Subscribe below to receive notification of the latest update.

Subscription options

Name:   

E-mail:  

ATS Newsletters

by author

Tarotpedia

The Boiardo 15th c Poem
Tarot history in brief

quotations from various people

Functions of Readings
What is Tarot?


Anonymous

Med. on XVIIII

Emily E. Auger

Tarot and Other Meditation Decks

L. Atkinson

Orphalese Software review

S. Arwen

Memory & Instinct

Kathy Berkowitz

Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 1)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 2)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 3)
Waite's Mystical Tradition (Pt 4)

Nina L. Braden

Tarot in Literature

David Brice

Birth of Tarot

Colin Browne

Square & Compasses Tarot

Lee A. Bursten

Journeys in Tarot Creation
Vachetta review

E.C.

Review: The Lo Scarabeo Story

Ross G. Caldwell

Tarot History

Bonnie Cehovet

Tarology - Poetics of Tarot
Review: Secret of Tarot
The Mystereum Tarot

N. Chishty-Mujahid

Concerning Ghisi’s Laberinto

Craig Conley

A House of Tarot Cards

A.B. Crowther

Rachel Pollack interview

Jean-Michel David

On Paneurythmy and Tarot
Tarot's expression of the numinous
Yarker, Tarot & Arcane Schools
Waite-Smith Sun card
The Fool as Wandering Jew
Tarot as Christian Art
Education through Tarot
Tarot: the vatical & the sacral
Fortuna, Ass & Monkey
Steiner and Tarot
1701 Dodal restored!
Enc. Tarot vol I-IV: review
Christ, World & Sin
Caveat Emptor:
       Visual Tarot

Tarot & AlefBeit
Review: Jean Payen Tarot
Tarot and Freemasonry
I-Ching and Pip Cards
Whither directing your course?
Tarot & the Tree of Life
Ovid, Egypt and Tarot
When the Devil isn't the Devil
Four elements and the suits
Court Cards & MBTI
Certification & Codes
Jean Dodal Marseille
Conference FAQs
Golden Dawn
Kabalah & Tarot
Golden Tarot review
Annual spread
Iraqi Museum
Two Brief TdM reviews
Meditations on the Tarot

Enrique Enriquez

The Joy of Wordplay
J-C. Flornoy interview
Embodied Tarot
Indirect Suggestions
Whispering to the Eye

Mark Filipas

History of Egyptian Decks
Lexicon Theory

Jean-Claude Flornoy

in memorium
from Oral Tradition

Roxanne Flornoy

Children and Tarot
from Oral Tradition

Mary Greer

Killing the Thoth Deck
On the Tarot of the Four Worlds
Egypt, Tarot and Mystery School Initiations

William Haigwood

The Sixties: Counterculture Tarot

Alissa Hall

Parlour Tricks

Kris Hadar

The Tarot

Claas Hoffmann

Crowley-Harris 'Thoth' deck

Michael J. Hurst

Tarot Symbolism review

K. Frank Jensen

Century with the Waite-Smith

Shane Kendal

A Poetry of Tarot

Ken J. Killeen

The Metaphysical Bible

Barbara Klaser

Language of Tarot

E. Koretaka

Cardinal Virtues

Dovid Krafchow

Kabbalistic Tarot

Lisa Larson

Perceptions of Spirituality

Suzan E. Lemont

Therapeutic Tarot Work

Eric K. Lerner

Diloggun and Tarot

N. Levine

Tarot of Prague review

C. Liknaitzky

Journey in Ceramics

Joep van Loon

Tarot Wheel

Karen Mahony

Prague

S.J. Mangan

Fool, Alef & Orion

Robert Mealing

Petrarch’s Triumphs
Jean Noblet Tarot
Hunting the "true" Marseille Tarot
Cary Sheet

