Monday, March 10, 2014

Mother of Three Escapes to AWP 2104, Returns with Poet Tarot Deck

Photo by Robyn Beattie
To say I needed to get away this month would be an understatement. My daughter lit her bookshelf on fire (via candle to tissue box, a four foot wall of flame rushing ceiling with help of a bottle of perfume). She timed it perfectly to coincide with her brother’s birthday sleepover party (built in audience of nine). How neither her shoulder length hair, surfer poster nor closet curtains caught still puzzles me. Less than an hour later, the toilet backed up in one bathroom and the fluorescent bulbs in the other winked out for good. By then, dusk beat us to night and my husband under-cooked the burgers for the kids in the dark so we pulled out the frying pan in the house, promising the kids we’d remember which bite mark went with which kid.

Other casualties of the month: the lower living room window (light-saber match between my youngest and the neighbor friend). The old-school window spoked out in a comic strip POW, triangles of glass littering the shrubbery. During the two weeks it took for the new shatter-proof window to arrive, the Husky punched her way through the remaining 4 triangles unscathed, heartbroken, in pursuit of my husband on his way to the ocean when he failed to walk her one morning.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
These outer details pale in comparison to the emotional spiral I'm walking as I being my initiation into parenting tweens and teens--thankfully in my orbit are writing mothers like Suzi Banks Baum, who continues to run guest posts that make my struggle bearable at Laundry Line Divine, most recently: What do Mothers Make: Connections. Her description of being shot out of the serenity of the center of the lotus blossom resonated with me. As did her astute suggestion to lower one's expectations in a gentle way during the often temporarily unbridgeable span of disconnections that can so quickly flare. No surprise, then, after the usual three pages of carpool notes and instructions, I left my husband at the helm to meet friends and bolster my inner life as a writer, boarding an airplane for Seattle.

This was my first time attending AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference). With graduate school a healthy number of years in my past, I surmised accurately I’d be coming at AWP from a very different perspective than a young prospective MFA student. A friend forwarded me a link to poet Kay Ryan’s 2005 witty review of her AWP experience: A Lifetime of Preferring Not To. I laughed my way through it but ultimately decided not to forego the conference (though I felt better equipped to scale my expectations to the venue). And with more than a dozen friends I planned to meet and support, I couldn’t wait to get away.

Two Sylvias Press Poet Tarot Deck
I packed tarot decks--just two--as last time, travelling to A Room of Her Own Foundation’s summer retreat, I brought all ten decks nestled securely in their silk bag which caused security to ask me to open my suitcase (oddity of the two round decks, Motherpeace and Daughters of the Moon, nestled amid various sized rectangular decks?!). I waited while they cleared the other suspicious traveler, a woman with gorgeous grey streaks in her white hair and a suitcase full of oranges and shoes. I had to repeat the word, “Tarot,” several times and unwrap several of the decks before they waved me through. “Aren’t we dangerous,” I joked to the woman repacking her oranges as I refolded the silk and cinched the drawstring tight.

While AWP’s itinerary of choices meant I never threw my own tarot cards, I came home with a fabulous new deck to add to my collection. Two Sylvias Press created a Poet Tarot Deck featuring poets on some of the cards; the subtitle of the guidebook reads, "A Deck of Creative Exploration" and includes exercises meant to help writers and artists with creative process. I couldn’t resist the urge to interview Annette and Kelli. For this deck, they chose to represent male and female poets equally, as well as to choose deceased poets of British and American descent. I asked them:

If you were to make a second, feral deck (without constraints of choosing deceased poets of British and American descent), whom else would you love to include (for a living poets’ deck)?

Annette Spaulding-Convy: I imagine in a living poets’ deck—Olena Kalytiak Davis as the Chariot, Cate Marvin as the Tower, Richard Siken as the Hierophant, and Marie Howe as the High Priestess. My imagination goes wild with this question as there are so many amazing contemporary poets whose work I truly admire. One more—I think Jane Hirshfield would be an awesome Temperance.

Kelli Russell Agodon: For a living deck, I’d love to include Denise Duhamel as the Wheel of Fortune, Kay Ryan as the Hermit, and Li-Young Lee as the Moon.  They are three of my favorite poets, each very different in style from each other and I’d love to highlight them so more people could learn about their work.  In another deck of dead poets, I would love to include Pablo Neruda for the Lovers card. He is a poet I’ve always connected with.

Here’s a link to the rest of the interview with their generous responses at Transformative Blogging this week: The Conjuring of a Poet Tarot Deck: An Interview with Two Sylvias Press. I am thrilled to add this deck to
those I’ve already chosen to share with my writing students for my upcoming class, Exploring the Minor Mentors: A Tour Through the Suits (forming with a solid base already, and we'd love to have you join us--starts March 17) which combines writing and tarot.
Ruth Thompson and Lisa Rizzo at Saddle Road Press Table
I’ll write more later about the amazing readings I attended at AWP, but for now, want to close by thanking my editor Ruth Thompson of Saddle Road Press for the anchor of her beautiful table, a reason for coming, in support of authors Michelle Wing (debut poetry book, Body on the Wall) and Carol Houlihan Flynn, author of the memoir, The Animals. These women are my Saddle Road Press sisters, so I will blog up “writer-views” of their work in support of their books and offer the links here shortly. 

Related Posts:

Tarot Butterflies 2

March 21, 2014 addition:

Here's a fun link to a tarot synchronicity involving The Poet Tarot, Two Sylvias Press, and one of their poetry books, Dear Alzheimer's in a post written by Michelle Wing, poet and blogger at The Poem Whisperer

Related link, on flowers, catching fire:

Dyed Carnations, by Robyn Schiff


Unknown said...

Oh everything you write makes me jump out of my chair and want to take a SuperMom sprint across the country. ZOOOOoooommmmm, here I am at your kitchen table. SPPPPLllllaaatt....I am kissing your cheek. SCCrrrreeeech....I am driving off in my Laundrymobile to be back in time for the bus drop off.
Thank you for the LLD link and for the Tarot cards tip. I am hustling over to read that post and maybe order the cards? oxoxox Tons of love, S

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Bless you Suzi, for the virtual kiss...someday we will be laughing over a kitchen table! Annette and Kelli sold out of their poet tarot deck at AWP, but new decks should be available in a couple of months at Two Sylvias Press website. Thanks for the love! Made me laugh!

Unknown said...

Tania, even though I had heard some of this story, not with such great description! No wonder you wanted to go to AWP. No amount of writer tables or readings or numbers of writers could compare to your fires, literal and figurative. And I'm so glad I got one of the tarot decks. Lisa

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thanks Lisa! Yes--can't wait to play with the poet tarot deck too and to see what writing it inspires in us. Had a great time at AWP with you!