks to how the women are bound together, and Stone uses umbilical cord imagery to tie the metaphorical with a literal maternal link. She expands on this theme in her Nine of Pentacles poem, “My Mother Graduates from ‘Model Mugging’”:

I am back in childhood, the same person
as my mother, one woman
with two names.

Two of Cups 18x12

Two of Cups from the Stone Tarot

In addition to storge (familial love), eros (romantic love) flows throughout the book, although this love is often fraught. When the Ten of Cups turns up in the poem titled “Tenth Anniversary,” love between the narrator and her husband “crouched just out of reach.” In the aforementioned Six of Cups poem and the poem about the Six of Pentacles (“First Pomegranate”), the narrator speaks of queer love, saying she “always thought” she “didn’t fancy women” but “no one is that heterosexual…your voice, your hair. / My hunger.”

In the non-mythic or modern-as-mythic poems, the narrator is a mature woman, aged “Forty-Seven” in the Four of Cups, who saw “Divorce Court” in the Three of Swords, and has lost her 92-year-old grandmother as well as her much younger mother. This is a welcome and uncommon narrator; we need more stories from women who are no longer twentysomethings, because the media is oversaturated and obsessed with women in their twenties.

Ordinary Magic is a beautiful collection of spiritual poems that are both lyric and narrative, just like the Tarot. If you are looking for a unique gift for the winter holidays, you can pick up Alison Stone’s book at Small Press Distribution.

Also, you can hear her read Tarot poems that appear in both Ordinary Magic and Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology in the Listening Corner, and read more about Stone in her Featured Poet blog post and on her website.


A Conversation with Sierra Nelson

Happy August! This month, Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology celebrates its birthday. In honor of this occasion, I chatted with Arcana contributor Sierra Nelson about Tarot in Italy, teaching Tarot poetry workshops, familial Tarot traditions, and more.

Marjorie Jensen: How are you doing this morning?

Sierra Nelson: I’m doing pretty well. It’s sunny but not yet too hot in Seattle. How are you doing?

MJ: I’m doing ok. I remember Seattle being beautiful when I visited last summer.

SN: It’s true — summers here are great! Not that rainy, long Northern clime days. I’m happy to have more summer here to enjoy.

MJ: Was the weather nicer in Italy? Or about the same this time of year?

Niki de Saint Phalle's Tarot Garden - The Tower, photo by Sierra Nelson

Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden – The Tower, photo by Sierra Nelson

SN: Much hotter in Italy! And the sun seems more powerful. But somehow in Italy I don’t mind it. Maybe it’s the gelato and siesta that make it seem more civilized. If it gets that hot in Seattle it seems unbearable. Even with ice cream.

MJ: Ah gelato and siesta! Where all did you get to go in Italy? You were based in Rome for the writing program, correct?

SN: Yes, Rome was the home base for the program (a creative writing intensive), with classrooms at University of Washington’s Rome Center. But we did some field trips outside of the city as a group, and also independently during a midpoint break. With the group I got to return to Il Parco dei Mostri (Park of Monsters, the late Renaissance garden of Bomarzo) in the Lazio region. And with my poet friends co-leading the program, Rebecca Hoogs and Johnny Horton, we visited Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden in Tuscany during our break. (Which I had never been to before.)

MJ: This all sounds lovely! I’m fascinated by everything Italian (my Italian-American mom is the first generation in her family to be born in America). What was the Tarot Garden like?

SN: The tarot garden was interesting — like being able to walk around inside someone’s dream inspired by the major arcana. Niki de Saint Phalle was a French artist but she befriended some Italians who gave her the land to build her giant tarot-inspired sculptures and buildings. She began the project in the late 1970’s and built for decades. Her career began to take off in the 1960’s and I think you can feel that aesthetic in the work, especially in the colors. And the 1970’s too, with so many mirrors!

Niki de Saint Phalle's Tarot Garden - The Sun and The Hierophant in the forefront, photo by Sierra Nelson

Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden – The Sun and The Hierophant in the forefront, photo by Sierra Nelson

MJ: Ooo, the mirrors make me think of the Tyldwick Tarot. Do you bring a deck with you when you travel? Did you do any tarot readings in the Tarot Garden or other places in Italy?

SN: I do often travel with a deck, in case. Some trips I use them more than others. I actually didn’t do any readings at the tarot garden — it felt more like I was receiving a reading just by walking around the grounds. I loved how being there emphasized the journey and encounter aspects of the tarot. Exploring the grounds, you would suddenly come upon a strange building or large-scale figure and think, “Oh hello! Who is this? What are you trying to tell me?” It puts you in the role of the fool. (Maybe that’s why it felt joyful, even as some of her imagery was intense, and reading more about her and her life afterwards added to that sense of intensity.)

I did a few readings on this trip with the deck I had brought, but as a class we also made a deck together, divvying up all 78 cards as blank pages, and writing our own text (with optional drawings) while exploring the Parco dei Mostri and other field trip sites.

Then the group could ask questions of our collective set of cards / little poems throughout the program. It was fun.

MJ: How cool! I very much like the communal oracle as creative project! Which deck did you bring?

SN: This year I brought two decks — the Hanson Roberts deck (which I’ve had for quite awhile and am fond of) and the Wild Unknown, which I am just getting to know. When you travel do you bring a particular deck? And when you teach tarot poetry workshops, what are some of your favorite ways to approach the tarot-poetry hybrid space?

