Tag Archives: Tanya Joyce

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.


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.



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: Tanya Joyce

Editor’s note: This year, I am featuring a different poet from the anthology each month. April’s featured contributor is Tanya Joyce. We discuss poetics, painting, Middle English, Tarot, and Tanya shares some of her beautiful poetry and visual art.

“Vinyl Gothic” by Tanya Joyce

Q: Because you are both a painter and a poet, I would love to hear some of your thoughts on the relationship between the two arts. It’s been said that poetry is painting–do you agree with this? How are the two related for you in practice?

Poetry can be painting, especially with poets who described outdoor nature or natural settings. Shakespeare and the English Romantics come to mind. Painting can be poetry, especially in visual art that evokes elegance and flowing line, such as portraits by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres or John Singer Sargent. The chief difference between painting (or any other visual art) and poetry is that poetry — and all language — takes place in time. When a cat meows, the “me” precedes the “ow.” When we use words, even in Dada poetry, the sounds unveil themselves in a time sequence. Visual art is less time dependent. Even if a painter wants you to start looking at a painting in a certain way, you don’t need to do it. Viewers are freer to take in visual art as they wish.

I have no idea how poetry and painting are related in my work. I do them both, but not together. In three chapbooks, I put paintings and poetry together after they had each been completed, rather like redecorating a room with materials that have been in storage for a period of time. And I am in love with both disciplines. Perhaps that is what ties them together for me.

Q: You currently lead meetings of the Thursday Night Tarot in San Francisco. How did you become involved with this group, and what do the meetings look like?

In the late 1980s, San Francisco artist, poet, puppeteer Robert Leroy Smith was looking for volunteers to be part of a new meditation series that included guided visualization, runes, tarot, and other practices. Poet/painter Anna Ruth Kipping and I volunteered. Tarot, especially, appealed to us, probably because of the imagery. Anna Ruth’s son Doug Kipping said, “Well, if you liked that, you might like Jason Lotterhand’s weekly gatherings at Ft. Mason.” Jason started The Thursday Night Tarot in 1950, but it was new to us. We liked Jason’s informality. He was an extremely gifted metaphysical philosopher with an abundant sense of humor. He may well have been the first person, at least in the English-speaking world, to open metaphysics to all who cared to come — without charge, with no “grades,” no certificates, no “beginning, middle, and advanced.” You just come. And because tarot images are archetypes, they evoke something different each time we look at them, so that now, after 65 years, discussions continue to be dynamic.

Jason’s book, The Thursday Night Tarot, gives an accurate presentation of the relaxed format of our discussions, focusing on one card of the major arcana per week. Just out a couple of years ago is a second edition of the book, under its original working title, The Spoken Cabala. Both editions are edited by Jason’s long time colleague, Arisa Victor.

Q: Would you be wiling to share some of your experiences editing a collection of Tarot haikus? How did making that book develop your understanding of the arcana and poetics?

Musician Richard Jerome Bennett presented the idea of honoring our then hostess, Anna Ruth Kipping, by writing haiku for each card of the major arcana. Anna Ruth was a great haiku fan. Some people in the group liked to write and others did not. So, at the start, both haiku in traditional formats and haiku-inspired poems were welcome. We wrote at the end of an evening’s discussion, so something about the card of the day was in our minds. Twice, I remember, people said “Oh, I can’t write a thing!” My response was, “That’s fine. If something about this card comes to you later, you can add it then.” In both cases, the people who had said they couldn’t write started writing. Some barrier was overcome when they knew they did not have to show a result.

The editorial decision was simple. I included whatever people wrote with as little editing as possible. Authorship attribution included daily life names, names assumed for the occasion, and various shades of anonymous. I trusted the archetypal imagery of the cards to provide focus. I also trusted that the background I had in the tarot “Western Mystery System,” plus Medieval methods of meditative focus such as The Cloud of Unknowing, would allow order to reveal itself in a coherent volume. Poetics work for us most intensely when we do not feel confined to express ourselves as we “think we should.” This does not mean abandoning formal study. It means allowing formal study and intuitive discovery to join hands and stroll along together, just as the path in The Moon card runs between the domesticated dog and the wild wolf…

Q: I love medieval romances, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. How does working with Middle English influence your current writing? Would you discuss the relationship between text and illustrations in medieval manuscripts and how that reflects your own dual roles as painter and poet?

