October 05, 2016

Queen of Cups Issue Twenty-One (Jennifer Jean and The Lovers)

Broken Glass Plate Portrait, Romania, 1940s

Welcome to Queen of Cups Issue Twenty-One featuring poet Jennifer Jean and The Lovers card. At some future point in QOC's life, maybe the one year mark, maybe sooner, I'm going to switch up the weekly tarot card format. I'm considering a three-card spread with one reading relevant to writers and artists. In a three-card-spread, the first card usually signifies the past, the second the present, and the third the future. I might stick with that, or give more of a themed reading based on the interactions between the three cards. There's a greater element of serendipity in a three card spread, more room for surprise. 
I have completed my duties as judge for the Red Mountain Press Poetry Prize. As I wrote a few weeks back, all the manuscripts were stripped of names when I read. I encouraged poets here and through my website to submit, and if any of you did, I want to say thank you for strengthening the quality of the pool. As is always the case, there were more worthy manuscripts than finalist positions. Judging a poetry contest has to be one of the most subjective exercises. I read and reread and, for good measure, read things over again. In the end I chose Woman Putting On Pearls by Jeffrey Bean. His series of Voyeur poems is imagistically rich and surprising. I'll let you know when the book is in the world. This is the first time I've been a final judge, I was actually the only judge, I read everything (!), and I'm feeling the pride that maybe a doula feels. Not a midwife, that honor goes to whoever has to live with a poet submitting a manuscript for the hundredth time!

Tarot Card of the Week: The Lovers

The Lovers: A fairly self-explanatory card on its face, The Lovers signifies a union between two people. The card indicates marriage, intimacy, the bond between soul mates. The image on The Lovers card, however, is an Adam and Eve tableau. Notice that she's standing in front of the tree bearing the forbidden fruit, snake at the ready. An angel is blessing their union. We know how the biblical story plays out. If it weren't for Eve, the two would never have eaten fruit from the tree of knowledge, realized the nature of the world, stepped out of Eden as man and woman and created earth as we know it. They would have coexisted as children, not realizing their nakedness or their differences, content to live eternally in a paradise of ignorance. We're told that Eve's curiosity was a bad thing, that she fell from grace and dragged poor, innocent Adam down with her. So the biblical story goes. But.... None of us would be here if she hadn't peeked behind the curtain. We wouldn't be human, as we all understand that word, if it weren't for troublemaker Eve. And as punishment, women are condemned to give birth in agony and mankind will suffer a finite life; again, the human condition as we know it. The Lovers card speaks of this duality, speaks of a perfect union achieved, and complicated, by human weakness, curiosity, knowledge of opposites. Union, birth, illness, death, joy, misery, loyalty, disloyalty, it's all here in the image of The Lovers. A slightly torqued view of the above could bring us to the second translation of the card. Perhaps, if Eve hadn't eaten fruit from the tree of knowledge, we wouldn't be condemned to a lifelong search for the other to complete us, the soul mate without whom life isn't as whole and rich, we believe. If Eve had been content, each of us may have remained whole and complete, the anima and animus intact, childlike in the best sense. Thus, the card also has an individualistic message and speaks of a person's beliefs, personal philosophy, values, being true to oneself, and self-contained. This take on the card reminds me of the original definition of Virgin, a woman who was not bound to another, not possessed by any man, free unto herself in the eyes of society and, most importantly, in her own soul. The Lovers card may signify the literal union of lovers for you, or that other, original union of self unto self.