MJ: When traveling, I generally bring the Wizards Tarot and a second deck. I’ve been sending Tarot letters with single cards from the Wizards to my family and friends, and they like it when I come and read with the whole deck in person.

SN: What happens in a tarot letter? Do you send the actual card in the mail?

Judgement cards, photo by Marjorie Jensen

Judgement cards, photo by Marjorie Jensen

MJ: Yes! I originally had two copies of the Wizards deck, and one copy I split up and have been mailing with handwritten one-card readings. I taught this epistolary technique in one of my tarot writing workshops. But I think the best activity I’ve come up with is bringing in a bunch of decks and having students compare different versions of the same card to inspire their own poetic version of the card.

SN: Woa! That’s exciting, to receive the physical card itself in the mail. So eventually the split up deck depletes? The pack unfolds its story throughout time and the people you write to, until it’s all told?

MJ: Yes!

SN: It is fun to compare versions of a card. It feels like etymology — each word carrying its typical usage, and historical threads, and sometimes new spins as well, reclaiming.

MJ: I feel like it puts the writer in the role of tarot artist — connects the visuals with language. And language springs from the visual — so etymological too!

SN: Which connects to my (admittedly biased) opinion that poets give the best tarot readings. Maybe because of the emphasis on image, rather than just interpretation. Poets create a little world from the symbols so that you can feel the details, and connect them to your own question or difficulty.

MJ: I agree! The best tarot readings are poetic.

SN: Yes! The poetic reading — the unfolding of the images is also part of it. I’m not saying I give the best tarot readings — but I’ve enjoyed more deeply readings from tarot readers I know who are also working poets.

MJ: There’s a lot of overlap! I’m interested in how some of the Arcana contributors primarily identify as tarot readers and how others are primarily working poets. Do you consider yourself primarily a writer or tarot reader?

Sierra Nelson, photo by Rebecca Hoogs

Sierra Nelson, photo by Rebecca Hoogs

SN: I definitely identify as a writer more than a tarot reader.

MJ: When did you start identifying as a writer and when did you start studying tarot?

SN: I started writing poetry when I was about 7 and have always loved language. I studied literature as an undergrad with a creative writing emphasis, though it was probably not until after college that I thought of myself as a writer. For tarot, my aunt does readings for people and it’s always been something I’ve been curious about, but I think it wasn’t until college that I found a deck that I really took to and started to find it easier to do readings for myself and others. But I don’t know if I would identify myself as a tarot reader in the same way.

What about you — how did writing and tarot come into your life? When did they feel like they were more a part of you?

MJ: I like that tarot came to you through your aunt! It seems to often be a female tradition and one of the few fields dominated by women. My mom and (paternal) grandmother both read cards. Mom read tarot; grandma read playing cards. But my grandmother gave it up quickly after accurately predicting someone’s death (my mom kept it up somewhat after accurately predicting a death).

I’ve been writing little poems and things for as long as I can remember. Mom gave me my first tarot deck at 14. I think I really started to identify as a writer when I switched my major in college from dance to English (creative writing). This is kind of funny now, because I’m teaching choreographed ballroom dance instead of creative writing at the moment.

SN: There’s a lot of connection between dance and poetry too. Have you considered choreographing a series of tarot dances? That could be exciting!

MJ: I actually wrote an experimental piece using dance choreography that will be published this month! It’s coming out in the lit journal run by another Arcana contributor, Shloka.

I don’t want to take up too much of your time! But I would like to hear a little more about how you created one of the poems that’s in Arcana — “The Fours” — in the Italian Park of Monsters. Was this experience like the Tarot Garden in that the statues were your oracle?

SN: I’m looking forward to your experimental dance piece!

And yes, the imagery in each of the sections of “The Fours” came from a different statue or area in the Bomarzo Park of Monsters. Keeping in mind each of the suits’ elements, I walked around the grounds until I found a statue that intrigued me and seemed somehow right. I then wrote about it, describing what I saw and considering the suit I was connecting it to, and from there I whittled down my notes to just one small moment or image. For example, the Four of Wands was inspired by this exciting sculpture:

MJ: Very cool!

SN: I’m not sure if you can see it in the picture but on the upper lip of the giant’s mouth it says in Italian, “All Thoughts Fly.”

Bomarzo Parco dei Mostri - Sierra exiting the mouth of the giant (a.k.a. Orcus), photo by Christopher Weber

Bomarzo Parco dei Mostri – Sierra exiting the mouth of the giant (a.k.a. Orcus), photo by Christopher Weber

MJ: That’s amazing! I love that.

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

SN: It’s been lovely getting this chance to talk with you too. Thank you for putting together such an inspiring anthology. It’s an honor to be a part of it.

MJ: It’s been such a wonderful experience for me to create the book! I’m going to commemorate it by getting a tattoo of the logo I’ve been using for it (my Twitter avatar, part of this image). Thanks again for being part of the book!

Here is one of the poems Sierra contributed to the anthology:


Bomarzo Parco dei Mostri - The Elephant (one of the statues that inspired "The Fours"), photo by Sierra Nelson

Bomarzo Parco dei Mostri – The Elephant (one of the statues that inspired “The Fours”), photo by Sierra Nelson

Four of Coins
You have stepped down from your niche
to compose a poem of shadows
while your fellow statues
work on their decomposition.

Four of Cups
Like a fish with human teeth
chomping merrily through the sea
your cup runneth over
the whole world.

Four of Wands
Everything you whisper inside the giant’s mouth
is amplified to everyone partying in the garden.
Not such a bad fate, my dear.
The giant’s tongue becomes our dancing table.

