Pick a Tarot Card

A few years ago I read an excellent Paris Review interview with Pulitzer Prize-winner and former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan. In the interview, Ryan admits, among other things, that, in part, she learned to write poetry by using a deck of tarot cards. Each morning (this was back in the 1970s) Ryan would turn over a tarot card and whichever card she’d picked she’d write a poem about. As Ryan explains, “The card might be Love, or it might be Death. My game, or project, was to write as many poems as there were cards in the deck. But since I couldn’t control which cards came up, I’d write some over and over again and some I’d never see. That gave me range.”


And so today’s prompt is to do as Ryan did, which will first require you to pick up a deck of tarot cards. After you have your deck, give it a shuffle, pick a card, and then write a poem (or piece of prose) using the card as your theme, title, or subject.

And, after you’re done writing, I recommend reading the entire Paris Review interview, which is filled with Ryan’s poetry. As an example, here’s one of my favorite lines from the Q&A (the last sentence of Ryan’s answer):


Do you ever wish you’d become something besides a writer?


I’ve always kidded about being a crossing guard or a bridge toll-taker because I love the routine of those jobs. I wish I could say that I’d been a bicycle mechanic or something like that because I can’t think of a more aesthetic machine than the bicycle. I can’t think of any machine that’s better for the world. The mechanic makes it go. I would sleep the blameless sleep of the bicycle mechanic.