Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Poetry Meets Tarot Synchronicity: Crafting Centos and Leaning on Your Beloveds

While teaching “Election Blues: The Gift of Agency in Poetry” this spring, my poetry student Marcia Meier introduced me to the poetic form of the cento. (Marcia’s cento, drafted during our class and published in April at Writer’s Resist, can be read here: Scent of Mock Orange.)

Here’s a definition and a little background, Cento: Poetic Form, from Academy of American Poets, poets.org. In a nutshell, a cento is a poem comprised solely of a group of lines, each borrowed from a different writer.

I created the class, “Election Blues,” to help me break through the stunned quiet enveloping me after the election. When Marcia suggested centos, I felt immediate relief. I could draw on the strength and power of other writers to “get back home.” That day, I grabbed the volumes within arm’s reach off my bookshelf, women I admire and love (with the exception of WCW—he appears in only one of the centos):

Audre Lord
Kay Ryan
Ruth Thompson
Joy Harjo
Colleen J. McElroy
Emily Dickinson
Maxine Hong Kingston
Bhanu Kapil
Sylvia Plath
Joan Swift
Malinda Markham
William Carlos Williams

Because I was simultaneously teaching a Tarot writing class, I instinctively used Tarot reading principles as I began the process of making my centos.

When reading Tarot cards, you usually start by focusing on a question of the heart, shuffling the cards, and choosing cards blind (meaning the cards remain face down while you are choosing so the images are hidden until you begin the reading).

When drafting centos, I used the randomly selected volumes of poetry as my “deck.” I focused on one person related to the election at a time, put my hand on my heart, and opened to the mix of emotions I was feeling. Each time I let the book in my hand fall open and let my eye fall on a line.

Once I had copied down roughly ten lines, one from each volume for each person I was writing a cento for, I brought my writer self to bear on rearranging the lines into a meaningful order that best reflected my various states of love, gratitude, fear, and concern.

I was surprised by the richness and seeming appropriateness of the images and lines that fell, though after having worked with the Tarot for so  long, I was prepared for synchronicity. Poetry, like Tarot, works powerfully by association and context, so when you plug in a question or a focus for a Tarot reading, or you plug in a title or person as the focus for a cento, the associations boomerang back to that central question, person, or title, causing us to look deeper.

Of course you can argue that any random group of lines can be made to mean one thing in one context and something entirely different in another, but it didn’t stop me from trying the form and enjoying the inadvertent “reading.” I hope that beyond speaking privately and specifically to me, just as a Tarot reading would, the centos still work as poems on their own. You’ll have to let me know.

I’m honored that five in the series, “A Thank You Letter to Barack Obama,” “An Open Letter to Donald Trump, “ “An Iris for Hillary,” “Emerald Dream, For Michelle Obama,” and “Ghost Ribs, For Melania Trump” have been chosen by Nicelle Davis for an event in Venice, “Poetry Postcards at Beyond Baroque: write your political concerns to representatives.” The event is hosted by Nicelle Davis, Armine Iknadossian, and Quentin Ring; please do join us if you are in the area this coming Sunday, April 30, from 1-4. Our generous hosts print up the poems and provide a space for folks to gather, address postcards, pen messages to representatives, and read a little poetry aloud. Here’s the Facebook link to “Poetry postcards at Beyond Baroque.”

Hall and Pryputniewicz blockprint
In case you can’t make it to be with us this weekend,  I’ve recorded three of the centos, “A Thank you Letter to Barack Obama,” "An Open Letter to Donald Trump," and "An Iris for Hillary," as MP3s you can access from my Events page on my main site.

Next time you find yourself poetically blocked or lost I hope you’ll try writing a cento. Take your beloveds down off the bookshelf and lean on their strength! Or set the arrow of your intention and curiosity along any line: humor, love, spirituality, sport fishing—you name it—and see which harvest of poetry lines your deck of books brings you.

Related links:

I’ll be participating in the Ten Thousand Waves reading at the Museum of Women in Liberty Station, organized by Katya Williamson; I hope you’ll join us! Here’s the description from the flier.

Ten Thousand Waves: Come join us for an afternoon of original prose and poetry. We hope to inspire, raise awareness, comfort, entertain, and enjoy each other’s company.

4:30-6:30 on May 13th
Women’s Museum, Liberty Station
2730 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 16
92106, SD
Admission: $5

Losing Joan Swift:

In early March, I was heartbroken to learn that the gifted poet Joan Swift passed away (pictured here on the back jacket of The Dark Path of Our Names, photo by Mary Randlett, 1985). I can’t begin to express my gratitude for Swift's poetry. I first encountered her work as an undergraduate student at UC Davis in one of Sandra McPherson’s seminars. What a blessing to have been unwittingly working with Joan’s lines to create the centos in January and February.

If you wish to attend a memorial celebration and reading for Joan Swift, here's a link to an event posted by Poets and Writers, a May 16, 2017 event in Seattle. 

Here’s a link to a selection of poems by Swift that we ran at The Fertile Source in 2010. And  also up at the Fertile Source,  a 2010 Interview with Joan Swift

Here's a link to another  beautiful poem by Swift, "Sometimes a Lake" posted by Poetry Northwest in January of this year and another posted by Jennifer Flenniken at The Far Field: "Listening to My Bones." 

I will write more about Joan’s work in a future post. My love and deepest condolences to her family.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tarot Podcast News and April Classes

I got the email today that we are on the verge of having Nimrod International Journal’s issue, Leaving Home, Finding Home in hand. 

I’m honored that one of the commune poems, “Free Box,”appears in the issue. Here’s the link to the page to order from Nimrod International (you can either subscribe or scroll down to order a particular issue).

