Tarot Poetry: An Interview with Marjorie Jensen

Arcana: The Tarot Poetry Anthology is a diverse collection of 78 poems, including original verse and new translations by contemporary writers and Tarot readers. The book can be pre-ordered through the publisher, Minor Arcana Press.
Tarot poetry began in Renaissance Italy with artists like Teofilo Folengo. Many famous poets–including T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and Marge Piercy–have used Tarot in their work since. Our era is now blessed with our own poetic creations as those featured in Arcana. Editor Marjorie Jensen has brought many of these amazing poets together from an international community including Rachel Pollack, Tanya Joyce, Cecilia Llompart, and Sierra Nelson.

PictureMarjorie Jensen is an educator, writer, and Tarot reader. Since completing her Master’s degree, she has taught (Tarot) poetry and prose workshops at U.C. Berkeley and has edited several literary publications, such as 580 Split. Her published articles include “Structuring Sonnets and Tarot Spreads” in Tarosophist International as well as “Cards are Told” in Unwinnable Weekly. She is also a contributor to Spiral Nature.
See more of her writing and featured Arcana authors on Tarot Poetry WordPress.

I see that you are both a tarot reader and a lover of books as well as an editor. What got you into tarot? Would you mind sharing with us your favorite tarot deck? 
My mom reads Tarot and gifted me my first deck—the Aquarian Tarot—when I was about fourteen. My paternal grandmother read intuitively with playing cards, so I guess you could say my love of reading cards runs on both sides of the family! Currently, my favorite decks are the Paulina Tarot, the Wizards Tarot, and the Rider-Waite-Smith.

What initially inspired the Arcana Tarot Poetry anthology? 
When I started writing my unrhymed sonnet sequence based on the Major Arcana, I wanted to read an anthology of Tarot poetry. I like research, and I found a number of books and poems by individual poets, but no one had created a volume of Tarot poems that brought together multiple authors. So I decided to make the book I wanted to read.

Minor Arcana Press calls Arcana a “muse: enchanting, inspiring, and empowering.” What are some ways that the tarot has inspired and empowered you? 
I love writing with the Tarot and using it in writing workshops. Collecting Tarot is like collecting art (but generally on a much smaller and cheaper scale), and I find art to be a wonderful muse. Also, I feel that the Tarot enriches my spiritual practice—my private rituals as well as the spiritual connections I make when reading for others. 

Arcana is described as “groundbreaking” in its uniting poetry and tarot. Before this project, you published articles like “Structuring Sonnets and Tarot Spreads” in Tarosophist International. Do you foresee a trend of combining tarot with poetry, art, and literature in the future? 
There are some deep connections between Tarot, art, and poetry, going back to renaissance Italy, and what we are able to do now with the internet allows niche communities—like Tarot poets—to come together and be seen. One of the things I enjoyed with this project was seeing how writing from people who spend more time in Tarot circles harmonized with writing from people who spend more time in poetry circles. Both poets and Tarotists give readings, but now a little more light is being shed on how similar those readings can be. And I think this light will continue to grow.   

When this book first came into view to the public it was being crowdfunded through Indiegogo. Why did you and Minor Arcana Press choose to use crowdfunding for the project initially?
Indiegogo did not make its crowdfunded goal, how did this effect printing and publishing the book?

Minor Arcana Press is a small non-profit with a limited budget, so we thought that crowdfunding would be a good way to help cover printing costs and other costs of making the book. Not making the Indiegogo goal means we will be publishing fewer copies of the book. Later this year we will also be putting out an e-book edition so more copies can enter the world, but we will have a very limited press run of paperback editions. Also, not making the goal inspired amazing generosity—for instance, Mary K. Greer offered to waive her fee for the introduction. Gifts like hers made it possible for us to still put out a small press run of physical copies.

What was it like working with authors and artists like Rachel Pollack (one of the poetry authors), Siolo Thompson (who did the interior art and front cover) and Mary K. Greer (who did the intro to the book)?
In addition to Mary’s generosity, and both her and Rachel have been wonderfully supportive. They have also been very accessible and welcoming. Anne Bean, Minor Arcana Press’ layout designer, worked more closely with Siolo than I did (I believe they knew each other before this project because they are both based in Seattle). I feel very blessed to have so many talented women involved in this project—I have been inspired by their words and images.

Some of our readers are both tarot enthusiasts and writers. As an editor, what advice can you give them if they are interested in writing for a project like this in the future? 
Be yourself. After reading hundreds of submissions, I think the best poems draw on personal experience/experimentation/style. The worst seemed to regurgitate all the clichés about Tarot. Utilize the Tarot to find your distinct voice.

Minor Arcana Press is having a launch party for Arcana on August 26th. Will you be there? What can readers expect at this online shindig? 
I will be there! The launch party will be held at Hugo House in Seattle—I’ve never been to Seattle before. There will be Tarot readings as well as poetry readings, and I hope we will be able to post some pictures/videos online. I’m planning on having similar events in other locations, especially Oakland (where I live). 

Will there be more like this anthology in the future for us to look forward to?
I really enjoyed making this book, and would be interested in creating another anthology in a couple years. In the meantime, I plan to finish and publish my Major Arcana sonnets (which are nearly complete!). And I have some fiction that my muses are demanding I work on after that, so my next anthology might end up being a multi-genre collection with drama, fiction, and essays as well as poetry.

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