Four of Swords
Your ideas carry you like a dutiful elephant.
But look again:
how powerfully a trunk now has wound around you,
how ready to trample.

You can hear Sierra read “The Fours” here.

To learn more about Sierra, check out her website:

You can purchase Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology through the publisher’s website, Elliott Bay Book Company, Amazon, and other stores.

A Brief Meditation on Rhyme and Magick

Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson

Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson

Why do spells and other rituals use rhymes? Rhymes, especially rhyming couplets, feature prominently in existing magical texts and are recommended in books and classes that teach spell-craft. However, many modern poets writing in English avoid rhyme and some literary journals even specifically request that submissions do not include rhyming verse. Despite this disparity, there are pagans and magicians who are successful poets (including contributors to Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology).

Musicality is one reason why magick contains heavy rhymes. Spells and rituals are generally oral performances, and their words can often be sung as well as spoken. Rhyming couplets, which are scarce in the contemporary literary community, are abundant in song lyrics. For instance, “That Old Black Magic”:

Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

That old black magic’s got me in its spell
that old black magic that you weave so well
those icy fingers up and down my spine
the same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine.

The same old tingle that I feel inside
and when that elevator starts its ride
darling down and down I go
round and round I go
like a leaf that’s caught in the tide.

Here are four rhyming couplets (AABBCCDD) plus an extra rhyme at the end that calls back to an earlier couplet (C). Immediately I notice that “spell” itself is the first word that spawns a rhyme; love’s “black magic” is aurally like rituals that use couplets.

Poetry’s roots are oral—historically, the line between poetry and song was often muddled or absent. Rhyming verse helped with memorization and performance. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, renaissance poet Thomas Campion published his poems with sheet music. Another famous renaissance poet, Edmund Spenser, created the Spenserian stanza with an interlocking rhyme scheme (ABABBCBCC). Here’s a stanza from his long epic, The Faerie Queene:

Ne let it seeme, that credence this exceedes,
For he that made the same, was knowne right well
To have done much more admirable deedes.
It Merlin was, which whylome did excell
All living wightes in might of magicke spell:
Both shield, and sword, and armour all he wrought
For this young Prince, when first to armes he fell;
But when he dyde, the Faerie Queene it brought
To Faerie lond, where yet it may be seene, if sought.

In addition to sharing the spell/well rhyme with “That Old Black Magic,” Spenser draws on Arthurian legend (Arthur is still a “Prince” in the Faerie Queene), which also figures heavily in some rituals tools, like the Tarot. The Ace of Swords and the Ace of Cups share the symbolic language of Arthuriana—Excalibur and the Holy Grail. Thousands of rhymes that describe Arthur’s world are embedded in the visual medium of Tarot, as well as in actual swords and cups that are used in ritual.

photo 1

Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr

The use of rhymes in magick combines the traditions of song and literature. Stories and music illustrate archetypes that can fuel ritual and connect us to timelessness. Modern poetry, on the other hand, often seeks to embody its specific moment and sound conversational rather than ritualistic. It’s also difficult to come up with unique rhymes in English (as opposed to more naturally rhyming languages, like Spanish or Italian).

When crafting poetry/spells with the Tarot, one could consider a single-syllable rhyme written on the cards: Priestess and Empress. How does the rhyme (-ess) draw parallels between these Major Arcana? How do the High Priestess and Empress complement each other? Would they make a couplet (AA) or fit into an alternating rhyme scheme (ABAB)?


You can purchase Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology through the publisher’s website, Elliott Bay Book Company, Amazon, and other stores.

Arcana’s Reviews, Interviews, and Award

Happy Beltane/May Day! This month, I’d like to highlight the press that Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology is getting. I appreciate all the reviewers, interviewers, and award voters who have given our little book so much love!


11933493_10153092443051027_7327002337113167990_nArcana was reviewed by Emily E. Auger for Mythprint: Quarterly Bulletin of the Mythopoeic Society. The last line of her review: “This is definitely a collection that students of mythopoeic literature should take note of: if the visual status of Tarot has caused them to pass it by, they are very fortunate that the Arcana poets were not hindered by the same limits of imagination.” You can read the whole review on Emily’s blog.

Joanna C. Valente reviewed Arcana for Luna Luna Magazine. She writes: “All of the poems are full of surprises and stark truths–they wake you up and startle you into seeing yourself properly, as if for the first time, just as a reading is meant to do. In many ways, these poems are not just poems, they are each a realization, they are a reading.”

Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology was also reviewed on Queen Mob’s Teahouse by Greg Bem, who says, “I found the biographies alone, as diverse as the work within, to satisfy my journey through this conceptual anthology…I am glad the effort was put into collecting what are, at the heart, poems of passion and respect for not only the practice of tarot, but the world that surrounds it.”

Sherryl E. Smith reviewed Arcana for her Tarot Heritage blog. Her conclusion: “These poems immerse us in a phosphorescent ocean of swirling images where we float in a dream or thrash in a rip tide until we emerge transformed. I’ll take up this book often to plunge repeatedly into this great sea of images.”

And Arcana was reviewed on Spiral Nature by Nicole Rain Sellers. She says the book “is hard proof of the mysterious power of the tarot to trigger each of us differently, to float us away on unique magic carpet adventures, some lovely, some grotesque, while still anchored to each other by our mutual understanding of a collective tarot catalogue…Like a box of exotic chocolates, Arcana is a book to linger over and enjoy slowly, from cover to cover. My only complaint is that it ended too soon. If you appreciate both poetry and tarot, you must read it.”


pile of anthologiesAlso on Spiral Nature, I was interviewed by Psyche. I mentioned how I “highlighted a few folks in the Featured Poets Series…from different countries because I’m fascinated by how tarot looks in a country I’ve never been to before, and what it’s like to be a practitioner of tarot, and a poet in the scene that’s not in America.”

