IMPROMPTU #11: Matt Trease

11 - napomo - 16 - trease - site

Matt TreaseMy main interest in writing is to find synchronicities – mere coincidences that have no causal relationships, per say, but which we grant extra-sensory meaning to. I’m always on the lookout for other, often more mystical and surreal explanations for particular circumstances, events, data, etc. I’ve used Chinese numerology to find synchronistic overlaps in the personal libraries of anonymous tech workers, woke myself up at 3am for 30 days to write extemporaneously, kept extensive dream journals,  played many variations on exquisite corpses,  employed tarot card readings, engaged in somatic rituals, set my cell phone alarm to go off at random times in order to spontaneously compose poems using the language found around me, among other various occult means and chance-based operations to create order from the chaos of the universe we are in the process of embodying.

Prompt: An Astrological Self-portrait

This exercise engages two things that I really love – a pseudo-scientific system of meaning and found archetypal language. The resulting poem will have a non-typical connection to you and some pretty bold imagery. Think of it as a self-portrait of you as your own reflection of the deity (or lack of) you view as the origin of meaning in your life.

birth chartFirst, you’ll need your birth chart. If you’ve never done this before, you can do it for free online. I recommend AstroDienst (http://www.astro.com/), because you have so many options for the type of charts you can create. You’ll need your birthday, birth time, and location for the most detailed chart, but you can get enough from just your birthdate. Once you’ve filled out your information, you’ll be shown a chart that looks something like this:

This is a standard natal chart in Western astrology. The major symbols along the outer ring are the 12 signs of the zodiac. Each sign is designated 30 degrees on the circle. In the inner ring are symbols for the planets and luminaries (sun and moon) in our solar system. The interpretation of the birth chart is based on where the planets and luminaries were in the sky at the moment you were born.  This should give us some data that is specific to you to work with. Now, notice that along the lower left hand side are a list of the planets and luminaries. Next to those you will see a designated zodiac sign and a degree. Take note of those signs and degrees. This will give us data points for finding language to use in your poem.

Now, it should be noted that astronomy and astrology have common roots. For earlier civilizations, the sky was seen as a macro-cosmic reflection of life here on Earth. The planets and stars were designated as deities whose energies directed our lives. The meticulous mapping of the sky was originally a religious devotion. Each planet and each degree of the zodiac was assigned a symbolic meaning. These meanings were assigned via divinatory practices – reading tea leaves, drawing tarot cards, casting sticks, channeling spirits. The symbols vary from culture to culture, and they have shifted over time. In the 20th century, the most widely-used set of degree symbols have been what we call Sabian Symbols which were produced in 1925 by clairvoyant Elsie Wheeler (You can find them listed along with brief interpretations here). Another popular set of degree symbols were divined by Elias Lonsdale in 1993 and compiled in his book Inside Degrees published in 1997 by North Atlantic Books (a free hyper-text version is available here).

Next, take the sign/degree data from your birth chart, and look up your specific set of symbols and their meanings (use either or both of the above lists, or if you have another that you’d like to use, use those).  Try to compose a poem using (predominantly) the language of the symbols and their meaning. If you want a real challenge, try to use every symbol associated with your birth chart with as few syntax changes as possible.


Matt Trease is an artist, IT Administrator, and astrology junkie living in Seattle, WA. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Cordite Poetry Review, filling Station, Otoliths, VLAK, small po(r)tions, Juked, The Account, The White Stag Review, Apricity, Hotel Amerika and Fact Simile. He is the author of the chapbook Later Heaven: Production Cycles (busylittle1way designs, 2013).

 

56 Comments

  • April 11, 2016

    Mark Staniforth

    I loved this prompt – an inspired and very powerful idea. I saw no need to work unduly with the results – they’re subjective enough as they are. The spaces in between provide the scope for unlimited interpretations, but it remains resolutely personal. https://staniforthmark.wordpress.com/impromptu/

  • April 11, 2016

    Amanda Earl

    i admit that i’m totally lost with this one. i’ve never learned astrological stuff & i can’t really understand what’s going on with my chart. i have no clue when i was born because my mother was deathly ill at the time & didn’t note the time. each of the luminaries & planets have numbers beside it (like Sun 21 Lib 21’57” but how do i know which one to use? i’m at sea. i guess i’ll make something from a choppy oceany point of view. this stuff is complete gobbledegook to me but i’ll soldier on because i’m open to the exploration. i love the descriptions or whatever they are in Lonsdale’s Inside Degrees. stay tuned. whoa.

    • April 11, 2016

      Mark Staniforth

      So from the example you cite, it’s the “21 Lib[ra]” bit that counts. Click on one of the two links (I found the second one much better), scroll down and click the number 21 under Libra. It’ll throw up your first answer, which is… “A magician wearing a live snake for a belt.”… !!!

