Language is one of the original magics.
Poetry is a prayer language.
In today's episode, Amy is joined by Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill and Lisbeth White, the co-authors/co-editors of the new book "Poetry As Spellcasting: Poems, essays, and prompts for manifesting liberation and reclaiming power." Together we open the portal to discuss the ritual of writing, the radical imagination required for social justice, the alchemy of collaboration and a slow revolution.
LISTEN NOW, TRANSCRIPT BELOW
The poem takes the time that it needs.
Tamiko Beyer, Poetry As Spellcasting, "Practice: Repetition and Return"
Boston event Oct 14 - Toward Abolition: Poetry as Spellcasting
Her other books and chapbooks are Last Days (Alice James Books), We Come Elemental (Alice James Books), Dovetail (co-authored with Kimiko Hahn, Slapering Hol Press) and bough breaks (Meritage Press). Her poetry and articles have been published widely, including by Denver Quarterly, Idaho Review, Dusie, Black Warrior Review, Georgia Review, Lit Hub, and the Rumpus.
Tamiko currently co-coordinates Brew & Forge, an organization that brings poets and organizers together to spark radical imagination, alchemize dreaming, and build capacity in movements for liberation, justice, and survival.
She is a queer, mixed race (Japanese and white), cisgender woman and femme, living in on Massachusett land. A social justice communications writer and strategist, she spends her days writing truth to power.
& as you summon another world, may another world summon you
Destiny Hemphill, Poetry As Spellcasting, "& the portal appears"
Destiny Hemphill (she/her) is a ritual worker and poet based in Durham, NC. A recipient of fellowships from Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, Callaloo, Tin House, and Kenyon’s Writers Workshop, she is the author of the poetry chapbook Oracle: a Cosmology (chapbook, Honeysuckle Press, 2018)
“the portal appears” (Winter 2021, Southern Cultures)
“we ask mama-n-em, ‘where is the motheworld?’” (September 2020, The Quarry)
“amy, thank you for many times” (July 2020, Carolina Quarterly)
“dispatches from now/here” (July 2020, Carolina Quarterly)
“a prophet-mother’s sermon on the afterlife” (July 2020, Carolina Quarterly)
“mama-n-em, starstruck and moon-stricken” (July 2020, EcoTheo Review)
“Six of Swords” (March 2020, Obsidian)
“what is a ritual with no return?” (March 2020, Obsidian)
“the future is un-settled” (March 2020, Obsidian)
“how we got our blues-tongue” (January 2020, Poetry)
“we ask mama-n-em, ‘why do you study astrology?” (July 2019, Scalawag)
“apocalypso song 33| a prophecy of care” (July 2019, Scalawag)
“mapmaking”(May 2019, Frontier Poetry)
“dna is just anotha theory for reincarnation […]” (January 2018, Winter Tangerine Review)
“prophecy for when you try to return” & other poems (September 2017, The Wanderer)
“origin story” (June 2016, Narrative Northeast)
While enchanted, even the slow alchemy of revolution might be graced with something that could resemble play, and even feel a bit like delight.
Lisbeth White, Poetry As Spellcasting, "Enchantment: The Liberatory Gift of Wonder"
Lisbeth White (she/her) is a lover of the earth, wanderer of lands, poet, expressive arts therapist, developmental editor, elemental energy healer, listener, and ancestor celebrant.
She is certain our collective liberation is intricately tied to ancestral earth wisdom and firmly believes each of us has boundless capacity within to be our own wisest healers.
She has received awards, fellowships, and residencies from VONA, Callaloo, Tin House, Writing By Writers, Corporeal Writing, Bread Loaf Environmental Writer's Conference, The Dickinson House, and Blue Mountain Center.
She is a co-founder of the Red Thread Writers Collective, supporting PGM writers in rural Washington state.
Winner of 2022 Perugia Press Prize
Finalist for the 2023 First Horizon Book Award
Shortlist for 2023 Eric Hoffer Award Grand Prize
Honorable Mention for the 2023 Eric Hoffer Grand Prize in Poetry
Poetry as Spellcasting:
Poems, essays, and prompts for manifesting liberation and reclaiming power
Edited by Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill & Lisbeth White
North Atlantic Books, May 2023
"Origin of Water"
The Fourth River, Summer Issue 0.11,
Interim: A Journal of Poetry & Poetics, vol 38.1, Poetry Prize Finalist issue, May 2021
Split This Rock, The Quarry, Poem of the Week, March 2021
Yemassee Journal, Monthly Spotlight, November 2020
Blue Mountain Review, Issue 18, April 2020
Apogee Lit, Issue 13, December 2019
Kweli Journal, May 2019
"Victim, Survivor, Immaculate" (excerpt from "Calypso")
The Rumpus, ENOUGH Series, June 2018
Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Scarlet Tanager Press, October 2018
Obsidian: Literature and Arts in the African Diaspora Vol. 44.1, Fall 2018
Vistant Lit, November 2016
Green Mountains Review Vol. 32.1, April 2021
Amy: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Missing Witches podcast. My name is Amy and I am just thrilled beyond to be in circle with not one, not two, but the three co editors of one of my new favorite books, poetry as Spellcasting. I want to thank Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill, and Lisbeth White for joining us in Circle today. Thank you so much, the three of you, for being here together.
Lisbeth: Thank you.
Tamiko: Yeah, thanks for inviting us.
Amy: Of course. Now, before we, um, dive into my questions, there is a portal opening in the book, so I was hoping that Destiny, you would, you would read this
& the portal appears to, to open this circle for us today.
Destiny: And the portal appears, before proceeding, an invocation to be read aloud. Scarlet sky, fissured earth, cotton mouthed. Your hands clasped across your splitting belly, in your craw. Is the historical entanglement, the half millennium long planetary ecocide genocide not known as since 1492. You were born into it and it into you.
