Thursday, June 06, 2019

curious skepticism | writing the zodiac


As I mentioned before, I've always considered myself a "curious skeptic" particularly when it comes to things like the supernatural...mostly meaning I am really into it, but that I don't always necessarily believe it's true.  This probably comes from being rather agnostic in world view.  While both of my parents were raised in households that considered themselves Christian,  it seemed like a thing they may have done occasionally as children and then the practice vanished as they became adults.  My father has always seemed rather practical and athiest (though seriously I'm not sure that's really a conversation I've ever had with him, so who knows?)  and my mom would definitely have described herself as a Christian and firmly believed in the afterlife.  As such, I and my sister were raised pretty much entirely secularly, which I suppose gave us ample room to figure things out for ourselves. My sister did have an uber-religious friend with whom she went to church with at some point, but me, I pretty much only found myself in one for weddings and funerals.

When we wete kids, my mom's friend gave us an illustrated children's bible, one of the reading options my mother would indulge us before bed.  She would repeatedly start with the Adam & Eve story every time she picked it up, and while I remember her occasionally reading about Noah's Ark, she pretty much got no further.    Thus, until I gleaned shoddy knowledge of Christian mythology from Paradise Lost, and later, Supernatural, that was about all I knew of the Bible. Even then I knew Eve got the shitty end of the deal. My sister went through a Wicca phase in the 90's (oh the 90's!), and while I wasn't much for spellcasting or ritual which seemed silly, I read the books with interest, since the philosophy of them seemed cool in itself.

While I don't believe in a god figure per se, I don't necessarily consider myself a full-on athiest, though I believe most readily in science.  I love stories and folklore and mythologies, but I think it's more from an anthropological stance..what our stories tell us about us, about our understanding of the universe. If I had to describe my world view, I would admit that I think there is some sort of universal law or harmony, slightly pagan in nature. Or maybe a universal chaos.  Who knows?  I don't believe in an afterlife, (I think we go out like a light and that's pretty much it) but I may believe in ghosts (but it's like a dimensional thing, an imprint on a place or object that exudes an energy or maybe more than that. )  I love the sorts of movies/books that play with parallel time lines and bleeds.  I have no idea if any of it is possible, but it's cool to think about.

Similarly, things like tarot cards and chinese fortune cookies are interesting in their predictions.  While my sister knows how to read cards, and I have collected a few decks more for art reasons (my fave is a Shakespearean tarot)   I only truly had an actual reading once, at a party in Seattle during AWP,  I had been on a train for a nearly sleepless 30+ hours and was very drunk, thus pretty much amenable to anything.   Another poet read the cards and stated that I was somehow holding back, and if I stopped, amazing things would happen..  At the time, it-seemed entirely off-base, but in the past five years, I realize the cards may have been a little right.

Similarly, obviously, there's the zodiac.   While there is no reason, I suppose,  to believe that the configurations in the sky hold sway over our fates and personalities, I know enough people who eerily align with their star sign, I can't necessarily believe it is indefatigably NOT true.  I don't know that the stars do dictate our actions, but I also don't know if they don't.   Or even don't just a little. There is also a lot of science talk about the effect of gestation and arrival according to the seasons of the year that my hold some sway. I don't know about daily predictions, which seem more abitrary, but I do love the traits of each sign as much as I see them reflected in the people I know. (And maybe, this is in fact a very Taurus way of seeing  When I was a teenager, Sassy magazine used to put out a yearly issue entirely produced by readers. One of these featured a set of horoscopes constructed entirely on the shared characteristics of her friends.  What resulted was one of the most accurate representations of the signs (and most importantly, MY sign.) that I had ever seen.

When I started the poets zodiac, it was sort of just for fun. I had the idea that I wanted to do some pieces as scrolls--the sort that you would find in the supermarket checkout aisle back in the 70s-80s, that my mother would never let us buy, but were somehow fascinating to my child-self.  Initially it was going to just be one poem per sign, but the reception was so promising and the project so much fun, I decided to just keep going. I was overly ambitious then, and plotted to do one for each sign for each month, but later settled on one for each sign for every season, thus a total of 48 of them.

My usual process in writing them is typically to randomly do some reading on the sign in front of me--maybe peek at some random googled daily horoscopes, and then after sort of taking those in, process those generalities into something a little more specific.  Something more concrete and poetic. I've put away the project and then later returned to it, so sometimes the pieces vary according to the sort of writing I was simultaneously doing for other projects I was working on. I feel like the latter ones are tighter and more rhythmic than the early ones, but this is okay.  Sometimes I was writing a piece for one sign and then later claimed it for another.  This happened with at least one taurus one and there was a recent aries/scorpio swap. I am obviously no expert on the stars, as if anyone really can be, but it's been amazing to play with such a rich subject matter.

you can read a steady stream of zodiac poems well as a get a glimpse at the visual pieces I've done that will eventually accompany them...

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