I believe that tarot readers can profit from reading the poets. A good tarot reading is based on reading the images in the cards and among the cards. Image reading requires a touch of the poet, a willingness to let the images provide situations that can pivot into stories or at least suggestions of plots. Reading the poets is a way to cleanse the palate, sort of in the way that wine tasters wash the mouth with water between tastings. The poets act to stimulate our unconscious to see things in images that we might not otherwise discover. Such readings cleanse the palate of our habitual way of seeing the images. Of course I have my own favorite poets, some few of which I share with you below.
All the Poems by Stevie Smith
At last, we have a Stevie Smith, All the Poems, which gives readers of her impeccable poetry, access to the delightfully perverse and accessible commentary in full. If you do not know of Stevie Smith, she is one of the most widely read British poets of the 20th century. Her poems are lyrical meditations on the conundrums of everyday life. Like all poets, she carries on a dialogue with previous poets as in “Little Boy Lost” where her foil is William Blake. Likewise, she likes to tease out the hidden perversity that is covered over by proper deportment and religious piety. She sees this duplicity in herself and in others, and tellingly in her story poems, “Who Do You See,” and “The Ass”. But it also comes out in shorter poems such as “The Photograph,” where she meditates upon her infant self, photographed upon the tiger’s skin that reveals not her parental backdrop, but to herself her true, inner-normative, wild nature. Most of her poems are one page wonders that often punch unexpectedly poignant dispositions just below the belt.
This collection includes her Thurber-like drawings that often provide counterpoint to her words and are refreshing in their primitive vividness. All the Poems is an excellent book to give to someone who is not used to reading contemporary poetry. Stevie Smith is decidedly accessible upon first readings. Likewise, she reveals profound depths and nuances with rereading and consideration of her verse. I know several people I want to send a copy of this volume to. Take a chance and pick up a copy when you’re next at your local bookstore. I doubt you will set it down again but will rush right up to the checkout counter and purchase it.