Tarot: Poetic Revelations and Other Verses by Pierre Chevalier                  Review by Diane Wilkes

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You won't be finding any fanciful limericks in this self-published collection of poems, most of which are based on the tarot and/or the Qabala (the author's choice of spelling).  Inspired by the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) Major Arcana images, because "among other variables, they are blank so each person may color in his or her own version," Chevalier's book offers more than just free verse.

The 22 tarot-specific poems are each entitled with the Hebrew letter that the Golden Dawn attributed to the Majors.  There are also notes on each card, which include the title of the card, the numerical value, the meaning of the Hebrew letter, the kind of Intelligence attributed to the card, and many other associations, such as the element/metal, astrological, color, musical note, stone, perfume, plant, and animal attributions.  Each card also has the B.O.T.A. tarot image illustrating the page beside the poem.

Poetry, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder--in other words, it's very subjective.  But one can't help but be impressed that Chevalier (real name: Peter Bean) has attempted to combine all of the attributions (figuratively, not literally) into his work, hence the inclusion of the notes.  Including all of this information does not, however, make for ethereal verse.  The author has also written two poems related to "The Pattern on the Trestleboard," one for the horizontal, the other the vertical.  Shape and form are important to Chevalier, who intentionally used the centered, free-form structure for his poems as an aspect of his art: "This presentation...--open-ended on each side without left sided linear structure--provides an additional means of obtaining visual sensory modality inclusion from the reader, thus inviting on a subconscious level more of a holistic or pattern sensory approach."  

The author has also included a "Relevant Recommended Reading" list, which includes tarot-related authors Crowley, Waite, Case, and Wang,  but also Alice Bailey, David Bohm, Fritjof Capra, Jung, Hesse, and Alan Watts. As the kids say, "This guy's deep." 

Following the tarot-specific poems are about 30 others, all relating to some aspect of the author's spiritual journey.  There is a lovely one for the Hanged Man, as well as subjects ranging from "Dead Angels" (my personal favorite) to Timothy Leary.  There's even a poem for "Roy G. Biv and the Rainbow"--ROYGBIV is a mnemonic for the prismatic colors:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Clearly, this offering emerges years of spiritual searching and work on the part of the author.  It is both serious and personal, and if it is occasionally a bit ponderous, that might just reflect on my own too-light-hearted status.  I recommend this book for those who are interested in tarot poetry that incorporates Qabalistic associations.

Excerpt:

Qoph (The Moon)

In semi darkness of night
mirror image takes form
and reflects the light
as during sleep
the frontal lobe rests
and the back of the head, the medulla,
remains active and dream-like
in the realm of reflection of creation
conjuring life paths from the beginning
of primordial soup and Piscean sea
through various stages of evolution
development, construction of embattlements
and other notions of protection and defense--
self tangled knots along the cord of life--
and culminates in distant heights
on the journey of the endless path
toward the heart of the divine.

The fourth stage of spiritual unfoldment
assembles all previously achieved insights
and incorporates with corporeal intelligence
during the light of The Moon
the accumulated wisdom into bodymind.

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Excerpted text 2000 Pierre Chevalier
Review and page 2002 Diane Wilkes