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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.

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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.

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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,
trans-
substance,
my honey
in Your mouth.

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

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

quick with
silver.
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
Mercury—
I, Ganymede,
I, Hyacinth:
have me, God,
to slip down

and down
and down
upon
your golden
winged
wand.

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: http://www.tanyajoyce.com

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” (www.adifferentapproach.info). 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: www.MarthaVillaPhotography.com. 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.

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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. 

 

 

 

 

just me 2

 

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.

Featured Poet: Evelyn Deshane

Editor’s Note: This year, I am featuring one poet from Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology each month. For November, Evelyn Deshane has generously submitted an essay on poetic adaptation and Tarot tattoos. Without further ado, I turn the blog over to Evelyn.

When I write poetry, I think of it as an adaptation process. One of my poetry teachers, Gordon Johnston, once told us that there were some poets who believed that the work was already out there, hanging in the air. The poet’s job was to find it and lay it down in the best way possible. This advice is quite similar to the way in which sculptors insist there is a masterpiece under the stone that they will find through carving. Something beautiful hides in everyday life and it’s our job as poets, artists, or writers to search it out and find it. We did not create it, not wholly or completely, but our own process of adaptation leads to something unique.

Adaptation, then, can become a process of finding oneself as one does the work. When I write poetry, I’m retelling stories I’ve overheard at coffee bars, or I’m updating myths to something modern. I’m not under any illusions that what I’m doing is brand new or unique (nothing ever is anymore), but I’m conscious about how I tell the story and what perspective or point of view I take. When I started to view my poetry as adaptation, I learned to go with my ideas, acknowledging that they come from other places, people, books, and practices later on. That way, I could let my mind spiral out like a mandala without worrying I’d become lost.

I decided to write about tarot cards because I was in the middle of a transformative period, and I turned to tarot cards as a way to process what had happened to me. I would try to do a weekly spread, and if I didn’t do that, I would write about the deck itself. I picked up books by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell so I could understand the power that I could potentially hold in my hand. One of my girlfriends began painting tarot cards, so I started to sketch them in between reading spreads for my family and friends. I also began getting tattoos of tarot cards as a way to mark down each year’s progress. I currently have four main tarot card tattoos, one for each year I was in my undergrad, starting at age 19 and ending at 22.

My poem included in the collection, “The Chariot” is one of the many products of that time period. At its heart, the poem is about making a decision. I’ve left my own meaning vague, as all good poems and art remains, so that the reader can find whatever interpretation in it they’d like. And who knows, maybe they can adapt it for their own purpose, too.

As a sign off, I would like to share my tattoo of the Chariot tarot card.

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There’s a lot of line-work going on here, deliberately to mimic the Rider Waite deck. In all four of my tarot pieces, there is one section shaded in yellow. For my Hermit tattoo, the light is yellow. For my Tower piece, it’s the lightning bolts. For my Death card, the sunrise over the hill. But the Chariot was different. It was my last card in this small symbolizing mission I had undergone, and since this particular card was about a decision I had to make, I decided to have three symbols shaded in yellow. So the moonbeams on his shoulders, the star in his chest, and the sun on his crown are all in colour. I wanted this to represent the fact that no choice is either/or. There are never just two options; sometimes there are three. Even if, as alchemists say, tertium non data–the third is not known, it can still be an option with patience and practice. There is no original; all is adaption.

Thank you!

Below is Evelyn’s poem that appears in the anthology:

The Chariot

golden hues, red and blue,
hanging from a canopy on a chariot
the charioteer, beside the wheels
is in a war and waiting for a race.

a good man knows his duty:
leaving his destiny malleable,
he steps behind the reigns.
with two great sphinxes before him,
he pulls back to be carried away.

to get from one place to another
in the darkest mystery of night
he accepts that the enemy is sleeping closely
and forgets his fear for faith.

with moonbeams on his shoulders
he bears the final weight of prophecy
two ways, two urges, two decisions
locked in one armoured body
to decide is a suicide of one fate.

while the stars stay exactly the same,
he constantly shifts and changes.
in the driest and most forbidden terrains,
he decides and makes a small sacrifice.

the only way to fight, but not give up life,
is to run parallel to the enemy
bound to be pushing you astray.