Prior to the book’s release, I was interviewed by December on Seer & Sundry. I briefly described how I got into Tarot: “My mom reads Tarot and gifted me my first deck—the Aquarian Tarot—when I was about fourteen. My paternal grandmother read intuitively with playing cards, so I guess you could say my love of reading cards runs on both sides of the family!”




Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology won the 2015 Tarosophy Award for best indie-published/self-published book! These awards are given out annually by professional Tarot readers from around the world.




If you are inspired to purchase Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology, you can find it on the publisher’s website, Elliott Bay Book Company, Amazon, and other stores. Bay Area folks can pick up a copy at my upcoming Tarot Writing Workshop!

A Collection of Fools

Happy Fool’s Day! Here are some of my favorite Fools:
FoolsThe decks pictured are (left to right, top to bottom) the Rider-Waite-Smith, Tarot of the New Vision, Wizards, Orbifold, Goddess, Impressionist, Paulina, Black Cats, Shakespeare, Visconti, Tarocchi della Corte di Merlino, and the Witches Tarot (by Ellen Cannon Reed).

In my Tarot Writing Workshops, I encourage students to compare different versions of the same card. For instance:

-Which Fool do you like best?
-Which Fool do you like least?
-What aspects are shared by several Fools?
-Are there elements from different Fools that you would like to combine?
-What Fool stands out from the rest of the group?

You might consider the colors (a lot of yellow in there), symbols (such as the sticks, bags, and various flowers), characters (white dog, cat, bunny, etc, as well as the humans), landscape (cliff or no cliff), and light (moon or sun).

Now, in honor of Fool’s Day and National Poetry Month, I recommend trying to create your own Fool card in the form of a poem. Describe your ideal colors, symbols, character(s), landscape, and light. Is your Fool caught in motion? What feelings or memories does your Fool have?

There are several fantastic Fool poems in Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology. For example, you can hear Shloka Shankar‘s piece “The Fool’s Dog” in the Listening Corner. And you can purchase the book through the publisher’s website or Amazon.

Write from the Muse

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology contributor Joanne M. Clarkson. Without further ado, I turn the blog over to her.

“Warning: Have no
             easy gods.” – Rusty Morrison from History of expression

Tarot reader

Joanne M. Clarkson, photo courtesy of the author

“Write from the Muse.” I received this phrase in a dream. Before I fell asleep I had asked the Universe how I could infuse my poetry with more truth and beauty, how my writing could be a genuine gift to self and to the world. And I was answered.

But, as I knew well from years and years of Mediumship, Spirits don’t exactly speak English and replies take some deciphering. Like poetry. Like Tarot spreads. And it is essential to view everything from the Highest Heart and the additional intuitive Eye (I). What did “Write from the Muse” mean?

In my Psychic practice I use both Palmistry and Tarot readings to answer questions and gain insights for querents. I was taught by my mystic grandmother when I was a little girl. I have known for years that writing poetry both informs and grows out of this gift and skill. My grandmother’s artistic blessing was designing and sewing clothes. With each stitch she would gain new perspectives. For me, it is each word, each string of syllables, as though I re-make my own DNA.

So after receiving my phrase, I knew I was my own Querent and I needed my Cards to unravel the message. When making contact with ones who have passed or when communicating with spirits and guides, I use a Question/Answer technique. I have the Seeker formulate 3-5 specific questions about aspects of a topic. Then they select (cut, spread, draw, somehow choose) 1-3 cards in response to each question. Occasionally, if the message needs clarification, we draw an additional 1-3 cards, but this is rare.

Before each reading I say a protection prayer, surrounding myself and the querent with the white-gold light of the Creator’s love and healing protection. We ask that a clear channel be established between us and whomever wishes to speak with us and we affirm that all communication received will be only for the highest good of all concerned.

For my “Write from the Muse” fortune, I used John Holland’s Psychic deck, my go-to deck for personal readings. This deck includes chakra cards. My questions were:

Psychic Deck by John Holland

Psychic Deck by John Holland

  1. Is there a god for each poem or One overriding Muse?
  2. How do I discover and become acquainted with my Muse?
  3. Could I have a description of my Muse?
  4. How do I call the Muse when I need her?
  5. How do I thank the Muse?

For the first draw, I chose one card: 1 the Root Chakra. I remind myself over and over that the Tarot is often literal. One Muse.

Second, I spread and selected the 9 of crystals and the 3 of cups. For me this meant that to discover my Muse I must go into my higher Mind, beyond worry or understanding. The 3 of cups for me is a ‘generational’ card, my genetic ancestors and my past lives. The Muse is growing out of my truest most universal self both in this world and beyond.

Psychic Deck by John Holland

Psychic Deck by John Holland

Even before I asked the third question for a description from the Cards, an image keep appearing in my left peripheral insight where most of my visions originate. It was the head and withers of a huge dusty golden horse, galloping. I cut a single card: 7 Major, The Chariot, but in this deck it is called Triumph and features a front-on view of someone riding a bronze-colored horse with only the head and neck visible! This is the only card in the deck that features a horse. It means the power of the soul – in conjunction with guides as spiritual support – to achieve any goal.

