Poet Hoa Nguyen on Counterpath Press, tarot readings, and the poet as an oracle
What do you hope people take away from one of your tarot readings?
What I appreciate most about giving readings is that rather than talking about the weather or a television series, people go really deep really fast talking about the big shapes in their lives. By doing that, you're plunged into this space of considering the overarching patterns of a life--birth, death, journeys, successes, failures, starting over again. And so my hope would be that people have access to that space of considering the big patterns and possibilities in those patterns and learning from them.
I find it really helpful. Like, I did an interview with someone who was asking me about the situation of place and environment in my works and so I pulled a card to help me answer the question. There is a symbiotic thing that happens, I think, between my study of the tarot. It's just like everything, it's like what I eat, what I dream, what I read, it's just another form of engagement that goes into the art.
Do you think that the tarot deck has a kind of magic in it? Do you think that it can predict the future?
I don't really approach them that way. I know readers that do, that will say, you know, your son is gonna do this so go do this thing. And I don't read cards that way. The deck is ancient, and the symbols are deep. It's really a special language and so I approach them with a kind of solemn respect and I don't take it lightly and I don't think of them in a frivolous way. As far as predicting, sort of going back to this idea of patterns it's really about presenting the patterns. Like, the card I drew before I moved from Austin, Texas to Toronto, Ontario was the Tower, which is one of the major arcana. It's this image of edifice and all of your scaffolding falling down and that you're just, like, stripped and revealed and bare and raw. It was a really accurate card for this transition that I was making where I lost all of my community and had to start over again and figure out who I was again. So in other words, the Tower didn't predict anything particularly. I knew I was moving. But it did help me sort of frame a state of being. Like, I'm laid bare, the things that were protecting me but also restricting me are gone and I have to deal with this sort of rubble. So it was helpful in terms of framing and sort of coming to terms with or understanding a particular place or phase.
Can you talk about your most recent poetry collection that you'll be reading from?
I'll probably read both from my last collection, which is called Hecate Lochia and then my current book, which is As Long As Trees Last. I'm a strongly lyric poet, so I tend to be drawn to the musicality of language, again, the patterns of music that accrue in a poem. I tend to be a kind of compressed poet, so not lengthy. I tend towards the musical phrase and I write toward issues around current conditions, future potentials that have to do with planetary grief, historical grief, personal grief, and also sort of the revelation of the numinous, the gorgeousness of the universe as well, and again sort of very songlike lyrics and form. I'm really interested how in language without musical accompaniment and singing, how laying speech-like language can transform into a song while dancing with knowledge, the dance of the intellect.
Is there anything else you want people to know about your reading or what you're going to be doing in Denver?
Well, I'm incredibly excited to be appearing in Denver at Counterpath in particular. My hope would be that people would know about Counterpath and how incredibly lucky the city of Denver is to have a venue like that and the programming that they have there. So I guess I would hope that the tarot promotion would draw attention to the fact that there's this amazing gem in the city of Denver, and check it out and maybe hear some poetry and come out feeling different.