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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

Poems from the Tarot

How Tarot Cards Inspire Writing

I was thrilled with the way my recent ‘Writing from the Tarot’ workshop worked out! I have been trying to develop this program for a long time as I have been attempting to use Tarot to inspire my own writing for years. Recently I figured out why it hadn’t been entirely successful. I had been trying to write ABOUT the Tarot instead of FROM and THROUGH the Tarot. The wonder is that these ancient meanings and vibrant images can enable the writer to achieve a higher perspective and the finished piece may have nothing obvious to do with its mother card at all!

I have used Tarot for 40 years as a conduit for messages from the Universe, through me, to my psychic clients. This tool is so effective because of the wealth of symbolic meaning it has accumulated throughout the ages. Yet it is made new with every interpretation that artists and psychics continue to produce. The images used to illustrate each card are keys into our personal subconscious and also into our universal consciousness. When I tell a fortune, something leaps out and speaks to me and through me. The message can be a literal or might stand for a way of thinking or a virtue or instructions for a journey into awareness. It very likely adds a new perspective and clarifies a question or concern.

Tarot can do the same for a poem. For the workshop, I asked participants to bring a question or wish that the Tarot could address through our writing. The night before, I chose three cards for each one and emailed them. As one of the exercises, we used ideas from our cards to deal with our deepest hopes and concerns. What the poets shared after a brief interval of writing was amazing! Often what people received was a better expression of their question! A poem, like a psychic reading, should expand the essential query and offer, perhaps, a fresh way of considering possibilities.

The best poem I personally got from my workshop, I received during the first exercise. To familiarize those attending with Tarot (participants didn’t have to have previous experience with the cards) and to illustrated how I envisioned Tarot helping, I randomly drew one card and showed it to everyone Zooming in. We happened to get the Queen of Stones which depicted a large bear in front of a cave looking out over a valley at sunset (or sunrise). We discussed the card as a group and I explained that this queen generally represented strong, earth-associated feminine energy. But each person in the group noticed something different. The she-bear spoke to them in unique ways, in the language needed to understand protecting what we love, confronting natural beauty, emerging from a state of sleep/hibernation and on and on.

What I received was the word ‘gaze.’ We had talked about how she appeared to be taking in the vista, yet bears are notoriously near-sighted. Can we ‘gaze’ as if into a glass ball? Into a distance blurred by memory, emotion or dreams? How can a hazy ‘gaze’ enhance perception? The poem I sketched out then and fine-tuned over the next couple of days has nothing to do with bears or sunsets. But Ursa did speak to me and I heard her – and wrote.

I plan to offer this workshop again before too long. And the wisdom of the Tarot has been guiding me ever since. The group response added a dimension I didn’t expect. This wasn’t a critique group but rather a moment of communal inspiration. And this is at the heart of Tarot: layers of insight and depth of field found only through years of examining what makes us ‘human’ on a larger scale, what on earth matters most. Thank you, timeless Tarot!

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