Destiny: Churning, burning, bulging within you. Your ears ring, soften your craggy breath. Now a hum, soften your craggy breath. Now a song, now a song. Yes, a cicada song, burrowing into your skull. Go to the edge. Not the bleach pit of the center, but the edge, the song says. Go to the edge. No, not the hemorrhaged modeling borders of empire, but beyond, elsewhere.
Destiny: Go to the edge, look down, slivers of moonrise so thin they look like they could slice the soles of your feet, the luma in your path, you follow them, sometimes you walk, slither a hop along the slivers of moonrise to the edge, sometimes the knot makes it that you are writhing, convulsing, revolting to the edge, to the edge nonetheless.
Destiny: The edge be a liminal space and you know liminal don't equal marginal and if you don't know now you know but rather liminal be a ritual space and a ritual space before summoning and transformation when you arrive the fragrance of mulberry trees washes over you it is dusk You are not alone here.
Destiny: Others surround you with red threads hanging from their mouths. You feel the knot entangled within you unravel. You all kneel, sink into the edge, pull the threads from each of your own mouths, not always gently, not always gingerly. As you pull, unravel, disentangle, you swoon and sway in somnolence. A summoning hum, then howl, comes from your throats.
Destiny: And as you summon other worlds, may other worlds summon you. And as you summon another world, may another world summon you. And as you summon mother world, may mother world Summon. Summon.
Amy: Summon. Thank you so much. I love that piece. Destiny, um, that was Destiny Hempel reading. Um, can you tell us first a bit about who you are as an individual and also maybe a little bit about the process of writing that piece that you just read for us?
Destiny: Sure. Um, so I'm Destiny. I am a poet and ritual worker. Um, I'm chronically ill and I'm a black daughter of the US South, um, who has homes in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas, and now North Carolina. I wrote that poem, um, during the lunar eclipse and Leo of 2020, uh, which coincided. With, um, Wuhan shutting down for COVID, and so it was like a big portal opening, um, on my end stateside, I was in Portland for a writing retreat, and I was in the midst of an endometriosis episode, so I, I was dealing with pain insomnia and I had this image of someone pulling red thread from their mouth and then a ball of tangled red thread in their belly.
Destiny: And then that was probably like, I don't know, at 3am and then around like 6am or 7am I got on Instagram. I doodled what I had had a vision of. And so, um, I messaged them and I was like, Oh, like I just saw this. Um, in my own head, and yeah, so then I started piecing, um, the poem together, came in fragments in terms of images, um, and then I was trying to discern, you know, what was in the figure's belly, what was embedded in them that was trying to, um, come out and And like, what was not in them.
Destiny: And so, um, I was thinking about the eco genocide, not of of colonization and that sort of violence that's embedded. And this particular poem comes from, um. My poetry collection too, so it's like what opens the poetry collection and in that collection I'm thinking about apocalypse, not as the end of the world in any singular sense, but the end of a world that's constructed by coloniality, anti blackness and with the retreat of those structures.
Destiny: Um, maybe we can build new ways of relating with each other, rituals of care that sustain life, and specifically black life. So, that was, It's also a way for me to let the reader know in the poetry collection manuscript what is about to happen, um, for the rest of the manuscript. Yeah, I think the
Amy: thing about the end of the world is that it kind of implies the beginning of a new world, right?
Amy: And I know part of your Personal, professional practice, I read is, um, creating ritual spaces for poetry. That's something that happens in person. Like, I feel like the book is a ritual space for poetry practice, but what does that look like with other humans?
Destiny: Yeah, I mean, I think that we've created a few together.
Destiny: So the way that we've been approaching our in person. readings and before poetry as spellcasting became the manuscript, um, our first conference panel together in Seattle in 2019, um, was a communal ritual space. And so in that one, and then I'll let Tommy go on, let's talk about other ones that we've created, but in that one, we had, um, Oracle cards that.
Destiny: Are part of my personal collection and they're very impressionistic and imagistic and we, um, set the intention for us to collectively weave a poem that, yeah, that is Thank deliberately set in opposition to ICE and its detention camps. And we passed cards out, we asked people to write what is flowing to them, and then we got in a circle, and we created a collective poem by everybody reading their lines.
Destiny: And I think we I think we had a basket of flowers and stones in the middle that we were infusing and charging intention into. And I think we have a circle run at least. Three times, I think, but to build impotency and so that's one way, but we've done it several times. So I'll pass it over. Yeah.
Amy: Tamiko, do you want to tell our listeners a bit about yourself so they can learn your voice and match it to the name and then also expand on Destiny's ideas
Tamiko: Sure. Yeah, I'm Tamiko Byer. I am... Um, a poet and a writer and a daughter and a sister and a partner. Um, and I, I'm a settler colonialist on Massachusetts land and I live near the Neponset River. I'm, um, multiracial, cisgender, femme, queer. Um, I'm, uh, Japanese and white. And, um, yeah, I have a couple books of poetry.
Tamiko: I do a newsletter called Starlight and Strategy. And I'm a organizer and fundraiser for liberatory projects, um, like Brew and Forge, which brings poets and organizers together. Um, so yeah, I mean, to, to kind of build off of what destiny was describing, um, and, and what you said, Amy, the, the book itself is, is kind of a ritual poetic space towards liberation and transformation.
Tamiko: And so we, as we thought about, well, As Bessany said, before it became a manuscript, um, we did a couple of these, and then as we launched the book, we thought about how we would want to kind of bring what's in the book into spaces, virtual or in person, and we've kind of pretty much followed that first step.
Tamiko: Kind of structure, I think, um, in a lot of ways, um, we generally, with the, with the launch of the book, we've been, um, thinking about the forest defenders in Atlanta, um, around Stop Cop City, and, um, creating some collective spells. That's what we did for our virtual launch event, and then when we did an in person event, um, in, Port Townsend, or near Port Townsend, where Elizabeth lives, we did that as well.