The two cards of the fourth choice were not a surprise to me. I received the 9 of cups, the Wish card, and the Ace of crystals. I need to simply Ask for the Muse in a focused way.

When I queried about thanking the Muse and spread the cards, four became so obvious that I turned them all over. I got one card from each suit. They urged me to choose wisely, partner with like-minded souls, be confident of a positive outcome – yet to be aware that any endeavor is not without heartache. And sometimes this is the greatest gift. I am indeed grateful for whatever I receive.

Joanne reading Tarot at the Arcana release party

Joanne reading Tarot at the Arcana release party

Out of this reading and based especially on the 5th response, I have evolved a regular practice that has been easy for me and very helpful when writing. After calling my Golden Horse Muse, I divide the deck (I keep one deck divided to save time) into 5 piles: each suit and the Major Arcana. I draw one card to describe: the world, the mind, the heart, the spirit and a theme or lesson. And I write from one or all of these, using whatever jumps out at me: image, detail, color, number, message, ancient meaning.

I cannot even express what a blessing uniting with my Muse continues to be for me. I feel that, since my dream, my writing has taken on new depth and meaning and I am now making progress on a project I have been thinking about for years. Please feel confident about finding your perfect personal Muse who is eager to be revealed!

You can learn more about Joanne M. Clarkson, Psychic Poet, on the Contributor’s Page and her poetry website. On FB, go to Joanne the Psychic to sign up for ‘Tarot of the Day.’  ‘Tarot of the Day’ is also Tweeted and you can sign up to follow JoannePsychic on Twitter.

There are a few copies of Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology left from the six-month book birthday sale! More information about this special offer can be found on Goodreads.

Tarot and Poetry: Your Inner GPS

Editor’s Note: This post is by Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology contributor Tabitha Dial. Without further ado, I turn the blog over to her.

At TarotCon Denver in June 2015, James Wanless called tarot the gps of the soul. And what is poetry — or intuition, which connects with tarot for many who encounter it — but an act of mobilizing the soul?

We may not consider gps as a tool of locating where we are, but rather, we use it to understand where we are going. Tarot and poetry give us both these perspectives.


Tabitha Dial, photo courtesy of the author

Tarot helps us see our patterns and seek the future. Tarot returns us to times past, with card images that recur in readings or that bring to mind dreams, stories, or other diversions, or that spark memories of that woman who looks like the Queen of Swords.

Poetry makes us pause and reflect. Within the first few words of a poem, we may be able to recite the rest. As we read or listen to a poem, we might smell our grandfather’s cigar smoke, as if he were sharing the words again himself, though he has long passed.

Like gps, tarot and poetry comes from everywhere and can point you anywhere. Especially when we do the hard work of creating our own poems, our own futures.

While thousands of decks are available, some with modern twists, and trends, and other more traditional, the archetypes in each deck of 78 tarot cards glow with a universal light. Like poetry, they may be treated playfully or with reverence and seriousness.

Psychology, Archetype, and Tarot

Tarot is a worthy tool for creatives and psychologists. With their rich language of art, symbols, and associations, tarot cards are ripe for both Jungian psychological work and the art of composing poetry.

Carl Jung is noted for his groundbreaking work in depth psychology. He spearheaded active imagination (examining and exploring one’s inner landscape) and the exploration of archetypal figures and images. He called tarot “an intuitive method that has the purpose of understanding the flow of life” in a seminar on March 1, 1933.

Celtic Cross sketch by Tabitha Dial

Celtic Cross sketch by Tabitha Dial

A prominent, classic layout for tarot cards is the Celtic Cross. A number of readers use their own variations, but within this layout of ten cards are typically positions to depict what might block you and your situation, forces that may be subconsciously working against you, how you view yourself, and how others view you.

In Holistic Tarot, Benebell Wen wrote “The Celtic Cross spread is to tarot what Beethoven’s Minuet in G is to learning violin … or the sonnet to poetry.” It was used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn before being published by one of its members, Arthur Edward Waite, in 1910.

Over a century later, the Celtic Cross helps beginning tarot enthusiasts learn how to use its archetypes. Example: The Hermit represents what blocks you and your situation. The Fool subconsciously works against you. The Sun is how you view yourself. The King of Swords represents how others view you.

In name alone, the answers within each archetype have considerable transparency.

The Hermit is a desire or need to be alone, to possibly gather wisdom. The Fool is about a subconscious lack of responsibility or awareness. The Sun indicates that you seem to feel you’re radiant and life-giving. But that perception of yourself doesn’t harmonize with how others see you: The King of Swords can be cold, serious, and distant.

Be Free! How to Write Poems from Tarot

A few things first:

1) Poems and card readings allow for entertainment as well as personal expansion. Write for fun.

2) The design of the tarot deck — or the format of the poem — is purely up to you, the seeker. Both represent personal tools. My personal preference for this work is a deck rich with images, rather than one, like the Thoth deck, which features pip cards that don’t depict detailed situations.

3) Writing tarot poetry allows you to become more intimate with cards you have a relationship with, whether clear or complex. Pick any card that draws you in. Or puzzles you.

4) You may choose to select a card at random or you may walk yourself through the images of the deck until you find a card that interests, irritates, or alarms you. Where there’s a strong reaction, there’s plenty to work with.

To begin writing:

Some of the best advice on how to approach the creative writing process is in Mary Greer’s Tarot for Your Self: Revelations aren’t immediate. Expect more and more understanding about your growth and insights as you return to your writing, and don’t be concerned with what you put down, she wrote. It doesn’t matter if it seems “simplistic or silly … its significance may only be apparent later.”