      • April 11, 2016

        Amanda Earl

        thanks, Mark. it took a while, but i came up with something.

      • April 12, 2016

        Misky

        Thanks, Mark for showing how the numbers and words corresponds. I think I know what to do now. :)

    • April 11, 2016

      Amanda Earl

      i took a deep breath, told my naysayer voice to shut the fuck up & plunged in :)

  • April 11, 2016

    Nathalie Boisard-Beudin

    Eeeh. Now that was unusual. Many thanks for this.
    I wasn’t really sure how to handle the chart itself but I actually manage to beat some sense into it and here’s the result: http://spacedlaw.dreamwidth.org/153216.html

    • April 11, 2016

      Mark Staniforth

      I really like the way you’ve interpreted the answers to create your self-portrait. It’ll be fascinating to see the different types of approaches to this one. I love that whatever we come up with, it HAS to be entirely personal and unique (unless you’re a twin!)

  • […] Article Blackout prompt” QuillsEdge Press’ “State of Justice prompt” Found Poetry’s “Astrological Self-Portrait prompt” Mary Carroll-Hacket’s “Being Water prompt” Lagan Press’ “Constrained […]

  • April 11, 2016

    A. Garnett Weiss

    Fell off the wagon on April 10 and will try to back up/catch up. But today’s astrological-related prompt didn’t resonate with me, so I took up instead the optional prompt from NaPoWriMo.net so that I can keep up the broken momentum (LOL).

    http://jcsulzenko.com/april-11-impromptu-poem-from-another-prompt/

    • April 11, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      Loved your poem Waiting For The Axe ????

    • April 12, 2016

      Misky

      I really enjoyed reading your poem. Well done.

  • April 11, 2016

    Carol A. Stephen

    I am lost too. I guess I am not great with symbols and geometrics and interpreting. That’s why I work with words. I did print off the natal chart data sheet but seems to me that you need to understand how these things work before you can draw anything out of them. I suppose I could work it out but need more than a day. I do, however, have a detailed book about my sun sign and what the connections might mean so I am going to see if I can make something out of that instead.

  • April 11, 2016

    Amanda Earl

    • April 11, 2016

      Mark Staniforth

      Wow, this is great, especially to say you said you didn’t know what you were doing! I like Pluto best, but I just really like the power of the repetition and the style of having a number of mini-poems beneath a broader umbrella. As regards the response to the prompt, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way at all really – if it prompts us to go down a completely different direction, then so be it… btw do you work with Angelhouse Press?

      • April 11, 2016

        Amanda Earl

        thanks, Mark. i couldn’t resist all the wild stories & strong vocab from the source texts. anything is fair fame for poetry 😉
        i run AngelHousePress.

        • April 11, 2016

          Mark Staniforth

          Thought I recognised your name from somewhere and when the email dropped today re: S Cearley I assumed you must be one and the same!!!

    • April 11, 2016

      Stephanie Ellis

      So good.

    • April 11, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      Great poem Amanda!

  • April 11, 2016

    Stephanie Ellis

    I really loved this prompt. Translating the list from my chart revealed a very pleasing(!) sense of darkness. My poem, In Shadow, is at http://www.weebly.com/editor/main.php

  • April 11, 2016

    Linda Crosfield

    http://purplemountainpoems.blogspot.mx/2016/04/the-timeless-spiral-in-ordinary-life.html

    This prompt turned out to be way more interesting than I thought it would. You said you were interested in synchronicities. I don’t go into all the ones I discovered in my post because I’d still be writing. Recapitulation, for example. There was an artist, Sveva Caetani, who lived a fascinating life and whose main body of work is called that and whose book of paintings with the same title I bought when I had no money but knew I needed to have it. And the first link I looked at, “pigs being fed” … I have a whole story about that, too. So thank you, Matt! Now to go see what everyone else did.

    • April 11, 2016

      Amanda Earl

      love this. it’s feisty & fun & tells a story.

    • April 11, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      Found your poem mesmerizing Linda!

      • April 11, 2016

        Linda Crosfield

        Thank you, Vinita. It was sort of an erasure attempt, in the end, but somehow easier to just note the bits that spoke to me than to actually be scratching stuff out.

        • April 12, 2016

          Vinita Agrawal

          ????????

          • April 12, 2016

            Vinita Agrawal

            Sorry about all those question marks. It was intended to be a thumbs up sign but when I hit the reply button it turned into ?? ????
            A thumbs up then, Linda!

    • April 12, 2016

      Misky

      There’s some fun alliteration in this poem. A joy to read.