Tamiko: So yeah, I think there's just something really, um, we're not really interested in like, just reading to people when we gather, like we really want, um, to build that intention and energy and direct it out towards, um, you know, one, one aspect of the many ways that we need to shift in the society and in relationship to each other.
Amy: Elizabeth, can you tell our listeners who, what, where, how, why you are?
Lisbeth: I don't know about the why yet, but I think I can get the other ones. Um, yeah, my name is Elizabeth White. I am also a poet and a writer and identify as a ritualist, um, specifically around earth medicines is where I'm focusing a lot of my, my ritual these days.
Lisbeth: Um, I identify as black bi cultural, um, so I've got some roots in, The American South as well, and the Pacific Northwest by way of Northern Europe and West Africa. Um, I also identify as, uh, femme, queer, um, tree loving, uh, Magic, magical, whimsy, Piscean spirit in general. Um. And I don't know that I mean, I think destiny and Tommy girl kind of explained our ethos around creating ritual pretty well.
Lisbeth: So I don't know that I have too much to add around that. Um, but I will say that I think part of what we all kind of, if I could speak for us all, like really vibe on is this idea of, um, Kind of like a living or active space. Um, when we're, when we're in space with folks, right? So I think, you know, Kamiko mentioned, none of us seem super interested in just reading to people with this work, especially in particular.
Lisbeth: Um, and so we have kind of, set the invitation for ourselves to respond to, you know, what feels most poignant and pertinent in the moment, which is, you know, how we've decided, you know, which kind of, um, areas or of the culture to kind of send some, some ritual magic to, um, and also to allow it to be what it is in the moment and not necessarily work so hard on replicating.
Lisbeth: Things again and again, but to really, like, keep it as a living, um, a living ritual every time we, we convene together.
Amy: And I think the book is so demonstrative of that, of that ethos that each of you has pieces that you've written in here, but you've also pulled work from other people. And I have some questions about that, but I guess, like, maybe let's start with my umbrella question.
Amy: Um, when I, just on title alone, I was so excited about this book. And. reading it, I just got more and more excited. Again, it's like, it's honest about, you know, capitalism and, and white supremacy, but at the same time, it's like, it's hopeful and joyful and, and constructive. So, I don't know who wants to answer this first.
Amy: I'll put it out to the group. How is poetry spellcasting?
Lisbeth: It's such a big, I'm like, it's a whole book. There's this way where it feels like, you know, even though we've been in the study with it for, or I'll speak for myself, even though I've been in study with it for this course. You know, these two years, three years, four years, however long we've been in study around putting this book together.
Lisbeth: Um, it still feels so, uh, almost like elusive and mysterious and, um, and shifting in this way that I really appreciate. Um, you know, I think it opens up a myriad of meanings that are possible. Um, I think for me, one of the roots of, uh, thinking of poetry of spellcasting really was thinking about, um, oh, well, Kinji, right?
Lisbeth: Kinji Silu. And, and actually, you know, Tamiko was the one who brought this to, to my kind of awareness and knowledge was, um, Kinji Silu did this work, uh, um, I think it was, uh, an anthology or a review, right, where he collected, Um, some poet spellcasters together and really talked about, um, poetry, uh, language is one of the original magics, right?
Lisbeth: And then from there, you know, I think most poets are like, yes, language does something to us and with us as we're, as we're writing. Um, and you know, if we think about languages as one of the original magics, then it really opens up. accessibility of what we think of as magic and what we think of as um, potential for power, right?
Lisbeth: Because everybody has language, a language, whether it's a verbal language, a body language, a physical language, a spiritual language, right? Like that's, that's what's present for most. living beings on the planet, um, and unique to them. And I'm going to trail off there
Lisbeth: and see who picks that bread up.
Destiny: Yeah, I agree that. I mean, each time we talk about it and people ask, Oh, what is, like, how is poetry spellcasting? Or what is poetry as spellcasting? I feel like that meme of the woman where it's like, she just looks so befuddled and puzzled. And then there's like all of these formulas, like, on this board.
Destiny: And she's just like, I don't, like, I don't know. Um, and I think. I mean, I think that's part of the magic of it, of it too, but, um, yeah, I think this, this part about language and, like, being really attuned and intentional to a frequency and also, like, economy, um, so that, like, if you are writing or penning or scribing a spell or prayer.
Destiny: Or a poem, there's a way that one might be trying to find what is most precise and potent, um, and that, you know, doesn't get delayed by, um, Yeah, like linguistic obstacles, basically, that could point it in a different direction. So that, like, me, even the idea of calling forth or invoking something, but then also adding, like, or some, like, or saying something better at the end, because it's like, okay, maybe if I call this forth, maybe that's not actually what is better.
Destiny: I don't know what's better. It's not for me to, like, list out and enumerate right now. But, like, let me, Let me say that in this pretty compact phrase, and I feel like poetry, um, is a similar practice of like, okay, how can I create something that's the most potent, um, and intentional, um, and that honors limits, limitations.
Destiny: Um, I think for my personal practice like I grew up. My mom's a minister I grew up in the church. And so I think black sermonic tradition. In terms of like chiasmus, anaphora, epistrophe, different mnemonic devices, um, wordplay, like that for me was always, it became my foundation for how I understood language to have a material and like tuning effect on the body, um, that the way that the creature uses their breath, uses sound, um, picks up pace.
Destiny: And seeing people's bodily responses to that, um, seeing people rocking, seeing people banning, seeing people get up, clap, um, seeing people shout, um, that for me became my. First, I guess, display of the way that, like, language could translate and manifest, um, and change, like, the physical environment around us if we're receptive to it.
Destiny: And then I think the other tradition for me is protest, um, and so, like, I feel like the people who recognized me as poet first were people that I was organizing with. And they will ask me to read a poem at a demonstration and that sense of, um, there might be a line that people start chanting together and that sort of energy that's flowing and that, and it's about that kind of self fortification that happens to, um, that makes like poetry spellcasting for me, like still very braided.