Fern Mercier

Playing the Fool

C. de Mellet

Inquiries into Tarot

Sophie Nusslé

Fantastic Menagerie

Robert V. O'Neill

Tarot Symbolism
Tower Iconology

Michael Owen

Xultun Tarot

Dan Pelletier

Magic Manga Tarot
the Blank Spot

Robert M. Place

The Fool's Journey

Debra Rosenthal

Looking at the Jacques Vieville

Mjr Tom Schick

Tarot Lovers Calendar

Inna Semetsky

Counseling Reading for Spouses
Learning the language of images
Re-Symbolization of Self
Tarot (dis)contents

Diana Sobolewska

'Bateleur's tale'

Russell Sturgess

Jesus's New Testament

N. Swift

Sufism & Tarot

Arthur E. Waite

Symbols of Tarot

A poetry of the Tarot


Shane W Kendal

It was the English Romantics in the early 19th century who first expressed the idea that poetry, and the proces of its making, was in some ways a sacred art. In Defence of Poetry Shelley gave poets the status of ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world‘. For me, that sums up the mysterious, esoteric nature of creating poetry, an alchemical combination of language, rhythm, and rhyme, that, if succesful, transforms both the poet’s and reader‘s view of some essential aspect of life. It is both a liberating and revelatory art – even so-called light verse, or comic poetry can achieve this. Whilst this is a high claim for an art that is not highly valued at the present time (and wasn’t even in Shelley’s time – hence the need for a ‘defence‘), I believe it to be a fundamental, a priori aspect of any attempt to make poetry: it is a task analogous with finding and giving meaning to the world.

In the same century as the English Romantics, the Tarot was first seen as a vehicle of perennial esoteric wisdom and truth. The images of the Tarot are now also understood by many to be not merely divinatory aids, nor merely symbols of ancient and universal wisdom, but active agents of spiritual realities. In particular, the major arcana or trumps are thought of in this way.

The above ideas on poetry and the Tarot are the inspiration for a writing project that has kept my mind active and alight during a current period of long service leave. Whereas previously, like the critic Hazlitt said of Wordsworth, ‘he is his own subject‘, I have set myself a poetical subject that is, at first blush‚ outside of myself: the 22 major arcana. So far, I have written drafts of 13 poems on 13 of the cards. I have found the process an intriguing and rewarding one, firstly in regards to the way the Tarot images – seemingly static images in space – give rise to not only the fundamental language of the poems, but their voice, form and rhythm, things that belong to an unfolding of meaning in time.

There have been at least two principles that I have felt I must adhere to in the creation of the poems (which are, by the way, based on the images from Marseille type decks – more on this choice later). The first follows from what is said in the above paragraph about the relationship of the Tarot to poetry: that the Tarot images belong, in some way, to an imaginative realm that is eternal and that expresses something timeless and universal about human experience. This idea came to me from reading the wonderful Meditations on the Tarot, where the anonymous author, a deeply Christian man, apologises for being enthusiastic about images and confesses to being a Hermeticist. And following from this, secondly: that at least some of the imagery of the poems must be taken directly from the card itself, so that faithful observation is a key to the emergence of meaning in all its forms in the poems. This is not to say that every detail of the cards is mentioned directly or literally in the poem, nor that the only imagery in the poem is that of the card. On the contrary, what I have found, in being open to each image, is that the cards have inspired the invention of a diverse range of voices, personas, forms, situations and subjects. Humour has manifested itself often – there is no doubt that sacred ideas and the satire of very human frailities sit side by side in the Marseille decks. Of course – and it seems obvious now – there is a great deal of interpretation in the poems, or I should say suggestion about what a card or aspects of a card may mean. However, poetry is not a dogmatic or even, really, a didactic tool. What seems to have flowed through are words and forms that are, like the Tarot images, pictures or imaginings of experience, articulated in the English language. These poetical suggestions of meaning are also, of course, peculiar to my own life experiences and particular poetic imagination and vocabulary – with all their limitations.

