The Secrets of Tantric Buddhism: Understanding the Ecstasy of Enlightenment, by Thomas Cleary Weiser Books, 9781578635689, 226 pp., 1998, 2014The Secrets of Tantric Buddhism is collection of 46 writings from more than 20 prominent siddhis within the Carya-Gira from the 10th century, translated by Thomas Cleary. The mystic poets discuss the nature of reality, the processes of the self, and the path to enlightenment, often framed as the relationship between the practitioner, and a beloved partner (representing at different times reality, self, or enlightenment). These writings are a form of mystic poetry, not surprisingly very reminiscent of the Bhakti devotional mystical poetry from Bengal.Cleary does a great job with translating the poetry, always a more difficult text than translating prose, especially when the poetry is focused towards an abstract mystical understanding. Each section contains the poem as a whole, and then over the course of the next few pages it is pulled apart and built upon a few lines at a time. While the book comes with an introduction, I wish Cleary had spent more time explaining who the poets were, as well as his process of translation. Read More
Tarot-inspired poetry can be a vehicle for ritual, reflection, joy, and for release. Creating it adds a new layer to the act of divination, requiring introspection and expression. Metaphor and mythology feed the imagination in tarot readings and when tarot is used for poetry.
Writing poetryA poet’s strongest tool, arguably, is metaphor, which helps interpret the significance of tarot cards. The sea on the Rider-Waite-Smith two of pentacles represents a bumpy, busy emotional or subconscious experience informs a card reader, and it is just this work that a poet does, with or without cards. Do not be afraid to consider those undertones in your cards, as poetry often draws from our depths, and the subtlest message of each card is easily fodder for poetry.Poetry – and creative writing in general – provides opportunity for a personal journey. The results of creative, conscious efforts have no room for judgement. To explore your words is the means and the reward. Poetry is a unique language that condenses the larger universe and plays with anything the imagination offers. Poetry is allowed to roam and wander, or it may creep and crawl and gather details other forms of language will not. The poet is often a navigator, but in this style of writing, one should always let mood, inspiration, spirit or whatever you wish to call it, lead you. Read More
"Clear off your desk," she said.I was in the office of my college newspaper finishing up an article. Earlier that day, my friend attended a poetry reading where I read a sonnet I had specifically written for her. She held a copy of it now.My editor returned earlier than expected and caught us doing a different kind of work at my desk.It was then I realized that I could seduce with a sonnet. That I didn’t want to be someone else’s muse. And that Yeats was right—writing was indeed a form of magick. I wanted to be the magician. Read More
Datura, edited by Ruby Sara Scarlet Imprint, 9780956720368, 2011To be honest, I've dodged a serious bullet with Datura. When its editor, Ruby Sara, put out a call for submissions on Scarlet Imprint last year, I almost submitted a handful of poems for inclusion. The thought of an anthology of occult-themed poetic work and essays on the mystical aspects of the creative process struck quite a nerve with me, and I was eager to contribute. Luckily a combination of a busy life at the time and a creative dry spell prevented me from sending Sara anything by the deadline, and after reading through Datura, I'm deeply thankful that the few pieces I was able to conjure up never got sent her way. For even if they were accepted and published in the pages of Datura, the quality of the content is so high my work would have looked like utter shit next to everything else between its covers.Datura contains the work of 26 poets, that work being a mix of 6 essays and 47 poems. When I picked up Datura, I was really eager to read the essays. Scarlet Imprint has published three other anthologies in the past - Howlings, Devoted, and Diabolical - and their occult essays were absolutely stellar. While I do love poetry, and have a deep fondness for the Pagan and fortean realms, I've read enough awful odes to Odin and tree-spirits (and composed quite a few myself, to be fair) that the thought of a book devoted to such poetry might be a risky gamble. I figured that six good essays could make up for some lousy astral-poetics. Thankfully while the essay-work is every bit as good as I hoped it would be, the poetry in Datura manages to keep its nimble-feet from stepping into the bear-trap of twee Pagan clichés. Read More
The Language of Birds, by Dale Pendell Three Hands Press, 71 pp., 2010Pendell views divination as being directed by spirits or gods, likened to possession or seduction, weaving poetry and meditation through myth and history. Etymologies offer shifting meanings, and we learn "Cicero thought fish too dumb to speak for the gods".Interspersed throughout are lists of divination methods, including some rather obscure ones, such as alectryomancy - divination by roosters pecking grain, gelomancy - divination from laughter, myomancy - divination by squeaks of mice, or (my favourite) tiromancy - divination by milk curds or the holes on cheese. Read More
William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision, by Martha Keith Schuchard Inner Traditions, 9781594772115, 415 pp., 2006, 2008This is the first US edition of a book originally published in 2006 in the UK. It had its origin in scholarly research but has been diminished in size and complexity, although not in quality, to produce a book more likely to appeal to a non-academic audience.There is a large amount of background data provided on the subject of 18th and 19th century esoterica. This is important to provide a solid base for the understanding of William Blake and his works.As I have commented in previous reviews of books issued by Inner Traditions, this is not a book for the casual reader. It presupposes a certain level of familiarity with the general topic right from the outset. If you know nothing about William Blake or the esoteric milieu of his time, you will find yourself playing catch-up from the start. Read More