Don’t censor or criticize yourself as you write. Who’s going to judge you? With a therapist, you are invited to speak freely. Do the same with tarot poetry therapy. As a poet, you can make it all up! Test those waters, too.

More sound advice from Greer: “If you get stuck, write the last word over and over again until a new thought presents itself — and it will.”

Three Ideas for Writing Tarot Poetry

Ideas for writing from the card illustrations include:

1) Record one or all of the five senses the card’s archetype may experience.

2) Voice thoughts from the figure in the card.

3) List the items you see in the card.

Examples of all three, using The High Priestess from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot:

Photo by Tabitha Dial

Photo by Tabitha Dial

Sense of the High Priestess

My feet should be cold against this floor,
but I am wearing my favorite boots:
fox fur-lined, deer skin, hidden
for their price, their luxury.

Tonight, one sole against the crescent moon.

Thoughts from the High Priestess

I’d rather read
this old scroll
alone, curled up with the cat,
and leave this heavy headdress at the temple.

But this job keeps me
off the streets,
and the pomegranates
are ripe, and free, and plenty.

The High Priestess: List

First, the thrift shop find: a tapestry from a tropical getaway
Second, and unavoidable: the holy woman in blue and white, holding a scroll
Third, a triple goddess headdress hiding a bad hair day
Fourth, a yellow crescent moon (or very big pecan crescent cookie)
Fifth, a well-behaved pool of water
Sixth, unfinished algebra: B + J
Seventh, two columns, one of each end of the color spectrum

Let your humor, and your own life experience, come through. Please remember that modern poetry does not usually rhyme. Don’t worry about rhyme. It often leads to forced writing. As Greer suggests, use “short word pictures”.

Bring More Cards to the Party

You may also enjoy writing from more than one card at once. Consider choosing a predetermined number of cards, with each card inspiring one line of poetry. The tarot cards can be drawn with intention or taken out of the deck randomly.

You could grab a few cards, and write one line each based on how they spark your imagination. Then you may repeat the pattern with the same cards as many times as you like.

The Magician, the Therapist, and the Poet

Poetry is a magician’s art. It’s part creation and part escapism. Letting your creativity run away with tarot archetypes can stir up feelings or ideas that are unexpected or have been buried.

Consider using tarot poetry as therapy. Use it to wrestle surprising feelings or ideas, or situations you are already aware of. Any old struggle can be interpreted — and unraveled — by tarot and poetry.

Photo by Tabitha Dial

Photo by Tabitha Dial

If you are struggling to find strength in a situation involving work or family life, you may want to select cards that represent this to you: Possibly Strength, Justice, the Devil, and a King, Queen, Knight, or Page or two.

Work with those images and write everything that comes to you.

It’s not expected that your writing flow like a polished poet’s from the get-go. Established wordsmiths revise their work multiple times before it is ready for publication!

Edit later into lines that appeal to you. Cast your words, and your magic spell will be heard.

Tabitha Dial is a tarot, tea leaf reader, and creative mentor in Lexington, Kentucky. She facilitates the Create your Fate (Tarot and more) Meetup and teaches seminars at the Mystical Paranormal Fair once a month. Her poetry has appeared in articles on, in “Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology“, and in “Tarot in Culture” Volume Two. You can hear Tabitha read her poems from Arcana in the Listening Corner. Visit North Star Muse for her blog and more.

An Evening of Selections from ARCANA: The Tarot Poetry Anthology

Editor’s note: Happy New Year! You can expect a variety of blog posts in 2016, including essays from Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology contributors, a new letter series, and much more. This month, Tanya Joyce generously offered to review the first Bay Area reading for the anthology. Without further ado, I turn the blog over to her.

Tanya Joyce

Tanya Joyce

Review by Tanya Joyce

ARCANA: The Tarot Poetry Anthology, edited by Marjorie Jensen, was the focus of a recent gathering at Oakland’s Liminal writing studio. The event featured selections from the anthology read by Martha Villa, Rose Shannon, and Tanya Joyce. Marjorie Jensen introduced the evening, contributed her own poetry to the mix, and commented on the origins of the anthology.

Marjorie’s goal was an international volume of contributions with diverse perspectives. I was surprised to learn that the one volume Marjorie found similar to what she planned was Tarot Haiku, a book I edited with contributions from San Francisco’s Thursday Night Tarot discussion group. New ground is being broken here!

Martha Villa

Martha Villa

As the evening at Liminal unfolded, Rose Shannon’s powerful warmth came through her poems from ARCANA. Martha Villa had an especially noteworthy sense of focus, evident in both her poetry and the intent way she listened to others.

Marjorie designed the evening to include both poetry reading and an opportunity for tarot card reading. The potential for involving everyone in this way encouraged free form conversation. The varied ambiance extended to refreshments, two Liminal cats, and one visiting baby. I mention all this as an example of an effect tarot images have in bringing people together. Jason Lotterhand, who founded The Thursday Night Tarot in 1950, liked to say that tarot works by encouraging people to check their egos at the door.

“You don’t have to think about it,” Jason would say. “And don’t worry, you get your ego back when you go home.” A tarot-oriented event in progress tends to produce intensified focus. At The Thursday Night Tarot, cats have been known to touch enlarged tarot images with their paws and noses. The cats at Liminal sauntered and sprinted as Marjorie spoke. One was caught on camera! Later, the cats entertained the humans by cavorting at the edge of a loft area.

