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Tarot: Haiku and Haibun

Page of Cups

Tarot was the last thing I expected to see in the latest issue of Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America.

If you’d like to write haiku but feel constrained by its extreme compression, try haibun. Haibun consists of a few sentences or short paragraphs of prose with a haiku inserted somewhere. The haiku resonates with the prose but isn’t a literal illustration.

Here’s a tarot haibun by Alexis Rotella.


Our house guest, a poet, is in a rush to get back to LaLa Land. It’s dark and the Milky Way is unusually bright as we hurry through an open field to get him to the Greyhound station. I keep gazing upward but he keeps looking straight ahead.

Look at that constellation packed with stars—it must be a new one, I joke. The Goddess must have hung another chandelier.

Still no response.

The Page of Cups
all I need to know.

The visiting poet is obviously the Page of Cups. Waite Smith’s Page is alert and eager to catch any spark of creative inspiration emerging from the waters of the unconscious. You can’t imagine him ignoring a glorious starry sky just so he can make it to the bus on time. The TdM Page captured the stars’ reflection in his cup. Now he’s off to share his experience at a poetry reading.

The reversed page buries his head in the sand while the contents of his cup drain uselessly into the ground. His feet at top center of the card tell us that getting from point A to point B consumes his attention.

Reversed court cards are often dysfunctional. The King of Cups is a sloppy drunk. The Page of Coins is a bean counter. A Page of Cups poet is so obsessed with meeting his obligations, he can’t allow himself to look up at the stars.

Pick a court card and think about its dysfunctional or dark side. Or, reverse the process and think about a time someone acted badly. What dysfunctional court card describes them? Write a little story or poem about it, then share it in the comments below.

Decks illustrated above:

Classico Tarocco di Marsiglia, Il Meneghello, Milan, 1988 and 1996.

Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Set, U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 2009

Haibun: In a Rush by Alexis Rotella. Frogpond, Volume 38:2, Spring/Summer 2015.

Haiku Society of America:

Their journal, Frogpond, published three times a year, contains 100 pages of poetry, book reviews, and articles on the craft of haiku, tanka, renga and haibun.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Truly LOVE this post … this story. Page of Cups reversed. She’s right. That’s all you need to know.

    To look at someone’s off base behavior and classify it with a Court Card tells you volumes about what’s going on with him (or her.) It also tells you what he’s trying to be … and what he might become if he can get things straightened out. Sometimes that gives you a little more patience. Sometimes it gives you a little more distance. And sometimes — believe me — that helps.

    August 27, 2015
    • Thanks so much for your kind words and wise comment. Yes, seeing other people’s behavior through the lens of a court card helps get some distance from the drama.

      August 27, 2015
  2. Hello mate great bloog post

    October 27, 2021

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