Gawain by Tanya Joyce

First, I must tell you that it was Sir Gawain’s pentacle that lead me to really explore tarot, one of two rare systems that treat the pentacle in depth. (The other is Chinese medicine.) Why, I wondered, is Gawain given the pentacle as an identifying image at a historical time (late fourteenth century) when people were being arrested and sometimes killed for displaying a pentacle in public? I still do not have all the answers I would like to that question, but in England, where metaphysical societies are often supported by strong, if quiet, tradition, clues abound.

Medieval poetic forms — alliteration in English and rhyme in French, for example — are used dynamically in Medieval poetry. They’re not applied with the idea that people long ago in some “golden age” used them. They are part of a sense of NOW. This always makes fascinating poetry, even when we don’t understand all the words. So my first answer to your question is that these powerful poetic forms are a carrot on a stick, held by the Muse as she sits on my back while I plod along the country lane of my own creations. That carrot — sweet, crunchy, and bright colored — draws me onward.

Medieval people did not have the kind of historical consciousness we take for granted. If a fourteenth century patron has commissioned a copy of works by the sixth century philosopher, Boethius, the illustrations will show fourteenth century dress and buildings. This method of work puts us in the middle of a poem. The action didn’t happen hundreds of years ago. It is happening right now. When text and illustration do not agree in detail, we tend to think, “Oh, that illustrator didn’t read the poem.” Not so. In the manuscript with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is a poem called The Pearl. In The Pearl, New Jerusalem is described as a glistening, translucent city. The illustration shows a half-timbered country castle. However, from the poem’s presentation of the two main characters, a reader knows just where the illustration belongs in the poem. It would be as though Geoffrey Chaucer met and joined the Canterbury Pilgrims at a B and B right near your house, and not long ago or far away.

When I was first studying Medieval literature, I did a lot of paintings with words written on them and poems with designs as part of the final presentation. Kenneth Patchen’s hand written poems with animals worked in among the letters were models for me. This approach was not well received in graduate school and, frankly, I was thrown out. One of my mentors (to whom I owe a lot in other areas) absolutely would not allow any visual elements in what I submitted to him — though he combined excellent photos and text in his own work. The head of the creative writing program I was enrolled in told me that visual images were a “crutch” and they had to be eliminated if I was going to write poetry. As he spoke, I noticed a picture of Chaucer on horseback in an ornate botanical border from the Ellesmere Canterbury Tales hanging on the wall behind him.

My work today is less directly related to the forms of Medieval books, but my sense of integration among art forms is more intense. For the past two or three years, I have been working with dance, poetry, and visual art together.

banner paintings

Banner paintings by Tanya Joyce, winner of the 2014 Big Art contest, danced to the poem “Artistry” by Judy Davies

Q: What advice do you have for other artists?

Don’t stop doing what is in you to do no matter what. The things you need will come along, often from sources we do not expect. And it’s important — as much as possible — to continue with a warm heart toward society. Tibetan philosopher Chogyam Trungpa said, “When we talk about compassion, we talk in terms of being kind. But compassion is not so much being kind; it is being creative to wake a person up.” The role and function of the arts is to do exactly this. Make a big sign of Chogyam Trungpa’s observation and put it up on a wall where you can see it easily. Make a small version to keep with your tarot cards or in your wallet.

The following is an excerpt from Tanya’s book Tarot Haiku that will be featured in Arcana: the Tarot Poetry Anthology:

Verses for the Tarot

The High Priestess 2

Three points on the crown.
Three pomegranates dance.
Her blue dress turns into
Mountain streams.

Strength 8

Tail of a cobra, body of him and her,
Necklace of roses, red fur.
Guess who I am. In all poses
Sitting, standing, running, roaring,
Asleep, awake I am
Deep inside you.

Tanya Joyce (right) with Semion Mirkin

Hermit 9

Too in love to speak
Breath pulsing the midnight sky
She climbs the mountainside
To wrap herself in the folds
Of the Hermit’s cloak.

The Tower 16

The crown blows off
Clouds of misunderstanding.
What did you think
I meant? Stars, lights,
Lightning strikes,
But only once
Falling, they have not yet
Decided to laugh.

The World 21

Wear a red band in my hair
A purple scarf to step
Out of the shower
And season my food with
Laurel leaves.

To learn more about Tanya, check out her website: www.tanyajoyce.com
You can also find more information about her and the other poets in the anthology here.