Liminal cat and Marjorie

Liminal cat and Marjorie

Tarot enthusiasts may have been put in mind of the cat at the feet of the Queen of Wands in the widely known Smith-Waite tarot deck or the powerful lion being encouraged to roar in the Case-Parke deck Strength card from Builders of the Adytum.

Babies (rare but memorable members of tarot groups) were represented at the ARCANA evening by a little one looking outward with the openness of children in the tarot Sun card. Interestingly, in the way tarot images have of evoking thought, the Queen of Wands and the Sun cards both show sunflowers, reminding us of lions as cultural emblems of heat and fire and encouraging our minds to further evocative explorations.

Rose Shannon

Rose Shannon

The reading at Liminal may be the start of reaching out through the arts to create an expanded tarot consciousness. Meditative images from all traditions empower people to see experience from varied standpoints. Multiple vistas carry differing charges. What is this way one day may appear that way tomorrow. It is not a case of “true and false” or “correct and incorrect.” When 78 cards cover all the possibilities, each one must contain many facets.

The diversity of poetry in ARCANA presents exactly this kind of varied direction. Combined with contributors’ biographies in the volume, the book itself is a journey in the realm of what we experience additional to our five senses.

The evening at Liminal brought tarot into an ambiance of dynamic interaction between audience and presenters, between listening to tarot poetry and perceiving a mix of card reading and poetry reading. We look forward to more events from Marjorie Jensen and ARCANA contributors.


Even if you couldn’t make it to the event, you can still hear some contributors read their poems from the book in the Listening Corner.

And you can purchase Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology on the publisher’s website.

Featured Poet: Evan J. Peterson

Editor’s Note: This month is the final installment of the Featured Poets Series. Next year, the blog will include essays written by myself and other contributors from Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology as well as a new letter series. December’s featured poet is Evan J. Peterson, who discusses why the queer community loves Tarot, Tarot in pop culture, and creating his own Tarot poetry and deck.

Q: In addition to contributing poems to the anthology, you are also editor-in-chief of its
publisher, Minor Arcana Press. How did Tarot and writing become intertwined in your
poetry and in your non-profit company?

IMG_0502The Tarot is utterly fascinating. Even the medium of cards–I’ve always loved cards as a talismanic object. The Tarot is a muse for my writing, but it’s also a tool I use to influence my writing, prompt new strategies, etc. When I co-founded Minor Arcana Press, my former business partner and I both had a Tarot fascination. I was studying the cards deeply at the time, and so as the creative director I used the card iconography for branding as well as a way of communicating to other Tarotists. I’d always wanted to do a book like Arcana, and when we saw that you were putting this together, we said, “we need to move and acquire this manuscript now!”

Q: My anecdotal experience has been that a large number of queer folks love the Tarot.
Do you agree? Would you be willing to share your thoughts on why the Tarot is
prominent in the LGBT community or why you disagree?

I absolutely agree. I think there are several overlapping reasons. Tarot is something intriguing and rather fabulous, plus it’s feared by many religious people. Queer people, myself included, often pursue magic, occultism, and divination as a spiritual path after feeling unwelcome in other spiritual philosophies. I wasn’t raised Christian, and my family are very cool about me being queer, but I grew up in a Florida community full of meddling, holier-than-thou zealots. I’m too rad for one gender, and there was a lot of social pressure to lose my femininity. I love that Paganism and occultism often celebrate queer genders and sexualities as powerful and magically rich. The idea of the two-spirit, the human who can transverse the physical and spirit worlds as they transverse genders, has been in many pre-colonized cultures around the world. Tarot is an altar for me. My own Paganism is not much Druidic or Wiccan, far more Roman meets Lakota and other non-European traditions.

Q: When I visited Seattle for the launch party, you mentioned that your family is
multi-denominational. Would you feel comfortable exploring a connection between this
and the eclectic nature of the Tarot? For instance, does growing up with more than one
religious tradition make it easier to recognize symbols from different faiths that appear
on Tarot cards?

IMG_0085I grew up with a practicing Jewish mother, a recovering Methodist father, and a more devoutly Methodist sister. My dad’s side is partly Cherokee, and we were encouraged to explore various indigenous tribal traditions as well as New Age stuff. As long as I wasn’t worshipping Satan, conjuring ghosts, or using magic to hurt people, I was allowed to explore. I’ve also always been enraptured with ancient Egyptian culture. Seeing so much Egyptian, Hebrew, and witchy iconography in the Rider/Waite and Thoth decks was definitely a draw for me. However, as I work to map out my own original deck, I find that I’m disinterested in using formulaic Kabbalah, astrology, and Druidic/Arthurian iconography. It’s still cross-cultural though. You’ll find Kali, Anansi, Narcissus, Lilith, and my boygirlfriend the Baphomet in there.

Q: In addition to the Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth, are there other decks–or art–that have influenced your deck/poetry? Do you seek out cross-cultural/queer/alternative decks? What makes a deck (or esoteric art) appealing to you?

A deck appeals to me when it touches something beyond the overt, beyond the simple 1:1 formula of metaphor. I want to taste the mystery in the images. I want it to make me feel things that I can’t express easily in words. The ultimate deck for me is Marie White’s Mary-El Tarot. It jacks into the unconscious so powerfully, beyond Jung, beyond surrealism. That’s the real magic–this shifting map of soft territory. I actually dislike the Rider-Waite deck. I think it’s inscrutable rather than deep. The deck I use the most often is actually rather overt and explicit in its symbolism–the Cosmic Tribe deck. I love it because it’s very queer, complete with three versions of the Lovers card for different gender combinations. I also love how naked and earthy the figures are–they seem so naturally powerful. So yes, even my taste in decks is contradictory. Such is the sacred paradox.

