Editor’s Note: This year, I am featuring one poet from Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology each month. For October, Rozonda Salas shares what it’s like to be a professional Tarot reader in Spain, her love for singer/songwriter Paddy McAloon, and how she composes poetry.
Q: As someone who has been studying the Tarot for over twenty years, what initially drew you to the cards—how did your passion begin? What was your first Tarot deck?
It was by mere chance–some would say it was fate! One day I was walking down a street of my neighbourhood–I was maybe 19 years old–and I spotted a bookshop which was doing a big clearance sale. At the shop window I saw a Tarot deck—it was marked really cheap, maybe about the equivalent of two dollars. It was El Gran Tarot Esoterico by Spanish card company Heraclio Fournier, a very strange and fascinating Marseille-type deck. I didn’t know that at the time–I had heard about Tarot but knew next to nothing about it, but I was intrigued and I decided to buy it. I started learning with the deck’s little white book and doing readings for myself and my friends, and found I loved it and was not bad at it, so I continued learning–I bought more decks, and books, did a few correspondence courses-that was before the internet–and met a few enthusiasts like me. Then I discovered the Rider-Waite deck, I fell in love and I never looked back. From 1999, when I got the Internet, it was much easier to learn and discover about the Tarot, so that helped too.
Q: I’m very interested in hearing about your experiences working as a Tarot reader. You mentioned you started reading professionally seven years ago. What made you decide to go pro? And what is your daily routine like?
You know, it’s funny because I had always wanted to go pro as a Tarot reader but I thought it was unrealistic of me. I worked as an English translator and teacher–at a given moment I had two jobs at the same time: as a translator for a software company and as a teacher at an academy. But back in 2007 recession hit Spain and, one after the other, my contracts were discontinued and I was jobless. I was already working for an online parlour doing email readings in my free time–I got paid very little–and doing them on my own on my tarot blog too, at very small prices. Then the number of readings started to grow and grow and by the time the online parlour closed down I didn’t care, because I had so many readings on my own. My friends were already saying “you should do this for a living, you know” but what really made me decide was my dad’s opinion. He’s an elderly gentleman in his 80s, a staunch Catholic who never really liked me doing Tarot, but he is also a very shrewd accountant, and it was him who said “you’re good at this, you can make good money, people come to you–you should go full pro” I thought: “if he, who dislikes Tarot, sees a future for me in this, I should try at least!“ And I did.
My daily routine? Well, it’s simple–I get up at seven and I do email readings, written and audio, until my father, who lives with me, wakes up at about ten, I take care of him, do housework and stuff, and in the afternoon I work for two or three hours more. About twice a week, I do readings in person–at a café near my home. I never work at weekends, I learned quickly that reading every single day can burn you out, so I use my weekend to meet family and friends and relax.
Q: What is the Tarot scene like in Spain? Do you attend conferences, meet-ups, or other Tarot events? Are there a lot of Tarot readers in your area?
Hmm, I live in the South of Spain and here there is not much of a Tarot scene–that is more in the center and north. Madrid and Barcelona host a few Tarot congresses and Esoteric fairs, but that is not usual in my part of the country. There are many Tarot readers in my area who advertise in the press and TV (Phone Tarot is a big business here) but I don’t really have a lot of contact with them, only with a few who are personal friends. However, thanks to the Internet I get in touch with a lot of Spanish-speaking professional readers (from Spain and Latin America) and quite a few times I have ended up meeting them in person, but they are informal meetups, nothing really serious.
Q: Your poem in the anthology is inspired by not only the Magician card, but also a musician named Paddy McAloon (nicknamed by his fans “The Old Magician” because of a song of his with that name). Would you share a little about your love of this British singer and songwriter? What do you find inspiring and magical about his music?
That’s a tough question, because Paddy McAloon has been my idol since I was 15 years old, and I’m 43 now! He is the leader (well, right now he’s the only member) of the British pop band Prefab Sprout. They were quite popular in Europe back in the 80s but they were never really big in the charts (only one top 10 hit). However, Paddy McAloon is critically acclaimed the world over as one of the best songwriters in pop.
What I like about his music? Well, it is a world in itself. Perfect, crystalline melodies, intelligent and sensitive lyrics, a constant search for perfection and beauty. It makes you look higher, it makes you see the world in a different light. It’s sensual and spiritual at the same time. It’s hard to explain.
This poem about Paddy as the Magician wasn’t inspired just by his song The Old Magician, or by his current looks–his white hair and beard make him look like a white wizard, something like Gandalf–but because of his personality. Paddy writes music every day, obsessively, yet he rarely releases what he writes–usually he releases an album every four or five years, often out of pressure from the record company. That’s because of his perfectionist streak–his songs never sound like he hears them in his mind. He often says he has tried to change, to become less prolific and more productive–especially now he’s married, a father of three, and in feeble health: he has lost most of his hearing in one ear due to tinnitus caused by Menière’s disease, and also his sight was affected by retina detachment. Yet he finds he can’t change: he finds himself writing and writing and not releasing most of what he does. He’s possessed by his music like, in my eyes, the Magician is possessed by Magic–he would like to stop and do other things, or do things differently, but magic has him in its hold. He can’t do anything about it.
Q: I love your remarks about Paddy’s “crystalline melodies” and “sensitive lyrics!” I’d also love to hear more about the intersection of music and art in your writing process. For instance, do you read aloud when composing poetry and/or evaluate the white space on the page? Do you think poetry is more like song than painting (or vice versa)? Or do you think poetry needs to be a combination of both visual and auditory elements?
Hm, you see, my writing poetry takes place mostly in my head–I mean, two or three lines come to my mind while I’m doing something else and then I compose the whole poem in my head during the next two or three days. My poems often rhyme or have a very definite rhythm, so that helps to memorize them: When I feel I have completed the poem, then I write it down, I make changes and adjustments, and there it is. So I guess I don’t really take into account the visual part and to me poetry is more like song, or melody. I’m not really a visual person, though I love visual arts.
Below is Rozonda’s poem from the anthology:
“One day I have to quit”
he says, and shakes his head.
(He doesn’t mean a word he says;
he won’t quit when he’s dead)
“I have to find a disciple
and teach him what I know;
I’m ill, I’m old, I need some rest;
it is my time to go”
But he knows that he’ll never stop.
He doesn’t know how to.
Energies come into his hands
unasked; he follows through.
Spells form themselves in his mind;
there’s nothing he can do.
And so he’ll stay on sacred space:
sick and tired, old and grey,
Conjuring wonders out of nothing
Until he goes away.
And even then, there on the altar,
his wand and his knife will
glow faintly under the waxing moon,
trembling with magic still.
You can hear Rozonda read her poem in the Listening Corner, and check out her bio on the Contributors Page.
Learn more about her Tarot readings here: rozondasalas.es
And you can order Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology on the publisher’s website.