Sign up for Monday’s 1) Poetry Workshop and 2) Introduction to Tarot Class

Here are links to the full course descriptions for two classes that start next week:

And here's a podcast from last year, This Choice, hosted by poet Ren Powell, in which you’ll learn a bit about both my poetry history and how I approach the Tarot as a teacher:

Tarot Podcast News

Mary and I will be adding a new feature to Tarot for Two, the blog we’ve been keeping since 2015. We’ve decided to try our hand at podcasting as a format. I will share the link to our first conversation, once we have it, record it and post it. We’ve drafted up some questions to answer on our own, but please do feel free to leave a question for us in the comments here or on our Tarot for Two site and we will consider them for future podcasts. Excerpts from this month's Tarot for Two card of the month writings:

Mary on the Empress:

The Empress is a watery card rather than a fiery one, all those pinks and greens and lotuses and water birds.  But the empress herself is resting in a bower of her own making, an inner bower made of peace and loveliness and happiness, and my desert vacation rests in my memory as a time of airiness and peace and happiness, and the desert with its fierceness has a kind of loveliness of its own.

Tania on the Knight of Cups:

I love most the rider’s wings. I’ve often thought the wings belonged to the horse, but the wings spring from the shoulders of the green-armored knight. The knight holds a chalice to the sky, a red crab emerging at cup’s rim. He’s offering up his heart and the heart’s questions. In the image of the crab I see a layer of protection, the color red so vibrant, a salute to the passionate heart.

Read the rest here:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Queen Califia and Spring Classes

Queen Califia, Nikki de St. Phalle
I spy with my little Tarot eye the sculptures of Nikki de St. Phalle. These are close-ups from the totem sculptures in Queen Califia’s Magic Circle Garden. Have you been there yet? It is tucked away in Kit Carson Park, Escondido, California. I hope these glimpses, these close-ups, encourage you to adventure there yourself. The docent told me Nikki’s wishes were to arrange the garden on the land in such a way that you’d encounter it, stumble upon it, magically.  

Flowers bloomed on the hillside as my daughter and I walked the dusty path along a low stone wall until the entrance emerged. Yes, this could be Tuscany, Italy, the landscape in which Nikki’s larger house-sized Tarot sculptures live. But if you can’t make it to Italy yet, try Queen Califia’s Magic Circle Garden.

It was lovely to be out in nature, in the sun, under clouds of such crisp contour with such vibrant blue blackdrop, as I’ve been writing, writing, writing…I still love to write poetry long hand, but as I experiment with writing longer pieces in prose, it makes for a long process. Everything by hand—then the hours transcribing—hence the need to get out from behind the computer screen and outdoors for art dates more and more.

Harvest of Poems

Thanks to guest poetry editor Robert Lee Brewer, "Hades" is live at Prime Number Magazine. Despite the title, “Hades” is very much an “above ground” poem, Hades figuring as more of a psychological destination visited by brooders (like me). 

I also was able to make a sound file, which can be listened to here: Hades MP3.

And for Neptune-blessed lovers, I have written a poem about abalone diving, marriage, children, and waiting for the beloved to surface. I’m honored that Silver Birch Press published “Kolmer’s Gulch” as part of their Lost and Found Poetry and Prose Series. You can listen to the sound file here: “Kolmer’s Gulch MP3”.

Upcoming Tarot and Poetry Classes

Have you been taking advantage of the prompts offered daily this month at NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)? Every day during the month of April you'll find a new poetry prompt! Even if you don’t write 30 poems in 30 days, what if by month’s end you draft five new poems? Even one new poem? Each prompt comes with links to the work of other poets participating in the challenge as well as links to interviews with established writers and example poems.

Here are my latest class offerings, starting already April 24.

by Tania Pryputniewicz
Entering the Tarot Garden: An Introduction to the Tarot: Are you ready to explore the Tarot? Go for a gentle tour through the structure of the Tarot? We will go over the basics:

  • The four elements (earth, air, fire, and water)
  • The daily life cards of each suit and the story they tell as they progress from numbers One to Ten,
  • The Court Cards—Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages
  • The Major Arcana

We will use a hands-on approach to studying the Tarot including becoming familiar with the deck of your choice and journaling to prompts.

If you are interested, but have questions, and would like to know more about my particular approach to the Tarot, I am offering free simple 3-card readings over Zoom (video call, or Skype if you prefer). Contact me through the form on this website or IM me on Facebook through my Wheel of Archetypal Selves Tarot page to sign up.

Here’s the full course description for Entering the Tarot Garden.

Poetry Draft, Craft, Submit: I’m so excited about teaching this class, especially on the heels of National Poetry Writing Month. We will be starting right at the tail end of the month, so some of you will likely have a new crop of poems to craft and revise. If not, join us, and write to the prompts I’ll be giving you based on specific calls for submission. This online class is for poets ready to draft, craft and submit work. In addition to weekly craft lessons and prompts, we will support one another in sending work out to live submission targets.

Here’s the full course description for Poetry Draft, Craft, Submit.

I will most likely also be am teaching a version of this on-line class in-person at San Diego Writers, Ink. It will run Second Saturdays of the month, 10 am-12 noon, starting May 13, 2017. Here are the upcoming themes: 
May 13: Spirituality
June 10: Childhood / Children
July 8: Destinations
August 12: Architecture
September 9: Livestock and Pets
October 14: Omens

Here's the link to sign up for my in-person class at SDWI, Second Saturdays: Draft, Craft Submit. Cost is $30 a session for SDWI, and $36 for non-members.

Happy Spring....

Photos were taken by yours truly, all at Queen Califia's Magic Circle Garden.