BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
When I received "Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology" edited by Marjorie Jensen (Minor Arcana Press, 2015) in the mail, I was pretty excited. Anyone who knows me even a little knows I love anything Tarot-related, so Tarot poetry is basically my favorite thing in this world. I'm happy to say this anthology did not disappoint.
The collection is separated into three distinct sections: Majors, Minors, and Spreads. If you know anything about Tarot, you know the deck is separated into the Major and Minor Arcana--what happily took me by surprise were the poems in the last section in "Spreads." Essentially, these poems are like a reading--they include cards from both sections of the deck, and the poems are essentially the chemical reaction that happens as a result of the combination of cards. Like an actual tarot reading, the poems tell a complex story. What I love most about the collection is the diversity of forms: sonnets, free verse, Oulipo.
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. If a Tarot anthology aims to do anything, it should aim to be an awakening of the body. These woke me up instantly. I've read and reread them on the subway and at home, and the outcome is the same, and yet different every time.
Some of my favorite moments and poems in the anthology include:
Allison Stone-"The Lovers"
"Love is always a choice."
"The devil rides a horse, / lives on the second floor,/...The field he trots / is another body of paradise /...He was the kid who only ate / the icing"
Cecilia Llompart-"Two of Swords"
"I have forgotten the sounds of my own voice /..I do not know where it will resurface. Nor do I care to."
Tyler Vile-"Knight of Cups"
"He was never meant for war."
"The loneliest thrones are unshared. /...So much / of the sea isn't what it seems"
Tabitha Dial-"Ace of Knights"
"They borrow / all their secrets / for a kingdom."
Sierra Nelson-"The Future Is Befalling You"
"You think it's the ocean / when you put that / seashell up to your ear. / But really it's the echo / of the world having crawled / out of its shell"
Lore Bernier-"Daughter (The Swords)"
"They have not yet invented a word / for what I am."
CA Conrad-"(Soma)tic Poetry Ritual & Resulting Poems"
"Memories stored in flesh all flesh all humans and other animals on the prairie, by the bay, in the city, or incarcerated in prisons or zoos...parrot sleeping in / tome of his / story / though it was / her story / tears taste / exactly the / same all / over the / world god damn"
Enrique Enriquez-"[mandorla, a word for pun]"
"If we subtract the common letters in UTERUS and UTTERED, we end with USED (juiced), a word that should never be spelled to describe a lady, and which anagrams into DEUS ("god")."
Rosalynde Vas Dias-"Fool. Upright"
"How is your heart? Possible / replies are a multiple choice / you don't compose."