  • April 11, 2016

    Carol A. Stephen

    Well, I can’t really count this I suppose, as I could not get into the true spirit because I got hung up on trying to stay with the language of astrology, then couldn’t get out of the mundane (yes, there is a mundane horoscope to be had). So I wrote this half-assed astrological chart poem, and the one on my blog is a NaPoWriMo.net one. The link to my blog is shown below my astrology poem.

    Two Days from Now

    Born Sun in Aries, in the 11th house
    and obstinate as any ram,
    annoyed that others have opinions

    but calmed by a Moon in Capricorn,
    Paradox. People puzzle over my alternations—
    impulse flips/rigid caution.

    Cancer on the horizon? I’m SO hiding at first threat,
    to ruminate on choosing to love chameleons
    and cold fish. They show up in the seventh house moon—
    pick all the marigolds.

    Stars not propitious now—
    Bos Taurus sails above the moon while I?
    Well I’m packing my runcible spoon, the cat AND
    the quince honey. We’re sailing off in a pea green boat.

    Carol A. Stephen
    April 11, 2016

    https://quillfyre.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/napowrimo-2016-day-11-cold-feet/

    • April 11, 2016

      Vinita Agrawal

      Enjoyed the use of all those unusual phrases, Carol and particularly loved the title!

  • […] poem was written in response to a prompt posted by the Found Poetry Review, written by poet Matt Trease.  It is composed of language which contains only the letters in the […]

  • […] from Matt Trease’s prompt, which tasks us with aligning our astrological charts with corresponding degree symbols. it was […]

  • April 11, 2016

    james w. moore

    and here is my astrologically-inspired poem: “the mundane split” – http://bit.ly/1qkzt1C (which does use at least a little something from each of my charted signs…)

    • April 12, 2016

      Amanda Earl

      i particularly liked the second voice in parantheses. nicely done.

  • April 11, 2016

    JM Scott

    Thanks for this prompt, it inspired me to work more with it. Here is mine Libra Rising http://candlesticksandcadavers.blogspot.com/2016/04/libra-rising.html

    • April 12, 2016

      Amanda Earl

      a wild ride through a lot of different imagery. lots of fun.

  • April 11, 2016

    Barbara Crary

  • April 12, 2016

    Vinita Agrawal

    I found this prompt powerfully motivating. It appealed to something deep within me.
    https://vinitawords.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/the-wonders-of-anonymity/

  • April 12, 2016

    Misky

    Thanks to Mark, I managed to put numbers with words, and create something from this prompt. Here’s my poem for this one. https://thirtydayspoetry.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/day-11-an-understanding/

    • April 12, 2016

      Amanda Earl

      once more, i admire your minimalism. this poem made me think of Georgia O’Keeffe’s cross paintings, the white ones in particular.

  • April 12, 2016

    S.E. Ingraham

    LUNA’S NODES

    All these years
    worried about
    the damned
    fish swimming
    in different
    directions
    Thinking – yes,
    that’s the problem.

    Pisces: sensitive,
    compassionate –
    mmm, okay
    Helpful, sociable –
    maybe
    Sometimes
    not so much
    Adaptable:
    very – huh?
    Hard to get
    a hold on …
    slippery? Yes.

    But the chart
    with the planets
    for the first time
    shows her:
    Moon’s
    True Node
    Starts reading –
    is not surprised
    to learn –
    “mean nodes”
    are normal.
    True? No.
    A legacy
    of lunacy,
    born out.

    An Astrological Self-portrait – Matt Trease
    Using an astrological chart based on Birth-date, time and place – plus deciphering tools and language for same – we were tasked with writing a poem that grew from the language that evolved from this experiment. I loved doing this and ended up with quite a bit of material (which I’m happy to have actually) but in the end, found it hard to whittle down and went with the bit that fascinated me the most – the True Node – something to which I’ve never been exposed before.

  • […] schedule is so sporadic, here’s my NaPoWriMo poem from yesterday. I’m  putting the IMPROMPTU poem on hold (for now) because it’s a challenging one to do. You’ll see more work from […]

  • April 12, 2016

    Melissa Meske

    Lost But Still Searching

    A wanderlust stirs inside the young gypsy
    As a call comes from deep down inside
    And she gazes once more at the city
    She knows she may never again find

    Basic instinct keeps moving her forward
    An awareness that she needs to survive
    But still she is weak with a hunger
    That can only be nourished in her mind

    Moments on this live track keep her naked
    Creativity unexposed due to pride
    Instead of cloaked in the robes made of satin
    That can only be displayed with their kind

    Determined to regain her focus
    Still a vessel trapped far from the tribe
    She fascinates herself as life’s witness
    Like wildfire the images burn in her eyes

    –Melissa Crockett Meske, April 11, 2016

  • April 17, 2016

    Richard Walker

  • […] Natal Chart (Data Sheet) […]