The Lovers for Artists and Writers: The Lovers for artists and writers could signify a creative partnership or a partnership formed to establish and support a creative business endeavor. Either way, we're talking about a partnership (not a team) with all the satisfaction and challenges inherent in any partnership. You've heard of business partners who bicker over small things, who have major blow ups followed by apologies and reconciliation. The dynamics of any close relationship between two people are fairly similar whether we're talking about a marriage, an elderly sister and brother who have lived together all their lives (read Edna O'Brien's Wild Decembers for a masterful take on that), partners in a restaurant, gallery, press, etc. A sincere interest in the other person's well being and the success of the unit as a whole, beyond the individuals, requires the compromise, sacrifice, selflessness and maturity that make a partnership challenging. On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Lovers card may indicate a need to focus on your relationship with yourself, as I mentioned in the last part of the general description. As artists and writers, we can tend to treat our creative faculty like a machine. Why can't it work as predictably as a printer, toaster, ATM? Why doesn't it quickly and efficiently deliver the product I'm inputting specifications for? I punched in the PIN, where's the poem!? But we know there's an element of the mystical and spiritual whenever we decide to create. Whether you believe you're channeling universal truths or making things up in your head, the process begins and ends with one person in a room. It's pretty hard to enter the room if you're not right with yourself, if you have a hard time being alone. Do you have the ability to be self-contained or do you need distractionA discomfort or falling out with self happens to all of us occasionally. Some people suffer chronically from self-alienation to the point of needing complete distraction at all times through other people, screens, noise, bickering, drama, anything to keep the silence in which to be alone with themselves at bay. This doesn't fly for artists and writers. Self-alienation repels creativity. You won't get much done if you can't be in solitude to experience the honesty of the moment and withstand the thoughts and feelings rising up. The Lovers card could be speaking to you about the ways in which you compromise yourself in daily life, in your relationships, or in your art. Are you being true to yourself? Are you acknowledging your deepest truth by living it, being it? For some, art may be the one place where they can own themselves, their values, philosophies. If this is the case for you, experience that time to its fullest, let it encroach upon the rest of your life, your other roles. If you feel you're compromising yourself as an artist or writer, creating work you're not enthusiastic about, creating work only for other people, not even wanting to enter your creative space, The Lovers card is a call to soul-search. Sit in silence with yourself as you would with a partner who has been hurt by your words or actions and listen.

Introducing Jennifer Jean!

The Fool
Every fool knows death is change.  So,
after the quake struck I dreamt “the Tower” card—
man and woman leaping off
Los Angeles skyscrapers; knock down
dragouts then over, and over. “Death.” Though,
no sound resolution on the ground
that I could see as I rose in an elevator
as parsed, essential selves—
as Will in horse stance, who wore my face
and gripped her bullwhip; as Intellect,
this erect Hitchcock blond, clean and
suited up; as Emotion, a squat
sniveling tempest, a slave. There was something
for all of us on the top floor
where the door pinged open to a
harrowing, a rending love—and me
on the phone with a future self, who said, Sorry,
but you’re gonna die. OK,
I shrugged, and woke
then broke-up with my then
life. Took off. Like “the Charioteer,”
a solo soldier, I began
converting engrams, forgiving parents,
landing–a degree, a career—a perceptible
thud. But this was before we married
my love, when I was still so old
I could not stand at the altar
and–like a Tarot “Fool”—amble off an edge into
 Nature’s Fool
In my turn, I look for love in Nature.
Though—all those cycles, mewing hues
and roaring scents, the grain of
does not seem to suffer love. The thing is,
I know Nature can mean
the Fool found last night
when I lifted the down cover and stole
near the heat he’d made.
His arms pitched out,
swaddling my torso,
one forearm across my spine,
behind my heart, wrenching me
to him and his cedar hazel smell,
to his plush lips mumbling,
You were not here—I could not sleep. 
Letting my weight marry into that
clinch, I knew Nature
suffered me.

Jennifer Jean’s debut collection is The Fool (Big Table 2013). Her chapbooks include:  The Archivist (Big Table 2011) and In the War (Big Table 2010). Her poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in: Rattle, Waxwing, Drunken Boat, Crab Creek Review, Tidal Basin, Denver Quarterly, Mud City Journal, Solstice, and more. Her poetry manuscript Object was a finalist for the Green Mountains Review Book Prize in 2016, and her poem “The Hero of Seymour Avenue” won the 2016 Good Bones Prize and has been nominated for a Best of the Net award. Jean is Poetry Editor for The Mom Egg Review, Managing Editor of Talking Writing Magazine, and Co-director of Morning Garden Artist Retreats.

Weekly Writing Prompt: Write a piece inspired by The Lovers card. Use my description, another, the image on the card, a collage approach including this week's lead photo, whatever strikes you. I thought of the story Utah Died For Your Sins by Max Zimmer while considering the prompt. I read the story in a college literature class, mid 90s. The story borrows biblical imagery: Jesus, blood, sacrifice, but in the guise of a rural hunting narrative, albeit a weird one.  There's also the Louise Gluck poem The Garden (ignore the unrelated blog post rant above the poem) from her collection Wild Iris. The poem depicts a young couple working in the garden, but is heavy with metaphorical implication. The beauty of the poem, for me, and its relevance to the dual meaning of The Lovers card, lies in the subtle push/pull between the man and woman, a relationship inevitable and sorrowful: "She wants to stop;/ he wants to get to the end,/ to stay with the thing-// Look at her, touching his cheek/ to make a truce" That could be read as tenderness or compromise, the woman acquiescing at the outset. And, the omniscient narrator tells us, they're just getting started. Both the story and the poem are contemporary takes on ancient themes. That's one way to go.

Next Week: Adam Tavel