Q: Back in 2014, we did a #TarotChat on Twitter where we very briefly discussed Tarot imagery being popularized in Bond films and the X-Files. Would you talk a little more about pop culture and Tarot? Is Tarot a good medium for breaking down the high art/low art boundary? What do you think of how Tarot is represented in film/TV/etc?

IMG_1046Having grown up where I did, where many superstitious people are frightened of the Tarot, I tend to think of the Tarot as a cheap punchline in pop culture. It’s as profane in pop culture as making Superman assume the Crucifixion pose. It’s something people look at and think: “Now I should be moved.” I think Tarot can be a good medium for breaking down the high/low boundary, but so are graffiti and tattoo art. I’m seeing a great many young people getting reinterested in occultism through art and entertainment. We’re seeing that occult renaissance in hiphop, fashion, etc. Perhaps we need to make some of the sacred into profane in order to interest people in finding out what it’s really about. Tarot itself, like the individual images, can be interpreted in several ways. Is it a silly parlor game turned into sacred object? Is it an occult tradition made into a pop New Age collectible? What if it’s all of the above? I like the both/and, but I’m a trickster spirit by nature.

Below is one of Evan’s poems from Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology:

Ode to God
Ace of Wands

Roast me,
O God,
like a duck
sucked tight
in my own
hot fat.

Make me
mead, ambrosia,
my honey
in Your mouth.

Sun drip,
thousand drops
of gold,
place each letter
of your Solar

onto this tongue.
Master Lightning,
brighten this body,
blast it,
blow it,
pluck my limbs

quick with
Make me a Grail,
cupful of God,
catching You,
feeding You back

to Your Self.
Peel me
like a cypress
switch & rub
me down
with oil,

rose, rosemary,
cold-pressed olive.
Thy rod,
thy branch,
thy slithering staff,
thy spray

of glittering
I, Ganymede,
I, Hyacinth:
have me, God,
to slip down

and down
and down
your golden

You can learn more about Evan on the Contributors Pagehis website, and his Twitter.

And you can order the anthology on the Minor Arcana Press website.

Tarot Poetry Reading in Oakland

On November 18th from 6-8pm, there will be a reading for Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology at the Liminal Center in Oakland. Local Bay Area poets Tanya Joyce, Nancy P. Davenport, Martha Villa, Rose Shannon, and editor Marjorie Jensen will read their work from the book. Before the poetry readings, there will be time to get your Tarot cards read by Tanya, Martha, Rose, and Marjorie. You can purchase copies of the anthology and other goodies by the readers at the event.

11039706_10153124792497246_2250547902683577879_oTanya Joyce is an experienced teacher, painter, and poet. She has led weekly gatherings of The Thursday Night Tarot since 1999. Tanya has taught at The Fleming Museum of the University of Vermont, the M. H. deYoung Memorial Museum Art School in San Francisco, The Palo Alto Cultural Center, and at San Francisco State University (then College). Currently, she teaches privately and at The Pinole Art Center in Pinole, California. Tanya reads poetry regularly at Salons for Our Imagination in San Rafael, Ca. She is currently working on a retelling in English of Semion Mirkin’s Presenting Pan, with Mirkin’s original drawings and poetry in Russian. Visit her website at:

four-eyesNancy P. Davenport’s poems have appeared in The Burning Grape, Mountain Gazette, The Bicycle Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, The Lilliput Review, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry Quarterly, Red Fez, Full of Crow, MAYDAY, City Lit Rag, I am not a Silent Poet, The Lake, and Yellow Chair Review. She’s had poems included in three anthologies, including Under Cover, Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts, and the newly released Arcana / The Tarot Poetry Anthology. Nancy’s chapbook, La Brizna, was published in May, 2014; she is currently working on her second book, Smoked Glass. She was born and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 12.22.08 AMMartha Villa is a fourth generation intuitive and professional Tarot reader for over 30 years. She incorporates the Tarot as a powerful tool in her life coaching practice “A Different Approach” ( Martha is currently creating her own Tarot deck along with many other projects that are focused on spiritual and personal growth. She is a photographer and her work can be seen on her website: Martha is also a Reiki practitioner, minister and published writer. She finds the Tarot to be a huge contribution to the process of clarity and direction. Her proactive intuitive life coaching combined with Tarot wisdom brings individuals to a deeper understanding of their life purpose. This work is what Martha holds deeply as her contribution in this life time.


Rose Shannon learned tarot from her mom, and is a lifelong divination enthusiast. She sings, does magick, and sometimes writes things down. She lives in San Francisco, CA., with her two teenage children.


Marjorie Jensen is a writer, bibliophile, and Tarot reader. She studied intersections of writing and magic during her graduate program at Mills College. Since completing her Master’s degree, she has taught (Tarot) poetry and prose workshops at U.C. Berkeley. Marjorie has edited several literary publications (such as 580 Split), her articles about Tarot have been published in a few magazines, and she is a contributor to Spiral Nature

Liminal: a Feminist Writing Space is located at 3037 38th Ave. in Oakland, California. More information about the venue can be found on Liminal’s Facebook page and website.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can hear poets from around the world read their work from the book in the Listening Corner, and purchase copies of the anthology on the publisher’s website.