Tag Archives: Arcana the Tarot Poetry Anthology

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.

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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!

Reviews

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.”

Interviews

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!”

Award

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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!