Robert Eric Shoemaker

Magical Poetics

Spelling the amulet, the shape, the poem

CA Conrad's 'Amanda Paradise' and Jewish ritual bowls

SATOR square
Sator square carved into a painted section of wall plaster, 2nd century CE, Roman, Corinium Museum, Cirencester.

Magic, bottom line, involves intention and effect. Maybe in that order. “The intentional use of language or of gesture for a desired effect” is a pretty basic definition of communication, too, but maybe I mean that communication is magic. As the contentious Crowley quote gives us in this commentary’s introductory text, magic is aligned with the practice (science or art) of causing an effect aligned with intention. Communication is a default action of humans, if we believe Chomsky, so we might as well imagine, for now, that magic is a practice of intention to create effect; in this case, the practice of language. Crafting poetry is a language practice, and the poem is one location where we may see language magic performed.

By performance, I mean the action of language or of ritual. Language is abstract, necessarily, and really becomes effective when used in speech or in writing. Externalized, language as speech or writing becomes an act. Writing must happen or there is no text.

Running bibliography

Book of the Dead of the Priest of Horus, Imhotep (Imuthes), ca. 332–200 BCE, Met
Detail, 'Book of the Dead' of the Priest of Horus, Imhotep (Imuthes), ca. 332–200 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo by the author.

When I cite a text in a “Magical Poetics” post, I’ll drop the citation here to keep up a “reading list” for the commentary series.


Header image: Book of the Dead of the Priest of Horus, Imhotep (Imuthes), ca. 332–200 BCE,
     Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.