Denise Jarrott on writing in isolation & the ace of cups


How have you used writing as a healing or trauma recovery tool? How does it give you autonomy and self-understanding?

The below piece was written as a response to a list of writing prompts called Art in the Time of Corona, which I posted on my Instagram stories during the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine period. The theme I was writing on here was “Overflow” and I immediately thought of the Ace of Cups tarot card, maybe as a contrast to scarcity or an overwhelming glut of anxiety and overwhelm, but also a last grasp at pleasure as the world ends. Either way, the Ace of Cups has to do with excess, which comes in many forms. During quarantine, writing became a way to stay in contact with my community and my loved ones. It was also a space to be messy, vain, indulgent, manic, exhausted, decadent, and embarrassing. I could be all the things I was ashamed to be and realize it wasn’t so scary or horrible.


Ace of Cups

Inside a giant martini glass, soaking wet,

primordial heat death. In the blotch, imagine there’s roses

blooming under my skin, a rush of blood blood


On the inside, I’m really not a long-suffering sailor’s wife,

or anybody’s wife. I’m not a milk mother, egg mother,

bread crust mother. I’m nobody’s mother. I’m still a lover, a perpetual

maiden as long as I’m using what I’ve got.

Admit it, that’s an attractive chalice. A lady’s

paradise, somebody’s idea of happiness is being draped

in velvet and put on display. Somebody would pay

a lot of money to be somebody else.

I’ll admit it: I’m shrewd with my ribbons and an idiot

with money. I’d rather have black silk pants and a finger of gin.

I’d rather lie about my job than have no job at all. I’m not

addicted to work, but I’m interested in rose

perfume. I’m interested in becoming more opulent,

and offering the possibility of opulence to every person I encounter.

Like kindness, but less sensible. I don’t think it’s in my blood to be a kept woman,

but I’ll lie in the center of a circle, let the heat death wash over me.


Do you integrate writing into your ritual/spiritual/magical life?

Writing itself is inherently a magical practice. Speaking something into being makes it more solid, it’s something that can be seen and felt, and can cause others to feel and act. By writing, you bring something into the world—something that did not exist before and can’t be undone. Language is a powerful medium, maybe the only way we can call our desires into being. It’s said that once a thing is named, you can summon it forth or send it back. Writing does both, and the process of making a poem is equal parts sacred and profane.

If we put three writers or books into a circle to summon you, who/what would they be?

A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes, Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson, and Bluets by Maggie Nelson.

Is there a single piece/book of writing that has helped to heal you? How has it helped?

There have been several texts in which I saw a version of myself I was and no longer wanted to be, or a self I wanted to become. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath showed me both, and a world I wanted to work to change. I re-read it every year, and it never fails to show me a version of myself I am constantly in conversation with, and a version of myself I want to hold. It also makes me laugh, enrages me, and shows how far there is to go.



Joanna C. Valente: “Writing helps me process my emotions”


A poem by Joanna C. Valente