Destiny: And, and relatedly then, I think with both, um, poetry and spellcasting or other types of virtual work, prayer, you're inviting some sort of co conspirator that you may not be able to like visibly see or like sense in that moment. And so like with the poem, you're inviting a reader, um, And then with, like, prayer and spellcasting, you're inviting something else to align with your power and conspire with you.
Destiny: And at the same time, um, like, I think the specific thing about poetry as spellcasting versus poetry as something, like, poetry not as spellcasting for me, is that, um, you still have to do something, too. Like, you can't, like, when you... invoke, you can't just be like, okay, well, I invoked and like, that's it. Like you still have to like, do something.
Destiny: And so part of that poem making or prayer or ritual activation is like preparing you and aligning you with the elements in your environment so that you can actually go out and, and do something, um, towards whatever you're trying to like manifest or activate. I love that you
Amy: put poetry and prayer in the same braid.
Amy: Um, how much of a line of delineation do you see between saying a prayer and saying a poem,
Destiny: if any? Oh, sorry, I was looking at Tanika. Um,
Destiny: Um, for me, I, Yeah, for me, poetry is my prayer language. Um, and I don't necessarily engage all poetry as prayer. Like, I don't engage all poets work as a prayer, but in terms of my practice, um, poetry is my prayer language. And I, Also grew up feeling a lot of anxiety around oral prayers, um, and that sort of, you know, you know, like extemporaneous, like being able to pray and like call down, like, I don't feel like I'm the most skilled at that often.
Destiny: Um, and so, but like writing poetry is a way for me to engage in that practice still. So yeah, for me, it's, it's very porous. Um, yeah. Yeah, the
Amy: words Lizbeth used were elusive and mysterious. And I think, I think those apply to like everything we're talking about, everything we're going to talk about, poetry, spellcasting, prayer.
Amy: Um, Destiny, you said, um, you, you gotta do something, you know, like, invocation is great. Um, but you, you have to follow that up with action. So I'll ask Tomiko, like, how does the book tie poetry and spellcasting into social justice and, and action?
Tamiko: Yeah, I mean, one of the things that we say in the book is, um, both poetry and magic are necessary tools in societal transformation.
Tamiko: So I think, um, I mean, I think everything that both Destiny and Lisbeth were talking about. Talking about, um, of like poetry being like an activating ritual, um, and poetry and magic being kind of like people's practices, like, um, the way that I think about it and I think we thought about it together is that, um, there are so many ways, there are so many ways.
Tamiko: Ways that we need to be working towards dismantling capitalism, colonialism, um, systemic racism, anti black racism, heteropatriarchy, all of the things. Um, and we need to be organizing, we need to be... Changing, shifting narrative, shifting culture. And also there's this, for all of us, there's this other layer, level of, um, work that needs to happen and that maybe we're doing kind of on our own, on the like kind of magical level on invoking ancestors, ancestral support.
Tamiko: Um, and, uh, and that is just as like potent and necessary, um, towards. Change as like showing up in the streets. Um, and so and for us, we didn't really see a lot of literature out there. Um, I think, yeah, Kenji's, um, folio was so exciting because it was like, Oh, my gosh, like, so, so his folio was, um, inviting poets of color to write spells, um, when the U.
Tamiko: S. Supreme Court upheld the Muslim ban. Um, and so, so that was the first time for me that I was like, oh my gosh, like I can take my world of, you know, like social justice organizing and my world of poetry and this like You know, ritual magical practices that I'm kind of just kind, kind of coming into. Um, because unlike Elizabeth and Destiny, I'm kind, I'm a new, a new witch , a new Ritualist.
Tamiko: Um, and so. Like, I can bring all of these things together in one beautiful, magical practice, like, what does that look like? And, um, I think for, for all of the reasons that we've been talking about, like poetry and spellcasting, and poetry as spellcasting, is really like, For me, a powerful way, um, to be thinking about how do we, how do we lean into new ways of relating to each other, to the connection of the more than human world?
Tamiko: How are we decentering human experience toward a different way of being on this planet? Um, and it just, it feels like such a profound invitation. Um, toward radical imagination, which I think is so necessary for social
Amy: There's a very magical word that is alchemy, and I think about that a lot as not like turning lead into gold, but what magic comes when we combine things, and whether that is like people's perspectives or poetry and social justice, or spellcasting and social justice.
Amy: Um, Tomiko, can you read a little section for me? This is from Practice, Repetition, and Return. Yes.
Tamiko: book market. Okay, here it is. Um, so this is from my, from the essay, my essay in the book. Um, just as I believe that when I write on the best days, the poems are not coming solely from me, but also from the channel that I open up.
Tamiko: I also believe ritual and magic are mutually co created. My morning prayers at the river or my tarot pulls aren't so much a petition to the ancestors and guides for them to make my prayers a reality. Instead I'm asking them to join me as collaborators, accomplices, co conspirators, or co creators. I'm asking them to help me learn what I need to know in order to manifest what I desire.
Tamiko: I'm asking for additional spiritual power behind my actions and energetic focus.
Amy: Yes, I love this bit. I mean, I love the whole thing, but so I'll say I love that bit every time something comes up from the book. But there's so much about this alchemy of collaboration in the book. Like you said, the non human world and our ancestors. And I want to know about this idea of collaboration or the ideal, because there are three of you, you know, talk about too many cooks.
Amy: You'd think that it would be difficult to, I don't even know the word, I'm like, organize, I guess, three people's ideas into the creation of one book. And then, en plus, you're pulling from other People's work. So I'm wondering, like, first of all, how did you like manage this sort of idealized version, um, where we can all work together in the creation of one, um, one piece and also how did you decide which poets you were going to, um, curate into this piece?
Tamiko: Yeah. I mean, uh, I'll just start and, um, I think. It was, I would say that this collaboration is one of the greatest gifts that I've had in the last few years. Um, and we, it was so organic. I think one of you said that it was. Something about organic. Um, we just like kind of found our way together. Um, I met Liz, uh, very randomly in Tampa at a writer's conference.
Tamiko: And then we like hung out again, the next time, the next year at the next conference and, um, Liz and Destiny knew each other from a different writer's conference. And so then we all kind of ended up. Together. And, um, I, I, we had no idea how it was going to end up or whether it was going to work or, you know, we, um, North Atlantic book books actually came to us and because we did a panel, um, at AWP, the writers conference on this and they're like, do you want to, do you want to make it into a book?
Tamiko: And we're like, Okay, maybe. Um, and, and so we were like, who knows? We'll write a book proposal. We'll see what they, what they think. And, um, we really just like went at the speed of trust, you know, which is a very different timeline. We had like the publisher's timeline, but we really like made it our own.
Tamiko: And we, um, You know, like made space for whatever was going on in each other's lives. And, um, we each bring like really different skills and experiences and approaches. And like, we made space. To do what we were good at and how to do it. And, um, yeah, I mean, a lot of times I think about like how, what, like the experience of co writing, um, was like, um, because we, we really did like that book proposal, we wrote it together.
Tamiko: And then by the time we submitted the manuscript, we had written the introduction together and the last essay together and just like. When I think, I don't know how you two think about it, but when I think about the, the different, um, how it felt, like, I felt like when we did the writing of the essays at the end, it was really just like, we had built so much trust in each other, um, that we're, it was just a very smooth process, um, and it just felt very easeful and beautiful and like, respectful of each other and the process and our collaborators, Maybe I'll let one of you talk about how we chose the
Lisbeth: people in the books.
Amy: I want to know that, but Lisbeth, can you, before you tell me how you chose the other collaborators, um, because, because the fates just brought the three of you together and how much fate was involved, but I'm curious, um, in, in some of your other work, you work as a therapist, a counselor, is that correct?
Amy: So how much of that work has, enabled this, you know, compassionate, um, effort. Because, you know, I have a partner in Missing Witches and people ask us about collaborate, writing a book together, like people think of the author as like, you know, the hermetic figure alone and, and we're constantly working together and so much of it has to do with, like you say, making that space, working at the speed of trust is like, I want that as a tattoo.
Amy: You know, and just like, I don't have it today. We say that to each other all the time. And we're like, cool. Neither do I, nothing's happening today. Or I can pick up the slack today or however that works. So again, before you tell me about how you chose the other authors in the book, can you tell me how much being a therapist, like was involved in this?
Lisbeth: I don't know, you know, I do have a, so I have this former life as an expressive arts therapist, and I guess I was still practicing when we were, when we started this book, and I have since stopped. Um, I don't know that I was holding, like, my therapist hat was probably way out the window when we were doing this work.
Lisbeth: I think for good. For good to good end and for good reason. But I think what I will say about that is that, um, okay, so expressive arts therapy really is around until intermodal ways of engaging with a process. And so the focus really is on allowing the creative process to be itself and be its own process.
Lisbeth: Right? And I think that that. And I think probably that's actually something that all three of us really have, um, as a skill set is this, is this, um, tolerance and this, uh, spaciousness for, for a thing to unfold as itself. And I think that's part of what ha what was happening with us that made like, you know, our trifecta, um, works so well was.
Lisbeth: was that each of us kind of already came with this orientation of like, well, what is poetry to spellcasting? It is this elusive thing. And this book is probably going to be its own, um, its own being and it's like show up in its own expression. And, and so how can we, um, like create a container, create space for that to happen and maybe do some stewarding.
Lisbeth: But I, I think that all three of us were, were coming, already coming from this place of, um, of letting our egos sit back a little bit to see what was going to emerge and and that is a huge like that's a huge boon for any kind of collaboration right is to be able to have folks that that can do that and it was you know and it was messy too i mean there are definitely times where like i know i have on my calendar the times where my ego was like what i want something to happen this way um but again i think yeah commitment towards allowing something to come to fruition or emerge.
Tamiko: I was gonna say like, I think I did come to it with like an openness to that, but I think I learned from both of you, like more ways and better ways to step back and let the process unfold than I would have if I had been out by myself or with a different set of collaborators. Like I feel like that's part of the gift that I got from this project was to To, like, know, to know what it feels like to be in a collaboration where, like, I can let my ego take a backseat and, like, trust, trust each other and trust what we're creating together.
Tamiko: And I think that's. It's like, helped me become a better
Amy: There, I mean, there's, there's the sense, reading the book and going through the book that, that it is, um, as kind of egoless, um, that all three of you were working in service to the book and not in service to your own self aggrandizing or, or whatever that might be.
Amy: And there, again, we come back to this word alchemy. Just when you, when you put three people together, it's going to be a different book than if, if each one of you had, had written this book by yourself, right? It's completely different experience. Um, Lisbeth, do you want to do? Oh, go ahead, Destiny.
Destiny: Oh, I was gonna say that I felt like the collaboration was also reflective of Like an alignment and practice and values.
Destiny: And so I think it would have been really sad and very possible, um, especially under neoliberalism and like where there is a market for this sort of writing and thinking, um. But, like, a neoliberalized version is very disconnected to, again, like, the practice and doing this. Like, I think it would be very sad and impossible for us to be talking about spaciousness and openness and being process driven and then, like, be very rigid and, like, be very outcome, outcome focused and, um.
Destiny: Not focused on whose heart this book might be entering and instead being focused on like how much money is coming into pockets, you know, things like that. Um, but I think there was a real alignment with with values and practice, which is such a. Been such a gift for me, um, because yeah, we really moved at the pace of life.
Destiny: I've been eclipsed this basically this whole time that this has been, we've been working on this and yeah, it's been like a very crisis driven, uh, time for me. And, um, I was met with such patience and, and graciousness in ways that I wasn't able to hold myself. Tommy, go and Liz. you know, were available to hold me and to also mirror back, like.
Destiny: Um, permission to hold myself to, and I think those moments, like, I think it's so funny, Liz, that you were, you said, like, on my calendar. I haven't read it. Because, uh, I, I don't really remember and not like in a rose colored glasses where it was like. It was just like sparkly glitter does all the time because we had to, like, make complicated decisions and we had to also build processes and toys, those complicated decisions.
Destiny: But I don't, I don't remember moments where I just felt like, um, where. Eagle was showing up in such a such a way that it disrupted the possibility of collaboration. Um, and. And I guess that's because I also felt like there was space to be honest with each other when things were hard, challenging, when we had reservations, when we felt uncertain, um, when things like pricked us, you know, and I think that sort of like, honesty and because of Yeah, because of that trust and respect.
Destiny: I think other people might try to like push it to the side in order to try to get something done faster. But because we actually placed that in the forefront, we still got this project done pretty quickly, given that it was three co editors and the amount of contributors that we had, you know, and I think Like it still moved pretty swiftly because we actually made time for those things that other people see as like delays and obstacles.
Amy: And this is, this is part of what we talked about at the very beginning is like building a new world, building a new parameter of how we work with each other and what we expect from each other, right? So how complicated was it to choose your, um, your contributors? Was it very organic and it was just like, yes, these are the ones or did you have to really talk a lot about it?
Lisbeth: I think it was pretty organic. Again, I'm having this moment where I'm like, was it as easeful as it was, but it kind of was in some ways. Um, from what, from what I remember, we, I think each of us had kind of, um, this. Uh, like folks in our community who we felt were also kind of writing along these lines of, um, towards like embodied action and towards care for the world and towards, you know, radical imagination and, and all of these, um, things that we were really intrigued by and interested in ourselves.
Lisbeth: Um, and so from there, it was kind of an easy generation of, uh, potential folks that we wanted to extend invitations into or out to, um, to, to further the collaboration and respond. Um, I think if I'm remembering right, we actually had like some kind of ideas that ended up becoming the general sections of the book.
Lisbeth: because it's, you know, we're again exploring what poetry of spellcasting means, thinking about, you know, what are the different aspects or ingredients or, or expressions of that. Um, and then, but just kind of these loose, like, kind of, you know, this, this, this shape is, is part of poetry of spellcasting. Um, and then we really left it open for the folks that we invited to just.
Lisbeth: like take that general shape and go in whichever direction they felt called to do. And again, this is where like trust comes back. I mean, the amount of trust, I think that it just feels like a huge thing at play in this, in this alchemy. Here too, right? It's like, you know, just as Amy before you were like, we're just going to trust what the universe wants us to say in this moment.
Lisbeth: I think we had, we had some trust and like, well, whatever, what, what starts to come together is going to be, um, what this being poetry is spellcasting is calling for in this moment. Right. And this expression in this iteration. Um, yeah.
Amy: And I love this notion of radical imagination. It's in the book and you mentioned it just now.
Amy: It's, again, like a necessary component of social justice of world changing you have to be able to imagine. A completely different world that functions in a completely different way. Um, again, this is another phrase that, you know, will be like a series of tattoos that I get or take from this book, this notion of radical imagination.
Amy: But I want to get to this reading, Lisbeth, would you read from Enchantment, The Liberatory Gift of Wonder? God, listeners, this book is so good. I'm sorry. It's so good.
Lisbeth: Um, yes, do you, so it's a bigger chunk. Um, are you, you're looking at page 86, right? Until the end of, okay. So yes, this is from, um, Enchantment, the liberatory gift of wonder, which was my essay contribution to this book. True transformation, true power, does not exist in a vacuum, but in a space with many other energies, many other beings, many other knowing.
Lisbeth: Or else there is no material, physical or psychic, to transform. There is wonderment and enchantment. It belies innocence, by which I mean both a vulnerability and a willingness toward that vulnerability. It softens the rigid edges of thinking to make room for play and the seepage of surprise. The relearning of enchantment activates expansion, as we must stretch the container of our perception beyond what is physically and materi materially known.
Lisbeth: We must be open to awe. This is how we enter the transformative arts. If poetic obsession is held as a practice of enchantment, there is spellwork that arises. While enchanted, the poem becomes a vessel. Energy summoned and held the container of lying. If the work of healing is held with the practice of enchantment, there is a potential for recovery of loss.
Lisbeth: whether that loss is of power, connection to the soul, or a type of innocence. While enchanted when I write about even the most tender suffering and ache of the world, the writing itself becomes an application of love in the form of deep attention and care that touches the page. If the work of social and spiritual justice is held with the practice of enchantment, there opens a portal for all ways of beingness and knowingness to be present, to engage, and to be witnessed.
Lisbeth: While enchanted, even the slow alchemy of revolution might be graced with something that could resemble play and
Destiny: feel even a bit like delight.
Amy: listeners, right? Like you're ordering this book right now. I'm convinced of it. Destiny, can you maybe react to one of my favorite, um, word combinations in that passage?
Amy: The slow alchemy of revolution. How do you see that in action and in the world that we live in now?
Destiny: It reminds me, and this is a paraphrase of Toni Cate Bambara, but um, that basically speed is that A reflection necessarily of, um, of understanding or the like the achievement of our ideals. And this is like a deep paraphrase, but that's what I think about with the slow alchemy of of revolution.
Destiny: And that doesn't mean that things aren't urgent. And I think that's something else that Tony Kip on borrowed talks about it's like speed isn't the same thing as urgency, either. And so that things.
Destiny: Um, and there does have to be this, um, openness to things unfolding and the time that they need to unfold and partially because there's that revision and so like when you are alchemizing something and you're putting together different elements, you are calibrating, you're trying to figure out like, oh, like, well, I added this and this had this effect.
Destiny: What if I add more of this, What if I start over and don't add as much of this this time? Um, and like really being open to that revision work. Um, and I think too, what this phrase that, um, this so brilliantly put together makes me think of is like, how do we orient, like into whom are we orienting? Um, because.