My use of the cards has therefore also made clear to me the way poetry, or at least my poetry making, is a mysterious search for the right word and phrase. It has been both liberating and sobering to have to find exactly the ‘right’ word. I feel I have had to be true to the cards, to their creator, and the figures and realities depicted. Whilst some of the poems so far have an irreverant or satirical aspect, I have felt a great need to not be trivial, mundane or arbitrary.

Finally, the process so far has been an incredibly personal one and, therefore, a confronting one, despite my initial feelings of writing about an ‘external’ subject. Composing poems on the Fool, the Magician, Death, the Devil, the Tower, the Star, the High Priestess, the Empress, the Pope, the Hermit, The Hanged Man and the Lover, has made me really look at these cards and that has necessarily lead to some uncovering of hidden depths in myself. Yet, the wonderful paradox of the sacred art that is the Marseille Tarot and the art of poetry, is that with the right language and form, the personal sounds and hopefully is universal – and timeless! At times, it has appeared all too clear to me that the cards are unfolding themselves everywhere at everytime. (Perhaps this is one of the benefits and reasons for having the leisure of long service leave!). Feeling very despondent and gloomy and then suddenly seeing Venus in the evening sky lead to a beginning for my poem on the Star; and a day in which I discovered my old home demolished, and a friend’s house in danger of catching on fire, made me think more deeply about the Tower. The Tarot has made me realise even more clearly how the literal and symbolic exist simultaneously in poetry and in life.

So, I am in the process of writing poetry inspired by the Tarot. Subjects like the Emperor (whom I am having trouble with), the Moon (what a poetical symbol!) Judgement and the World certainly make one humble and respectful; and yet a poet must be fresh and exuberant! My disclaimer in signing off is that these poems are not teaching or reading tools. They are free explorations, in poetical mode, of my personal imaginings on these incredible scared images. I have also gravitated to the Marseille for this reason, (among others), for the marseille type decks appear, to me, to leave the poetic imagination free to associate, dream and – despite their vintage – connect the Tarot to contemporary experience. I hope my efforts are smiled upon and forgiven.

 
Marseille style Chosson Le Pendu

Lasenic Le Pendu

XII (draft only!)

A man is being hung by the foot!
All the people gather round
To gawk. He must be a criminal
To suffer such ignominy
In public. Hung between two trees
In the square.
At least he’s dressed well.

He is only young – mislead youth
No doubt. Well, serves
Him right to challenge social mores
In these times
When there is a lot
To fear and be
Suspicious about.

The free individual
Really shouldn’t flaunt itself
These days.
Society is more important
And has to make a public display
Of vagrancy.
It is a time for the established
Ways and places and stations
To be maintained – by force
Or detainment if necessary.

The hanging of feet
Is an emblem of this need,
This just practice of reminding –
Like rotting heads on poles
And children overboard
And crosses on a hill –
Of the fate of those who
See things all the wrong way round.

A man is hanging himself by the foot!
He has mastered this act so well,
He does it with his hands tied behind his back,
And an expression of serenity.

And so Ezekiel lay for days on each side,
And Diogenes ate dung
And rolled his barrel all day long
Up and down the hill.

One even thinks of Mr Spaceman
Near the Bourke St Mall,
Or the circus acrobat,
Confounding the greatest of tyrants
Through mid-air.

The Romans also had their Silenus,
The ugly, satyr fool
Pissing up the front
Whilst supremely divine within;

Oh hanged man, you give me renewed hope
That the dark days are gone
Or can be dispersed with a will;
Your choice of tying up your left
Foot to the tree in the firmament
Shows me,
As I go on my way to lunchtime trivialities,
Why I loved
To hang from those football oval fences and monkey bars
And see the world upside down;
You remind me of the strange beauty
Of the image in water, rippling in the breeze,
And the familiar bush in moonlight;
You remind me that

The world is actually wrong.

Shane W Kendal

2 comments to

A poetry of the Tarot

You must be logged in to post a comment.