by Ren Sumption
When you read Tarot, you deal a preordained number of cards into a deliberate shape; then you begin to read, somewhere, with one single card. The position of a card determines its immediate context. But, any card’s relationship with other cards is what gives a reading substance, and a good one collects a message—accumulating something deeper, bigger, nuanced—and surprising—by the end.
Like a Tarot spread, the pantoum’s form is fixed. Lines are placed. Some are repeated, word for word, in stanza to stanza—but they’re never the same line twice. Lines dialogue with other lines, context shifts, meaning morphs, rolling almost out of control back to its beginning.
This prompt merges Tarot and pantoum
into a poem that is both and neither: a Taroum pantot, let’s call it.
Like a “true” pantoum, each
stanza is 4 lines long; the 2nd and 4th lines of each stanza serve as the 1st
and 3rd lines of the next; and the 1st line is also the last. However, the
Taroum pantot sheds some craft fussiness (traditional rhyme scheme, for
example), in favor of the fortuitous and the revealed.
On a notebook or blank screen, number 1
through 7. Then pull out a Tarot deck, and find a comfortable spot.
Shuffle your cards in the way that feels
most comfortable. Cut and restack, then deal 7 cards in the following order:
Go back to your page or screen, and
write a few words, a bit of imagery, a dependent clause, maybe, even an entire
sentence for each card, by its corresponding number.
Get loose, brave, and stupid—even if you
didn’t deal him in this spread, think of 0, The Fool, and step off the cliff
with optimism. You’ll fly or you’ll crash, but either way, you’ll be unhurt,
Your words can address the card’s
meaning or symbolism, the literal illustration, or whatever pops into your head
or your heart.
If you’re so moved, you can go back and
forth, changing each card’s sentence to address the card following or
preceding, or you can tear through them quickly, grabbing thoughts before you
even know you’ve thought them. You can start at #1 or anywhere you’d like, just
as long as each card, each number gets some words.
No matter how you engage, max out at a
sentence-length, per card. Now, build your Taroum pantot. On a new sheet or
page break, number 1 to 4, skip a line, 5 to 8, skip a line, and, finally, 9 to
12. Finally, plug in the corresponding lines, in this manner:
1. words from Card 1
2. words from Card 2
3. words from Card 4
4. words from Card 3
5. words from Card 2
6. words from Card 5
7. words from Card 3
8. words from Card 6
9. words from Card 5
10. words from Card 7
11. words from Card 6
12. words from Card 1
Title it. If you can’t think of one,
pull another card.