Consulting the Poet Tarot
I’m always on the lookout for something that will jumpstart my creative process, so when Two Sylvia’s Press released their Poet Tarot Deck as an app, I was curious as to how it would work. I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about tarot in general – I have never had much of an interest in a deck that started as 15th century playing cards and turned into a fortune-telling device. (This is not to disparage anyone who believes in such readings – everyone believes in something.) So I wasn’t sure what to expect from this version which, according to its press materials, “helps writers, artists, or anyone working on an artistic project (or simply living a creative life) explore the nuances of their creative process.”
Two Sylvia’s Press explains that “The Poet Tarot App features 30 well-known poets. This virtual deck follows the traditional tarot deck with a few variations. The major arcana is made up of poets–Edgar Allan Poe makes a delicious Devil (XV), while Emily Dickinson is an obvious Hermit (IX). The suit cards have been tweaked to represent the stages of the creative process: Muses (Inspiration), Quills (Creation), Mentors (Revision), and Letterpresses (Completion).” The app is simple – you can choose a card at random and then view its meaning. The intent is that each new card will provide fodder for thinking about your creative life.
I decided to give it a try. Having just released my second book (Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story from Sundress Publications) and being in the midst of the most challenging part of the school year (12-years-olds one week before Spring Break – save me), I haven’t felt much of a creative spark lately. The first card I pulled was The Queen of Muses, Gwendolyn Brooks. This card asked me to consider the women who have inspired and encouraged my creative life. My first thought, of course, is of my mother, who always encouraged me to write, draw, sing, play music, act…all of the things I loved to do as a child. The second is of is my high school English teacher, Sister Angele. She was a taskmaster who demanded that we strive for perfection, and she introduced me to SO many classic books that informed me as a reader/writer. So although it was interesting to consider these influences, I wanted to see what else the card had to offer.
It spoke of Brooks’s devotion to community and outreach, asked me to consider how I mentor other creative people or bring my art to the community. This was, on one level, an easy question to answer – I teach young people, and I often run workshops, direct plays, etc., at my school. I attend many readings/arts events in my community, though I suppose I could do more if I didn’t work full-time. I made a list of things in my journal that I would like to try at some point. These were interesting things to think about, but the card perhaps was not as evocative in terms of helping me get into a creative headspace as I might have liked. But, this was only one card, so I tried again.
The second card I received was Robert Frost. This was more what I was looking for. It spoke of the balance of emotion and intellect in Frost’s work, the calm, conversational tone, and the way he draws the reader in with image and rhythm. It brought up the freedom that restraint (formal or otherwise) can bring to ideas, and it provided an exercise that suggested approaching things from a completely intellectual headspace and then a completely emotional one. This led me back to Frost’s poems, which I have always loved, and also led to both the writing exercise and a lens through which to view some troublesome poems I have been trying to revise.
I haven’t had a chance to use all the cards as of yet, but in a quick flip through several more, it seems that there is a good balance of “thought” cards (like the Brooks one) and cards that stimulate active response (like the Frost one). Either way, they look to be good companions, especially for those times when my creative mind seems stifled, unimportant, or far away.
To get The Poet Tarot App, you can search for it on your iPhone in Apps (just search “Poet Tarot”) or here’s a link to the iTunes store: