Al Filreis brought together Michelle Taransky, Pattie McCarthy, and Robert Eric Shoemaker, who had traveled from Chicago to join us — to talk about a poem by Ariana Reines, “To the Reader.” The poem was included in Reines’s A Sand Book (Tin House, 2019). Eric and Al co-curated the selection, in part because of Eric's work with magical poetics. Our recording of Reines performing this poem dates from 2020 and was hosted by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The audio we hear toward the beginning of the episode is extracted from a video that is available on YouTube and Vimeo, produced by Christian Lund, with sound editing by Tomás Guiñazú. Click HERE to read a text of the poem (scanned from A Sand Book).
The purpose of Spells is made clear in many ways, from the chant-like lyrical prose introduction “The Broken Open” by So Mayer to the subtitle: “21st-Century Occult Poetry.” This is a book of poetry that does magic, that believes in the magic of word-casting and spell-ing. Spells introduces a variety of ways to spell in poems from a diverse cast of poets who echo the ideas of precursors like Ursula K. LeGuin: by naming something, magic is done and change is created.
Language work is a making and remaking of the world around us, a casting of spells: “To be a witch, then, is to know words.” Spells, an anthology edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás, attempts to show the magical side of poetry and “the moment before the word, when everything inside you is broken open” (ix).