You can check out Evelyn’s bio–and the bios of the other poets in the book–on the Contributors Page.

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

Featured Poet: Rozonda Salas

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?                    blogpic

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.

Me1Q: 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:

The Magician

“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.

Featured Poet: Rosalynde Vas Dias

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 Vas Dias Picway 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:

Fool, Upright

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.

Featured Poet: Shloka Shankar

Editor’s note: This year, I am featuring one poet from Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology each month. For August, Shloka Shankar shares how she began writing poems based on the Tarot as well as discusses her love of found poetry and ekphrasis.

Q: You mentioned that “The Fool’s Dog” is your first Tarot poem. How did you become interested in the Tarot?

ShlokaI’ve always been fascinated by horoscopes and strongly believe in compatibility of zodiac signs and the like. My interest in Tarot was kindled when I first came cross the call for submissions from Arcana. Learning new forms/genres of writing and experimenting with the written word has been my foremost passions. I did a little research, started making notes for the cards that most interested me, and the result was “The Fool’s Dog”.

Q: I’m so happy you ventured into the world of Tarot because of our call for submissions! Would you be willing to say a little more about your experiments with writing? Have you written any zodiac-inspired poems? What are some of your favorite forms/genres of poetry?

Sure. I started writing poetry in my twentieth year, and they were largely dark, bleak, and sorrowful at best. I was introduced to Japanese short-forms in the winter of 2013 and since then, I’ve written a few hundred haiku, tanka, senryu, haibun, and haiga. As part of The Found Poetry Review’s National Poetry Writing Month in April 2015, I took part in their PoMoSco project and fell head over heels in love with found poetry, mostly erasures, remixing, and conceptual writing experiments including flarf. More recently, I’ve been dabbling in asemic writing.

Q: What is the Tarot scene like in India? Is it a popular form of divination and creative inspiration? Are other forms of divination more popular?

Tarot is quite popular in India. But I think astrology and palmistry still continue to hold sway over many a household.

Q: Personally, I tend to prefer Tarot decks that feature diverse people (especially women of color), like the Wizards Tarot and the Goddess Tarot. As an Indian woman, how do you feel about representation in Tarot art? What deck(s) do you use?

My knowledge of Tarot is rather limited to a little research on the Internet, and to the names of a few cards. It is interesting to take into account a sort of feminist reading (if I can label it that) of these decks. I would definitely like to learn more about the Wizards Tarot and the Goddess Tarot. Sadly, I’m not well-versed in Tarot reading and don’t possess a deck (yet).

Q: For your literary journal, Sonic Boom, you seek experimental and visual poetry as well as formal poetry (like haiku). How would you compare Tarot poetry with other forms of visual poetry?

Great question! I think Tarot poetry becomes, in one sense, a kind of Ekphrasis. The Tarot card and the poem complement each other in such a way, where neither is reduced to a mere descriptive exercise. I would say that the sum is greater than its parts, and Tarot poetry is definitely exhilarating in its multiple readings and interpretations. I hope Sonic Boom publishes a few Tarot inspired pieces in future!

Below is Shloka’s poem that will appear in the anthology:

The Fool’s Dog

Caught between the two worlds
of a nebulous beginning
and an inevitable end,
the Fool in me succumbs to vices.

Jung’s archetypes echo in my head
as the Eight of Wands casts dark shadows
in my subconscious, chained to lethargy.

A reversed Death card looks up
as I swim in a cesspool of whining;
the Wheel of Fortune spins and stops abruptly:
Change no longer in my grasp.

The King of Swords emerges
from his chrysalis, while I,
still flightless, move listlessly.

Ruled by the Lovers,
My mind is now subsumed
by confusions of the darkest kind;
the Gemini in me lurches forward.

The Ace of Cups spills over
and leaves only this emptiness.

 

You can hear Shloka recite her poem in the Listening Corner and read her bio on the Contributors Page.

Also, you can find more information on Shloka Shankar: a rasika’s musings and on her blog. And don’t forget to check out her literary & arts journal, Sonic Boom.

Please consider pre-ordering Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology on the Minor Arcana Press website!