Destiny: I think that the way that we're conditioned socially and also at a somatic level is that like the structures that govern our lives presently are pretty sedimented. And are going to take a long time to disintegrate. And then the people that we want to do things with, the people that we feel aligned with, oftentimes we're impatient with those people.
Destiny: Um, and it's like, how can we make space for that slow alchemy revolution with your fellow alchemists? And still be really like...
Destiny: Direct and ferocious, like, with the state. You know, and I think that's a hard thing to discern and I think that's also especially hard to discern post civil rights and integration where the state has absorbed so many of the ideals from the civil rights movement in order to neutralize more radical formations and organizing and really emphasize like patients with bureaucracy and the speed at which.
Destiny: The government decides to treat you like a fraction of a bit better, you know, um, but yeah, it also makes me think of that discernment of like, yeah, like how can we be patient with each other? Um, and that slow alchemy of revolution and like still be like ferocious and direct, like in our confrontations with the state.
Destiny: Miko, does this
Amy: relate to working at the speed
Destiny: of trust?
Tamiko: Yes, definitely. And I just want to say that I, I stole that line from Adrienne Marie Brown. So it's, it's definitely, uh, not my, my language, but I love it so much. Um, but I was also thinking, Destiny, as you were, as you were talking, um, about like, The other kinds of cycles, um, in this world that, um, I think Elizabeth's work is so grounded in, um, the, the cycles of nature and the cycles of growing things and, um, the speed, the, the variety, the varying speeds of, um, of how things grow and appear and disappear and disintegrate and compost and then grow again, um, and, Alright.
Tamiko: And I think like so much of the time we can get so cerebral. And so, um, you know, forget that we, we are bodies. Located and rooted in, in the land and in relationship and interconnected relationship with all the other creatures. And so I think Liz, you should talk about this because I know this is something that you're kind of obsessing about right now or thinking through, um, but, and I'm so interested in, in doing it alongside of you, but like, really thinking about, like, what does that, what does the alchemy of revolution look like?
Tamiko: Not centering humans and centering all the other living creatures and what does that timeline look like and feel like? And how do we participate in that? I love this.
Lisbeth: Where are you going? Yeah, I'm excited. Thanks for being excited about that too. I'm excited to kind of lean into that. Also, um, you know, as both of you are talking, I was like, right, I mean, revolution is happening all the time.
Lisbeth: And I think that's the thing that's so easy to forget. in the kind of culture that we live in where we're so event based, right? And, and a thing happening at its peak moment and at its peak momentum. Um, every time, I mean, I think of the Haitian revolution, like every time I think of a revolution and You know, folks really, it's a very complex thing.
Lisbeth: So I'm, this is going to be, again, like a deep paraphrase, a deep kind of distillation. But, you know, that revolution was happening for at least a decade before this last kind of pivotal revolt happened, right? And essentially, and really for longer than that, and how much of that time was spent doing what Destiny was describing as, like, this revising and this building up of potential and how many different, like, warriors, but also messengers, but also spiritualists.
Lisbeth: And also, you know, people who were listening to the earth and people who were paying attention to the weather and people who were, you know, like how all of those beings had to bring all of that together. Um, and then, and then it did come together in one final, you know, Big shift where the government more people got back on the boat and left.
Lisbeth: Um, but how much, how much tending was happening before, before that and throughout that, um, anyway, I've been thinking about that because it's so easy to get discouraged, right? With this with the slowness of a change, but when we can think about like, well, revolution is happening every time we're tending to Again, like radical imagination or to humanity or to care to the planet like that's it's always we're always in revolution, right?
Lisbeth: We're always in a chemical process.
Amy: I, I want to ask about, um, What kind of advice you all have for someone who just wants to start a ritual practice of, of poetry and of spellcasting and of poetry as spellcasting. Like someone who's sitting at home right now, listening to this going, I need to break the seal somehow.
Amy: And I'm going to say my first best bit of advice is to pick up the book Poetry Has Spellcasting. I really feel like anybody who's feeling cloistered, it will, it will help them, it will help them open up. But I'm curious about what you all think too.
Tamiko: I can jump in. I think, um, I think in terms of, or I think this goes back to my essay on revision, um, When I was thinking about like what advice I would give to somebody, um, is.
Tamiko: Well, and it also ties into Elizabeth's, um, essay and, and the, the selection that you read just a little while ago. And, and that's just to like play, um, and to not attach to outcomes, but just to play and practice and see what unfolds and be in the experience of it all. And, um, I mean, I guess it, it kind of.
Tamiko: What we were talking about at the beginning, like this, how we did the, the project, but just, um, I think, I think there is, there is such magic and such potential in, in language when approached from, uh, both a reverent place, but also a playful and joyful place. And so, um, and I think like often beginning poets are so fixated on like, I want to.
Tamiko: Write a poem that I can send to a journal or, you know, um, you know, I want to, I want to become good and, and I don't think like becoming good, a good poet is necessarily the, the end goal of poetry as well. Casting, I think it's really just being authentic to the process and doing deep listening and, and doing.
Tamiko: Um, yeah, just being being in the process, listening and, um, being open to what unfolds. That's what I would say.
Destiny: Destiny, Elizabeth, how about y'all?
Destiny: I think playfulness is really important, like that sort of experiential and experimental approach. Um, yeah, being available to try things out without feeling the pressure of expertise or rushing towards expertise either. Like, I think there's also something really beautiful about recognizing Oneself at being a place, at a place of initiation, um, and beginning and really appreciating the beauty, like, of that space.
