Anybody remotely familiar with poetry will understand that falling in love with a poem is a little like being bewitched. Doesn't that make poems magical spells—or at least the closest we can come to enchantment on the printed page?
Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry, the debut publication from the new imprint Ignota Books, takes that truth to a whole new dimension. As editors Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás put it in a press release: "Spells are poems; poetry is spelling. Spell-poems take us into a realm where words can influence the universe." With contributions from writers like Ursula Le Guin and one-half of Astro Poets and W Magazine resident astrologer Dorothea Lasky, it's little wonder that poet and feminist film activist So Mayer describes the collection of 36 contemporary poets and writers as "a spell-book."
"To be a witch, then, is to know words," Mayer writes in their introduction. "To be a witch is to know, in your bones (your tired bones), where the word ‘witch’ might come from. Birth stories, origin myths, are wandering and plural, partial but yours. Not someone else’s definition of your self, but what you have learned through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered. The thing you have to tell, have to say."
Or, as Shin and Tamás put it: "These poems unmake the world around them so that it might be remade anew."
Here, Broadly excerpts witch-inspired poems from three of the 36 poets, with work by Lasky, writer and translator Jen Calleja, and British poet Amy Key.
Watch: Under Coven: The Witches of Bushwick
I used to be a witch
My narrative costume is a witch without reputation
Spells celebrates its launch with a Halloween party at Somerset House Studios on 31 October, featuring readings from Emily Berry, Amy Key, Rebecca Perry, and more. More information here.