Destiny: Um, I think that I often fall out of being able to play, um, and part of it's like my neurodivergence where I'm like, well, like, how do I do that? Like, you know, like, what are the steps? But, um, yeah, I actually was working with a chapter from poetry as well, casting with my students. Um, page on cooks, uh, chapter poetry as prayer and she, you know, writes a prayer for healing that is in conversation with Lucille Clifton's, um, blessing the boats and just like using the construction of may you as like an Africa and like letting that build, um, which, you Um, like it's in conversation with like Buddhist love and kindness prayers and, but like, you know, and meditations, but like, yeah, that may you, may, you, may you.
Destiny: And see like what flows out. Um, and yeah, in the case somebody feels like they need a little bit of holding, um, in that I think some sort of, Anaphora, like may you or let us, can be really supportive, um, because also that repetition is an accumulation of energy, too, that begins vibrating. Um, and you're just trying to figure out, yeah, what are you being called to call in at the end of that phrase.
Destiny: Elizabeth, what's coming up for you? Yeah,
Lisbeth: um, well, like Destiny, I also, sometimes I'm like, where's this, where's the play structure for me to play on? Like, I need the, I need the thing there. And play is very important and curiosity, right? Like I often, that's the word that helps me, because I was a good student, right?
Lisbeth: So play wasn't always accessible, but. But curiosity was accessible and that's, that's something that I'm, I can often tap into is like, okay, well, what if, like, I'm just going to show up and see what happens. And this actually makes me think of, um, Tamiko's chapter about repetition, return, and practice. And, um, that it's so much easier for me to be curious about what's going to show up if I set the intention about I'm going to be here in this place in this time to be open to what's showing up.
Lisbeth: And that doesn't have to be the same place at the same time every day, but again, the intention of like, this is, I'm marking this. Um, as my time for exploration and to listen and to see what's going to arise, um, is
Destiny: really grounding for me.
Amy: Thank you all so much, like, not only for being here today with me, but for bringing your, your value system and really, really, um, Putting it into the book, um, the ethos of the book is so apparent.
Amy: Um, someone said about a different book, like, this book has a vibe, and it's weird to say, like, that a book has a vibe, but this book has a vibe, and you feel, Like you're a part of it. And even at near the end, um, you, there's a, there's a prompt to, um, to create found poetry in a group. And then after that bit that you give an example of a found poem that you created in, in a group.
Amy: It really. It's just going to be so useful, listeners, it's going to be so useful for you, again, not just in your writing practice, but also in your spellcasting practice, and also how you think about social justice, and also how you think about the paradigm of, of working, of doing, of speed and urgency. I know that Poetry and Spellcasting has like an Instagram, has its own Instagram, do the three of you?
Amy: all run that together? Is someone else looking for that? Okay, you're all nodding or what somebody's shaking their head. It's like a combination. We're just kind of dancing with our heads. So listeners, please pick up this book and go and follow The Poetry as Spellcasting Instagram. Is there any other way that you can think of that our listeners can support you all and your work if you want to drop your personal handles or other projects that you're working on?
Amy: We're like, we're a team.
Lisbeth: We're a team. I was gonna drop somebody else's project. ?
Amy: No, please. Oh,
Lisbeth: well I know that, um, Tommy Co has a workshop coming up with one of the, uh, gosh, I feel like Jane was a contributor even though she offered her kind words to the book, so I guess she was. Um, not an essay, but she blurbed for us. Um, but Tamiko and Jane are offering a workshop of poetry spellcasting toward abolition, um, as a practice of abolition that I wish I could be at, but it's way far away from me on the other side of the country.
Lisbeth: So Tamiko, if you want to share those details.
Tamiko: It's going to be on October 14th in Boston, um, and it's part of the Boston Book Festival. So if people go to the website of that, it's, um, I think it's at 1230 on Saturday, October 14th. And, um, and yeah, we'll be, we'll be casting some spells towards abolition and, and.
Tamiko: No writing experience is necessary. So we're really going to be like leading people from where they're at. Um, and I, we haven't like worked out all of the details yet. So it might be a little premature to say, but I know we're going to do it. So to say it since we're on the podcast is we're going to be, we're doing, um, Matching book sales to so if people buy the book and let us know, like, on our Instagram account that they've bought the book starting from October 14th through probably mid November.
Tamiko: But those are the details that aren't quite worked out. But, um. We will, for every book that we sell during that time period, we're going to be donating, um, to a organization that, um, sends books to prisons, um, probably like women's prisons, but again, still TBD, but just to say, um, that is something that we're doing, so if you do buy the book, um, let us know, and we'll, we'll match it, um, or North Atlantic's book, no, North Atlantic Books is
Lisbeth: matching it, um,
Amy: Again, like, it's, it's all, it's all there. It's the book, but it's also, like, in action. Like, y'all are living this. ethos, and it's really amazing and wonderful to see, and, and heartening, heartening that this book exists, and it was the three of you who put it together. Um, this episode will be out before October 14th, so I have to ask, if someone hears this, And it's like, I have to buy this book today.
Amy: I don't want to wait. If they send their receipt, for example, if you buy it, you know, on October 13th, and you hang on to your receipt and, and I think North Atlantic will probably have a form that you fill out and. And that kind of, that kind of business. Yeah. Amazing.
Destiny: Yeah. It's not, it's not
Tamiko: like hard and fast.
Tamiko: So yeah,
Lisbeth: definitely. Yeah.
Amy: Because like I say, like, I want our listeners to buy this book today. So I'd rather you not wait until the 14th, buy it today, but hang on to your receipt or, you know, take a screen grab of it or whatever. Again, Destiny, Tomiko, Lisbeth, we'll have to do this again sometime. An hour is not enough for three, four people, I guess, if you count me in a, in a conversation.
Amy: And again, like, in a few months time, in six months time, I would love to see, like, what this slow alchemy has, has brought up for the three of you. Thank you again. So very, very much for being with us in circle today and blessed fucking be.
Tamiko: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much, Amy. And thank you to everybody who's listening.
Tamiko: Yeah. Thanks Kevin.
Amy: You must be a witch. If you want to support the Missing Witches project, find out how at missingwitches. com